In Command, Not Control: Why i-Mac and Think You Should Too

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The Fictional “Mac Tax” and What That Means for You

Posted by bradringel on May 25, 2009

Laptop Hunters Ad

Laptop Hunters Ad

Some of you may have recently seen a series of ads that was run by Microsoft Corp. entitled “Laptop Hunters.” In these ads, Microsoft challenges a person to go and find the laptop that they want, no matter what brand, and they will pay for the laptop.  This campaign was a shot at the fact that Macs are generally more expensive than PCs.  All of the people in these commercials go to look at the Macs and comment on how cool they look, but how they can’t get as many features, say 4 GB of ram, for their price range, which is maybe $2000 or something along those lines.  Many people in media have called this phenomenon the “Mac Tax.”  The Mac tax is basically the extra money you pay when you buy a computer from Apple, just because its a Mac.  Well I come to you today with important and wonderful news.  The Mac Tax doesn’t exist! That’s right, my buddy Leo did some research while looking at computers to buy, and has found that, at least in this case, with two similarly spec’ed laptops, one a Sony and one a MacBook, the Sony costs more.  Now here is the important nugget of knowledge in that statement, SIMILARLY SPEC’ED.  It is very important that when you do a price comparison between two computers or two anythings really, that you make sure that the items are as similar as possible.  With computers, this includes processor speed, RAM, Harddrive space, and a few other features.  In our tests, we will be comparing a Sony VGN-Z690, with a Unibody 2.4 MacBook.  Please note that the only changes made to the Sony was a bump in memory and Harddrive space, and the only change made on the MacBook was a bump in memory.  Both computers now feature a 2.4 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo Processor, 4GB of RAM, 250 GB Harddrive.  Neither video card is upgradable, so we will treat those as the same.  The Sony is running Windows Vista Home Premium, and the MacBook is running the latest update of Leopard.

The MacBook

The MacBook

The Vaio

The Vaio

So here you can see screen grabs of the two product configuration sites.  Note the price difference.  Now note which one is more expensive.  Yup, the Vaio weighs in at $1869.99 and the MacBook comes in at $1699.00. [Edit: realized you can’t see the prices in the screen grabs so you can head to the sites and configure the laptops as such if you dont believe me Vaio (4GB RAM 250GB HDD), MacBook (4GB RAM)]  Other things to note are that the Sony comes with Microsoft Works, a less feature filled office suite than Microsoft Office, while the Mac comes with no office software.  However, the Mac comes with iLife preinstalled, while the Sony doesn’t have apps like GarageBand or iPhoto or iMovie.  The Sony comes with a free 90 day trail of a Virus protection program, and we already know that the Mac doesn’t because we don’t really buy those programs.  Also, the Mac comes with 90 days of Phone support and a 1 year waranty.  I couldn’t find anything about support on the Sony page, so lets assume that it also comes with a 1 year.

What does this mean for you?  Well this means that you can finally shut up your Windows loving friends about how much more expensive Macs are than PCs.  Okay so maybe you can’t shut them up because this is only one example, but it is still a good example about the importance of knowing how to compare different models.  In those Microsoft commercials, the customer wanders over the Mac section of the store, usually Best Buy(and really, the best place to buy a Mac is the Apple Store anyways, but sometimes you have to make do), and they comment about how they can’t get the same amount of features for the same price as the Windows computer they were looking at over there.  Like this girl wants 4 GB of memory for her video editing, but she can’t pay for the MacBook Pro with 4 GB of RAM because its abover her price range, but this PC over here has the memory she wants.  I mean, these are Microsoft commercials, so it would be rather sad if the customer ended up picking the Mac, but still, these are not fair comparisons.  I saw a quote in response to these ads from Apple (I’m sorry I don’t remember who, help me out if you can) saying that if you get the computer for the price you want, but it doesn’t do everything you wanted, then you didn’t get the best deal, or something along those lines.  I would have to agree.  If that Windows laptop is going to do everything you ever wanted it to and more, and you paid less than I did for my MacBook, then you got the best deal.  But if it has the memory you want, but ultimately it ends up being slower due to a processor speed, then you didn’t really get the best deal, and you weren’t making informed decisions.  Right now I’m just rambling for no reason, but here’s the kicker:  Don’t take everything you see on TV to be true.  You can find the right Mac for you just the way you can find the right PC for you.  Make an informed comparison and think about what you really need.  When I first went shopping for my Mac, I thought I needed the extra power that the MacBook Pro offered, but ended up saving money and walking away with my MacBook and couldn’t have been happier.

Thats all I have for you guys, thanks for reading.  If you have ideas for posts, leave comments or send me an email at incommandnotcontrol@gmail.com

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Comments Questions and Contacting

Posted by bradringel on May 13, 2009

Hey guys. Just wanted to send a short blog post out about how to get in contact with me. I have some ideas for posts for the blog but would really love input from you readers out there. If there is an app that you want reviewed, or questions you have that I can answer for you, either drop a line in the comments, send an email to incommandnotcontrol@gmail.com or hit me up on Twitter @shadesandcolour. That’s about it guys, just remember, questions, comments, review requests, or other post requests, send them to the email, comments, or Twitter.

~Brad

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Linux Live CDs: Why I love them.

Posted by bradringel on May 10, 2009

Tux: The Linux Mascot

Tux: The Linux Mascot

So I know that this blog covers mostly Mac and Apple things, such as cool apps for my Macbook or stuff for my iPhone, but this post is going to be a quick blurb about Linux. For those of you out there who don’t know what Linux is, here’s a brief explanation. Linux is an open source, free operating system, that is often run on servers. It can however be installed on any commercial computer. All the code that runs the operating system is open for development, and that leads to a large group of “distributions” of Linux. Linux is actually, technically just the kernel of the operating system, while all the parts that you actually see are part of the “distro” (such as your Graphical User Interface, or the programs that come bundled). One of the most popular distros right now is Ubuntu, as well as Fedora, Red Hat, Debian, and many many others. Now onto the main part of this post, and what I think is quite possibly the coolest part about Linux.

Right now, the Macbook I’m typing this post on has three operating systems: Mac OS X 10.5.6, Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope, and Fedora 10. But that’s not all. The CDs that I used to install both those Linux distros onto my Mac (Ubuntu and Fedora) can be used for something else. They are “Live CDs”. Now basically, a Live CD is an operating system on a disc. You don’t boot the Hard drive at all when you run Linux in a Live CD environment. Pretty neat huh? Its perfect for solving stubborn issues you are having with your computer.
In this particular situation, I was trying to reinstall Windows XP on an old laptop of mine. I had thrown the Windows 7 Beta on there for kicks just to see how it worked, but now it was time to switch it back. The only problem was, my XP install disk wouldn’t boot. Normally, the process for reinstalling the OS on a computer consists of putting the install disc in the drive and pressing a special key combination before the computer loads the operating system on the hard drive, to make the computer boot from the disc. On a Mac you can achieve this by either holding down ‘c’ while your Mac boots up, or holding ‘option’ and selecting the CD with the arrow keys when presented with the choice. On this particular Dell, you had to strike F12 as fast as you could, as soon as you saw the Dell logo. Now I did that right, and instructed the laptop to boot from the CD, but I got nothing. The stupid machine went right back into Windows 7, right where I didn’t want it to be. The issue with that is that you can’t format a partition on a hard drive that you are currently working on, so you can’t reinstall an operating system, while you are using the hard drive. When you boot to that install CD you are technically booting into a Live environment, just not the same as a Linux Live environment.
Well that sucks. Looks like Windows didn’t want me reverting to an old copy of XP for some reason. That’s not good, because now I don’t know how I’m going to reinstall XP. OH WAIT! Here’s this Linux Live CD I have lying around that I can boot into.
So I throw the Ubuntu(this one is 8.10) CD into the drive and try my F12 trick to boot to the CD again, and lo and behold, it works. Ubuntu boots up, rather slowly, but what do you expect from a CD?, and I’m staring at a desktop that has everything I need to fix my install problems. If I wanted to I could have installed Ubuntu right onto the hard drive, or I could run in the Live environment for a while and use it like I would use my computer normally. For this time around though, I’ll just fire up the partition editor and get ride of the one that has Windows 7 on it. Click the partition and click ‘delete’ and there you go, the whole hard drive is now totally blank. Well okay not totally but that is getting to technical into how computers see hard drives, for our purpose the hard drive is wiped. Now you just shut down the computer, and take out the live CD, throw in my XP install disc, and I’m greeted by the lovely bright blue tones of the Windows installer screen. Problem Solved.

So what did we learn? Linux is a very versatile operating system that can run on just about any hardware, with any configuration. Most importantly, GO GET THE LIVE CD. It will save your ass someday and you will be glad that you burned that disc. Seriously, if your hard drive ever fails or something happens to your default OS, throw that disk in there and you can start as good as new. Live CDs are also great ways to play around with a Linux OS. Linux isn’t for everyone, but its nice to be able to play around with it every now and again. Personally, there was a certain sense of satisfaction for me when I got my Linux install right on my Macbook, its just cool to be able to say that I did it. If you like the idea of Live CDs, check out the ones at the links above, or do a Google Search.
~Brad

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What’s In My Dock

Posted by bradringel on April 29, 2009

untitled2

My Dock

Hey Guys. I just wanted to give you a little rundown of the apps that I keep on my dock right now. I’ll give you a brief description of each app and what I use it for, and then will provide a link to the software. So without further ado…

First up is Finder. This program basically runs Mac OSX. Ok so maybe not runs it, but it is the program you open up to find all your files and folders and various other bits of information that are stored on your computer or on a connected disk. Everyone on a Mac should know what the Finder is and how to use it. Comes with every Mac.

Next is Dashboard. Opening up Dashboard causes your chosen widgets to fly in over your current screen and give you up to date information on just about everything. I currently use mine to check the weather and monitor my system among other things. Comes preinstalled on every Mac, you should really try it out if you haven’t already.

Mail. Another Apple Default App (ADA as I will call them now) that lets you check your email under various protocols and hosts. I use mine to check my Gmail accounts. As you may or may not have noticed, there is a green badge on the Mail icon which is not standard. This was created using a plugin called Mail Badger (cute right?) to help me track the number of messages I flagged in my Inbox. You can grab Mail Badger here and find Mail in your Applications folder.

Firefox. A great web browser that is a good alternative to Safari. While it is not my browser of choice at the moment, It comes in handy when there is a page not loading correctly in Safari, which happens on occasion. Firefox is Open source by Mozilla and has loads of great add-ons and themes to choose from to really make the browser your own. You can pick up your copy of Firefox here.

Safari. The default web browser that ships with Mac OSX. While not as expandable as Firefox, I find Safari’s interface to be easy to use and nice to look at. Right now I am using the Beta 4 version which you should really check out if you want to use Safari. I haven’t had many crashes with the beta version which is nice because I use it as my daily browser. You can get the Beta version here and the stable release version 3 here.

iChat. Another ADA that I use for chatting with my friends on AIM. There is a fierce debate in the Mac community about iChat vs Adium, a free, open source client that supports many more add ons and protocols, but I prefer the streamlined interface of iChat, just as I do Safari. iChat is easy to set up, just fill in your logins and start chatting with your friends with support for up to 4 way video conference and multiple audio conversations. Look for it in your applications folder.

iCal. More ADAs, I like to keep them to the left side of the Dock. A great app to handle your calendar and daily schedules. Supports CalDAV and subscribed calendars to make finding your events easier than ever.

NetBeans. An awesome IDE (Integrated Development Environment) for writing code in various Languages. I currently use it to develop Java applications. With its built in GUI editor, making your application look nice and usable is even easier, as the programs helps you to get past those annoying creation aspects of the GUI and lets you just write the code you need. You can pick it up here.

BlueJ. Another IDE. This one is more lightweight and is better used for teaching and learning Java. I use this for developing very very light applications and things that I do in my Java class at school. This programs helps you understand how the various aspects of a program really interact with each other, and has a streamlined interface that lets you get right into the code and doesn’t have fancy components that might confuse a novice coder. You can grab your copy of BlueJ here.

The Hit List. The Hit List(THL) is a robust task management application that really lends itself to any style of organization you want. I picked this up from the MacHeist Bundle(see post here) and couldn’t be happier. Though still in beta, we are getting very close to a 1.0 release. The developer is a very responsive guy who writes great software. You should seriously check out THL here if you have ever had issues remembering your tasks for the day. (There is also talk of an iPhone/iPod Touch application in the works so that you can take your tasks on the go).  I plan on taking a closer look at THL soon.

Evernote. Have you ever been out and about when an idea for the next great Box Office hit crossed your mind but you had nowhere to write it down? Enter Evernote. The clever solution to your note taking problems. Log into the Evernote website or access it from your computer or iPhone/iPod Touch and type in your note, or take a picture and upload it. Evernote stores this note on its server in the cloud, and updates it to all your clients where you are logged in. Take a note on your iPhone, have it automatically appear on your Mac or PC. The part that I think is even cooler about Evernote every not is fully searchable, and if you upload a picture with words in it, say a billboard, or a recipt, Evernote will analyse the picture and when you search for a word in that picture, the image will come up as a result. You can get Evernote here.

EventBox. This is a really nice app that combines all your social networks into one box, so to speak. It will grab updates from Twitter, Facebook, as well as RSS feeds, Flicker and Reddit. If you use more than one of these services and want to get your updates all together this is a nice app for that. I personally only use it for Twitter, and it grabs my FB feeds but I don’t really read them on there. The Facebook feature is nice, but I mean, who really wants to read every single one of your friends status updates. Overall a good concept though. You can grab it here.

NetNewsWire. While I previously stated that EventBox can be used to read your RSS feeds, I personally like NetNewsWire. This is nothing against EventBox. Reading feeds on EventBox works great and has great functionality, just in my mind, EventBox is my Twitter client, so when I see a number on the badge in the dock, I want that to be my unread Twitters. NNW however has one nice feature that basically made me switch to it from EventBox. Syncing. NNW syncs to the NewsGator service which means that you can get your feeds anywhere and have your read/unread status synced across platforms. This is great for when I read feeds on my iPhone using the NNW app, because then stories I have already read are marked read on my Mac. Not at your home computer? You can read your feeds online as well and have the status synced as well. One of the most popular RSS readers for Mac, pick it up over here.

Times. Wow looks like I really have an overload of RSS readers here. This is one I picked up in the MacHeist Bundle. It has a really unique approach to reading your feeds. RSS feeds are basically streams of news right? Well why not read them the way news was meant to be read, in a newspaper. Times UI looks just like the newspaper that landed on your doorstep this morning. It’s separated into columns and pages that contain different types of feeds. Its great for catching up on CNN or NYT feeds, not so much for FML :D. Take a look at it over here.

MindNode. If you are familiar with the concept of Mind Maps and have been looking for a way to do it on your computer, MindNode is great for that. Not going to go too indepth into the features here, if you Mind Map, you already know what should be there. Get it.

StoryMill. If you have ever tried to write a novel or a screenplay or some other form of creative writing using Microsoft Word or Apple Pages, Quite frankly, you were doing it wrong. While I’m sure there are plenty of published authors out there that have used a Word Processing application to bang out their manuscripts, using a program such as StoryMill is a nice touch. With support for characters, settings, scenes and chapters, its easy to organize your writing in a way that makes sense to you. The full screen mode really helps you block out the other distractions of the internet and focus on your next best-selling novel. Go grab it here.

Word. If you don’t know what to do with Word, well, then you should probably retake your whole Freshman year of High School. A full featured word processing application that has become the norm just about everywhere. Great for writing papers or letters or even your novel if you don’t feel like taking my advice from the paragraph above. Check it out here.

Preview. The ADA for viewing just about any image file on your Mac. I leave it on my dock because most of the time it is open anyways, so I didn’t want to constantly see it appear and disappear. Good for reading your PDFs, viewing JPEGS or TIFFS or just about anything else. Comes preinstalled on your Mac.

iTunes. If you don’t know about iTunes you might have been living under a rock for the past few years. If that is the case then here is the lowdown. the ADA for your music and video files. Listen and manage your music library, rip and burn CDs, Watch Movies and TV Shows. The most fun part about iTunes, the Store. Hop over the the iTunes Store to download your favourite tracks, movies and TV series all at a low price. Now supports renting movies and can download applications for the iPhone as well. Use it to add music and video to your iPod or iPhone as well.

GarageBand. The ADA for editing music. Add in loops as well as inputs from any microphone, including the one built into your iSight camera. I use it to record songs that I am working on as well as make fun little jams with the loops Apple provides. GarageBand ’09 has a cool new feature called Lessons where you can take a virtual guitar or piano lesson from a famous artist and learn to play their most popular songs.

Vuze. My current torrent client of choice. I was previously a Transmission user until I saw a blog post somewhere about Vuze. Vuze evolved from Azereus with some new features. My personal favourite, Devices. After you are finished downloading that totally legal movie or TV show, do you really want to be stuck watching it on that little 13 inch screen of your MacBook? With Vuze you can drag it over to the PS3 or XBox device and have it converted and onto the Vuze personal media server for your viewing pleasure. You then turn on your console, and start streaming your video onto your big screen tv. If you want to take your movies on the go, drag them over to the iTunes device, where you can then select the actual physical device you use, whether it is Apple TV or iPhone, and have the video transcoded into the correct format and auto-added into your iTunes library. Aside from the Devices feature, Vuze comes with its own torrent search field that searches major torrent networks, and support for RSS subscriptions, to automatically start downloading your favourite TV series the moment the torrent hits the net. Take a look at Vuze over here.

System Preferences. Really a no brainer but this is the place on your Mac where you come to change lots of options in your system. ADA

Real quick rundown on my stacks to the left of the line. First up, Dockables, a folder full of icons that do cool things like lock the screen or log you out, just google them. Next to that, Documents, then Applications, and Downloads, followed by the Trash.

Well that about wraps up my Dock, if you have any questions about any of the Apps, or would like a more in depth review on any of them, leave a post in the comments and I will get that for you. Thanks for reading

~Brad.

Posted in Apps | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

My new iPhone and My First Impressions of It

Posted by bradringel on April 21, 2009

iPhone 3G

iPhone 3G

So here I am writing my first blog post on my iPhone. Yes. Followingnmg own advice from the last post, I went ahead and got my iPhone even with the looming possibility of a new model right around the corner at WWDC. So far I am loving it. My only complaint is that 3.0 won’t be out sooner, because then I could turn off the Facebook and Twitter notification text messages in return for push notification. But good things come to those who wait, or at least that is how the saying goes. As for the typing and other control interfaces, it’s easy. The keyboard is taking some getting used to, but with the auto-correct feature going on all the time, you barely have time to notice got mistakes before they are fixed. My only suggestion would be to read over your texts or that important email to your boss before hitting that send button. Battery life has been what I expected. Have been charging every night, but that’s okay because my phone sits near the bed regardless of whether it is charging or not at nights so I just put the charger there. Now we come to the question, which was really supposed to be the main point of this post but then I got sidetracked into a little rant about my newest toy. Cases. That’s always the question with Apple products. What is it that drives us to buy cases for every single Apple product that we own? Had two iPods, had multiple cases or them. Have a MacBook, have a case for that too. Now I have an iPhone, and there are really two questions. One is, do you get the case? The other is, which one do you get? And I guess the third part is why? I mean the obvious answer is to protect you phone, but why didn’t you buy a case for that crappy Nokia you had back in 8th grade? Well basically what I’ve decided is that, if I do end up getting a case (and let’s be honest, I most likely will) then I will get a CapsuleRebel from SwitchEasy. I’ve been doing my research, and have found that this case is basically awesome an is superior to it’s brother, the CapsuleNeo. The Neo breaks too much for my liking, and the Rebel just looks sweet. You should check them both out(Rebel, Neo). The title said that it was a question and it is. Anyone out there with either or both of these cases feel free to drop a line in the comments section, or if you have an answer to the question of why, I would love to hear your thoughts. You cab also ask me iPhone questions there and I will answer. Thanks for reading guys.

~Brad

Posted in iPhone | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Why i-Will NOT be waiting for the next iPhone

Posted by bradringel on April 17, 2009

iPhone 4G Mockup

iPhone 4G Mockup

If you click around on the Internet, at least, the part of the Internet that the tech geeks go to, it’s easy to find rumors about about the next iPhone and what it is going to be like.  The most prominent rumor is that the new iPhone will be release alongside the 3.0 Software upgrade at this years WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference).  This coincides with a yearly update model for the iPhone, and Apple loves to stick to those schedules.  I, unlike the sensible techie, plan on breaking the mold and buying an iPhone in the face of imminent update.  That’s right, sometime in the near future I will be walking happily out of an Apple Retail store with my shiny new iPhone 3G.  I’ve got a few reasons why.

1. It is already a kick ass phone.  Lets be honest here, I am an Apple fanboy, and I must say that the iPhone 3G is one sexy piece of hardware.  Not only does it look great, but it performs really well.  I can’t comment on call quality yet, but I know from experiences with iPod Touches that the OS flows very well.  Couple the phone, SMS, Mail, iPod and of course the ubiquitous App Store, and it’s a winning combination.

2. It’s expandable.  And I don’t mean with those dinky little SD cards you can slide into some other music phones.  As mentioned above, iPhone has the App Store.  Apple has been running an ad campaign where the tag line is always “There’s an app for that.”  Well it’s true, if you pointed your iTunes to the App Store section, you would find over 25,000 apps to choose from, some free, some paid for, and a large handful only 99 cents.  That means there really is an app for anything.  Wanna check your twitter or rss feeds, there’s an app for that.  Wanna make sure you’re not over budget for the month? There’s an app for that.  There’s even an app for updating your blog, right from your iPhone.

3. It just works.  No more hunting around the menu of your phone to find the calendar application, it’s sitting right there on your home screen, one tap away.  The ease of use of the OS is great.  Anyone can tap a button on a screen, and everyone can type on a QWERTY keyboard, so everyone can use the iPhone.  If you do need help, there are great resources online only a Google search away, heck you could even do that search from inside the phone on Mobile Safari.

4. The Internet in your pocket, along with your favourite songs and contacts.  No more watered down versions of the web for you.  Though some popular sites now offer optimized iPhone versions of their sites, you can still browse to any website you can think of, and have it show up exactly as it would on your computer, albeit smaller.  Feel like music while you surf? Pop open the iPod application and rock out while you check your favourite news sites or send emails to your work contacts.  iPhone does it all.

Now lets go through some shortcomings that have been pointed out in the iPhone thus far, 2 years into its life.  First and foremost, no copy and paste.  This seems like a major downfall to many Blackberry users or people with other smartphones.  Second, no MMS.  A basic feature that comes with just about every phone with a camera was a glaring omission in the original iPhone OS.  Third, battery life.  Many users were experiencing extremely low battery life, often having to recharge in the middle of the day.  Well don’t expect it to last as long as your RAZR people, it does much more, therefore requires more battery.

And now the good news. iPhone 3.0 coming out in June fixes most of these issues along with many others.  Apple added copy and paste, and MMS, as well as cool new features such as the global search engine, Spotlight, familiar to anyone with a Mac.  Battery life, well, that one not so much.

And that right there is the reason why I’m not waiting for the next iPhone.  3.0 runs on the iPhone 3G and fixes many of the problems that users were complaining about.  What then is the  point in waiting for new hardware when the current model suits you fine?  No point at all.  Rumors are pointing to a 32GB “high-end” iPhone with a better camera and whatnot that I wouldn’t be purchasing anyways.  And possibly minimal updates to the current 3G.

Here’s the bottom line, if you don’t need need an iPhone or a new phone in general, but want one, wait until June.  If your phone is quickly dying on you, as mine has been for the past month, go for it.  If what you see right now suits you, then buy it.  No need to wait around for a new piece of hardware that will do maybe 3 things more than what you can get right now.

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The Big Switch – Why I Crossed Over to the Dark Side

Posted by bradringel on April 14, 2009

The Mac Vs. PC debate is quite likely one of the most heated debates of our generation.  Started years ago, this argument was brought into the mainstream media with a series of ads run by Apple in which two computers are depicted as people, the cooler Mac guy, and the dorky, work obsessed Windows user.  Mac users have laughed at the silly quips that were thrown at the PC and agreed with the ideas presented in the ads.  Macs are better for doing things with your media, are cooler, easier to work with, and also happen to be the #1 notebook on college campuses, while your Windows running computer is only good for spreadsheets.  While not entirely true, these claims do bring some things to light.  While it is possible to run media editing apps on Windows, Mac has them built into its Operation System.  Another claim thrown around is the vulnerability to viruses and how Macs apparently lack this issue.  While true at the moment this may not always be true.  Currently it is not profitable or worth it to write viruses for the Mac platform because of the small market share.  Windows users assure us that as our market share continues to grow, someone will attack us.  But back to the main topic of this post, the switch.

I myself was once a PC user, in fact, up until around a year ago I was pulling hard for that poor PC, typing away on my Dell Laptop.  I knew my OS had issues, but whose didn’t right?  I put up with the frequent trips that my fingers took to the CTL-ALT-DEL keys in order to run my games and have a good time on my PC.  As I rolled around to the middle of my Junior year in High School, I began to realize how sluggish my computer was running.  This had nothing to do with the OS, it was simply the fact that an 80GB Hard Drive with 512 MB of RAM couldn’t sustain me anymore.  I knew it was time for a new computer and began shopping around the Dell website, staying far away from the dreaded Apple.com.  Then I started seeing things on my favourite websites about how Vista ran, and quite frankly, how bad it was.  Not to say that Microsoft hasn’t fixed its bugs by now, but at the time, Vista was a fledgling Operating System that was having its share of problems, as did Mac OS X when it first came out.  Then I started thinking back to those commercials.  Was what they had to say really true?  Could I have an easier and more enjoyable computer experience by switching to Mac?  I flipped over to Apple’s site.  Man, these things are expensive.  I could easily get a more powerful PC for that same amount of money.  At this time I didn’t have a very high opinion of Macs, having only used the ones at my school, which were not new to say the least.   The majority of the iMacs at my school were over 5 years old and not running the latest OS update, Leopard.  Many had G3 processors that ran at 500Mhz and had little memory available.  Not exactly the best example machines for me to play with.  So what did I do? Luckily, there was an Apple Store nearby that I could walk into and play around with the new Macbooks with.  I was thrilled.  Opening up Firefox or Safari took only seconds, and iTunes was a snap.  Add on to that more than double my current Hard Drive space and 4 times the memory and I was sold.  Well, almost.  There was still the price factor.  Some of you may have heard of something called the “Apple Tax.”  That is what we poor ignorant Mac users pay to Apple for no apparent reason, so that we can have our computers.  The fact that you can buy a similarly speced HP or Sony laptop that ran Vista, the price increase was the Apple Tax.  Now I knew that they were expensive, but considering that my Dell cost almost the same amount of money 3 years ago as the Macbook Pro I was looking at (I later settled on a Macbook) I thought I could swing the price factor to my parents.  They bought it, and the four of us, including my brother trooped off to the Apple Store early one Saturday morning to claim our prizes(my brother would get whatever laptop I got).  While in the store, my Dad talked to our sales rep about the High end black Macbook as opposed to the $500 extra Macbook Pro and we decided on two of those instead.  We grabbed our boxes and headed back to the car to open them up and start our boot sequences.  With both Macbooks sitting on the kitchen table, we hit the power buttons and heard the unmistakable chime that told us we were starting up.  The computer booted up in a minute and we sat down to the setup wizard.  Within 5 minutes I had both Macbooks set up on our home wireless network, User accounts set up (complete with pictures from the built in iSight), and was looking at the pretty purple aurora background that shipped with Leopard.  We moved upstairs and grabbed files from my old laptop and my family computer and were done.  We were now ready to do, well anything.  We could record some music, make a photo album…well you’ve seen the ad.

And now I’m sitting here, roughly 12 months from the purchase of this Macbook, with only good things to say.  I love being able to video-chat with friends in iChat, the easy integration of your media from iTunes in the OS, and love love love the drag and drop installation.  I myself have had to re-install Leopard once but didn’t lose any files, while my brother reports no problems.  We loved our Macs so much that we even convinced my parents to switch over to a new iMac when the time came to retire their Dell.  My whole house is now In Command, not Control.

If you have any questions at all about my experience with my Mac or questions about using it, please feel free to leave them in the comments section and I will get back to you.

~Brad

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MacHeist III, What a trip

Posted by bradringel on April 14, 2009

12 Top Mac Apps

14 Top Mac Apps

As some of you may or may not know, the Mac community has recently finished the MacHeist 3 Bundle.  In one sentence, the bundle is an outrageously low priced pack of applications for your Mac that is released and sold for a short period of time, this year two weeks.  But MacHeist is much more than just the bundle buy.  In the month or so leading up to the bundle reveal, members, or agents as we prefer to be called, participate in various challenges and puzzles in order to unlock even more free apps for our beloved machine.  The overall number of apps I downloaded came to over 30 I believe.  The best part about MacHeist though, the community.  Whenever I was stuck on a mission or wanted some info on how an app worked, there was always someone in the forums or in the chat room to help.  Now let me give you a quick rundown on all the apps from the bundle so that you know exactly how awesome this promotion was.

First up: iSale.  If you tend to sell a lot of your possessions on eBay, this was the app for you.  With functionality to not only create awesome looking auction pages, but to help you track your current auction and even coordinate shipping with the winner, this app would do any eBayer proud.

Next: Picturesque.  If you’ve ever wanted to create stunning looking graphics to go into a Keynote or PowerPoint presentation, or just wanted to add that little bit of embellishment to your family photos, Picturesque is for you.  With four simple tools for making your pictures look great, this app really sets itself apart.  You can rotate, reflect, cast a shadow and add a border to your photos to make them look great for your blog or presentation.

SousChef:  While I did end up giving this one to my mom, this app just plain looks cool.  Out of ideas for what to make for dinner, search the online recipe database for something with your favourite ingredient, a preferred cuisine or by keyword.  The coolest feature however is the 10-foot mode.  Fire up SousChef while you are in the kitchen and your Mac will read the Recipe and directions to you and allow you to control the application with your voice, so you never have to risk spilling soy sauce on your Macbook again.

World of Goo: While the game looks silly, this addicting title will have anyone hooked.  The user is prompted to solve puzzles by creating structures out of goo balls, while having to retain a certain number of them in order to pass the level.  I myself have spent hours sitting and dragging these bouncy little goo balls all over my screen.

PhoneView: Okay so maybe not everyone has an iPhone, but to those of you who do, this app is great.  With the ability to use your iPhone as a disk, view your SMS conversations and save them on your computer, as well as edit the notes that are not accessible anywhere else(serious design flaw on Apple’s part), this app could just save you from losing your paper that is due in 5 minutes and you left your computer in your dorm room.

LittleSnapper:  Ah what a nice app.  When I bought MacHeist I wasn’t sure what use I would have for LittleSnapper.  After all, it only takes screenshots and I can do that without the app in Leopard.  Wrong, not only does LittleSnapper have its own library that it stores your snaps in, you can tag and organize them however you want.  I litterally installed and started the app thinking I was not going to use it, and 20 minutes later I had snapped the page of a product to put on my buy list.  With shortcut keys to snap the current page in Safari, Any window, the entire screen or some area, its a lifesaver.  Notation tools help you remember what exactly you snapped that picture for.

Acorn: Offering the power of Photoshop in a simple user interface, this is a nice app to have.  I haven’t played with it that much as i haven’t done much image editing, but it does everything you think it should do.

Kinemac:  An awesome 3d modeling and motion application.  Again I haven’t played with it  that much, but from what i have played with, if you need any sort of 3d modeling for video or some other task, this is the app to use.

WireTap Studio:  But my Mac already has a recording app you say, I can use GarageBand for this.  WireTap will let you capture the audio stream from certain applications, such as Safari or Skype and will then convert it into various forms.  A great app for recording multi-person podcasts.

BoinxTV: Basically it’s a full fledged TV studio on your Mac.  With live layer editing and with a very professional feel, this app would be a must for anyone who produces video podcasts or a TV show.

The Hit List:  Quite possibly the reason I bought the bundle.  A great task manager that gives you a lot of flexibility in how you want to manage yourself.  Add contexts and tags for quick grouping, as well as folders and lists for organization.  I was previously a Things user but now am only on THL which is still in beta so you can pick it up for a reduced price.

Espresso: An awesome web editor that features live previewing and easy publishing.  For the web developer that doesn’t like iWeb and still hand codes his or her sites.

Four of the apps were locked for download until a certain amount of money for charity was reached.  Yes part of your bundle sale goes to charity, while the rest is split between developers and MacHeist of course.  There were also a few bonus apps that were included in the bundle that I won’t elaborate on.  Basically, the moral of this story is, that if you have Mac, which would be the main reason you are reading my blog, point your favourite web browser over to http://www.macheist.com and register so that you can receive updates about future missions and bundle sales.  Its great and did i mention 25% of your purchase goes to the charity of your choice? Just one more reason to love MacHeist.  This year we raised 850,000 dollars for charity, will you help us do more next year?

Just another reason I’m in command and not control

~Brad

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