24 hours with an iPod touch

For a couple years, I had a 30GB video iPod. Black. I bought it primarily to use while traveling, but I also hoped to use it to listen to podcasts as I went to sleep. Long story short, I rarely used it at home or around the house once the initial shine was off. I found sleeping with headphones to be cumbersome, and I never got around to buying an alarm-clock dock thing. How did I listen to podcasts in bed? The same way I have been for years -- right off my laptop.

I still used the iPod while traveling, but between not working out for sleeping and some of the features not being quite as polished as I would like, I must admit that I didn't really love my iPod after the first few months. It was nice, but it didn't change my life.

On Monday, I bought an iPod touch. I'll be at two conventions over the next month -- MechaCon later this week, and Gen Con in August, and I had been considering getting an iPhone, but nobody had a 32GB iPhone in stock. So I grabbed a 32GB iPod touch. So far, I am really impressed.

Here's the things that sold me:

  • External Speaker: No need to buy any sort of dock to use it as an audio player in bed, plus no need to use headphones while using it at my desk.
  • Apps: I'm around a wifi network all day, so I'm experimenting with moving some apps over to the iPod touch, like TweetDeck. I want to stay connected to these things ... without staying connected to my laptop.
  • Touchscreen: I use a computer so much that I get uncomfortable when I don't have some sort of interface to work with. Anyone who hangs out with me knows that I can't stop futzing with, well, anything I can get my hands on -- random pieces of paper, any electronics, the coffee cup I'm holding, whatever. The iPod touch plays into this perfectly.
  • Internal Microphone: Hah! Busted! I thought that the touch had an internal microphone, but it totally doesn't. I need to buy a mic for it so I can use Skype.

Here's a really pleasant surprises:

  • Better syncing: On my previous iPod, if I listened to a track on it, iTunes never realized that I had. On the iPod touch, that information is synced back -- making smart playlists based on play status that much better. I've been burning through old unplayed podcasts today, catching up.
  • NetNewsWire: I love NNW on OS X, and I'm totally pleased with the iPod touch version, too. One tiny niggle -- I wish I could re-order my categories of feeds manually instead of alphabetically. I renamed the category on my Mac, but that change has yet to sync properly to the iPod touch. Minor niggle for now.

And here's what I really really really want:

  • iChat with voice: I spend a lot of time using iChat to talk to friends and coworkers, and I'd love to be able to carry them around the house with me without hefting my laptop.
  • iTunes to get a good facelift: I like iTunes. I like having a single library of music; the overall model of the app works well for me. But over the years, iTunes has grown and expanded in ways that have made it ungainly. Why is the only way to manually check for podcasts that little "Refresh" button hidden in the bottom right of the Podcasts menu? Why can't I right click on the Podcast icon in the sidebar and chooose "Refresh" from a contextual menu? I have a ton of little niggles about iTunes, but none of them are gamebreakers.
  • Wireless syncing for everything: It just makes sense.
  • Being able to continue using the device while syncing: This is annoying. Yeah, I'm syncing a lot because I'm still trying out new apps and tinkering in general, but it's really annoying.

Adding Multi-Touch to older Mac Laptops

This little hack outlined on TUAW allows slightly older Mac laptops to use multi-touch gestures, including the beautiful four-finger swipe:

  • MacBook Air (all models)
  • Early 2008 MacBook Pro
  • Late 2008 17" MacBook Pro
  • Unibody MacBook (all models)
  • Unibody MacBook Pro (all models)

I have an early 2008 MacBook Pro -- a refurbished 2.5ghz -- and this procedure worked without a hitch. I am now slightly less jealous of the awesome trackpad on the new MBPs... but only slightly.

MacBook vs. MacBook Pro

With a bunch of new Apple stuff announced today, people are scrambling to figure out what's the best purchasing decision. I just answered a question over on the Figure Four Online message boards [yup, there are wrestling fans that can afford Apple computers!] where I compared the hardware features of the sole remaining MacBook to the 13" MacBook Pro. Here's the rundown:

MacBook is $999, MacBook Pro is $1,199. US Dollars.

Not counting the body design, the MacBook Pro has, in rough order of importance to me:

  • The totally awesome giant glass trackpad that uses 4 finger gestures.
  • LED backlit screen [supposedly lasts longer, uses less power, better for environment]
  • 8GB maximum DDR3 RAM [4GB of DDR2 is the max on the MacBook]
  • Supposed 2 hours better battery capacity [7 as opposed to 5]
  • A SD Card slot! [Because if you need to use a SD Card, you obviously don't already have a $15 USB widget that can be gang-banged by a half-dozen different cards at once]
  • Illuminated keyboard
  • Mini DisplayPort output instead of Mini-DVI output
  • .5 less pounds
  • .13 inches thinner
  • 1 firewire 800 port

I love the glass multi-touch trackpad. Along with that, the important factors are the monitor [the LED ones are very nice] and the better battery capacity [might be better by 30 minutes in real working conditions, but that's just a guess.]

Features that the MacBook has that the MBP doesn't:

  • Removable battery
  • 1 firewire 400 port

Personally, I think the choice is clear. For $200 more, take the Pro. AppleCare for either machine is $249.

January 13th Edit: Since I was very flip about battery life above, here's the AnandTech review that discusses battery life and tells me that I'm totally wrong.

MacBook Pro Battery Replacement

The battery in my MacBook Pro had been sucking lately: down to about 1:30 of battery life, and sometimes, after a full charge, as low as 20 minutes. Letting it drain a little bit and then re-charging it would bring it back up to 1:30, but still, for a 10 month old battery, that's not cool.

I landed in Seattle this morning, and after Air Canada lost my luggage [still hasn't been found] we went to IHOP and then the Apple store in Lynnwood. There was a bit of a wait for the Genius Bar, but the genius immediately said that my battery was totally out of whack and would be replaced for free, and less than 10 minutes later I had a brand new battery and was outta there. Awesome service.

However ... it looks like putting a new battery in my machine re-enabled Safe Sleep, which I go through a lot of work to snuff out like the plague it is. Very minor though, and the service I got at the Apple store was great. Plus, I got to fondle a new iMac and a Mac Pro, and now I want them both.

Also, I want my luggage back. My hair gel is in there! C'mon, Air Canada, help a guy out.

Safe Sleep Snuffed

I've written before about my problems getting Safe Sleep / Deep Sleep to work on my MacBook Pro. More frustrating was I couldn't seem to disable it fully: I could disable it temporarily, but as soon as my laptop used a different Energy Saver preference [which happened automatically when it was unplugged from the power supply], it would immediately re-enable Safe Sleep.

Turns out that this 10.4 tip on Mac OS X Hints works just fine on 10.5 as well. The secret, for me, seemed to be the second line, which doesn't show up in all the explanations of how to disable it:

$ sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 0
$ sudo nvram "use-nvramrc?"=false

It's been a couple of weeks since I configured things this way, and it hasn't reset itself, so it's working out nicely.

Getting more info an Apple’s Serial Number

I just found this cool site that can take the serial number of your Apple hardware [computer, iPod, etc] and tell you more about the item -- the Apple stock number, which factory it was assembled in, the week it was made, and other little factoids.

Handy in a pinch: I was trying to diagnose why a friend's MacBook wouldn't boot when she put 4GB of RAM in it ... turns out that her model only supported up to 2GB, and she had mistakenly thought it could take 4GB.

Remember that you can find the serial number by clicking a couple times on the version number text underneath "Mac OS X" in the About This Mac dialog, or simply in the Hardware Overview pane of the System Profiler app.

Improving Apple’s Time Capsule, plus some Sparkle Stuff

It's kind of rude to speak about improving something before it's even available, but I'm shopping for a new router now, so Apple's Time Capsule caught my eye yesterday. I've been using Time Machine on my Leopard-powered laptop, but I find that I don't remember to plug in the USB drive often enough for it to be rock-solid backup -- so the idea of a wireless backup while I sleep sounds good. [Maybe I should just move my backup drive into my bedroom ... hmmm!]

Synced Apple Software Update
Here's the killer feature I want: Apple Software Update should use your Time Capsule as a proxy and storage device; all patches you download should be saved on your Time Capsule [for a period of time you specify] and other computers on your network should pull the updates off your Time Capsule instead of from the internet [after checking for newer versions, of course.] This will speed up installs and reinstalls in general [reinstall OSX from CD, hit Software Update, pull all the previously-downloaded updates down from your Time Capsule.]

I've wanted this sort of feature ever since I had two Macs on my desk at the same time, but didn't think it would be easily possible within small networks without a lot of hackery -- this seems like the perfect opportunity for Apple to make what seems like a good product even better. Further, this could be used for sysadmins to restrict access to updates until they've verified that they don't cause issues with specific computers or third party software.

Backup to Time Capsule, Reinstall, Migrate
When I told Eleanor about this idea, she immediately thought of a further version: modify the OSX installer to detect Time Capsules, and offer an opportunity to backup/install/migrate in one fell swoop. Configure the options as you want, then walk away for a few hours and come back to your reinstalled OS with all your settings. Maybe it could even look at the Synced Apple Software Updates on your Time Capsule and install them too, if you want...

Sparkle Stuff
Sparkle is an application updating mechanism that is embedded inside many OSX apps -- Adium, Cyberduck, and SubEthaEdit, for example. Wouldn't it be great if the same Synced Update functionality worked for these apps, too? And if there was some global updating application you could fire up that would detect all your Sparkle-using apps and check them for updates all at once, then leave those updates on your Time Capsule so you could quickly grab them on your other computers afterwards? I'd love it.

Goodbye, Leopard

I tried installing Leopard a few weeks ago on my main production machine. The machine needed a reinstall anyway, to clear up over a year's worth of cruft, so I figured I may as well upgrade to Leopard at the same time. The first week or more was fine, and then InDesign CS2 spontaneously developed a problem -- it would crash whenever the "file open/file save/etc" dialog would open. I switched over to using the "Adobe Dialog" for awhile, but that didn't consistently fix the problem. I did the usual InDesign fixing steps: deleting preferences, making sure the drives didn't have errors, etc. Deleting prefs would temporarily fix things, but a few hours later the problem would reoccur.

So last night I backed the drive up, reinstalled Leopard, and reinstalled just CS2 and a few other minor essential apps. It worked fine, again, for a few hours ... and then it developed the exact same problem.

Leopard has been [mostly] fine and fun on my laptop, but I don't have time to dicker around with my main production machine. It's just not ready for my prime time: whether that's the fault of Apple or Adobe, I don't care. I'm reinstalling Tiger now.

“Deep Sleep” on MacBook Pros with Leopard

Some months ago I posted about deep/safe sleep does not work on my MacBook Pro under 10.4.10. I finally got around to testing it on Leopard today, and surprise surprise, it "works" in an even lesser way than before; there's no sign at all that it's restoring from the saved image, and the only part of the computer that works is the power button.

This doesn't actually bother me all that much, because I very rarely get into a situation where I run my battery all the way down, but I'm sure it bothers some people.

What really bothers me is my DVD-R stubbornly refusing to burn any dual layer DVDs, but it seems like only about 2.3 billion people have this problem, so Apple can't be damned to fix it.

Photobooth should make a custom Preview icon

I didn't really notice until I upgraded to a new larger monitor a few months ago that the icon for Apple's Preview application is of a young child holding up a fish. Cue instant revulsion -- I don't like children randomly showing up in iconography that does not directly relate to children. So I jumped into Photoshop and got rid of the young child, replacing him with a delicious redhead. Much better!

However, it would be much cooler if, the first time one launched Preview, it also fired up Photobooth and took a couple snapshots [or let you feed it previously-existing snapshots] and integrated them into the Preview icon, properly blending/blurring them under the thumbtack, and then instantly installing that icon for you.