It’s been a very busy week at Mobile Tech Manor that started with a road trip that gave me a good opportunity to test some gear on the road. This column is my chance to share not only my week but anything and everything that comes to mind. An old friend couldn’t keep going and was replaced by a new whippersnapper. I’m painfully behind in the gadget review department but hope to catch up soon. Mix and match operating systems were the fashion this week and I have been having a lot of fun playing around with it. I enjoy sharing my week with you so come on in for a chat.
The Shotgun wedding and good friends
My week started with a 3:30 am alarm to get me to the airport on time to head out to buddy Kevin’s wedding in central Pennsylvania. The flight in to Philadelphia was good and was followed by a 40 mile drive into the sticks to the hotel. I had received the brand new Telenav Shotgun GPS late the day before the trip so I dropped it into my backpack and carried it with me. It worked well on the trip and always got us where we were supposed to be on time and the GPRS connectivity was really cool. The Shotgun kept us informed when adverse traffic conditions were in our route and it is very nice. I am impressed with how small and light the Shotgun is which makes it very easy to carry in my bag. The only complaint I have is how you must get a GPS fix before you can begin entering in an address. This was a major pain. Other GPS’s I’ve used remember the last location when the device was turned off but not the Shotgun. Sheri’s complaint was how the Shotgun doesn’t give you advance warning when you need to "keep left" or "keep right". Other GPS devices give such warnings when approaching a fork in the road but not the Shotgun.
The trip was absolutely awesome and it was great to spend a good amount of time with Kevin and Matt Miller. We have only been in the same place once before and this was a real treat. Matt brought his brand new Blackberry Bold and I have to tell you it’s the best Blackberry I’ve seen yet. That’s until the Storm arrives in the next few days. :) The Bold is a very sweet phone and I’m very impressed with the web browser that RIM is using. Very sweet indeed. Matt was impressed with the Shotgun too. Dave Zatz was at the wedding and it’s always good to see him. We all had such a good time at the very nice wedding and the reception was a ton of fun. Thanks to Kevin and Barb for inviting us up and congratulations on tying the knot. You guys rock. The night before the wedding Kevin and Barb took a dozen of us out to dinner via a Cadillac Escalade stretch limo and it was a blast. The restaurant is famous for prime rib and I have to tell you I have never seen slabs of prime rib as big as in this place. And those were the "princess cuts", I shudder to think how big the "king size" cut would be. We had a blast and the limo ride was icing on the cake. Sheri and I thank you very much for the great weekend.
I brought the MacBook with me (not to the festivities) and it was a joy to travel with. Even though it weighs 4.5 pounds it doesn’t feel that heavy and it’s great to use while mobile. The hotel had free WiFi that was nice and speedy and the MacBook took full advantage of it. Before you ask no I didn’t take it to the wedding. Only the iPhone was invited.
I finally got the chance to see what Kevin’s been shouting about for as long as I’ve known him as far as WaWa coffee goes. We picked up a bag for the hotel room and were very impressed with the flavor of the coffee, so impressed that we brought some back with us and I’ve ordered some online for delivery as that already ran out. Gotta have a WaWa. The whole trip was a win all around with good friends, good gear and good coffee.
Battery life is everything
The MacBook battery stood up well on the trip and I didn’t even have to swap it out for the second battery I brought. I’m still getting near five hours on a charge which is quite good and I am very happy with that. Speaking of battery I’ve mentioned the Richard Solo Backup Battery before and this week Richard sent me the new higher capacity battery for evaluation. The Richard Solo 1800 packs 50% more battery life into a larger case and it connects to the dock connector of the iPhone. It will charge the iPhone while running it and greatly increases the battery life on 3G. I’m not too thrilled with the size of this bigger battery compared to the older smaller one as the 1800 is almost as big as the iPhone. It’s so big you can’t really use the iPhone while it’s connected like you can the smaller one but that’s the price you pay for the extra battery life. I just use it to charge the iPhone when the battery gets low to top it off and it’s good at that.
The 1800 Backup Battery has two features unusual for an external battery that are pretty cool. The first is a laser pointer that may be useful for business travelers. It’s one less gadget to remember to throw in the brief case. The second feature is an LED flashlight that can be used to help light the way in the darkness. It’s nice and bright and since a flashlight is one of those things that when you need one you really need one it’s pretty nice to have. The Richard Solo 1800 Backup Battery is $70 while the older smaller battery is $50. Both batteries charge via mini USB and will also charge the iPhone while plugged in. Both batteries come with a wall charger and retractable mini USB cable and the larger one also comes with a car charger with two USB connectors. Both batteries are good solutions for extending the iPhone/ iPod Touch battery life if that’s a concern.
It’s the Google
I am still enjoying the T-Mobile G1 phone and the Android operating system. It’s definitely a first version of the OS and I expect it to keep getting more polished as time goes on. It does a superb job interfacing with GMail and the other Google apps as you’d expect from a Google OS. I finally had the RC29 update pushed out to the phone by T-Mobile and the OS got snappier as a result. This week reports surfaced that Android had a bug where if you typed a system command on the keyboard the OS would execute it as super user. Type in "reboot" and the phone would do so which is not cool considering you could do this at any time from anywhere in the system. A patch was released right away and RC30 was pushed out which shut this problem down. Kudos to all involved for plugging this glaring hole in the security so quickly and painlessly.
Farewell to an old friend
This week my long-time printer, the Canon i70 mobile printer, gave up the ghost. It has been getting flaky lately and not surprising since I’ve used it as my only printer for years. It finally died and printed its last page which was quite sad. We had a Canon iP1800 laying around that came free with a notebook purchase so I hooked it up to the Airport Extreme router and in five minutes the printer was available to the whole network. Technology is great when it works like this. I sure will miss the i70.
Virtual solutions are the best
This week the folks behind Parallels, virtualization software for the Mac, released a major upgrade to the Desktop software. Parallels Desktop 4.0 promises much faster performance running Windows in a virtual machine and 50 other improvements and additional features and since the upgrade was free for me I grabbed it and installed it right away. It was the first time I have installed Parallels on the new MacBook and I was wondering how it would perform with only 2 GB of memory. The installation process is very smooth and once Parallels was installed I then created a virtual machine with Vista Ultimate inside. The whole process was seamless although time consuming but that’s a factor of installing the operating system, not Parallels.
Running Vista on the MacBook has been a lot of fun and I’ve had no problems whatsoever. The virtual machine works flawlessly on the Mac, even with just the 2 GB to work with. Both OSes reside side-by-side nicely and I’m finding performance is only slightly impacted by the low memory. I will definitely want to bump the MacBook memory to 4 GB before too long to take full advantage of the VM.
The coherence mode of Parallels lets me run Windows applications directly on the Mac desktop and this works flawlessly. I did some experimenting with this as well as full screen mode and I’m finding I prefer running Vista full screen. It makes it seem like a real OS to have its own desktop and I find it easier to run programs and such this way. This is working very well because of how well the four-finger salute works on the MacBook trackpad. I can be in a full screen Vista session and swipe down on the trackpad with four fingers and Expose kicks in and lets me see all open programs at once. The Vista desktop shrinks down and becomes just another little window in Expose so I can easily jump around even though the Vista session is full screen. I can’t stress how well this works and how easy it makes working with Vista on its own desktop, far better than coherence mode which makes it harder to access the Start Menu and such in WIndows. I have spent a lot of time working with Google Chrome in Vista and it’s come a good ways since launch. I’m experimenting with speech recognition in Parallels and Vista to see how well it works and it’s pretty cool controlling things by voice.
Parallels is not the only VM solution for the Mac, VMWare Fusion is very capable as well. I own Fusion but haven’t used it in a while and I’m interested to hear what others think of it, especially if you’ve used both of these solutions. I hope to try installing Windows 7 soon as I am anxious to see it in action and running it on the MacBook will be cool no question.
Increasing the utility
The best app I’ve adopted this week is Widemail, a plug-in for Apple Mail that provides a three pane window for working with email. The message list pane is fully customizable with Widemail and it greatly improves the user experience and quite simply. I love great utilities that do one thing and do it well and this one delivers. Utilities that augment other programs are often the ones that add the most value as they let you continue to use the standard program. Apple Mail is a solid email program but I’ve always wanted it to provide a better display and now it does.
Tip of the day
It’s time to share a tip that if you don’t already know about it you will thank me. Did you know that you can page down in any browser by hitting the SPACEBAR? You can conversely page up in any browser by hitting Shift-SPACEBAR. When I say any browser I really mean it. This works on the Mac in Safari and in Firefox, and under Windows in Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome. Honest it works in all of these browsers. Using this tip is absolutely the best way to go through tons of items in Google Reader. Try it and you’ll be amazed you never heard about this before. Thanks to David Pogue of the New York Times for this tip.
eBooks of the week
This week I continued the series about FBI agent Smoky Barrett and sped through The Face of Death by Cody McFadyen. Smoky is turning into a great serial killer hunter and the killer in this book is frightening indeed. I read this in record time and have started the third book in this series, The Darker Side. Great series and well written.
That’s my week in review, abridged version. I’ve been busy and totally absorbed in my work and the week seemed to fly by. I hope you enjoyed my sharing of the week and I thank you for joining me. Until next week.