Posts From September 2011

Wondering if your computer’s performance is up to par? Download Geekbench and find out! Geekbench runs processor and memory tests designed to quickly and accurately measure your computer’s performance. Geekbench works on Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux, meaning you can compare any computer’s performance, from your laptop to your server, no matter what operating system it’s running. You can upload and share your results with the Geekbench Result Browser, and compare your results against the Mac benchmark and PC benchmark charts.

Download Geekbench today and find out if your computer’s performance is up to par.

Yesterday I wrote that the only two Kindles which matter are the Kindle Touch and the Kindle Fire. Michael Laccheo argues that there is a place for the “plain” Kindle, and he put his money where his mouth is by ordering one already.

Laccheo bought the plain Kindle because he wanted the smallest, lightest, cheapest, model possible:

I’m looking for a throw away device. […]

The Kindle will let me have a cheap device that won’t heat up in the blistering summer sun, is light enough to hold and read one handed, won’t be affected by glare from the sun, and I won’t mind reading while standing in the pool because for 80 bucks it’s relatively replaceable.

I think Laccheo’s point is completely fair and valid — there is a market for the plain Kindle. And likewise, I would say there is also a market for the Kindle Keyboard and the Kindle DX. But the size of the market for these other three devices is significantly smaller than the two new flagship Kindles.

Think about this: if someone were to ask you what has changed about the new Kindles, would you say they ditched the keyboard, or would you say it now has a touch screen?

Lukas Mathis:

So how would you design a piece of hardware that is only used for reading? One where people do a very specific thing — turn a book’s page — hundreds of times a day? Would you remove the physical button for turning the page?

I was also a bit surprised to see the page-turning buttons removed from the Kindle Touch. It seems to me that those two buttons would still be quite useful even though the screen now accepts touch input.

Why There Are More Than Two Kindle Models

There are five models of Kindle: The Kindle, Kindle Touch, Kindle Keyboard, Kindle DX, and Kindle Fire.

Only 2 of them matter: the Touch and the Fire.

So why the other models?

The Kindle Keyboard and the Kindle DX

I think these are still for sale because they are still in stock.

That family-of-Kindles banner that is on top of all the Kindle pages does not list the DX.

And if you go to the Kindle DX’s product page it is now outdated. The page doesn’t have the top banner showing the other Kindles, and in the table comparing all the Kindles only the past models are shown with their old names.

Surely it’s only a matter of time until the Kindle Keyboard and the Kindle DX are discontinued altogether. (Perhaps once the Kindle Touch or Kindle Fire start shipping?)

The plain Kindle

I think the “plain” Kindle — one with the 5-way controller — is in the product lineup primarily to help boost sales of the Kindle Touch.

If you’ve ever read about the paradox of choice, you’ve probably heard the wine theory. The idea is that someone is ordering wine at a restaurant and there are three options — an $8 glass, a $10 glass, and a $20 glass — they will most-likely pick the middle option.

The $8 glass causes the $10 glass to seem like a much better value.

Likewise with the Kindle and the Kindle Touch. The plain Kindle causes the Kindle Touch to seem like a much better value.

Why buy a Kindle that has a shorter battery life, less storage, and no touch screen, when you can upgrade to something with double the battery, double the storage, and a multi-touch screen for just $20 bucks?

Marco Arment articulates much better than I did on why the Kindle Fire likely won’t affect iPad sales:

What we’ll see with the iPad depends on why people buy iPads. My theory is that there’s an iPad market, not a “tablet market” — that people want the iPad and specifically seek it out without comparing it to other tablets.

A “tablet market” suggests that people first decide they want a tablet, then they comparison-shop and choose the one that best fits their needs and budget, like buying a dishwasher. I don’t think we’ve seen any plausible evidence that a meaningful number of customers think of tablets generically like that.

But if anything’s going to prove me wrong, it’s the Kindle Fire.

The Kindle Fire

At $199 the Kindle Fire is a killer product. Amazon is going to sell a ton of these. (Though I think the $99 Kindle Touch will be the most popular Kindle.)

The Fire is pretty much what we expected: a device that plays to the strengths of Amazon’s content library as well as many of the strengths that the e-ink Kindles have been known for.

For starters, just look at the main product image: it’s a lady holding the Kindle Fire by its bottom corner with just one hand. There’s no way you can hold the iPad like that.

The Kindle Fire is clearly positioned as a device intended for “consuming content” (ugh). Looking at the product page, Amazon brags on the fact that you can watch movies and TV shows, read magazines and books, listen to music, surf the Web, and download apps.

Towards the bottom of the list of things you can do with the Kindle Fire you’ll see that you can also check email and read PDFs. I guess my point isn’t that email and PDF viewing is something Amazon threw in just because, but that they are not emphasizing these some of the main features of the Fire.

The Fire is a portable media center, not a portable computer.

And that is why the Fire is not an iPad killer. Just because it’s a color tablet doesn’t mean it is competing directly against the iPad. Sure, on a sterile feature check-list there are a lot of similarities between the two devices (both have multi-touch color screens, both are tablets, you can use both to read books and watch movies), but the Kindle Fire is built as a different product with a different purpose than the iPad. The price alone tells you that.

Level-headed financial advice from The Art of Manliness.

Writing lesson of the day. (Via Coudal.)

Speaking of the Thunderbolt Display, Stephen Hackett just posted this great piece reminding us about Apple’s first laptop docks from the 1990s.

Thomas Brand on Apple’s Thunderbolt Display:

If I sat down with Apple’s Thunderbolt Display earlier I would have never bought a 13 inch MacBook Pro instead of a MacBook Air. I compromised and got the Pro because it was the lightest laptop available with all of the ports my job required. With a MacBook Air and a Thunderbolt Display I could have had the lightest Mac ever made, with all of the ports I need, and zero compromises. The Thunderbolt Display lets you have the best of both worlds. A fully connected large screen desktop, and a ultraportable laptop.

The whole concept behind the Thunderbolt Display — a device that is basically a one-cable connector dock that turns your laptop into a desktop — reminds me a lot of Tim Van Damme’s pre-iPad concept of a dockable tablet.

And so now I’m wondering if one day we’ll see some sort of Thunderbolt connection for our iPad and/or iPhone that would turn our iDevices into full-fledged laptops or desktops.

In a sense I suppose that is what iCloud is doing by cutting the cord and allowing our documents and media to sync over the air across our devices. But I wonder if one day there will be a hardware-type unification similar to the software-type unification that iCloud will be bringing. A way to buy one single device (an iPad) that can be used as-is, and also amplified by connecting it to additional hardware. Just a thought…

Seth Godin on how to cure writer’s block:

Just write poorly. Continue to write poorly, in public, until you can write better.

Don’t give Justin Lin any new ideas.

My bet is that the next iPhone will be much more substantial than an “iPhone 4 S”-type of release.

Fantastic 4

My first mobile phone was a Qualcomm something-or-other. Later I had one those dime-a-dozen Nokias, and then another smaller Nokia that had a removable faceplate. (Remember when the cool features of phones included interchangeable faceplates?) Then there was a cool Motorola flip phone or two that I used and liked, and then I had a random Samsung candy bar slider.

Then 2007 came along and I got an iPhone. After that I got the iPhone 3G S (I held on to my original iPhone until 2009 because I thought the iPhone 3G was too ugly to justify upgrading). And then the iPhone 4.

I have now owned my iPhone 4 since the summer of 2010. And it blows all of those past phones out of the water. Sometimes I wonder if I ever even owned a cell phone before I owned an iPhone, and the 4 is the greatest iPhone to date.

Of course, a new iPhone is coming out in a few weeks. And, of course, I’ll be in line to buy it (that’s who I am and what I do). But by no means does that mean I find my iPhone 4 lacking in any way. Quite the contrary actually: the iPhone 4 is quite possibly the most amazing gadget I have ever owned or ever imagined I would own.

  • I carry my iPhone 4 case free — I’ve never used an iPhone case — and it is still scratch, crack, and dent free. I keep it in my front left pocket with the front facing in. I’ve dropped it once and it only suffered a very minor scuff to plastic edging up by the camera lens.

    In fact, the back of my iPhone 4 has less scratches than the back of my 4th-generation iPod touch. The touch’s chrome backing practically comes out of the box with scuffs on it.

  • On every other phone I’ve owned the battery life was part of the cost of ownership. But with the iPhone 4, the battery lasts me for 2 days. When I’m on the road at events, I usually need a charge every night because I’m doing a lot of 3G data usage. But in my day-to-day, this-is-how-Shawn-uses-his-iPhone usage, a full charge lasts me 2 days.

    On my past iPhones, when the 20% battery warning would appear it meant I needed to go into iPhone survival mode — keeping usage to a minimum to save as much battery juice as possible before I am able to charge it next. But on the 4, a 20% warning simply means charge at my earliest convenience.

  • The camera is just great. In fact, it is the only camera in our house that gets any use. My iPhone is my camera. My iPhone camera roll is my photo library. The photo-editing apps on my iPhone are what I use as post-processing software for the pictures I take.

  • The Retina display. Oh, the Retina display. A year and a half later and this display still doesn’t feel normal to me. It still strikes me how it looks as if the pixels are painted onto the glass and how the images and type are so crisp.

  • Form factor. The original iPhone will always have a soft spot in my heart as being one of the finest looking devices I’ve ever owned. But nostalgia aside, the iPhone 4 truly is a gorgeous device. The black glass and the metal band with matching buttons are a hallmark of industrial design.

    The design of the original iPhone was great, except it hindered signal strength. The design of the iPhone 3G /S was a necessary evil to makes sure that signal strength was good enough. The iPhone 4 is finally that balance of form and function.

The iPhone 4 is the completion of what Apple originally set out to build when they launched the iPhone in 2007. This current model is the last page of this chapter, and I believe the next iPhone will be the opening of a new chapter for the iPhone.

It’s hard to imagine what the next iPhone will be. Sure it’ll have a faster processor, and a better camera, and probably a longer battery. But who knows what it will look like? Who knows what other factors — factors which are still unknown to us — that will come into play and will give reason for the next iPhone to be that much more incredible?

We are content with the current iPhone, and yet we suspect the next one will be another hallmark.

Dr. Drang, writing about the announcement of the soon-coming TextMate 2 public alpha.

Great profile in GQ with the guy who taught the Internet how to dress like a grownup.

When the new MacBook Airs came out earlier this year, deciding which model to get actually came with a bit of drama. I knew I wanted the 13-inch Air with the 256 GB solid state drive. But which processor?

Ordering the faster, 1.8GHZ Core i7 seemed like an easy decision at first. For only $100 I could get a newer generation processor with a faster clock speed and more L3 cache. Though, for the 13-inch model I wanted, going from the 1.7 i5 chip to the 1.8 i7 chip didn’t offer a huge jump in performance — in fact, it’s likely that in day-to-day use I wouldn’t even have noticed the difference — but, since I was planning to have this computer for a few years, I wanted to future-proof it a bit by going with the i7 rather than the i5.

When the new Airs were first announced, Apple listed the i7 as being build-to-order only. Now, I don’t know about you, but when you’re ready to purchase a new computer it’s always harder to order it online and wait for it to be built and shipped than it is to simply drive over to the Apple store and buy it that day.

But, since I was in Colorado at the time and I knew that I the i7 model was my first choice, I went ahead and ordered online, expecting my new Air to arrive back in Kansas City the day after I flew home. If only…

Once I received my email confirmation from Apple, the shipping time had changed from 24 hours to 5 – 7 business days. The longer the wait, the harder it is to be noble and deny the temptation for instant gratification.

To make a long story short, the Apple store in Colorado ended up having the BTO 1.8 i7s in stock and I was able to pick one up the next day.

With my i7 in hand I very much wanted to do some research about the differences between the i5 and i7 processors — were the speed bumps really worth the extra cost? What were the differences between the i5 and the i7?

Not only did I want to know for my own peace of mind, but I also wanted to know so I could write about it. That was my introduction to Geekbench.


My thanks to Primate Labs for sponsoring the RSS feed this week to promote Geekbench.

When reading reviews of Macs (which I very much enjoy to do), Geekbench results are very common. Geekbench is one of the industry-standard apps for measuring the performance of your computer. And so I decided to download and use it on my MacBook Air. I was glad to discover that it is a very easy-to-use app. Considering the amount of data Geekbench provides I was expecting a learning curve before I could use the app. But nope, it takes all of one click to use.

Geekbench runs a series of processor and memory tests to accurately measure your computer’s performance. You can anonymously submit your scores to their online database and then compare against other scores of the same hardware configuration, or compare against other computers altogether.

When I first bought my MacBook Air it ran a Geekbench score of 6281. I quickly compared it to the i5 Airs and found that they were scoring around 5900. Today, two months later, my MacBook Air scores 6259 in Geekbench — virtually unchanged from when it was brand new.

In short, Geekbench is a great way to measure and compare your computer’s performance. It has a free version, and a for-pay version (which is the one I bought a few months ago when testing my Air).

According to a Harris Interactive Poll, people with e-readers buy more books and read more books than people without. Surely these poll results are primarily due to the ease of buying and downloading ebooks onto a device. I wonder how many of the respondents were buying and reading that many books before they bought an e-reader.

Note, the site requires Flash. Here is the full-sized graphic without flash.

Great piece by Dan Frommer on what the future of the iPod may look like. Like Dan says, there’s no way Apple is going to kill the iPod off (just because the iPod line isn’t seeing the same revenue growth doesn’t means it’s not still bringing in significant revenue at all), but I think we all know that something about the iPod lineup is going to be changing in the future. With the iPhone being announced this fall then perhaps we’ll see those changes this year?

Michael Agger, writing at Slate about natural scrolling:

Apple had decreed that “natural scrolling” was the new standard, overturning 25 years of convention. This was more discomfiting than rearranging furniture. This was pulling out the chair as you were taking a seat.

I disabled natural scrolling right away when I began using the beta builds of Lion, but once it shipped and the camps were divided (those who had gotten used to it and loved it, and those who couldn’t handle it) I gave it a second chance. It took me about 10 days to get used to it but now that’s ancient history.

On my Air I go back and forth between NetNewsWire 3 and Reeder. NNW Lite is a great app and I’d probably be spending a lot more time with it if it offered G-Reader syncing. I read feeds on my iPad about as often as on my Mac and so I can’t get by without sync. But that is one thing Thomas likes most about NNW Lite.

Michael Sheets:

There will be a public alpha release this year, before Christmas, for registered users.

Is there a more popular text editor for OS X than TextMate? Exactly half of all the Sweet Mac Setup interviewees use TextMate.

Episode 28 of The B&B Podcast:

Shawn and Ben talk about the adventures of roasting coffee beans in a popcorn popper which leads to the possible invention of a new product (just in time for the holidays!). Then they get to tech topics like shortcuts in iOS 5, iChat and iMessage, Time Machine woes, CDNs for blogs, the October 4th products from Apple, and keeping up with the news and the self-imposed urgency that goes along with that.

A beautiful display typeface at a great price.

Caren is a free site for people who take care of others.

The site offers an easy to use shared calendar and messaging system. You start by inviting everyone who shares in the care of your loved one. Together you can use Caren to schedule and assign tasks that need to be done, talk to each other about care related issues and even keep track of important information like medicine use.

Pat Dryburgh’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

I am a freelance designer, hobbyist photographer and musician. I am also the designer behind many ads found on the Fusion Ad Network. Recently I joined the team behind QuickCal as the app’s UI designer.

What is your current setup?

Pat Dryburgh's Sweet Mac Setup

Pat Dryburgh's Sweet Mac Setup

Pat Dryburgh's Sweet Mac Setup

I’m using a 15″ Unibody MacBook Pro I bought in 2009, with a 2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of Ram, and the 500GB 7200RPM HD. At home, the Macbook Pro is hooked up to the 27″ Apple Cinema Display. On your recommendation, I recently purchased the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 3G 115GB SSD. I’ve set up the SSD as my boot drive and use the HDD as my media/working files drive.

I’m using the short wireless Apple Keyboard for typing and the Magic Trackpad for trackpadding. I’ve tried numerous mice over the years, from the Mighty Mouse to the Magic Mouse and even a Logitech MX Revolution. The Magic Trackpad is the first input device that just feels right. For Wi-Fi and Time Machine I use the Apple Time Capsule.

I listen to music through an old Kenmore receiver I bought from a friend for $50 over 5 years ago. Listening to music through headphones for extended periods of time never felt right to me.

I take pictures with a Nikon D90 with a 50mm prime lens. My lighting setup currently consists of an Opus OPL-H250 strobe with a 48″ reflective umbrella, as well as a newly-purchased Nikon SB-600. I trigger my lights remotely using two PocketWizard Plus II transceivers.

Lastly, I can’t write about what I create without mentioning my music setup. I own two acoustic guitars: an old Cort acoustic I bought nearly 9 years ago and a Takamine Steve Wariner Limited Edition a friend gave me as a gift. For my Boss Rebel gig, I go between my white Fender Stratocaster and a custom Telecaster by “Ed’s Guitars”, both of which were purchased from Jonathan Steingard of Hawk Nelson. The signal is sent through my pedal board, consisting of the following pedals:

  • Ernie Ball Junior Volume Pedal
  • Boss TU-2 Tuner
  • Line 6 DL-4 Delay Modeler
  • Boss OD-3 Overdrive
  • Boss LS-2 Line Selector

The signal goes through the pedals to my Vox AC30CC. I use the LS-2 Line Selector to switch between the clean and dirty channels and the OD-3 Overdrive to add a little compression/crunch for solos.

Pat Dryburgh. Photo credit, Edward Platero

Pat Dryburgh. Photo credit, Edward Platero.

Why are you using this setup?

I purchased my first Mac while working at a church. When I started, I was given an old Toshiba laptop that didn’t have enough power to run PowerPoint (in fact, it had been discarded by the children’s ministry for being so terrible). About 3 months into my time there, I bought the 13″ white MacBook and instantly fell in love with the Mac ecosystem.

When I began working in design the MacBook was adequate, but surely not exceptional. I saved up and bought the 15″ Unibody MacBook Pro which was a huge leap forward.

The main reason I stick with the Mac setup is its ease of use and the quality of the software. Software from large companies like Apple and Adobe perform so well on the Mac, and obviously the Mac community boasts some of the best indie developers in the world.

What software do you use on a daily basis, and for what do you use it?

I absolutely love the Mac developer community and use a ton of different apps to make my work and play better.

Design work happens in Adobe’s Creative Suite. Development happens in Coda, though I have been flirting with both TextMate and BBEdit over the last month. Photo editing happens in Adobe Lightroom, which is the only Adobe product I have ever loved.

I write in nvALT, a fork of the brilliant Notational Velocity. This syncs with Simplenote on my iPad and iPhone. I also keep all of my notes as .txt files in a Dropbox folder. Dropbox is also where all of my work files live.

Tasks and projects are managed with Things. I’m still waiting for over-the-air sync.

I work with a great team of guys to develop an app called QuickCal, which lets you enter events and to-dos into your calendar with plain English, and then it gets out of your way so you can get back to work. The version I am working on will be out soon, but you are more than welcome to buy the current version now and receive the next version as a free upgrade.

I use Quicksilver to launch apps and trigger keyboard shortcuts. TextExpander expands common snippets of text. Droplr lets me share screenshots, images and bits of text with friends easily. Pastebot is an incredibly easy way to share text between my Mac and iPhone. Caffeine keeps my monitor awake when I’m watching video. Seamless helps me keep my musical groove when I leave my desk. Take Five pauses my music for a few minutes if I need to take a quick call. 1Password keeps track of my passwords and credit card info securely. RSS feeds are read in NetNewsWire.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

OS X strikes the perfect balance between giving you what you need to do your work, while also getting out of your way if you want to go a different route. The developer community that has formed around this platform is second to none and I owe much of my gratitude to them.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

Other than anticipating what the next 15″ MacBook Pro will look like, I’m pretty happy with my current setup. Oh, maybe a Gibson ES-137.

More Sweet Setups

Pat’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.