Friday, February 19, 2010

Mac Battery Health

Most of Macs sold are mobile machines and as a mobile machine we tend to use them when plugging in isn’t convenient.  Battery health is an important part of mobile computing.  If you don’t have access to power and your battery is dead there isn’t much point in having the laptop.  
There are a few ways to check the health of your battery.  Third party apps, and built in apps in OS X.  First I will start with the third party free ware apps.
Battery Health and Status Monitor from SonoraGraphics http://www.sonoragraphics.com/batteryhealth.html is a great freeware program that will tell you about your batteries original capacity, current capacity and charge cycles.  

This gives you a great quick overview of how your battery is doing and if it might need to be replaced.

In OS X 10.6 a new feature was added to the menu bar.  If you press
and click on the battery you will get additional information about your battery.  In this case it adds Condition and tells you what the status of your battery.   The third place you can check for that status of your battery is System Profiler.  Open your System Profiler and click on Power and it will tell you everything about the status of your battery and power management settings. If the indicator tells you to replace the battery or it is in a status other than Normal and you have fewer than 300 Charge Cycles on the battery take it into an Apple Store or call Apple Technical Support.  they may replace your battery if it is defective.   The newer model laptops batteries are typically good for 1000 charge cycles while the older machines are usually good for about 300 charge cycles.  I replace my battery typically every two years to maximize my battery life.   Now you can get an external power pack with a mag safe connector to allow you to run your laptop between 11 and 26 hours depending on model laptop and model of HyperMac http://www.hypershop.com/HyperMac-External-MacBook-Battery-and-Car-Charger-s/91.htm you are using.  It can also recharge iPhones and other USB devices. I know the Mac Geek Gab is doing a little battery survey so pop on over and participate in the survey http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/mac_laptop_battery_life_survey/?utm_campaign=shorturl it will be interesting for us to find out how these batteries really work.

Friday, February 12, 2010

MacGourmet Deluxe Review


The MacGourmet Deluxe is iTunes for recipes.  It is a easy to use Kitchen Management System for the rest of us.  With a few simple controls across the top of the Window and a simple search bar allowing a search on any or all fields to find the recipe you are looking for just like your music. 
        
This is a very powerful and easy to use tool for storing recipes, planning menus, building cookbooks, managing nutrition or anything else an amateur or professional epicurean can dream up.
        
With user created Recipe Books and Smart Recipe books you can store your recipes in any way you like or have the computer keep track of recipes based on the criteria you set.  One of the default smart recipes books is Recipes I Have Prepared.  So you can mark an item as prepared so you can track what you have made in the past. 

MacGourmet comes with some recipes already built in and you can always add your own recipes or click on the Featured section to find new recipes from Mac.Gourmet.com.  If you find a recipe on the web you like.  Just highlight it, click Services, Mac Gourmet, and Make a Text Clipping and the whole recipe is immediately stored in your Clippings folder and can be imported as a recipe card any time.  The import is not an automatic process it requires highlighting sections of the clipping and identifying it to the application but at least you don' have to retype anything.
        
The application also includes the ability to store notes about foods and wines you have eaten, keep historical shopping lists and make notes on where you can pick up those hard to find items.  This program is a gastronomic diary for the food and drink lover in you.

MacGourmet also supports the creation of shopping lists based on the recipes you select so you can just pick your recipes print your shopping list and head out to the store.  This makes the shopping task much simpler if you sit down and use the built in meal planner, you can plan your meals, build your shopping list and access the recipe when you need to prepare the meal all in one easy place.  For an additional $4.99 you can also add the iPhone or iPod touch application to your phone and share the recipes and lists between your desktop and handheld device.  I think for deluxe they should include the iPhone app for free. 

MacGourmet also lets you share your recipes on your MobileMe website right out of the application or send the recipe to friends via email.  There is Bonjour sharing component built in for those who have multiple Macs at home and you want to share recipes between them.
 
Once you are ready to head to the kitchen you have a few options.  The iPhone or iPod Touch add on app for $4.99, print the recipe on paper, or take your laptop to the kitchen and click on the Chef View.  This gives you a large print view you can read at a distance to keep your Mac clear of the work area and out of harms way while still making the recipes readable at a distance.

The application has a lot of power available but it does have a few shortcomings.  All of this data is of course stored locally on your PC but doesn't include a conduit for MobileMe syncing of its database.  So make sure you use a backup program so you don't loose your recipes and notes in the event of disaster.  Not including the iPhone app is a little disappointing.  I would love to be able to plan a meal and send the shopping list right to my iPhone or the iPhone of whomever is doing the shopping.  Not being able to send the list directly to email is a bit of a let down as well.  Mac Gourmet could benefit from some additional online access to list and store new recipes.  Perhaps Amazon could add some e-cookbooks for a low price to add to collections as well as a free downloadable web standard for recipes so surfers can just click and cook. 
        
This app is flexible and allows you to use as many or as few of the features as you like.  It is only limited by the imagination and training of its user.  I know this tool is a must have for this tech geeks kitchen.
  
Pros: 
         Easy to use familiar interface, lots of great features for the diet conscious, and comes with some great tasty recipes.
        

Cons:
         The iPhone App should be free for deluxe users, Easier import method for online recipes, a scanning feature to scan in existing paper recipes are definitely lacking.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Why I disagree with "10 Reasons to pass on iPad" and 10 reasons I want an iPad


I read this 10 reasons to pass on the iPad on Tech Republic this morning http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/10things/?p=1324&tag=nl.e101  and just had to write the 10 things that refute the argument of why to pass on an iPad.

1.)    Physical Keyboard, there is an accessory dock that has a physical keyboard or you can connect via a Bluetooth keyboard.  (This person didn’t pay much attention in the presentation)
On Screen size the larger size is a convenience that is better than the iPhone for viewing and not as cumbersome as a 17” notebook.  As long as the device does some things better than an iPhone and some things better than a laptop around the price of a net book it is going to be a hit.
2.)    The Net books don’t have usable track pads and require mice to be attached.  Also lack the CPU power and battery life the new iPad offers.  IF you want a 10 hour battery your net book would weigh about 3-5 lbs.  For 1.5 lbs. you would only get about 2 hours out of it not 10 hours the iPad offers.
3.)    Running iPhone OS there is software to allow you to remote control your Mac from the tablet.  So you get the Power of a desktop in the palm of your hand through Remote Desktop.  iPhone OS is OS X with a touch interface on top.  They do restrict what apps can be loaded and only allow what is in the app store but that could be altered in the future and it creates an app ecosystem most developers like and was responsible for the smash hit the iPhone became despite bugs in the process.
4.)    There is never enough storage.  No matter how much you put in someone will always want more.  64 GB is a good starting point.  A net book with more storage would have a mechanical drive or a much more expensive SSD drive.  As the price of flash drops and tech improves we will get more storage.  The iPhone grew from 8 GB to 32 GB in two years.  Two years from now the iPad will probably ship with 256 GB of storage and my laptop will have 2 TB of storage.
5.)    Again not paying attention.  I don’t have HDMI on my iPhone either but the Dock Connector can output 480p to my Television, and guess what the Dock connector accessory for the iPad can output 720p to a Television via a 30 pin to component video output that will be available day one.  I agree not having the camera kind of bites.  I was looking forward to video conferencing with it and there is a space for a camera in the hardware but for some reason Apple didn’t include it.  It could have been price or another technical issue.  It will come in the future I have no doubt.  (The iPad SDK includes Frameworks for Camera support in the Address book and other places, as well as Cisco wrote the Cisco Unified Personal Communicator client to use a Camera for their iPad version). 
6.)    I didn’t know they were going to have a USB adapter for the dock connector.  That is kind of cool.  Keeping it thin and light they had to leave out the USB.  It still has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.  There is no reason you couldn’t access remote storage via Wi-Fi.  I have 20 gigs of storage on my iDisk and I bet I will have access to that via the iPad.
7.)    Flash card access is available via the dock connector and to keep it thin and light something had to give. Most users wouldn’t use the Flash card slot anyway.  You can’t put one in for every format and keep the thing .5 thick.
8.)    It costs Apple $259.00 for the parts to build an entry level unit.  So if they sell them at cost they could make this guys target price.  Acer has already announced they can’t make a competitive product at that price point and make a profit on it so they are not going to even try and compete with Apple.  The pricing is really good for the device and you get what you pay for.  If you want a low performing slow net book then great spend $299 and use it as a photo frame.  If you want fast and do many things including a really sensitive touch screen $499 and you are in business.
9.)    It was unveiled a week ago.  I am sure third party manufactures will be quick to start making items for the iPad just like they did the iPhone.  I have a Belkin Tune Dock in my car, a Kensington charger in the truck, third party headphones for music, cases made by InCase, and a charger/speaker system from iHome.  This will happen for the iPad too once it hits the market.  How many people really carry spare laptop batteries or phone batteries with them?  How do you keep them charged?  Currently Mophie makes a Juicepack that plugs into the iPhone and recharges the battery to double the life of your phone.  I am sure there will be a Mophie iPad case to allow you to go 20 plus hours and not need to recharge.  Then you can recharge your device while you sleep.  The iPad CAN run Skype in fact Skype runs on the iPhone so that will be available day one.  Flash isn’t available that is correct.  HTML5 looks nice and You Tube is already testing it and rumor has it Hulu is heading that way too.  I can already view You Tube and UStream on my iPhone without flash.  Flash is a processor and battery hog that slows my laptop down when it runs and spins up the fans.  Why would I want it on my smart phone or iPad?  It is time for the world to move to HTML5 and the iPhone and now the iPad will push that trend along.
10.)  Wi-Fi is almost everywhere now so getting access shouldn’t be that tough if you use the Wi-Fi only model.  The iPad 3G is unlocked which means ANY GSM providers microGSM card should work in the device.  AT&T was just the first one announced, I am sure T-Mobile and others will be along soon.  Besides you can also just carry a MiFi device and connect through the Wi-Fi to any carrier you choose and your laptop can get on as well.  Sooner or later tethering will come to the iPhone as well and they will likely add a way for Wi-Fi iPad users to communicate with the Internet via the iPhone in their pocket via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.   

Now the 10 reasons I would own an iPad.

1.)    Sitting on my desk in a stand it will make a beautiful Electronic Picture Frame for my photos.  A Kodak EasyShare 10” Digital Photo Frame is about $175.00
2.)    Color Ebook Reader.  My Kindle isn’t color but still currently costs about $489.00 for a 9.7” DX model.
3.)    Watch movies while traveling and even be able to rent them from the iTunes store while traveling and download to the device.  Sony 9” portable DVD player is about $169.00 rentals of course if you can find a place to rent a movie while traveling.
4.)    Work on Documents and Presentations while on the go.  Sony Vaio 10.1 inch screen and 7 hours of battery life with Windows 7 $459.77
5.)    Read the Newspaper while on the go.  Ok this one is only .50 - $1.50 depending on the newspaper but it doesn’t update and isn’t good for the environment.
6.)    Play Games while I am out and about.  Sony PSP $241.00
7.)    Take notes in meetings.  Could use a computer or a notebook but it is much easier to find electronic notes later. 
8.)    Share You Tube Videos with friends on a larger screen.  Plus I don’t have stop my video to take a call.
9.)    The E-mail looks far more readable and manageable on the larger screen without being stuck behind my laptop
10.)  Remote access my Mac and PC’s for work.  It would be nice to be sipping a latte in Starbucks and get a call on my iPhone that someone needs me to fix something real quick for them and I just close my book on my iPad and open up a remote desktop and using the virtual keyboard and touch screen fix the problem and then go back to my book right where I left off.

There are obviously other devices that can do what the iPad does, not as attractive and not as user friendly.  To buy all the devices to do what it does would cost about $1,535.27 or about the cost of a 15” Macbook Pro.  So it is quite a value for what the device is capable of.  The iPhone grew in its first two years of life and added features and functions as I am sure the iPad will as well.  I think this is going to revolutionize how and where people work.

I would like to see a camera for video conferencing.  I was really hoping to see that on this version so that video conferencing could really go mainstream.  I would like to have multi-tasking or something like freezing an app in a state when it gets back grounded so I can pick up right where I left off when I return to it and use Push Notifications to tell me if an app got an update.  But above all I want the device to be fast, stable, and have a good battery life.