Still Macin’ (for now)

MacBook Pro

The phrase “I am no longer Appleā€™s Target Market” is one that I can identify with… and the blog post of the same name makes a lot of good points.

I’ve been using computers (mostly made by Apple) for over 30 years. Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon at this point, but I actually like being able to see the file system, and I don’t want or need some specially curated “App Store” or procedures to protect me from naughty applications I download from the big, bad Internet. I’ve been doing fine for nearly 20 years. As for people who do need such things, I understand the need, but I hope I’m not further restricted due to others and their (lack of) knowledge.

I’ve said this before, and I’ve said it again, there’s a learning curve to using computers, and I’m fine with that. There’s a learning curve to operating a motor vehicle, or a table saw, or a pencil sharpener. There should be. That’s part of life. Learning should not be looked upon as something that is a bad thing, and hey, I’m sorry, but you might have to actually learn a bit to use a computer, or table saw, or kitchen appliance. I’m not saying some things don’t need to be easier, but there’s a middle ground between ease of use, and restrictions of freedoms we once had. And easier? Hell, it’s a million times easier that it once was. Why, when I was a kid you turned on your Apple II and got a blinking cursor. No icons. No menus.

I use Apple hardware, and I use a lot of Apple software (and a lot more non-Apple software.) I also use Linux a lot. Linux has never been my desktop OS of choice, but for servers I love it. I do run some Linux desktop machines though, and they’ve improved much over the years. The work I do though, does at this time require Mac OS X.

I have a first generation iPad. I love it. It’s a great device for what it is. It is not a computer. Sometimes I wish it was a computer, but I find it very enjoyable to use as it is. I wish it were more open though. (But I wish that about a lot of things.)

Mac OS X is still my favorite desktop operating system. Is it perfect? Nope. Has it gotten better or worse over the years? Probably both. I’ve always got a terminal open with multiple tabs, which is something 95% (?) or Mac users probably don’t do.

Anyway, it’s December 2012, and I’m still using Macs (a lot) for business and personal use, and most of the time, they work well for me. I’ll let you know where I’m at some time in 2013.


Beach Bike

Beach Bike

I shot this bike at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware using my Nikon, and then after I synced the photos to my iPad I used Trey Ratcliff’s 100 Cameras in 1 to do a little processing.

I was quite pleased with how fast the iPad processed the photos in comparison to my 3G iPhone (but that’s to be expected I guess.) The images came out at 600 pixels wide/high. I’m not sure if there’s a way to adjust that, as higher resolution would certainly be nice. I should also mention that I have the iPhone version of 100 Cameras in 1. (There’s also a separate iPad version, though I didn’t feel like plunking down more money for it… yet. Of course, this may be why the images came out at 600 pixels wide/high.)

At first I was sort of overwhelmed with 100 Cameras in 1, because, hey, that’s a lot of cameras! But I’m slowly getting used to it. It’s quite a difference from Plastic Bullet, one of my favorite iPhone photo apps, but it’s growing on it.


Virgin Mobile MiFi


About 6 month ago I picked up a Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot. I just call it a MiFi, as do most people. It’s basically a 3G modem which lets you connect up to 5 devices (via wifi) and get them online.

The decision to get the MiFi was driven by the service of Time Warner Cable… after a two-day outage that is. The work I do requires an Internet connection, and I thought the MiFi would be a good backup for Time Warner failures, as well as the occasional traveling I do.

Now, there’s plenty of reviews of this model, in fact, here’s one, and here’s another. You can also find review on Amazon and elsewhere, but hey, this is my personal experience, rather than a straight-up review.

I liked the idea of a prepaid account because I just wanted to buy the device and the “pay as you go” model fit my usage. Of course you can’t predict the future, and those Virgin Mobile folks have changed the pricing more than once. When I was planning to buy one, the 3 options were $10, $20, and $40, and by the time I bought one weeks later, it was $20, $40, and $50. And who know? They may change again…. Urgh.

Anyway, since I’m an AT&T iPhone customer with only occasional needs for tethering, this is still a better (cheaper!) option for me at this point in time.

So here’s my review (which isn’t a review.)

When I first tried using the MiFi at my house, it seemed to work fine. I was satisfied that it would be a good backup solution to another Time Warner outage. My next use was at the Milwaukee Makerspace where I used it as backup for the sometimes unreliable wifi there. It seemed to work OK, though a little slow. I wasn’t sure if it was the building, or the location, or what. I was less than impressed this time. Next was a grade school near West Allis, and the results were similar to at the Makerspace, a bit slow, but better than nothing. I’d also seen then device get really hot a few times. I’m not sure what causes this, as sometimes it happens, but it’s not consistent. I should note that on all of these occasions, it was my MacBook that was connected to it.

The thing is, I’ve seen crappy 3G connections on my AT&T iPhone around Milwaukee as well, so I don’t know if it’s saturation of the network, or the buildings, or what.

My next big test was on a drive from Milwaukee to Minneapolis. This time I used the iPad instead of the MacBook, and I really didn’t notice any connection problems. I don’t know if any of it had to do with how iOS works, but using Reeder, Oosfora, and Mobile Safari was pretty smooth. Sadly, Maps did not work the way it does on an iPhone, or how I assume it works with a 3G iPad. It just showed my location back in Pewaukee. (Oh, my daughter actually used her iPod with the MiFi as well, though I think she just spent a few minutes Facebooking.)

We stayed in Minneapolis at a hotel that did not have free wifi. (Yes, sadly, they still exist.) The MiFi was a champ here, providing us with our own Internet connection. Again, we just used the iPad and I didn’t notice any connection problems.

Now, on to the east coast… where I wish I could say the experience was just as good. I didn’t need to use the MiFi until I got to Preston, Maryland, and the house we stayed at had no Internet connection. Being able to connect was totally hit-and-miss. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. Placing the MiFi up against a window seemed to help. I formulated in my head getting a rubber suction cup so sticking it onto a window were possible. On the last day we were there, the MiFi would not connect at all. It was raining pretty badly, so I wasn’t sure if that was the cause, but then realized that it kept showing the device as “Not Activated” and for some reason, I had to go through the whole activation process again. Luckily Mobile Safari (yes, still using the iPad) managed to maintain the needed activation codes so I didn’t need to type in anything. Still, this “reactivation” was a pain to deal with, and I hope I don’t need to do it again. After the reactivation, all was well again. I even ended up using it on the plane at BWI while we sat on the runway for 30 minutes.

In the end, when the MiFi works, it works well, though occasionally a bit slow. The ability to connect seems to depend on a number of factors, and I just need to live with the fact that there is no guarantee it will work at all. I suppose that’s better than nothing… right?

I’d love to hear others’ experiences using this MiFi device, or any others.


Belkin Conserve Socket

Belkin Conserve Socket

I felt guilty leaving my iPad charger plugged in all the time, especially since it’s a 10 watt charger, which is twice the wattage of an iPhone charger. You usually have two options: leave it plugged in all the time (wasteful) or unplug it when not in use (annoying.)

The third option is something like the Belkin Conserve Socket, which is a plugin device with a slide switch for how many hours it should be “on” set to either 1/2 hour, 3 hours, or 6 hours. This is great for the iPad since you can guesstimate how much charging you’ll need for it. If I go to sleep and the iPad is at 10%, I’ll set it to 6 hours. If it’s at 80% I’ll do a 1/2 hour. You get the idea…

I may get another one of these, because I tend to plug in my cordless drill battery charger and leave it charging for more than a day, which seems wasteful. This would limit the charge to 6 hours. Belkin also has an energy use monitor called the Conserve Insight, which would help figure out what devices are using the most power.

Besides the device being a bit large, my only complaint is that if you want to turn it off manually (instead of letting it turn off by itself) you need to unplug it. The button on the top is only an on button, not an off button. A minor annoyance, but if you expect the button to turn it off, be ready when all it does is make the green light on the top brighter while you hold it down. (Oh, one more small annoyance. The device is held together with screws that require a triangle-shaped bit. For 98% of the people who use this, it won’t matter, but for makers/hackers who want to crack it open, it’s a bit annoying.)

Ultimately, the Belkin Conserve is a good thing, but wouldn’t it be great if a device like the iPad could communicate with its charger to tell it when to turn off? It’s all Apple hardware, so I’d think engineering a charger that knows when it’s done charging (based on communicating with the iPad via the USB cable) would be a good thing. Apple could add one more “green” feather to its environmental cap.

P.S. Amazon has the Belkin Conserve Socket for less than $10.


The Reeder Value


I tried Reeder on the iPhone last year, and I wasn’t immediately in love with it, it’s alright, but I don’t really do too much feed reading on my phone nowadays. Still it’s nice to have an RSS aggregator on my phone, and it’s the one I liked the best. It was $1.99 at the time (it’s $2.99 now) and I was willing to pay that without thinking much about it. It would probably be a better experience on a newer iPhone (I’ve got the 3G) but then, what wouldn’t be a better experience?

I mentioned that I don’t do too much feed reading on my phone nowadays, and that’s true, but I think a large part of it is that I now do a ton of feed reading on the iPad. In fact, on a lazy Sunday morning I’ve been know to spend a good hour or two catching up on my reading just as someone may have read a newspaper in the olden days when they used to print newspapers.

On the iPad I used MobileRSS for a while and like it well enough, except when they redesigned the entire UI during an upgrade. In reading some of the reviews, I kept seeing mentions that it ripped off the design of Reeder. I ended up trying Reeder on the iPad, and while it took me a little while to get used to it, I started to like it. At $4.99 for the iPad version, I grabbed it right away, and I really do love it now. I’d estimate that feed reading on the iPad accounts for more than 50% of what I use the device for.

I normally use Google Reader in Firefox, with some help from Stylish, to make it a bit prettier, but when the Reeder for Mac beta came out, I gave it a shot, and I liked it. I still didn’t do too much reading on desktop (or laptop) as compared to the iPad, but it was nice to have. The user experience is much better than the browser. That said, I was worried it would come out of beta and require a purchase to keep using it. Well, perhaps I wasn’t worried so much as concerned about the unknown price.

Well, Reeder for Mac is out, and it’s $9.99. Now, I know I’m cheap, but I sort of feel like it just isn’t worth it (at least not for me.) I mean, if I weigh how much I use my Mac for feed reading, versus how much I use my iPad for the task, it just doesn’t measure up. If it was $4.99 on the Mac, I’d probably be tempted to grab it. Of course I’ve already spent about $7 for the iPad and iPhone versions, so maybe that’s another reason I’m not ready to kick down another $10 to have another version of it running on yet another device.

Reeder is a really nice feed reader though, and I love it on the iPad at $4.99, but I’m just not convinced it would be worth $9.99 on the Mac. (Again, I’m basing this on my own reading habits.)