iPad, the morning after – what you should know before you buy or order

(it seems there is a technical problem where line and paragraph breaks are removed) The iPad, the morning after. It has been an interesting experience so far, with some growing pains. Please don’t view the following paragraphs as an absolute tear against the iPad. I know they are growing pains because of  limitations in the current iPad OS – actually I should say iPhone OS used on the iPad – but I think they are reasonable and common enough problems, that you may like to read about them. The main questions about the iPad are of the “do I need an ipad?” and “can/will this replace my laptop?” kind. My short answer is: you probably don’t need an iPad and it won’t replace your laptop. Certainly not in and by itself. Plus, you probably want to wait for the operating system to be fleshed out a little if you would like your iPad to work more a little bit more like a computer, rather than an iPod Touch. I see the iPad mostly as a coffee table machine, where you can tap your way to some information (pull up some local information about a location in a travel show), show pictures to other people, without having to pull out a notebook; or – if you don’t have an iPhone – as something for light browsing and reading on the road and some quick messaging. If you are an avid reader, Apple certainly wants to sell you the iPad as an ebook reader capable of a whole lot more. Or, if you have specific apps for your profession or education, like reference material, then the iPad does give you the ability to have a go anywhere portable library of books with a good size color screen and lots of storage. Copying data to the iPad The biggest hurdle I have experienced so far is getting data into into the iPad and accessing network data using the iPad. Take for instance PDFs. I spent a large part of my Sunday afternoon trying to figure out how I could put some instructional and educational PDFs onto the 60+ GB of space (we have the 64GB iPad) There is no card slot or USB port, so it is either WiFi or syncing. Via WiFi I can browse to PDFs I host on the network in Safari, but one can’t save anything in iPad Safari. Syncing then? I can hook the iPad up to the notebook and sync with iTunes, but I can’t transfer anything. Not a PDF, not a txt note, nothing other than iTunes & iPod compatible music & video. Via online third party instructions it turns out that data transfer is document type dependent and only enabled when you have a compatible application on the iPad. Since there is none by default, you have to purchase one.  While it makes sense that you don’t want customers to copy a plethora of data files over that they will never be able to view on the iPad…

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Two hours with the iPad, first impressions

The Apple iPad, Apple’s latest brain child is touted as their most revolutionary product, and we pre-ordered one. Not because of the hype, but because we like the iPhone, which does seem undersized for use at home. With the announcment of the iPad it also became obvious why Apple never produced an ultra-mobile PC / netbook class machine, and likely never will, so one might as well get an iPad then. If you are familiar with the iPhone or iPod Touch, the iPad will be most familiar, if not, it is very intuitive. Unboxing. There is not much in the box: iPad, cable, charger and a tiny pamflet. No headphones, stand, dock, … which was known at the time of ordering but I think a basic dock should have been included. It is very glossy: iMac glossy, but now in a portable version that will be angled towards the ceiling and user. Even with the brightness all the way up you get reflections abound. Part of me wants to call this the iMirror. (photo below is with screen off) Fit and finish is not 100% and I dare to say that Apple rushed these out the door. Our iPad screen and case are not entirely flush all the way around the device. See the black line appear and disappear outside of the aluminum frame. The first start is a let down because you have to activate it with iTunes and need to get the latest iTunes update as well, so you’re just sitting around twiddling your thumbs for 20 minutes till iTunes is updated before you can really turn the thing on. Then it wants so sync apps, music etc. Another delay in gratification. Finally you get to the home screen. The iPad is bigger than you think and heavier than I thought. In size it compares directly to a 10″ netbook screen and the weight is probably the same as a netbook without battery. It has a curved back, meaning that it doesn’t lay flat in a stable way. It wobbles a bit when you type on it. Typing is very doable. Easier than I thought. You will need a dock or some kind of stand. You can hold it in your left hand and tap around with your right hand, but you’re not going to do that for anything but brief periods of time. If you put  a lower edge on the table, so you’re not lifting it anymore, it still wants to scoot around. Propped up against the MSI Wind for a stand, since the dock and other accessories are still days and weeks away. The machine is fast. The user interface is very responsive. Connecting to WiFi was no issue. It detected our home WiFi network and upon selection it requested the password. Done. Safari is fast. I have managed to crash iPad Safari three times trying to log in to MacWorld. Otherwise it has been stable. Most sites work and load fast. The elephant in…

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Steve Jobs made me do it

Yes, that’s an iPhone 3GS 32GB next to the stylish Mercedes-Benz MHI BlueTooth adapter. Costly little buggers, but ultimately it seemed that was the cost of seamless integration without headaches, maximum safety and forward compatibility (Operating system update wise) with the benefits of the iPhone ecosystem. Pairing the two was easy and it just took a moment to figure out that for address book synchronization, you need to physically switch the iPhone off and back on. It doesn’t happen during initial pairing or when they re-discover each other when you return to the car. All I can say is the iPhone 3GS is pretty smooth to operate and making phone calls from your steering wheel is way cool. Let’s just hope the AT&T and partnered GSM network won’t disappoint. AT&T can advertise “more bars in more places” as much as they want, but the GSM network in Maine still means “no bars in many places” where CDMA is fully present. Ultimately some apps and car integration caused the purchase, so … Steve Jobs made me do it ;)

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Benchmarking the Mac mini 2.26 (Part 2)

[ Part 1 is posted here ] Here at icerabbit HQ we have been a little too busy recently to focus on testing the new Mac mini 2009 2.26GHz with other hard drives, after we upgraded the memory. Last night I finally gave the mini a nice place on my desk under the 20″ Cinema Display to which it is hooked up. My original plan has been to use the Mac mini with a faster 3.5″ external hard drive, rather than upgrading the internal drive, which is rather tricky. If you like detailed instructions to perform such an upgrade, look no further than this iFixit guide. Noting that I haven’t switched to the mini as my primary machine yet; so far, I have been very satisfied with the speed of its 2.5″ Fujitsu …. hard drive. The combination of this drive + the mini is more responsive than many macs with 5400 rpm drives I have seen over the years. So, I haven’t special ordered an anno 2009 zippier 3.5″ 7200rpm drive yet for the ministack. Right now it looks like I will use the ministack for secondary mass storage with a regular drive. I still want to do some tests using the newertech miniStack v3 with some older drives as well as a couple retail external drives from Maxtor (3.5″USB2 & FW400) and Seagate (2.5″USB2). While I agree that the internal SATA bus is the fastest connection, it doesn’t mean the internal hard drive is the fastest by default. Regardless of connection method, the internal hard drive is still the slowest component in the computer (apart from the optical drive) and so an external hard drive could be faster. Even if I don’t find something faster than the internal drive in the house it will be a fun exercise to see how long it takes to back up the mac mini using USB2, FireWire400 and FireWire800. What external bench scores will be? Which will be the faster drive? Which applicaion will be faster? SuperDuper or CarbonCopyCloner? And what about temperatures? Does all this hard drive activity kick the fans in overdrive, or not? Click through for the findings.

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Benchmarking the Mac Mini 2009 2.26 GHz (Part 1)

[Update: Part 2 with some external drives is posted here ] Quite a number of people wonder if it is worth upgrading the Mac mini 2009 from its default Core 2 Duo running at 2 GHz to 2.26 GHz (13% CPU increase), so below are my first benchmark results. I hadn’t see any 2.26 GHz benchmarks yet, when I decided to order my mini with this upgrade. I figured it was worth it since I was going to save money on doing the other hardware upgrades myself. Upgrading the CPU, memory & hard drive kicks a mini over $1000.  Note that I consider 2GB pretty much a mandatory upgrade, so it enables both memory channels and unlocks the shared graphic memory from 128MB to 256MB. The jury is still out, I think, about a 7200 rpm drive.  Generally the hard drive is the slowest component in a computer (ignoring the optical drive) and a 7200 rpm drive should be faster than a 5400 rpm drive. But, other technical details come into play like amount of cache, # of platters, platter density, … and so you can see a great 5400 rpm drive hold its own against an average 7200 rpm model. Research is key.  The PowerBook greatly benefits from the 100GB 7200 rpm drive over the default one, but maybe Apple made a good hard drive choice here.  Note: Geekbench 32 bit demo mode.  Mac mini 2009 2.26 GHz – 1 GB RAM – OS X 10.5.6 – 1st Boot *  Geekbench 32: 3007 — Integer: 2428 — Floating point: 4343 — Memory: 2410 — Stream: 1558 Xbench: 124.57 — CPU: 142.52 — Thread Test: 307.03 — Memory Test: 154.54 — Quartz Graphics Test: 170.22 — OpenGL Graphics Test: 110.46 — User Interface: 248.38 — Disk test: 48.79  * I noticed after completion that Apple had a software update process running in the background that was pulling several hundred KB/s of updates, so that may have compromised the result. Mac mini 2009 2.26 GHz – 1 GB RAM – OS X 10.5.6 – Restarted Geekbench 32: 3032 — Integer: 2448 — Floating point: 4413 — Memory: 2413 — Stream: 1486 Xbench: 178.53  — CPU: 136.81 — Thread Test: 321.07 — Memory Test: 156.73 — Quartz Graphics Test: 179.30 — OpenGL Graphics Test: 137.04 — User Interface: 244.39 — Disk test: 48.52  Upgrading the mini is not for the faint of heart, but I did it. More on that in my upgrade story.  Mac mini 2009 2.26 GHz – 4 GB RAM – OS X 10.5.6 – Restarted Geekbench 32: 3081 — Integer: 2492 — Floating point: 4378 — Memory: 2476 — Stream: 1821 Xbench: 130.57  — CPU: 137.74 — Thread Test: 252.28 — Memory Test: 174.42 — Quartz Graphics Test: 185.21 — OpenGL Graphics Test: 136.94 — User Interface: 285.55 — Disk test: 48.90 I had no idea why the second Xbench score was significantly higher the second time around with 1GB, only to see it drop back to a still improved level with…

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Hello Mac mini

I have been waiting for the mythical midrange mac for so long – namely since the G4 Cube was shelved and Apple went with Intel – that I finally bit the bullet and purchased a Mac mini 2009. Of course this probably means we will see Apple release such a mid-range machine in the next few months. Which would be the third, or is it the fourth?, time an Apple product we buy is significantly upgraded or replaced by a new model a few weeks later. C’est la vie. I know, you just can’t time Apple for some things.   So, why the Mac mini? Well, it is very simple. There are three things I like in computers: horsepower, silence & a sense of value; and one thing I absolutely hate: glossy screens. The latter immediately rules out the glossy iMirror, I mean iMac. If it were matte, I could be convinced about the all-in-one factor. Glossy MacBook & MacBook Pro = no thank you. We have two glossy portables (one of which a MacBook and the screen is really sub-par) and I see no need to buy another. The Mac Pro certainly has the horsepower, but $3000 for another behemoth like the G5? I would have to be mad. If Apple had a new Cube or a one third or quarter size Mac Pro, with Core i7 CPUs (instead of those $$$ Xeons), somewhere in the $1000 – $1250 range, I would order one instantly. Unfortunately the new Cube is still a pipe dream, so, there is only one machine  left: the mini. With the 2009 revision it includes dual monitor support and after some evaluation, I figured the time was right to simultaneously downsize (in size) and upgrade (in cpu). I decided on the base Mac mini with 2.26 GHz CPU and will do the upgrades myself.  During the un-boxing I found it funny how I kept thinking there should be something more in the box, like a mouse or a keyboard. Pretty much any new computer I have purchased or set-up for someone else ( apart from self-build ) came with a new keyboard & mouse; so it felt like the mini was lacking those. No luck fitting them into the mini’s box, I guess ;)  Only a mini DVI to DVI adapter is included, so if you have a VGA monitor, or something else, you will need an additional adapter as well as the keyboard, mouse and monitor.  I was somewhat surprised by the huge power brick. It is hefty, but fortunately smaller than that of a Cube.  Here is the port configuration in the back: including FireWire 800 and mini DisplayPort. While I didn’t like Apple’s decision to use mini DisplayPort on their MacBook & MacBook Pro, I am happy it is added on the mini besides the DVI port, so it is dual monitor capable.  I know some people are interested in the Mac mini 2.26 GHz benchmarks and I will post those next….

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