It’s Chrimmistime!

This week has been a devastating one for AAPL stock, but undaunted by financial realities I am now awaiting the arrival of a new Mac Pro workstation. Seems like forever ago I began my wait for this hardware refresh so I could replace my aging PowerBook 17. Minorly awesome were upgrade prices for Photoshop and Logic that were less than devastating. Unfortunately playtime is postponed until next month, delays resulting from inclusion of the sweet Nvidia 8800GT graphics. The new apartment heater will be installed as late as the end of February.

Closer to a good-enough e-book

Despite its fugliness (which I suspect is less so in person) and high price tag, I have been excited about Amazon’s Kindle e-reader for some time. I still have major content concerns (can I at least get a discount on titles I’ve already bought from Amazon, please?) that prevent me from investing in such a platform right now, but I hope it’s successful enough that we see the improvements of future versions.

Udit and I saw the Sony reader at Border’s the other week, and were both initially convinced the screen was a fake demo model. These e-ink devices are really quite pleasant to read from.

Earplugs and alarm clocks

sb300ss.jpgI’ve recently begun sleeping in earplugs, since I try to be in bed pretty early in order to get up insanely early and run. I sleep well in earplugs, but how could I trust that I’d hear my alarm, short of waking my entire building in the process? Enter the Sonic Boom alarm clock, with its scare-you-awake vibrating bed-shaker. This thing works very well, though I suspect I might be shortening my life with the cardiac stress this thing induces when it goes off every morning at 4am. I ordered mine from here, though ThinkGeek has the red-LED ninja-looking one.

New iMacs, iPods nice in person

While at the mall tonight shopping for glasses, I slipped into the Apple store for another of my three-minute visits to check out the new hardware.

  • The new iMac is a gorgeous kitchen computer, even with the horrendous glare of its glossy screen¹. Unfortunately I’ll never buy an all-in-one.
  • As I expected, the new iPod Nano is very nice in person. It looks fat in pictures, but it’s a slick little wafer in the hand. If the market is still there for music players, I suspect this one will charm anyone who touches it.
  • The new aluminum face on all the iPods, including the “Classics”, is a nice smoothly beveled surface. Nicer on the Nano than the heavier Classic 160GB, but a nice departure from the plastic lacquer look.
  • The user interface on the Classic is much slicker than the old UI, with plenty of smooth motion and fades. I’m not very fond of the split-screen strategy, and it’s a bit slow moving back in its menus, but they’re doing a lot of cool with not much processor.
  • I typed about twenty seconds on the new thin Mac keyboards, and I wasn’t disgusted. It’s no M, but the feel is tolerable, and the look is undeniably slick.

¹Was I the only person who hated the glare of CRT screens in 1998, even on a gorgeous 19″ Wega? Overly saturated colors are not worth the glare, people!

Trail shoes

I ran trails for years in old pairs of road Gel-Nimbus, which are perfectly fine for some trails. However, when trails are very technical or just very rocky, I have found that I benefit enormously from a well-chosen pair of trail shoes. Mark it up to lots of slipping and sore feet at Bartram.

For the past few months, I’ve been running trails in the Montrail Hardrock. Adventure racing extraordinaire Charlie swears by them, and I’ve not had many complaints. They’re heavy and hot and offer more support than I need, but offer tons of protection, and are surprisingly comfortable even after 20+ miles.

Brooks road shoes usually don’t fit my feet, but the Brooks Cascadia 2 trail shoes feel great. They feel much lighter than the Montrails, are much softer-soled (cush almost like a road shoe), and the upper breathes better. Like the Montrails, the soles don’t have any nooks for rocks and mud to collect, and they grip like velcro. My biggest concern was pointy rocks poking through to the balls of my feet, and in my single run in them I either was running so fast that I levitated over everything sharp, or these things have some sort of magical pressure dispersion tech. They feel to me like a cushy road shoe, but protect like they have a hard plate.

pic-0051_350×263.jpgOne too many roots on the trail

If anything, they grip a little too well. Trail rash, in moderation, is good for the soul.

HD-DVD

For those keeping track, stand-alone players are almost affordable. In my opinion, investment in a media collection is still out of the question, but Netflix has media in both HD formats.

Honestly, my first HD player will probably be either in an Xbox 360 (which I may finally get in order to play with the 360 side of XNA) or in a TV-side Macintosh. If I were in need of a stand-alone DVD player, I’d definitely be looking at the Toshiba, though.

Slingbox Pro is superb, but crippled

I got my Slingbox Pro this week, and the easiest way to summarize the experience is that it just works. It comes with all the cables you could possibly need. Plug it into the DVR, plug it into the TV, plug it into the network, install the software on my PowerBook, run the config wizard. I’m only using it on my LAN, so there was no network configuration step. I selected my DVR model and entered some passwords; that was it.

The client software for the Mac is still in beta, and it’s not perfect. Plus, my 1GHz PowerBook 17 can’t render the video at full quality, but it still looks excellent for my purposes. On my more powerful Windows laptop the video quality is stunning, even over wireless.

Bummers? Sling Media apparently is not interested in pissing off any media content companies, so there is no recording. This would suck if I really wanted to use this to watch video over the internets, which a basic selling point for most people. Also, there is only one connection allowed to the device at a time, which makes it less interesting for families perhaps wanting to broadcast living room content throughout their home.

PiP + ethernet = Slingbox

A consequence of using my HDTV as a monitor for my email/webgoofing computer is that while I’m on the computer I don’t have access to television. I’m not (yet) a big TV junkie, so this is usually not an issue, but occasionally it’s nice to have weekend news and interview programs going in the background while I catch up on a few hundred emails. I’m paying for the service, after all.

So use picture-in-picture, either through the TV or a computer video-in, right? My television doesn’t have built-in picture-in-picture, and it would probably get in the way as a full-time video overlay. And, thanks to digital oppression management policies, I can’t find a reasonable HD computer input.

So, I’m going to try a Slingbox Pro to stream video the three or four inch trip from my DVR to my Mac. An added benefit will be that I can do the same into my office area, all for only a little more than the price of a non-HD computer video capture device. Stay tuned for judgements on the video quality.

Mac Mini or MacBook?

Sometime early this year, I will give my mother my PowerBook 17 and replace it with either a Mac Mini or a MacBook. Either way, I plan to at least wait until this month’s product announcements. I may wait until OS X 10.5 is released.

I’m thinking Mini, since I keep the machine hooked up to my television at all times, and it’s around $500 cheaper. A MacBook would be equally (if not slightly more) powerful, and would have the benefit of being portable, and thus more desirable as an hand-me-down machine (you know, for example, if my mom discovers she absolutely *must* test Intel-compiled binaries on her laptop).

Any thoughts?