Macbook – Sharp corners?

February 17, 2007

A lot of complaints from macbook users have been posted all over apple forums regarding the sharp corners of the laptop and the resultant wrist pain. Is it really that big a problem and if it is… what are the solutions?

Well… as a black macbook user for 5 weeks, I can honestly say the problem does exist. During prolonged typing sessions, my wrists do keep hitting the edges of the laptop chassis and trust me… it’s not a nice feeling. After migrating from the white 12″ iBook (which had such a comfy typing layout and rounded corners), one of the first things I noticed on the macbook was the wrist discomfort. The keys being spaced out didn’t add immediate value as well, but that’s a different matter.

The problem is that the laptop chassis edges are SHARP. They almost feel like blades from some angles…… not kidding! Here’s a simple test:- Place your palms on the edge of the laptop (on either sides of the trackpad) and then slowly slide your palm downwards at a 45 degree angle. You’ll think this is the laptop-paper cutter combo model :)

Apple really should’ve polished the build quality on these models. Were they in such a rush to release intel macbooks that they didn’t spend time on ergonomics and usability? Ok so now what. I’m not about to give this macbaby up just because of the chassis feel. So here are some quick-fix solutions……

- Change your typing angle: That’s the cheapest and fastest solution. I’ve noticed that after increasing my chair’s height and allowing my wrists to fall neatly on the sides of the trackpad, it does help matters. The moment, the wrists get bent backwards, the discomfort increases. So try to get used to a slightly different typing position.

- Change your desk level: If the desk level is lower or equal to the level of your chair’s armrests, typing is much more comfortable. You don’t end up bending wrists as much.

- No desk: When I don’t use a desk at all, it actually feels great to type on this laptop. If the laptop is propped on my lap or on the couch its cool…… but obviously this isn’t a long term solution as the heat from underneath the laptop can be too much to handle!

- Padded wrist support: A great product to use is the iLap Laptop stand from Rain Design. They have a 13″ widescreen version which should suffice for the macbook. The best part of the stand is that the ultra soft velvet cushion. I’ve tested it at a local apple showroom and it’s just super. Plus.. the laptop stand itself elevates the laptop at an angle which really forces you to type in an ergonomic position. If you type a lot on any given day… the 50$ for this accessory is really worth it.

Hope this article helps other macbook users out there!

KIKO belongs to TUCOWS!

September 6, 2006

 

Kiko the web 2.0 calendar was recently put on the auction block for US$50,000. If that wasn’t news enough, they actually managed to sell for quarter million dollars! What amazed and intrigued me was the fact that someone out there would want to invest this kind of money into an online app which competes with other FREE online apps floated by small co.s as well as the goliaths like Google. Who would be so bold??

I finally got my answer today…. Tucows.com.

Yes folks…. the shareware downloads portal. They even posted an explanation on their blog to explain WHY they went ahead and bought kiko. Read it here. Apparently, they needed a great web calendar app to work with their existing email platform. That’s the short answer. The longer version is online.

Now i’m asking myself a whole lot of questions…..

- Ok so they wanted an internal app and are not immediately interested in competing with other calendar offerings… but is a quarter of a million dollars “justifed” for spending on a web 2.0 calendar app?

- If they really want to use KIKO for their internal email needs, aren’t there other ‘established’ options out there?

- Did they analyse options like Scalix… or even Zimbra? (Personally, scalix is an awesome solution for small/medium/large co.s with multiple mail clients and devices)

- Is tucows being truthful about this whole “we needed the functionality” statement? Do they have a bigger game plan with KIKO like adding more modules, widgets and features and then releasing to the public? Frankly I’ve always felt that KIKO looked and behaved much better than Google calendar. Needless to say, I don’t care much for the UI of any of Google’s online offerings… be it writely, gmail or calendar.

Hopefully, tucows will release more information in the coming weeks……

Firefighting UBUNTU 6.06 LTS

September 5, 2006


On 21st august, many ubuntu 6.06 LTS users worldwide were faced with a command line prompt rather than the neat gnome based brownish interface which they had quickly learned to love. The reason was of all things… a buggy OS update. Here are my comments on this episode.

- Ubuntu and the hundred other linux distros have a lot of work to do before they can seriously challenge the dominant market leaders… windows xp and mac OSX. Of course the distros are getting better and better with each release. Better performance, tons of open source apps, low ownership costs (free in most cases), low system requirements etc. But there are still a lot of things you can’t really do painlessly like playing DVDs, connecting to wireless networks or syncing with mobile devices.

- Linux has still not reached the stage where an average desktop user familiar with XP or OSX can quickly adapt to. Why should a user be expected to type in a bunch of Unix commands to simply get the DVD working?

- A corporation backed distro like UBUNTU gives confidence to people who have probably been toying with the idea of having a rock solid, free OS installed on their systems for standard tasks like net browsing, email and office productivity suites. But when a buggy upgrade causes your system to not boot to the graphical UI and instead leaves you at the command line… it makes you wonder – If heavily funded linux distros like these can commit major system errors, then what about the hundreds of free community backed ones? From a logic point, they should not be considered at all!

- Although this episode was a scary one for many ubuntu users and for others who are thinking of making the linux switch, I personally feel that it’s still worth continuing with this OS. Why? The level of support. The moment reports of the buggy update flowed in, the company was super prompt in issuing an apology and more importantly… a quick fix. This kind of turnaround time is missing from even major corporations! It gives confidence. While there’s no excuse for releasing a buggy system update to thousands of users, they still handled the disaster recovery admirably.

So.. would I still consider installing Ubuntu on my spare PC? Sure. But as a safety measure, my backups will now be daily rather than weekly ;)

Combine multiple PDFs for free – A review of Combine PDFs 2.1

July 28, 2006

Logo

The euphoria of finding free and open source software to get your crucial tasks done is something special :) As a lover of the open source movement and community driven software efforts, I’m constantly on the lookout for great pieces of software (utilities or full blown apps) which aid me in accomplishing work tasks without depending on commercial apps.

The latest bit of free ware which I’ve quite taken to is: COMBINE PDFS 2.1

As its name suggests, Combine PDFs makes it really easy to combine a bunch of PDFs into a single document. That works great for me as I can stay away from bulky apps like Acrobat for such tasks. One good thing about using macOSX is that the OS has PDF publishing built in. In fact the Quartz 2D windowing system which the OS uses is based on the PDF format. I can export web pages from safari as PDFs, view them using Preview, edit and annotate them and also apply some nifty Quartz filters to reduce size and also perform colour corrections. Another great feature in OSX is that almost any application which has a Print option can output PDFs directly….. which is AWESOME.

Although the Automator feature of OSX does allow one to create a workflow to automate combining mulitple pdfs, it does require a bit of time to figure out and setup for a novice. That’s where “Combines PDFs” really helps. A zero learning curve, super fast and lightweight. It gets the job done in seconds. Here’s a complete list of its benefits:

Benefits:

- 100% Free:
Download the file and start using right away. Even the source code is included. The author does accept donations though. Get it here.
- Super fast launch:
On my 12″ iBook with 512 MB memory, it launches with just one bounce of the icon in the dock menu. That’s barely a second.

- Lightweight:
The application is barely 1.5 MB in size. I’m a big fan of lightweight apps which stick to one core feature and do it well rather than aiming to perform multiple things and risk code bloat.

- Simple Interface:

interface
The interface is neat and clean. You instantly know what to do and how to do it. No manuals required for this one.

- Fast processing and progress indicator:
The actual process of stitching PDFs is quite fast. I’ve successfully combined 200+ pdfs within 3 minutes.

- Does Images too:
This is sweet…. I can combine PDFs as well as JPEG images into a single document. That’s really helpful!

- Split and Extract:
If you have a multipage PDF, you can open it and remove certain pages and save the pdf again. Surely an essential feature for many.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Overall, a very helpful utility which every mac user should keep in the arsenal!

A look at the latest Yahoo Messenger for Mac (Should mac users even bother?)

June 29, 2006

A look at the latest Yahoo Messenger for Mac (Version 3.0 Beta 1)


When I first switched to macs, I quickly realized that the MSN and Yahoo IM clients were substandard on the mac platform and paled in comparison to their PC cousins. Their interfaces were bad and the apps lacked solid features. MSN gave up on its mac messenger project long back and Yahoo delayed a new release for years. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why a large chunk of the mac community subsequently got bitten by the Adium bug.

That’s why I was curious (more than anything else) to check out the new release of Y! IM and see what exactly they worked on for so long. I downloaded the latest release of Yahoo Messenger for the Mac from here. It’s Version 3.0 Beta 1 (that means more betas to come……. yipppeee)

Here are the main ‘features’ which Yahoo are touting on the download page…….

- New look and feel for OSX:


Great. So now the IM client actually ‘looks and feels’ like a mac OSX version. Although there is a lot of the ichat, itunes kinda feeling,, the interface could still do with a lot of improvement. Also, there is no way to customize the skin or theme. You’re stuck with what they’ve dished out. p.s… Am I the only one who thinks the PC messenger looks cooler? It’s not very often a mac user is stuck with an inferior interface!

- Support for Avatars, display images and sounds:
Finally the mac user can view avatars of his buddies and set display images. It’s a pity this feature is 2 years late.

- Coming soon……. IM with friends who use windows live (MSN) Messenger:
I can hardly wait for this one! Pleeeeease release the next beta soooon!

- Stealth settings:
Now you can selectively hide your visible status from buddies. Again….. long overdue and nothing new.

- “New IM” indicator in the OSX dock:
Thats a feature????? How else will a user know when there’s a new message with multiple finder and app windows open??

- File Transfer:
I tried transferring some PDFs to another contact on Y! IM. Didn’t work. The contact didn’t even get a notification of an incoming file or anything. What gives?

- Webcam Support:
Finally. One good feature worth the wait. Pity I don’t have iSight to test it out ;)

Overall, this effort by Yahoo is totally lackluster. It’s time they get serious about the mac community and provide some real powerhouse features (which are already available on the PC client) like Launch cast support, VOIP calls, Audibles, Instant Photo sharing and IMVironments. Is it asking for too much?? What say?

As of now, I would like to end this review with one word….. ADIUM :)


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