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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Maccing all my files into thin air

The Macbook air in thin air.
The Macbook air in thin air.

When I read the specs and saw the keynote on the Macbook Air, I like many others gave it a lukewarm reception. What I loved was the low weight. Ultralights have been my favourite laptops since IBM launched their ThinkPad X-series. I had many of them, and I loved them; rugged, good to write on and fast, almost perfect. Hence I knew that when a laptop approaches 1kg great mobility kicks in, meaning you can just carry it along everywhere all day. What worried me most was the small hard disk. I had to see it to get convinced.
I stopped by the Mac store on Regent Street in London, like Guy Kawasaki, I was completely sold. Unlike Guy, I did not walk out with one. I needed to wait to get the Scandi keyboard.
I finally got it few weeks ago. It is a sweet machine. It is the best laptop I have had after my ThinkPad X40 and my PowerBook Duo 230. For weight gain there is data pain. I have never in my tech life had to go on data diet, but now my hardware lust sent me on massive data diet. For a life recorder like me, a 80GB hard disk is way too small. My active digital life is around 140GB. I had to loose around 70GB in order to have some room to spare.
I had run one man brainstorms on how to architect the solution, I came to same conclusions as Guy in his fabulous post, but I am not spending it yet/now. Instead I made the following decisions. I need to diet my data life down to be able to use the Macbook Air as a hub:

1. No Photos
2. Only few key Podcasts
3. A cleaned music library
4. Only temporary video storage
5. Selective copying of files
6. Only actively used apps

I only copied files of meaning from the Macbook to the Macbook Air, a project that lasted a couple of days. I will have a 160GB mobile disk companion containing overflow files and my iPhoto library of 45GB for some occasional mobility. For general image mobility I decided to have my photo library on the 32GB iPod Touch and favourites on my 8GB Nokia N95. These had to be transferred before taking the Macbook Air into use as there was only one USB port. I use a 1TB as a master backup. Will get an Airport Time Capsule to complement it and simplifying backing up.

What I cannot sacrifice is my iTunes, it has become the hearth of the digital hub. I always found it strange to have sync of iPods via iTunes, but it does provide a nice lock-in. I had to clean my music for weird stuff and duplicates. My massive collection of podcasts, got ‘binned’ and back in the cloud, I have to hope they continue to offer them. Amazingly I had collected around 80GB of podcasts. My TV shows are on a 1TB back up, so are other movies. This is a hassle, but something I am willing to put up with.
One thing really annoys me is that the USB port cannot be cloned, meaning you cannot use a USB hub. I have tried both powered and non-powered, neither work. This is a major drawback as I cannot now sync my photos from the external drive to the iPod Touch. I will try to do it over a network drive, but I have not idea if it is going to work. Any advice is most welcomed.

The battery life, feels shorter than promised, when mobile, I tune down everything and I barely get the promised values. This is an Achilles heel while jet commuting in Europe, where there is no in-seat power.
The cover of the Macbook collects fine particles of dirt, I suspect it might be an anodisation problem as the bottom shows no such tendencies.
All in all a great learning experience, this data diet certainly is stimulating for thoughts on the future of computers.

09:28 PM in Technology | Permalink | Comments (9)

Monday, March 24, 2008

The BBC iPlayer is an amazing mobile content experience.

The menus full of stuff
The menus full of stuff
The Top Gear show full of moving excitment.
The Top Gear show full of moving excitment.

Early March BBC launched a iPod Touch and iPhone compatible version of the iPlayer. I have been using it now for a few weeks and I find myself returning for more content. What strikes me as super interesting is that I actually almost prefer watching it on my iPod Touch rather than the Macbook Air, the reason being that the video is so amazingly crisp on the iPod Touch where as if I use it on the Macbook in full screen it gets grainy.

This is living proof that we are moving towards mobile personal video. A system that is a fusion between, broadband streaming, broadcast and PVR functionality with 'more' option for browsing could revolutionize mobiles. At a 3.5" screen we have a comfortable size that still fits nicely in the pocket. The technology is maturing faster than the business models, which should ensure good user experiences once hitting the mainstream.

A typical consumer Wi-Fi, with up to 8Mbit e.g. BT Broadband seems enough to carry the BBC content crisps to my handheld terminal. It is of course not enough to get a crisp full screen experience on my laptop. What becomes truly apparent is that quality of service is crucial. Getting a circle of spinning dots will be a universal turn off. I do think consumers will start to value quality of service and pay for it. That means emergence of the smart pipe.

There is lots of room to improve the interface of the iPlayer on the iPod Touch and the iPhone. There is too much pinching and panning for a fluid experience, but for a fast beta i give it my thumbs up.

04:21 PM in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The amazing wrench X-Beam, simplicity redefined.

The X-Beam is purely brilliant
The X-Beam is purely brilliant

I am always deeply impressed when someone re-invents a dominant design. The X-Beam is just an amazing design. The twist increasing the handle surface with 500% totally redefining this classic tool. It also is much easier to pick up. What I wonder why did not anyone do it earlier. I guess the folks at for example Bahco, makers of great tools, said why think about the wrench ius good enough. Correctly priced well made this could disrupt. I need to look into the history of this intention. The designer is called Richard Mancor if I recall correctly.

02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)