Posts in category apple - page 7

Apple’s Boot Camp beyond the expiry date

Screen shot of Boot Camp expiredStories about Apple’s Boot Camp and the looming expiration of the 1.x beta versions to coincide with the release of Mac OS X Leopard and Boot Camp 2.0 are abound.

To clarify there are a number of pieces of software which make running Windows on a Macintosh, they are:

  • EFI firmware update with legacy BIOS support
  • Boot Camp Assistant (partitioning tool)
  • Apple’s Windows drivers (iSight, touch pad, Apple Remote etc.)
  • Apple’s Windows software (Software Update)
  • Third-party drivers (Intel, ATI, Nvidia, RealTek etc.)

The license to use Boot Camp will apparently expire when Leopard is released however the Boot Camp Assistant will expire 1st January 2008. To re-partition your disk after this date simply set your clock back to any time during 2007 then launch the Boot Camp Assistant. I have tested this and it works just fine, just remember to set your clock back afterward ;-)

Other components are unlikely to expire as:

  • the EFI firmware update was never part of the Boot Camp package but a separate prerequisite
  • the third-party drivers are available directly from the vendors

The only real question is whether the Apple-provided drivers and software for Windows will continue to function. I believe they are unlikely to expire and if they do it only covers non-essential functionality like the keyboard back light, iSight driver, Apple Remote etc. many of which were not even present in earlier versions of Boot Camp. The touch pad functions as a standard input device (albeit in a more basic mode) without Apple’s drivers.

As Douglas would say Don’t Panic.


Pixelmator for Mac released

One of the things I love about Apple is the way they enhance Mac OS X with great features for other developers to leverage. Built-in spell-checking, incredibly rich edit controls, development environment and the recent Core frameworks are such additions. Core Image allows applications access to real-time hardware-accelerated graphic effects and is used within some of Apple’s own apps for various effects.

Pixelmator screen shotPixelmator is the product of a two-man team that provides Photoshop like abilities for $59. Apple would not ship such a product for fear of further upsetting Adobe.

Whilst Pixelmator bears a resemblance to Photoshop and will happily open PSD files the user interface is very clean and easy to use and the Core Image filters and correction tools deliver their results in real-time. No more of the tweak-wait-look cycle Photoshop forced us into and gazing at CPU benchmarks working out which combination of processor and OS would be better.

The GPU is king.

Pixelmator also delivers the usual array of painting, manipulation and selection tools, a variety of brushes, layers, gradients, support for 100 file formats, metadata access etc. It integrates with other Mac technologies including the iSight (new layer), Spotlight (search meta), iPhoto, ColorSync, Dashboard (file conversion), Automator and leverages various open-source technologies including ImageMagick, Gradient Panel, Cairo, Sparkle (software update).

If you need convincing download the demo and/or watch the introductory screen cast.

Future versions will include integration with Aperture (yes!), RAW file support, .Mac syncing (brushes, swatches etc.) and perhaps even vector support (probably utilizing Cairo).

Gruber had concerns Pixelmator was just vapourware which is now obviously not the case. I’m still waiting for Delicious Library 2 and Midnight Inbox 2 although I have a pre-release of OmniFocus I am allowed to write about if people are interested…


In search of the perfect keyboard

I started programming at 12 and have been fortunate to carve out a successful career in something I love to do. People find it strange when I talk with passion about IDEs, fonts, color schemes, mice and keyboards.

To me it seems perfectly natural when you consider a writer has strong preference and passion for pens and notebooks and photographers spend a small fortune on specific lenses and cameras to get the shot they want.

For years I was happy with my Apple Pro keyboard and then one day found myself messing around with my Amiga A600 and realized my typing was faster and more accurate on the Amiga than on the PC.

Some prefer “ergonomic” split-keyboards, others are impressed by back lighting, LCD screens or even an OLED display in every key. Most reviews skip over the most important aspect – what it is like to type on.

IBM Model M

IBM Model M keyboardI have fond memories of typing away on the IBM XT, AT and 5150 terminals and I found myself at eBay eyeing up an original unused IBM Model M keyboard similar to the ones those machines used.

Whilst the keyboard uses a membrane each key has its own spring that buckles as the key is pressed. This gives a satisfying tactile click that saw typing speed further accelerate than on the Amiga. Each key comprises of two plastic parts, the main body and the outer shell or key-cap. This means you can easily re-arrange the keys or put on specialist caps.

The Model M is a joy to type on but isn’t without fault. I can live without the Windows keys but the keyboard sports a huge surround taking up masses of desk space, is incredibly heavy and sounds like a machine gun when you get going with it.

Matias Tactile Pro

The Mattias Pro keyboard Apple produced a legendary keyboard too, the Apple Extended Keyboard but this has some immediate drawbacks in that it uses the Apple Desktop Bus, so would need an adapter, and is also tricky to get hold of.

I settled on the Matias Tactile Pro which uses the same Alps switches for each key but comes in a more friendly USB version. Designed for the Mac it has some extra keys and helpfully each key shows the various extra symbols available with the Alt key.

The Tactile Pro is great to type on however it is even louder than the IBM Model M and only available in the US key-map which means it is a couple of keys short. The enclosure mimics that of the Apple Pro keyboard but uses an inferior plastic that feels cheap and does nothing to dampen the volume but does helpfully feature a two port passive USB hub.

Note: The Matias Tactile Pro is an OEM version of the Strong Man SMK-Power989X. Matias now have the Tactile Pro 2.

DAS Keyboard II

DAS 2 mechanical keyboard I’d heard some good things about the DAS Keyboard II which unlike it’s predecessor is also mechanical but uses individual switches from one of the original keyboard manufacturers, Cherry.

The DAS II is USB and is a little quieter than the other two keyboards but is still loud enough to annoy nearby co-workers and yet nicer to type on than the other two. One of the selling points of the DAS II is that each key is totally blank resulting in one black keyboard but I could take or leave it.

Where the DAS does fall down is the large echo-inducing enclosure and the cheap-feeling plastic used for both the keys and the surround.

Note: The DAS Keyboard is effectively a custom OEM version of the Cherry G80 series.

Apple ultra-thin wired

Apple aluminum scissor-switch keyboardI only picked up this keyboard a few days ago so my experience with it is not as extensive as the others which all got a fair work-in. Impressions so far are very good despite it being a scissor-switch like most laptops and not mechanical like the others.

The surround is an absolute minimum which is fantastic and it looks great. Noise levels are sufficiently quiet and the feeling very enjoyable despite the low-profile and gaps between the keys. The addition of a built-in USB hub is useful but MacBook Pro style light-sensitive back lighting would have been great.

Where next?

I’m sticking with the Apple at home for at least a couple of weeks and will continue to use the DAS at work for now. The Model M and the Matias are currently gathering dust in the cupboard.

I have already modified my DAS II by removing it from the enclosure and placing it on a soft sponge material. It is immediately much quieter with less echo and a soft wrist rest which solves some of the issues. Replacing the keys with a softer rubberized plastic would be great but injection molding is rather expensive.

Check out the GeekHack keyboard forum for like minded chat.


Confusing co-workers, family and friends for fun

Everybody enjoys a good laugh and there are some fun simple things that can confuse your co-workers, family or friends for a few minutes.

Here’s a few tricks that may… or may not cause some amusement. Just make sure you step in before they need to call their IT support guy!

Simulated operating system crash

An operating system crash sends a shiver up the most confident of spines.

Windows Blue Screen of Death

Install the SysInternals teams BlueScreen Screen Saver complete with genuine looking reboot sequence.

Mac OS X Kernel Panic

Try out Doomlaser’s Kernel Panic Screensaver although be prepared for genuine confusion at their first exposure to an operating system crash ;-)

Confused keyboard

If they are a hunt-and-peck typist confuse them by swapping a few keys around on their keyboard (make sure it lets you pull the tops off, some of them don’t and leaving them with a broken keyboard isn’t fun at all).

An alternative if the keyboard doesn’t allow you to remove the key tops or if they’re a touch-typist is to change the keyboard map to one similar but not the same. Favorites include US for Brits and and British for Americans if you want something very subtle that may take a few hours to be noticed (when they hit some symbols, pound signs etc.) or German for something a bit quicker (W and Z reversed).

Head to the Windows Control Panel or Mac System Preferences to activate.

Permanent hourglass (Windows)

A simple trick that just involves heading into Control Panel > Mouse Properties then choosing the Pointers tab and double clicking on Normal Select. From there choose hourglas.ani

Google goes abroad

Google remembers which language you you last used so simply head to something like (Russian), (Welsh) or (French) then close the Window and walk away.

Any further visits will show in that language, even searches made from the built-in boxes of Internet Explorer and Firefox. To set back head to (English) or whatever language you normally use.

Swap short cuts (Windows)

Choose properties on either the desktop, start-menu or quick launch icon they use to launch their favorite applications and change the target to a different but perhaps similar application. i.e. iTunes and Windows Media, Word and WordPad, Excel and PowerPoint. They’ll probably think they hit the wrong icon or that something has messed up the file associations.

Change the display gamma

Head into Control Panel > Display (Windows) or System Preferences > Display (Mac) and adjust the gamma or color profile for their display. No amount of fiddling with the displays brightness or contrast settings will get it quite back to how it was.

Jeff Atwood has further suggestions for people who don’t lock their machines. Remember kids, WindowsL is your friend.