Archive for the ‘Apple’ Category

Macbook Aluminium makes funny clicking sound while apparently not charging

November 8, 2008

The title really says it all. My Macbook Alu had run out of battery and died; when I plugged it in, the light on the power plug did not ignite, and I thought nothing was happening until I noticed a steady low ticking sound emanting from the top left of the keyboard. I tried to google it, but didn’t find anything interesting (I have to admit I didn’t spend too much time researching, as it was via Opera Mini on my N82….).

After listening to the steady ticking for a few minutes, I unplugged and reconnected the power plug, which promptly lit up like it usually does, and I’m typing this on my Macbook. Funny.

I wonder if perhaps the ticking is the Macbook’s way of saying it is doing some low-level charging of the battery?

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Brief review of the Nokia N82 and comparison with the iPhone

December 25, 2007

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About three weeks ago, I received the Nokia N82 in the mail, as a replacement for the Nokia 6300 I had been using. These are the main reasons I went for the N82:

  • Symbian OS combined with plenty of RAM (128 MB) – the amount of RAM was one of the main problems with the previous Symbian phone I used (the E50)
  • Decent 5 megapixlel camera with autofocus and flash
  • Great video camera, 640×480
  • Wifi, 3G and HSDPA
  • Acceptable size for its functionality

To most readers with some knowledge of the iPhone’s specs, it’s probably easy to see why I went with the N82 instead of the iPhone. As I see it, these are the main differentiators between the N82 and the iPhone:

Camera: The N82, with its 5 megapixels, VGA video recording and flash can act as a compact camera when my SLR is out of reach. You can’t do that with 2 megapixels, no autofocus and no flash or camera light.

Wireless connection options: The N82 supports 3G and HSDPA, meaning you can get a theoretical 3 megabits of bandwidth to the phone. The iPhone maxes out at 230 kbits. Also, the iPhone doesn’t support wireless stereo headsets over Bluetooth A2DP.

Openness: On the N82, you can install any Symbian or Java ME application you want to. Personally, I am a big fan of Opera Mini and Google’s mail application.

Media playback: The iPhone synchs easily with your computer (iTunes, that is), and has a huge screen, great for video playback. Getting video onto your N82 is cumbersome in my experience. It is always nice to be able to connect the phone as a USB mass storage device and drag and drop content on it, but that doesn’t take care of video conversion for you. The tools Nokia provide for that purpose are not really a match for iTunes at this point.

User experience: You can do pretty much anything with the N82, but the interface isn’t very impressive. For instance, some screens can be rotated and seen in landscape mode, some cannot (i.e. the Video Centre and the main screen). Also, the traditional phone keypad is no match for the touch screen of the iPhone. In my opinion, the combination of OS X software and the touch screen makes for an unbeatable user experience (or it would, if Apple added a few more real buttons for things like taking a photograph).

Radio: The N82’s got one. I can see no reason why my phone shouldn’t be able to play FM radio, and I enjoy having the option to tap into fresh, unbuffered content whenever I like.

GPS: Having GPS on your phone is just plain neat. Over the last three weeks, I have used it for finding parties twice – not bad, and it is also OK for in-car navigation. I believe the route finder/navigation is only free for the first 90 days, though – not so good. Still – you will be able to use the GPS with third-party apps such as Google Maps.

N82 weaknesses and conclusion
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The N82 is a computer, a camera, a radio, a MP3 player, a GPS, an internet device – stuffed with functionality. On the other hand, the iPhone is very slick phone + media player. It is also good as an internet device, but to me, Mobile Safari is useless outside of WiFi zones – it is too slow and too expensive, whereas using Opera Mini on a N82 results in the web nicely formatted for a small screen and compressed to size that’s healthy for my phonebill.

The N82 does have a few weaknesses.

Transferring media to the phone is slow if you use the Nokia micro-USB cable. It feels more like USB 1.1 than USB 2.0 – I’d estimate that moving over 60 megabytes takes about a minute. Still, as long as I am not transferring huge amounts, I don’t bother with a SD card reader. (I sometimes use Bluetooth to move an album or two of MP3s across – it is perfectly doable if you have the time to spare.)

While we are on media transfers – I would like it to sync with iTunes as well as any iPod can. It seems Nokia is working on this, at least on the Mac platform. I haven’t taken the time to check out their offering yet, but something good is cooking.

The battery life is barely acceptable. If you use it like I do – music and the web en route to work, calling and music while at work interspersed with radio, the occasional photograph on some days and a barrage of video and photography at parties, some wifi while I am at home, you will need to charge it every night.

I expected the phone to work with 8 GB microSDHC cards, but I can’t find confirmation that it works with anything bigger than 4 GB, which is a shame. Update April 2009: My N82 works fine with a Sandisk 8gb MicroSDHC.

The design is inferior to that of the iPhone, although it is not bad. The same goes for the user interface, which is actually quite responsive for a smartphone. I would have liked it to have dedicated buttons for play/pause, next/previous, in addition to buttons for volume up/down, gallery and shutter.

Finally, I have found it to be less stable than it should be. I estimate that I have experienced 2-3 total freezes or soft reboots per week while I have been using this phone. Now, I am probably a pretty extreme user – freezes are most common when I use the GPS as well as the music player while running Opera or the NetFront browser and more in the background, but still – the phone should handle those usage scenarios. (Caveat – I don’t think I have the latest firmware for the phone – haven’t been able to upgrade yet.) Update April 2009: With the latest firmware, my phone is quite stable – on average it crashes once a month, and keep in mind that I’m a heavy user.

If you need (or want ;) ) all the functionality the N82 can offer – it is definitely worth getting. If what you need is a phone and a media player, the iPhone will probably make you a happier person. But I can tell you – when surfing the web, reading the mail, checking out the great, flash-enabled party photos, navigating with GPS and listening to music, all at the same time, using the N82 elevates me to geek nirvana and makes me feel like this is at least May 2008. And that is awesome.

How do I move the focus to a popup dialog in OS X – using the keyboard? [Updated!]

November 7, 2007

Just can’t get there with the keyboard!
Ahrg – just can’t get there!

Update 11/11/07:
Previously, I posted that I couldn’t get to all dialogs using the keyboard (read more for details). Thanks to Archie on the Apple Discussions forum, I have now learned a workaround.

The VoiceOver utility has a function called Window Chooser. By turning on VoiceOver (in Universal Access), you can get to Window Chooser by pressing Ctrl+Option and hitting F2 twice. Cumbersome – but it works. Another workaround is to enable Mouse Keys and navigate the mouse cursor using the keyboard.

Of course, both of these solutions are rather hopeless – this is one of those keyboard accessability things Apple should just fix, for instance by including all windows spawned by an application in the Command+> sequence.

This is the scenario: I am installing something on my Mac that requires administrator privilegies, and I am doing it with my keyboard only. After agreeing to terms and conditions, a popup window comes up, asking me to verify that I am an administrator.

Accidentally, I task-switch to a different application.

Now – how do I get back to the Authenticate dialog, using the keyboard?

The popup dialog can’t be reached via command+tab, is not visible via Expose, and is not a sub-window of the installer process that spawned it, so I cannot get there with command+>. Seems to me like a good example of poor usability in OS X.

I haven’t been able to figure this out – I would be very grateful for any ideas!

Reducing your data traffic costs on the iPhone – Google Mobilizer

November 4, 2007

I have a few friends who are using unlocked iPhones. Since they have “normal” (read: expensive) data rates on their mobile subscriptions, using the iPhone to surf online over EDGE/GPRS can be quite expensive.

As they didn’t know about this little trick to reducing your data transfer costs, I thought I should mention it here.

Google Mobilizer works by taking a web address as an input and converting it to a “mobile friendly” format. Basically, this means that it strips the page of formatting and reduces the size of images (and trashes the layout in the process). In other words, it works a bit like Opera Mini – only way less elegant (particularly compared to the beta of Opera Mini 4).

Give it a go: Google Mobilizer. I would suggest entering your favourite websites via Mobilizer and then bookmarking them for easy, mobilized access. Switch off images for extra savings and quicker pageloads – useful considering the slowness of EDGE.

If you have a handset that allows you to install Java apps, you should definitely try Opera Mini! The best thing to come out of Norway since, eh, the cheese slicer. Or something like that. (I’m hoping for a iPhone version of Opera Mini soon.)

Awesome stuff is happening!

April 4, 2007
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No, I’m not talking about my master’s thesis nearing completion – unfortunately, it is quite far from being awesome.

However, as if to compensate me for having to stay indoors and staring at OpenOffice when the weather outside is brilliant and sensible people are having their Easter holidays, the worlds of games, music and technology have dropped me three presents!

Games first! Some readers might be aware that I’m a big fan of SingStar, that game where people who tremendously enjoy singing in the shower can finally do so outside of the shower as well. Many times after playing (yeah, it is really playing and not singing it’s about, right?) I’ve said “wouldn’t it be awesome if we could have more voices going at the same time, or the entire band?”. The potential was obvious, and my prayers have been heard. Harmonix, the guys behind Guitar Hero (which I, sadly, have barely played) are creating a game called Rock Band where four players can take part. Vocals, guitar, bass and drums! YEAH! The potential awesomeness is completely off the charts. I can barely contain myself!

I’ll go in more detail some other time, since I have two more pieces of awesome news I want to share with you.

Music! In my previous blog post, I complained about DRM on music – in short, music files bought over the web that you can only play X times or only on this or that device. It seems someone was listening, because starting in May, EMI (the record company with Robbie Williams, Coldplay and lots of other big names on contract) are starting to sell music on the internet – without DRM. The price will be slightly higher than on the tracks already retailing on iTunes, but the quality will be higher as well. This is the beginning – I am confident the other record companies will have to follow EMI on this one. Yeah!

Finally, technology. Last year I heard some rumblings about wireless power, and how it was physically quite possible and probably would happen, you know, inside our lifespans, at least. Well, guess what. Philips are coming to market with a wireless LED light bulb this year, and next year we’ll see a wireless power receiver in phones, keyboards, mice etcetera. At this stage, the range of the “power waves” is about 1 metre, and the power transmitted is sufficient for, well, LEDs, mice, keyboard, cell phones, but not larger devices such as laptops. We’ll get there. This is awesome.

I love the feeling of progress! Collaborative gameplay never seen before, finally music in decent quality available legally without DRM – and wireless power. Bring on the future, I can’t wait! Yeah!

Weird OS X crash – everything freezes, music from iTunes keeps playing

March 14, 2007
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Ahrg!

OS X crashed on me again. This has happened before, and I think the manner of the crash is weird enough to warrant a blog post. This is what happens.

1) I’m working on something, usually my thesis, using NeoOffice, Word, remote desktop, Firefox, Opera, tons of stuff.

2) Suddenly OS X freezes – meaning that my keyboard input doesn’t register, and although I can move the mouse cursor around, nothing happens when I click.

3) The music continues. If I am playing an MP3 in iTunes, it keeps playing, like nothing has happened. No stuttering, nothing.

4) I can close the lid on the Macbook, and it will eventually go to sleep. When I wake it up, I don’t get the logon screen, but am sent directly into the desktop again and the music resumes.

5) Eventually my patience runs out, and I do a hard shutdown on the Macbook using the power button.

In a word: Weird. As previously, nothing special in the logs. I’ll google this later, for now I have to do some work.

Drag and drop in the OS X Finder stops working

January 27, 2007

I’ve been having my Macbook for about 7-8 months now, and this problem occurs on a regular basis: The drag and drop functionality in Finder stops working.

After googling for a bit, it seems Quicksilver is the problem. Drag and drop only goes away if QS is running, according to this forum thread. It seems the number of items Quicksilver is cataloguing might have something to do with it – it would certainly fit my profile, as I have about 70.000 items in the catalogue. Apparently, this can cause Quicksilver to experience errors and affect the Drag/drop functionality.

This post will be expanded as I look for solutions. Please leave a comment if you’ve also experienced this issue, or if you know of a workaround / solution.

Mac OS X annoyances, part 3: The missing Finder keyboard shortcuts

October 20, 2006

This site has a great collection of OS X tips, but there are still a few things missing in the Finder.

OS X annoyances, part 3
Here be dragons

There is a contextual menu (the “action menu”) you can bring up for items by right-clicking on them. It is really handy – unfortunately there is no way to get to it without using the mouse, which makes it nearly worthless to me. Windows XP lets you use the right-click button on the keyboard (to the right of the spacebar, where the second Command key is located on the Mac) for this purpose.

Finder’s sidebar, called the Places sidebar in the previously mentioned site, lets you add shortcuts to directories or files you access often. Very neat, but again, there is no way to reach these shortcuts by using the keyboard.

There is also a nifty search feature in the Finder. Guess what – you click on the search box in the top left of your Finder window and enter your search string. If you want to modify where the search is looking, you also have to use the mouse. And when time comes to move the focus down to the search results… yep, the mouse.

On a related note, there is no way to make the search results include what directory the found item is in, so if you have several files with the same names, you have to click in the list, and key through them – the directory is listed at the bottom of the window. Why not include an option to customize the results list? This is a small detail which makes File & Folders search in Windows a lot more effective to use.

(Yes, I know about Spotlight, which by the way suffers from the same problem. Fortunately, Quicksilver is a lot more useful, but not quite stable on my machine at the moment – and not integrated with the Finder.)

These are just a few of my minor complaints with OS X. The sad part is that these are really, really easy to rectify, and I can’t understand why these (to me) obvious shortcuts are left out. On the whole, their absence make OS X a lot slower to use. Apple – please let me work faster with my Mac!

The Apple MacBook, three months on

October 8, 2006

After using my black 2,0 Ghz MacBook for three months, I thought I should write up a short review with the main positive and negative points this laptop has to offer.

I will contrast my MacBook experiences with those Margrethe has had with her Dell Inspiron 6400, which has similar specifications at a lower cost. The Dell is a much larger machine (15,4″ vs 13,3″ screen and a lot thicker) but I still believe it is a useful comparison. Most of my thoughts here would apply to the cheaper MacBook models, too.

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