Apple Updates

It’s Tuesday, there’s been loads of rumours so it makes sense that there are hardware updates from Apple. Nice bump’s across all the desktop range, especially on the iMac where extra RAM and HD size makes for a very nice product. Of most interest though was the Mac Mini. It’s been 18 months to 2 years since it’s last spec update and I’ve always toyed with the idea of using one as a media device attached to the TV. That’s despite the 360 (too noisy), the PS3 (great for Blu-ray but not fully codec compliant) and Sky HD (great for HD TV and Films but not great as a library). Apple TV doesn’t cut it for me and the Mac Mini looked to be best mixture of performance and flexibility that I wanted.

Two things have stopped me from buying one. It’s price and it’s spec which was starting to feel old. Today’s update has certainly sorted out the spec and it’s looking to be an excellent media device for under the TV. However I still have pricing issues.

Firstly, it’s price went up today in the UK. The cheapest Mac Mini before today was £391. Cheapest now is £499. Ouch. £499 feels expensive for what you get. I’ve always felt Apple overpriced in the UK when compared to dollar price so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the weak pound has lead to a price increase. Annoyingly the £499 priced Mini would be fine except it comes with only 1GB of ram. Surely that should have been 2GB by default?

Second is the comparison with Mac Mini and iMac prices. If I select the higher spec Mac Mini and bump up processor, memory and add I get the following spec:

# 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
# 4GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM – 2x2GB
# 320GB Serial ATA Drive
# SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
# None
# Apple Wireless Keyboard & Wireless Mighty Mouse
# User’s Guide (English)

That cost’s £928.02.

A 20 inch iMac with the same hard drive and memory but faster processor only costs just over £100 more at £1043. A 24 inch iMac with double the hard disk and a faster processor costs £1,199. With a gorgeous 24 inch monitor. The pricing just doesn’t add up for me. Will this be the last Mac Mini update? I can’t see these selling well with the iMac so keenly priced in comparison.

So I’ll still not be buying a Mac Mini. Probably. As I think through it more I do have a Denon DVD player that cost me around £500 and the Mac Mini would do a lot more than the Denon ever could or would. The Denon at the time didn’t seem expensive. It does now!!!

Thank You SuperDuper!

Since I bought my Mac I have backed it up using SuperDuper! which was one of the recommended Mac backup applications. I’ve tested the backup to make sure I could boot from it but I’d never needed to use it in anger. Until today.

I had to reboot the iMac. It came up fine displaying the Apple logo and the spinner. Then the hard disk switched off and I was left looking at the logo and the spinner. That’s not right. Switched off and on and it was the same again. Feck. Another couple of goes and it was still the same. Time to reset PRAM. No difference. NVRAM? Still buggered. I booted from the Leopard DVD and ran a disk check. No issues. I ran a disk repair – no difference. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I did some surfing from the laptop and couldn’t really find any other step’s that would help. So it was time to finally use the SuperDuper! backup. It was time to restore!

I erased the disk and restored from the firewire drive. A couple of hours later I rebooted and I was back in business. Kind off. The backup was taken before the iPhone, iTunes and MobileMe updates and one they were on I synced with the iPhone…which wiped all the app’s from it. I had to download them, then install and set them up again. Annoying but nothing compared to the hassle and data loss had I not had that backup.

So thank you SuperDuper! for saving me tonight and hopefully this is a small lesson for anyone reading who doesn’t take regular backups. It also show’s that you should never assume a Mac is full proof. I just hope it was a one off glitch I experienced and it’s not a sign of impending hardware problems.

D-Link DIR-655

I picked up the D-Link 655 a few months ago and have been pleased with it. One thing I did notice was that the firmware for the UK router hasn’t been updated since May 07 while the US and Euro versions of the firmware have had numerous updates.

I took the plunge a few days ago and upgraded the routers firmware using the latest Euro version and I’m glad I did. i get better wireless performance and importantly faster wireless performance over a wider range. LAN performance especially to the NAS is also better. No stability issues yet either so it looks like a worthwhile for UK 655 owners. It’s a bit odd that D-Link use different versions for different countries although Euro and USA versions look very similar. Why is the UK firmware versions so old?

I’ve Moved

It took a long time to deliver but I’m finally there – I’ve moved to Mac. They say a picture is worth a thousand words…

iMac up and running

I’ve posted a full Flickr set of the unboxing of the iMac and iPod – not too many pics as it’s been done already. It’s too early to feel settled with OS X although I’ve so far managed to do everything I’ve wanted to, including an almighty struggle to get my iTunes library over to the mac from the pc. I ended up hacking the library xml file to get it to work. However the iMac hardware is stunning. Quiet, fast and bright – in fact too bright much like when you view a TV in a store and it’s set to 100%. I ended up reducing the brightness to just over half to make it easy on the eyes. Even then it was brighter than my last LCD. Still can’t get used to using the Apple key for cut, copy, paste and there are obviously lots of oddities that will take time to understand. Expose is stunning though and makes managing multiple windows a painless task – windows could learn a lot and that still hasn’t been addressed in Vista which is an issue as more people move to larger and larger desktops.

The iPod is as impressive as ever. Screen is bright, video’s look sharp although I still think it’s too small to watch TV episodes and movies on. Most noticeable are the new earbuds – comfy and sound good. Gapless playback is also welcome…at last.

Downsides. Only one at the moment – the Mighty Mouse. It is OK but not a patch on my old Logitech which will be pressed back into service. The virtual right mouse button is awkward and the side buttons require a lot of pressure to activate. Not for me and it defies logic as to why Apple couldn’t design something better.

Seeing as I’ve spent only a day with the iMac I’m surprised how easy it is to perform basic tasks although I do feel vulnerable due to my lack of knowledge. If something went wrong I would probably struggle badly. With Windows I felt comfortable that no matter what I did I could rectify the situation – it will take a while to get that feeling with the Mac. Hardware has also worked like a dream, both new and old. Joy of joys – I don’t have any dead pixels (well none that are obvious and although I’ve scanned a few times and can’t see any I ain’t going hunting). Thoroughly delighted that I finally made the move. It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks go as I scratch beneath the surface. To be honest I can’t wait.

Mac Software

In around a weeks time I’ll hopefully taken receipt of my iMac. Really looking forward to it and I’m also thankful that I’ve kept some money aside for a few apps that I really want. Some are mentioned on Grahams list and other can be found on this ultimate Mac software list.

One in particular is Delicious Library. I’ve dabbled with pc based media libraries but none look to be as well crafted as this. Yep – I’m becoming a Mac bore.

Mac Mini

Finally saw the Mac Mini in the flesh last night (cheers Graeme) and it was very impressive. The first thing that strikes you is the size – it really is small. Certainly a lot smaller than the standard Shuttle pc cases that have been doing the rounds for the last 18 months or so. When switching the Mini on you get a nasty sound playing (like a chime) which was slightly disappointing but then the second impressive feature hits home – it makes no noise. When up close you can hear a small noise and certainly when the superdrive is accessed it makes a din but in normal operation….silence.

The Mac OS itself looks jaw dropping. Through the 17inch TFT the OS looked amazing. It initially was quite confusing compared to the Windows OS but I’m sure after a few days it will feel normal. The speed was also impressive – the Safari web browser opening quickly and displaying web pages with ease. iTunes opened in a comparable time to my pc as did Photoshop – this really is a great machine for under £400.

After 40mins the third impressive feature hit home – the case of the Mini was still cool to touch. This was partly down to the aluminium case but is still tantamount to great design and the careful selection of components. The overall impression is of a good personal computer that will definitely meet anyone’s needs as long as they aren’t a gamer. I still maintain that this hooked up to a plasma/lcd tv would be a great way of browsing the net/checking e-mails from the sofa. If I had a plasma I would be buying one without hesitation – as I have a pc (and no plasma) I’ll be leaving it on the shelf but make envious glances from time to time.

Macworld 2005

Some nice new announcements from Apple. The most interesting for me is the Mac Mini. Looks just like an Apple product should, and would look great as a pc for the living room. However price is an issue as for the spec you get and by the time you add in decent ram and wireless options your looking at over £600. However it’s still very tempting if your looking for a second machine. And if you’ve got a pc and want to share your keyboard, mouse and monitor with your new mini, buy this.

The iPod Shuffle is Apple’s new flash player. The design is good, if a little long, and weighs less than an ounce (22.1 grams). Price also seems reasonable. However the market is flooded with flash players so it’ll be interesting to see long term how this performs. Pity we didn’t see anything in the way of a video playing iPod or even a wireless one. Maybe later in the year?

No doubt blogs and gadget sites will be going gaga over these products today and tomorrow. There’s a lot of Apple love out there. There’s also too many of these. Enjoy.


The new iMac was announced today. Underwhelming is my initial reaction. Isn’t this a desktop laptop? In fact, isn’t this one of the tablet pc’s that have failed to take off? And whats with the nasty row of sockets at the back of the machine? That won’t look too tidy on a desk. But of course, order the wireless keyboard, mouse and bluetooth adaptor for £70 (got to love those optional extra’s) to get that wirefree look. Doh!

The design is also the least radical of the latest Apple products. In fact it looks fairly…tame. Still want an Apple laptop though. Maybe next year!

The Beast

It’s superb.

The PC arrived on Thursday, although not without a wee mix-up. I got a Glasgow Uni machine and they got mine. But Dell and TNT got the mix-up sorted by mid-afternoon – bravo. I unpacked it and faced another little problem – it wouldn’t start. Boo. All was not lost – the Dell has four lights on the back – the first two were amber. Checked the manual – memory problem. Probably unseated slightly during transit so I opened the case. Wow. The case swings open on a hinge which is really smart – what got me was the size of the heatsink and chimney that the Intel uses. Massive. I removed and replaced the memory – pressed the power button and all was well – I took some photo’s while the case was open which can be found here. While the case was opened I fitted the firewire card from the old machine as the Dell comes with 8 USB2 ports but no firewire which the iPod needs. Clicked the case shut (no screws here thank you very much) and I was away. Got the Windows formalities out the way. Impressions – very fast.

Got the XP security downloads started and I thought I would need to dig out the Nortons disk before I did anything else but the Dell comes with a 90 day trial of McAfee which is a really good idea. No need for a firewall as I’ve got a hardware one on the router. Next was Firefox – don’t trust IE. Loading times were superb. The last test was gaming. Battlefield Vietnam looked amazing and didn’t stutter once. Joy!

Since then I’ve been installing all the hardware I’ve got and also some software – not too much. Trying to avoid the clutter that I had on the old machine but thats really delaying the inevitable. I’m also glad that I stayed away from a Creative Audigy card. The onboard sound is pucker 5.1 and all I need. There’s also a strong chance that it’s less buggy than the Creative drivers.

Overall, I’m very impressed with the Dell. Easy to maintain, fast and a tad less noisy than my old machine – it fair churns out some heat though. Last positive note – no blue screens….yet.