The New MacBook Air

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Okay. I am weak. It started as a small nugget of an idea at Macworld and germinated slowly. The middle part is foggy but tonight I find myself on my couch setting up a MacBook Air (the HD version) and not exactly sure how it all happened. I guess Apple has that effect on people.

Anyway, the MacBook Air is entirely unable to do about 30% of my computing (video, music, and a few other things) and perfect for the other 70%, especially the lawyer side of things like Scrivener, Keynote, the Omni applications and other things work related. It is so thin on the edge that I think I could shave with it.

Anyway, I'm just getting set up and will be reporting back as I get deeper into it. One nugget of information: I have an external USB DVD player that is about 3 years old. I plugged it in to the Air and it recognized it without problem. It is not as pretty as the Apple external drive, but it gets the job done. Looking through my pile of software the only three disks that need to be installed are iWork, Office, and the Airport Utility. Stay tuned!

Website Woes

Today I upgraded Wordpress and managed to thoroughly botch things up. I was using an old template that had fits after I upgraded. Thankfully, I got things sorted out with a new template that is nearly identical to the old one. I'm still dealing with "issues" in the banner but hope to have those sorted out soon.

Once again, my pal Darren Rolfe from Macwingnut totally saved my bacon with getting the logo on a new banner. Things are busy in the office but I should have the site further tuned up in the next few days or possibly the weekend.

Dan Carlin's Hardcore History

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I recently discovered a great podcast by Dan Carlin called "Hardcore History" Dan does a great job of drawing lines and connections that never occurred to me. For instance, in one show he talks about the similarities between Alexander the Great and Hitler. Dan doesn't limit himself to any particular period and is full of insight. If you are a history junkie, this one is worth checking out.

SuperDuper Haiku


Don't get me wrong. I like TimeMachine for backups. It has already saved my bacon in ways SuperDuper can not. Yet . . . alas . . . there is a part of me that can not help wistfully thinking about that bootable backup. I've resorted to stalking the ShirtPocketSoftware website waiting for that Leopard release. Anyway, this has inspired me to Haiku

Oh Super Duper
On Leopard you are not . . . Yet
The new cat awaits

Man . . . I really shouldn't post after 14 hour days in the office.

Is that a Geeky Shirt Under Your Tree?

There are a few entrepreneurial folks out there looking to cash in on your Mac Geekery. Specifically, InsantelyGreatTees has a variety of Mac-centric shirt including, among others, one with a 30 year timeline of Mac history and another humorously called "It Never Happened" with just a big Command-Z.



Of course, if you are feeeling fiesty, FakeSteveJobs is peddling a shirt that says, "Everytime you buy a Dell, a baby seal dies." Now THAT is poetry.


MacSparky is No Longer Dead to Google


I've posted before, along with pestering friends and fellow geeks, with my big MacSparky problem since moving it to its own server. Specifically, I was dead to Google (and every other search engine). I knew this must be a simple problem but it was a bit disheartening to see that little box in my web stats that shows nobody was stumbling upon my ramblings with a search engine. The good news was that I still have a pretty good following of people that carry my feed and the numbers were still pretty acceptable. Maybe that is why it took me so long to get to the root of it.

Regardless, through a friend I talked to someone at Google and they were baffled. I wrote several emails to my hosting provider, Dreamhost, to which they very nicely told me it may just because my content isn't that good. Well, THAT most certainly could not be the problem.

Last night I had some time on my hands and decided I was going to go through every line of every menu on my Wordpress settings and sure enough, buried deep inside, there was a check box called "Privacy" with a big ugly check next to it. I know I never set that but, alas, there it was. I unchecked it and this morning I find that is no longer one great big black hole in the internet and people are actually finding me again. So there you have it, operator error at the root of my problems . . . again.

Keyboard vs. Mouse


I discovered, courtesy of John Gruber, a link to a very interesting article comparing the benefits of the keyboard vs. mouse interface that argues the mouse is faster. The money quote reads as follows:

We’ve done a cool $50 million of R & D on the Apple Human Interface. We discovered, among other things, two pertinent facts:

Test subjects consistently report that keyboarding is faster than mousing.
The stopwatch consistently proves mousing is faster than keyboarding.
This contradiction between user-experience and reality apparently forms the basis for many user/developers’ belief that the keyboard is faster.

People new to the mouse find the process of acquiring it every time they want to do anything other than type to be incredibly time-wasting. And therein lies the very advantage of the mouse: it is boring to find it because the two-second search does not require high-level cognitive engagement.

It takes two seconds to decide upon which special-function key to press. Deciding among abstract symbols is a high-level cognitive function. Not only is this decision not boring, the user actually experiences amnesia! Real amnesia! The time-slice spent making the decision simply ceases to exist.

Interesting food for thought for this Quicksilver junkie. Actually, I have always been pretty practical about these things. I just use what works whether it be the keyboard, mouse, or tea leaves. Anyway, you can read the full article right here.

Help Wanted - Google Wizard


I'm calling out to the MacSparky community for help. Since moving the server to Dreamhost things are running really smoothly with one exception. I am dead to Google. According to my wordpress stats I have not got a single referral from a google search since relocating. I used to get about 100 search referrals a day and now its nothing, nada, doughnuts. I've written Dreamhost, Google, and a few of my web wizard friends and everyone is baffled. If anyone has an idea, please write me.

The Ultimate Quicksilver Leap


I read once that when Cortez landed in the new world, the first thing he did was burn his ships so his men didn't get any strange ideas about going back. For all of you Quicksilver geeks (like me), one of the guys over at waferbaby just burned his ships by removing from his Mac and mapping the finder icon to our beloved Quicksilver. Now while this act inspires no end of geek awe in me, I can't see myself actually doing this. I always believe in using what works best and fastest. Sometimes that is the often maligned finder. Especially when I need to browse for something that I can't remember the name for. Anyway, if you are ready to make the leap, you can get instruction on how to do so right here.

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iPhone Third Party Applications Speculation


I've been thinking about this whole iPhone third party application situation. Specifically, what is up Apple's sleeve? Well I certainly don't have any inside scoop on all of this but I do have an opinion.

* I think Apple is quietly putting together a software developer kit that is either already in the hands of a few choice developers with really strong non-disclosure agreement or about to be released to them.

* When it does release, I don't think the SDK will ever be generally available. I think it will be a relatively short list of select developers and grow over time ... s l o w l y.

* Apple will screen and approve everything before it is released to us plebeians. It is all about preserving the user experience. Apple will also make a few bucks off it since the stuff will only be available through iTunes.

* There isn't going to be a whole lot of innovation but everything that does release will be very slick.

* There will be more games than actual productivity type applications. This will crimp my zen.

There you have it. The MacSparky crystal ball. Now when I'm proven wrong, everyone can laugh.

Empty Pockets


So last weekend I was catching up with a few RSS feeds and saw lifehacker was doing a bit on what you carry in your pockets. Well my camera was sitting next to my Mac and I figured, "why not?". Anyway, if you are really bored and curious as to what is in my pockets, go here.

Preparing for Leopard - The Install


I thought I'd do a series of articles as I begin preparing for the Leopard upgrade. This is where my windows bias shows through. I was talking to a very knowledgeable Apple friend, Gabe Wilson, and explaining how I was backing everything up and printing out copies of all my license codes so I could do the "big upgrade." As he watched me his face showed first dismay, then pity, then humor. Finally he relieved me of my suffering. "Dave. It's a Mac. Don't wipe your drive. Just upgrade."


I'm used to windows upgrades. When you upgrade a windows machine you first remove the hard drive then you drive a stake through it (preferably made of silver). Then you pour acid over it and proceed to make all the necessary incantations (which include multiple recitations of random letters and numbers in groups of four). Finally, you put in the install disk and pray to all that is nerdy that the rest of your PC components don't declare an absolute mutiny (which will probably happen anyway). You then spend the next two days attempting to convince Microsoft that you should be allowed to re-install Office on the new version of their windows software without spending another $500.

Tonight I listened to Steve Stanger confirm Gabe's sage advice and I'm sold. I'm not going to do the 3 days of reinstall but instead just going to click "update" and see what happens. If it doesn't work I can always do the "root canal" version of the upgrade later.

The "Controversial" 1.1.1 iPhone Upgrade - Cry Me a River


Over the weekend I was talking with a tech-savvy friend who knew of my Apple fixation and he asked me, "Boy, you must really be torqued over the iPhone fiasco."

Really. He said that. Now it is a "Fiasco."

This comment got me wondering how exactly we have come to this point. The iPhone launch was a smashing success. Apple wanted the phone locked but apparently didn't do a very good job of locking it with the initial release. They fixed that a few months later and told everyone words to the effect, "If you have tampered with it, we may (I interpreted that word to mean "will") brick your phone so don't do it." We had a few days to consider this statement and then 1.1.1 released. At that point Apple puts a specific dialogue on your screen.

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So after getting this second warning people who had hacked their phones for use by other carriers ended up with disabled phones. The word of art for this is "brick" used both as a noun and a verb. (i.e. those mean corporate types bricked my phone. My phone is a brick.) I don't want to understate the popular use of the term "brick" because I think for a lot of folks that seems to be half the fun. Anyway .. I digress.

Since the unlockers ignored the warning and their phones are disabled there is this perceived outrage over the terrible things Apple has done. Lawsuits are being filed, articles are written about Apple's PR nightmare, and tech friends are asking me about the "fiasco." I actually have two points about this hubbub. First, I don't lay blame at Apple's feet and second, I don't think this is as big of a deal as most people are making of it.

Why should Apple have to spend time and resources making product upgrades for what was sold as a closed system device compatible with hacks and unlocks? They told the hacking gang that they shouldn't upgrade and they could have all kept their phones at 1.02 forever without having any troubles. I, frankly, would prefer that Apple spent their time making the system work better for the 90 percent of the owners that don't want to hack their phones.

My second point relates to the perceived outrage over this event. There are some very vocal bloggers documenting this event as the turning point for Apple when they have abandoned the Mac Faithful. I don't really see it that way. I think Apple has always been a bit ruthless to their customers. One of the reasons it took me so long to buy a Mac was because when I initially became interested in them you had to buy the whole system (hardware, printers, floppy drives *no hard drives then*, and software) from Apple and it was really expensive. That was their business plan. It still is on some levels. With the iPhone, you are buying the product they want you to have in your hand. If you want something hackable, there are many smart phones out there that you can get. I had a few of them. On my Treo, I ran about 20 third party applications and yet it still wasn't as functional (or nearly as stable) as my iPhone. I'm comfortable keeping my smartphone experience in Apple's hands. If I wasn't, I wouldn't have bought the phone. I think a lot of people agree with me.

As for the extent of this "fiasco", I think it really boils down to a group of perturbed geeks. For example, I was talking to my brother-in-law this weekend. The iPhone is his only Apple product and he loves it. He checks his fantasy football scores on it while sitting on the couch and couldn't be happier. He told how he updated his iPhone. I asked him if he heard about the problems with the update and he replied, "what problem?" I think for most of the iPhone users out there, this is a complete non-issue.

I really don't have an axe to grind against the hacking community. I put on my phone but found nothing of much interest so I removed it. I really don't need a dorky game on my iPhone where I zap Microsoft Zunes. I sure hope that Apple eventually does open the phone up to some limited third party development but not at the cost of stability. I just think the attitude that because you've hacked your phone, you are entitled to some special consideration is ridiculous.

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Lucky Number 12,000


Well I've been doing this blog a few months now and noticed tonight my total views just hit 12,000. Probably a drop in the bucket in internet terms but still I'm so pleased to have loyal readers. I enjoy all of your emails and comments and look forward to learning more and growing this blog with all of your help. Google hasn't really found MacSparky on the new server in that the older wordpress blog (which is no longer being updated) is still getting most of the search hits but we will get the new blog rolling soon I think. Thanks gang!

Server Transfer Complete!


I decided to change the server Friday night and here I am on Sunday night with the new server live. I'm actually quite impressed with myself. Like all great feats however (and this is a quite an accomplishment for me), there were many people responsible for this happening. Especially the following:

Gabe Wilson
My pal Gabe Wilson, convinced me it was actually possible for someone as clueless about internet servers as myself to pull this off. Gabe also turned me on to a which leads to big helper #2.
This web hosting service rocks. They are very cheap and offer tons of bandwidth and storage. Not only that, they increase over time. They are giving me an additional gig of space per week. Most importantly, these guys are super helpful. When I was having that "Oh c*^p, what have I got myself into" moment Friday night, I emailed them and they completely took over. They got my wordpress blog transferred onto the server and helped me through all the tweaks. Quite often my emails were replied to in less than thirty minutes. Frankly, I can't imagine any better customer service.

Darren Rolfe
Darren is my graphics Sensei. The new three column format didn't jive with my old banner. No problem, Darren fixed it in about thirty minutes. If you ever need a graphic artist, or just want to have a fun, go visit Darren at MacWingnut.

The Rest of the Gang
I received some very helpful emails and comments from readers. Thank you all. Also, my family let me spend the day on the couch, watching football, and tweaking the new site. Thanks Gang!

For those of you who read me via RSS please make sure to reset your feed. Now that I've got the basics up I'll continue to refine it a bit. I am also going to be moving the podcast feed to this site and off Podbean. I'm getting requests for different formats of the screencasts (i.e. Apple TV, etc..) Now I have the bandwidth to pull it off.  Anyway, I'll continue to try and make it better for everyone.

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