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Archive for May, 2009

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


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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 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.


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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.

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