Tag Archives: Macbook

How Dell can survive and truly compete

I had a truly inspiring conversation with Jake and Dave yesterday. We went to lunch then coffee.

The topic turned to Apple of course, the Apple tax, and what it means, and Dell.

We all agreed that we pay more, but where Dell and HP, and windowz peeps use the term in a negative, we see it as paying for a more awesome product, that is the sum of it’s parts not the parts. The whole spec comparison has been done to death. Apple gear isn’t RAM, HDD, glossy screen, etc. It’s the whole package, the OS, the industrial design, the hardware, and the overall feeling of owning something that retains value, isn’t plastic, and does what you want.

We got to talking about Dell (not sure why we focused on Dell, we probably all owned a few so they’re familiar)

We agreed, Dell (from now on, when I say “Dell” it means all PC makers) was competing with apple on product, not narrative. Slapping leather on a laptop, does not a MacBook Pro killer make. Adding replaceable colored skins, ditto.

What we all agreed is that the issue isn’t competing on hardware, it’s competing on the package. It’s a plastic crappy flimsy laptop running Windows. Sure Dell has tried to go Linux before, but the mistake they made was in choosing an off the shelf Linux distro. Maybe they wrote a few drivers for their hardware (I surely hope so) but that was it.

Wrong approach.

It’s amazing how many Apple product-killers fail to deliver because they fail to see the package, and try to kill the gear.

Mac’s run *nix. I know that, Dave and Jake know that. My mom doesn’t. Nicole doesn’t or doesn’t care. Hell I don’t care.

Where Apple went right, and Dell wrong, they took BSD, and made it user friendly. The average user never opens console, NEVER NEVER has to compile a driver from source, etc.

Throwing Ubuntu on a Dell laptop… isn’t the same as throwing OS X on a Mac laptop. Dell missed the mark, but not by much.

What should Dell do? abandon Windows, devote time and money to taking Ubuntu or something else, and making it theirs. Yes it’ll cost a metric buttload of money, and time. Dell will have to stand by their convictions, and help show why choosing their OS is a good idea for their customers. OS X had Classic mode, it shouldn’t be hard for Dell to offer a mode that will run Office. Apple didn’t offer iWork for a long time. Apple owners had to use Mac Office. M$ isn’t stupid, they’ll be mad, but then they’ll make an Office version for Dell OS. Or Dell writes one. Shit, Pages isn’t Word, but it’s got what most people need out of a word processor. The rest of Word is crazy one off fluff, that bloats the app and adds value to 1% or less of the install base. (guessing)

When I say Dell has to stand by their plan, that means after 6 months or a year, they can’t scrap the idea, run back to Microsoft, and make nice. It’s gonna take time. They need to spend that time doing 2 things.

  1. Sell the hell out of Dell OS. It’s an uphill battle, but NO ONE likes windows. Given an alternative that did what Windows does (not the shit no one cares about, the important things), wasn’t bloated, wasn’t full of crapware, etc. People would choose that alternative. BUT it must be stable, it must not need the user to know that the console exists, and it must be supported. It’ll need drivers, it’ll need the regular apps, it’ll need a way to run old windows shit. It’ll need a wizard to help convert people from windows to Dell OS. it’ll need the same experience Mac converts get.
  2. Improve the Dell OS. Show that it’s not a one off. within 6 months, release an update that’s more than a bug fix. Throw in a few new features. Add some Sizzle, but add a bite or two of steak too. Showing your fledgling user base that you’re committed will do wonders. They’ll know you’re in the game to win, and not “Testing the waters”, and they’ll become the cult of Dell.

That’s it. That’s the secret sauce Dell is not seeing. That’s the trees in the forest. It’s not a better laptop with better specs. it’s not leather or wood. It’s not Aluminum unibody, it’s the narrative, and the experience. Windows will forever taint both, and Dell will never compete.

So that’s it. That’s the secret, that so many get (Apple owners) that so few get (PC makers, M$, Etc) that would make PC makers competitive.

Apple didn’t get to $50bil over night, you can take your 8% share and bank on that, Apple is banking with Money. (Please leave the “iPod is supporting it” out. Yes the iPod is the huge money maker, and uh, hello the iPod follows the same model. Dell DJ? what? what’s that? exactly)

That was our coffee talk :) I might have missed a thing or two or glossed over but that was the gist.

One more tool in my Travel toolkit – Network Location

One of the things I hate about travel (And I really do love traveling) is my laptop doing things I don’t want it to do, because it doesn’t know we’re traveling.

Thankfully, what I assumed was just a natural state of affairs, I had no control over, turns out to be a completely manageable process, thanks to Network Location. I would have never known this app existed, if not for twitter. Someone (I don’t recall who) pointed out the One Finger Discount site, and after looking over the offerings, I was clicking purchase.

It was especially good timing. I was leaving for a trip to San Jose, so I’d get to test the app out. Set up is really straight forward. You define your locations (Home, Office, Travel, Starbucks, etc)

Screen shot 2009-11-08 at 10.41.14 AMThe things that get me, are printers, Time Machine, etc. When I’m traveling for work, I almost always have my portable HP printer, so I’d like to not have to remember to change printers.

I hate having Time Machine try to run when I’m not home, sitting there spinning wasting cycles, and bandwidth looking for the drobo that isn’t there.

Defining my locations, solves those.

The nice thing is, while yeah it will pop up a nice little widget asking me where I am, it can also auto sense, and take action, based on geolocation, and Access Point name. So now, whenever I’m at home and connect to my home AP, it’ll mount the drives I want mounted all the time.

Screen shot 2009-11-08 at 10.41.23 AM

This past weekend it’s been so nice, knowing my Default printer was what it needed to be.

If you’re a road warrior, that has to constantly fuss with settings between location, this app is for you!!

Boxee it’s quite nice!

So one of the things Tom’s departing the company has done is made my house the complete 360|Conferences gear depot.

Screen shot 2009-10-28 at 11.34.14 AMI figured, why have perfectly good Mac Mini’s sitting around, when, like the PS3 I can use them around the home/office until event time.

To that end, we now have a nice little Boxee entertainment center. I’ve actually been an admirer from afar of the whole Mini as home theatre set up, since about the day the Mini was released. It just seems like the perfect box for that.

However, while I had fun in my youth as a hacker and building things, tearing them down, etc, I just don’t get into it now, I didn’t want an Open Source DVR that required Linux, and a keyboard, etc.

Boxee is a nice, pretty darn consumer friendly package, that works with the Apple remote, but even better, there’s an iPhone app. I wish the app was a bit more secure, if my neighbors get a boxee set up, or even get the free app, I can see problems arising.


in the meantime, it’s been nice to catch up on shows on Hulu (when it doesn’t freeze mid show), and stream some Netflix movies. I looked at Plex, but the Boxee interface was more friendly. To that end, Nicole has already used Boxee, liked it, and managed to navigate to watch things, without me in the room, that’s a huge win for Boxee.

I hope the Hulu issue ends up being resolved, and Hulu doesn’t screw things up. I’d pay for hulu, but only if I don’t need a separate app. Boxee is nice, it’s all in one.

Sprint Mifi Review

301861_g1Nicole and I have had “sprint cards” for years. I used quotes, because well their fun, but mostly because “card” has been PCMCIA, ExpressPort, and USB Dongle. We both have done some traveling and even working in lame offices with stupid network rules and lockdowns, so having portable internet has been a Godsend. Nicole doesn’t travel on her own as much, we usually travel together now, or I travel alone for work, so having 2 broadband cards made little sense. Enter the Mifi.

I originally looked for a broadband hotspot I could use my extra AT&T SIM with, but alas, the only option I found was for sale overseas and shipping, and conversion to Euro’s well put it out of my price range (Still looking for a device to use that SIM in, not really a netbook guy, so don’t offer that up :D ). Luckily our sprint cards were upgradeable. Well one was. the other was free to cancel so we did.

Now we share the mifi and whomever travels gets it, and when we travel together, well we can both use it.

It’s an awesome little device. We used it this past weekend in Vail. The hotel had wifi, but hell if we could find it. Every SSID was locked, and no one provided us the password. Mifi to the rescue, power it up and bam, surfing along just fine.

As much as I’m a fan of public wifi it’s just not reliable. Either the coffee shop router is unplugged, maxed out, or “I don’t think it works” or worse, NOT FREE. So I don’t bother. Sit down, fire it up. iPhone can use it, laptop can use it, hell someone I’m sitting with can too. I don’t have to worry about the guy next to me streaming pandora, or the girl in the corner using Skype to conference call, etc. I have my own 3G connection. Sure it might not be as fast as a hardline, but it’s always available, and ready.


  • Super portable
  • Doesn’t waste a precious (On a unibody Mac) USB port
  • Doesn’t require stupid drivers or apps
  • easy to set up and connect to
  • did I mention super portable?
  • The controls interface (web site) is really easy to use
  • You can run it on AC power too, so if the battery dies you’re not SOL. I haven’t tried running it off, USB power yet.
  • Biggest Pro. I’m AT&T Proof. (See below)


  • Not sure if it’s Mifi or what, but sometimes the iPhone and Macbook, don’t immediately see the AP, even when it’s on and ready to go. They seem to forget that they’ve used that AP before. Possibly an IP thing? Kinda lame sometimes to have to re connect.
  • Battery life. 4 hours with 1 isn’t so bad, but it goes down with each connection

AT&T Proof?

It’s common, if anecdotal knowledge in downtown Denver that during Rockies home games, the AT&T network pretty much collapses (sad, but true). You’ll have full bars, and can’t complete a call or open an email. I’ve taken to carrying the Mifi in my pocket or backback (as the case may be) and having it on the whole time and letting that serve up data for my iPhone. Voice is a little trickier, but Skype solves that issue, if I REALLY need to make a call right then. Sad, but hey, it’s a nice back up plan, since AT&T can’t be relied on.

My review of the Macbook

I realize I’ve not put down my thoughts on my new Macbook so here they are.

It’s ok.I’m coming from a Macbook Pro. I figured I didn’t need a Pro since I’m not writing code daily, and I don’t game, so I didn’t need a beefier video card. Also since I have the Macbook Air I wanted to swap out my Sprint ExpressCard for a USB model. So Macbook it was.

I got the Macbook just before Adobe MAX, and took it with me, to break in and play with :)


The unibody is awesome. Dodge did it, it sucked, Apple did it, it worked sweetly! There’s not even the slightest flex when you pick it up by a corner, which I experienced often with my MBP. There’s no creaking or anything. No screws to be seen, which is simply prettier :)


I like the Optical drive slot being on the side. The few times I ever used the bay on my MBP it was on my lap and I had to shuffle the machine and myself around since the slot was front facing. Side facing is nice.

The ports being on a single side is nice. Previously it seemed like there was little rhyme or reason to where ports were on mac laptops. I kinda wish they were on the right since, most of us are righties, corded mice (I know, so 2002) have to go around. Oh well. My main gripe with the ports, is the closeness, they’re almost on top of each other! the two USB ports are so close that anything that isn’t a USB cable, requires an extender if you plan on using the other port. My new Sprint broadband device, is thin enough to work with the Macbook Air, but too wide. USB drives, too wide. So sadly a USB hub or extension cable is required. I carry both in my bag now.


Glossy is ass! I don’t know what Steve and company are thinking. They obviously never leave the mothership and see daylight, or have a conference room with windows. My Air has a glossy, and now the MB, so I’m essentially stuck to one side of our main conference room. Sitting with my back to our windows, out of the question. I have noticed that cranking the brightness up all the way helps to counter act the daylight (Yeah I’m a day walker, but I can’t help it), of course that also gives me a good 38 minutes of battery life… Call Col. Carter! I’m hoping to find a matte screen cover, kinda like a privacy filter, but with out the privacy, since I don’t care about that, really.


It’s alright. It sounded revolutionary when Steve talked about it, but really it’s just a track pad. I find myself messing it up, since for years I’ve rested my thumb on the place the button would be, but now that’s part of the trackpad, so it whigs out once in a while.

I haven’t figured out a consistent or useful use for 3 and 4 fingered gestures. I’ve tried to use it for expose, no good, since it seems to catch the gesture only 3 out of 4 times. So other than having more drag room, it’s not really doing anything for me.

So overall

I really like the new macbook, it’s got more power than my MBP so all things being equal it’s better, and the too close USB ports, are an annoyance at best. I’ve been doing a lot of video editing for work, and it’s handled it all like a champ. It’s a good machine, I give it 3 snaps in Z formation.

The Story of the Macbook pro with bad wireless

My Macbook Pro is first generation. Core Duo, no 2.

It’s a great machine, still a work horse, but the wireless card doesn’t work. Never has. When I got the machine, we didn’t have wireless in the house, so I never used it, there were network drops in every room, and hub in the living room. I first noticed the wiress trouble at a conference; I’d connect but the connection would drop, or I’d never see the network my friend in the next seat could see, and connect to. I then bought a sprint card, so wireless was un necessary, EVDO to the rescue.

Early on I swapped out the Super Drive for a second hard drive, from MCE. 160GB drive, trumps a rarely used DVD drive.

Jump forward two years, i’m at EUI, my work laptop on one side, my MBP on the other, one on the network, going strong, the other (guess which) getting not more than a blip of connectivity.

I decide that since I’ve got the Macbook Air, I can be with out my MBP for a few days, so off to the Cherry Creek Apple Store for my Genius appointment.

Mac Genius FTL

Right away he can see that there’s something odd with the machine, identifying the second drive right away, impressive. He can see that the airport isn’t working, that’s good. He goes back and talks to his boss, and returns to tell me, that since the Optibay had changed the electronic signature of the machine, he could never guarantee it was 100% back to working when giving it back.  LAME. He suggests I return to the Mac Outlet, where I had the Optibay installed. They’re Apple Authorized so it’d still be under warranty (I have an AppleCare contract).

Since it took longer than promised to install the drive, I wasn’t looking forward to going back to Mac Outlet. I fired off an email, letting them know what the deal was and got a reply letting me know they could do the work, and that they were looking at a 3 day turn around.

I drop it off on a Wednesday around 1pm, confirming with the guy at the counter, 3 days.

I Call on Saturday, it’s still about 15 machines back in line, Ok, no problem, depending on your count Saturday might not be day three. I call back on Tuesday, it’s about 4 machines back. GRRR ok lame.

I call back Wednesday around the middle of the day, “It’s on the tech’s bench right now” so I leave him a voicemail, letting him know if it ain’t gonna be fixed, I’ll need to take it unfixed. The MB Air is great, but it’s not the machine for compiling (is that the right term) iMovie projects. Plus the single USB port makes doing stuff at home a PITA when I need my iTunes portable drive, etc, etc.

He calls back Wednesday night about an hour before they close to tell me it was the Airport card and that it’s ready for pick up. I go in Thursday morning to pick it up, right when they open.

No payment needed, it’s a warranty repair so I grab my trusty MBP and head to the office.

I get there, fire it up, connect to the wireless network, Nada. same bad connection, as a week ago. LAME.

Not only did my expectations as a consumer not get managed, but my problem wasn’t solved. Now I’ve got to have a friend at the office, pull the second drive out, replace the old Super drive, just so I can go back to the Apple Store, and have them fix it, or send it to the Depot. Joy.

Apple store Service for the loss :(

More browsers than I can count

So sure, Google gave Mac users the finger with Crown, fine! Google, you be that way!

I’ve been playing with a few browsers, and wanted to offer my thoughts.

Minefield is a Mac optimized Firefox. Not to be confused with Mozilla’s own alpha app Minefield (supposed to be faster than chrome).

It’s basically Firefox, but compiled specifically for Intel Macs. I haven’t had any problems with it, and have been using it a few days now. So far so good. Plugins all work, etc, so that’s nice.

I came across Cruz, just this morning (and am writing this post in it), and really like it. It’s not ready for primetime yet, if for no other reason than there’s no clear/easy way to import bookmarks. Importing bookmarks, FTL.

What I do like is that it seems incredibly light weight, and is very user extensible, with scripts from userscripts.org. I’ve already stripped ads and reformatted gmail, and have friendfeed running, as an iPhone site in a left pane, seperate browser. Cruz comes with left and right pane browser plugins by

 default, so you can run another site, or two (Not on the screen real estate of a Macbook Air!) in seperate instances. You can even control the user-agent of each pane, which is cool since most iPhone friendly sites, make awesome sidebar apps.

Of course there’s still regular old Firefox, and Safari, but there’s not much need to discuss them, we all know about those two browsers. I’d totally use Safari as my every day browser, but some of the Firefox plugins are just too useful. Camino is an option, and I tried it for a while a year ago, there weren’t enough plugins to make it compelling. That might have changed, I’ll take a look.

Fluid is a choice too, it’s by the guy who created Cruz. I just don’t get the point of a webpage, as an application. Sure you get seperate instances of each page, so one bad script doesn’t kill your browsing, but really, that’s it? I suppose if you only have 1 tab open, then Fluid would make sense, since it’s lighter than FF and I think even safari, but who only ever has one site open? Not me.

As much as I like choice, sometimes it’s too much. I wish one or even two companies could figure out how to make a stable browser, that doesn’t suck memory, doesn’t crash, and is fast. 


I came across (this morning, also) a cool tool to help with “too many browsers to choose from” syndrome. Choosy is a pref pane (sorry windowz people) that sets itself as your default browser. After that, clicking links in email, IM, etc, can either open your default browser, or offer a cool graphical, “Which browser” dialog so you can divert links where you’d like them.

This is especially useful to me, since Minefield doesn’t seem to get “open as tab” when clicking links in Twhirl. Now I can choose, which does handle new tab. 

It’s also nice since sometimes if I’m just looking at something quick, I can open it up in Safari, to load fast, read it, and close. BAM!

So far so good, Firefox hasn’t opened in about 3 days.