Technology


I don’t see a lot of these around the internet, but like cars and appliances, it’s nice to know what the longevity, etc. of an expensive piece of equipment is likely to be.

My then-girlfriend bought me my first MacBook Air in October 2010, four years ago, mostly because I had so loved my first iPad she thought I might appreciate the aesthetics of the device and the small size and weight — important at the time, as I pretty much went everywhere by motorcycle, and it would fit in my tank bag. Here’s the initial impressions of the computer.

So, four years on, how is it? The body is still solid, doesn’t creak, and still looks great — no scratches or blemishes to speak of. The display is still clear and bright, with no pixels burned out. I don’t have quite as much need for the size, as I either work at home, or when the kid’s in daycare, which means I’m in the “cage” (car), but it’s still the most comfortable computer to use that I’ve owned.

Once I got used to the Mac interface, I found it worked quite well, although they really need to work on their help references; when you run into issues, you often have to go online and hit the Apple support boards to find answers. The Air has had four or five friggin’ OS changes since I bought her, and I suspect Yosemite — the latest — is going to see the end of support for the pre-2012 machines. That’s perhaps the one issue with Apple — they don’t do backward compatibility for more than a five or six years, then you are on obsolete OS and tech (the original iPad that found it’s way to my little girl is now in that limbo — none of the app she has are upgradable, and it can handle the new iOS8.) However, I’ve met plenty of folks still pounding along on decade old MacBooks and happy to not have the latest and greatest.

To that end — with Mountain Lion, the Air started having issues with video and running up the fans on the computer. For the first few months I didn’t even know it had them; I never heard them. The video card just can’t handle the new Flash and H.265 streams without get seriously hot. Even web sites with Flash would also run the machine hot and drain the battery. Up until recently, I used Chrome for most of my web work, but recently found the newer version of Safari was faster and did a better job of keeping the various ads from killing battery life.

As they’ve moved out the various OS, I saw negligible improvement or reduction in performance, battery life, etc. I was lucky and had none of the bugs that hit some of the machines for wifi and other problems, so I can’t comment to those that did. Yosemite was a sharp improvement in the user experience: you can make and receive phone call without getting your lazy ass up to find your phone (if you have a newer iPhone on iOS8), do text messaging the same, and their productivity suite has mostly recovered from the gutting it got to make it talk to the iOS version better. All the iCloud stuff is nice, but I don’t use it because I’m too cheap to pay for space, and too security conscious to throw all my data out where people can get at it easily. (I still pull the SD card with my personal stuff when traveling. Screw you, TSA.)

The older CPU is more than ample to handle most of my daily chores — i can have as many as six docs open, a few tabs on Safari, iTunes playing something that is stored on the external drive and have nary a skip in performance, although when it comes, it’s inevitably iTunes that’s the culprit. Battery life at 300 cycles, four years in, is about 6-7 hours doing some writing, some web surfing, and the like. If I turn off the wifi, it jumps about 2 hours. The original 6700 mAh is now 6067mAh (90%)…that’s pretty friggin’ good for a four year old machine. None of my old laptops had a battery survive more than two years before they had to be replaced. With the curve these batteries have, I can anticipate another year to two before battery failure.

So if you are in the market for a MacBook Air and don’t want to pay premium prices for a new one, a used laptop looks to be a good buy; if you want a new one, you can expect to keep it for four to five years before it slides out of the support stream…and even them should be usable. That’s only rivaled by my original Compaq from the late ’90s, and the 10″ Dell Inspiron I knew was still running like a top at six years old when I saw it last. (Sold it.)

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I just happened to be doing an update check and saw the new OS x was up this afternoon, so I decided to go ahead and make the jump…

First, download of Yosemite took me about half an hour, install and set-up about the same time. It was very easy, almost effortless. It prompted for the iCloud stuff, but other than that, it transferred my settings, wallpaper, and everything else without a problem. iTunes, of course, “lost” my external drive library, but unlike other iterations of iTunes, it found the library with no issues when i pointed it in the right direction. None of the usual rebuilding the library. It looks like the iTunes on the iPad, which is the say it looks clean and finding material is easier than in old iTunes. I haven’t attempted to sync an iPhone or iPad yet and am dreading it. It looks like you can swap libraries on the fly through the home icon at the top left. I haven’t tried that yet.

Once up and running, it seemed to be running about the same, if not a bit faster on my Late 2010 Air. The fan was coming on a lot at the start, but I think that was Spotlight indexing. It found my external drives and connected almost immediately; Mavericks used to fart around a good long while connecting. The Time Machine connected quicker than usual (but still pretty slowly) and ran a backup while i was typing this.

Other updates came fast and furious while I was experimenting — iWorks was up and running in minutes, with the look of the interface much more iOS, but the functionality seems to be returning to Pages and Keynote. Haven’t tried the other apps, yet. The apps open on the iCloud folder, but if you redirect to something local, the next time you open a new document, it points to the local folder.

The new notifications center is very easy to use, looks nice, and is quickly customizable. Chrome seems to be glacially slow and hitting the CPU hard, but Safari is running quick and smooth; right now, it might be worth swapping and using the baked in browser. The new mail app is a mail app — I use it for the most basic functions, so nothing big to say here. Seashore — my go-to photo manip app still works, but good ol’ Onyx is dead now.

iPhoto is still here, waiting to gum up your photo library and piss you off. Apparently they haven’t sorted the iCloud integration, but I won’t be using that. I don’t have near enough iCloud storage for my picture library.

I made an attempt to do Handoff with my iPhone — no joy. An attempt to send a file failed, as well. The phone and computer don’t seem to want to talk to each other. I suspect my Bluetooth isn’t compatible with the function…couldn’t program a fix for this? Really? Isn’t that half the draw to Yosemite — the ability to move from one device to the next easily?

Look: It’s got the “flatter” look of iOS, but it’s more colorful. I keep hoping for an “aluminum” option to go minimalist in the look of my desktop. The skeumorphics seem to finally have been banished, and good riddance. The new font is very easy to read for my LASIK improved vision (I’m farsighted now.)

Power usage — keep in mind I had a backup running in the background, and had started at about 65% battery, but in the half hour or so since then, I’ve eaten 20% of the battery, tying in Safari, doing a few bits and bobs on the side to experiment with the OS. The first 35% of the battery was doing work in Pages with multiple windows open at the same time. and that was over the course of about 3 hours…about the same as with Mavericks. I figure 7-8 hours usage if you don’t have video or Flash heavy websites eating up your power for my older MacBook Air. About on par with the last two or three iterations of OS X.

So first impressions: It looks nice, has a few very good updates — the notifications center, better connection with external drives, and the functionality is returning to iWorks. iTunes is, for the first time in a decade, not a complete cowpat to deal with. Battery and performance are mostly unchanged. So far, no bugs after five hours with it.

I’d say go for it.

I will be riding in the 2014 Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, which I assisted in organizing, here in Albuquerque. We are riding in fancy dress, proper attire, post-war period costuming to raise money for prostate cancer.

It might not be as trendy as brest cancer or pouring ice water over yourself for ALS, but it’s a good cause — so pop over to my homepage on the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride page and donate some dosh!

Here’s what I’m wearing:

Klits...they get the pussy.

Klits…they get the pussy.

..and what I’m riding: Trixie, my 2010 Triumph Thruxton:

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Thanks already to Jim Sorenson for giving generously!

 

 

 

I gave my initial impressions of the new iOS8 in this post, but after living a day with it, here’s some reconsiderations and updates:

1) Battery life, for me, seems to be much improved. I played with the phone pretty steadily — mostly watching the coverage of the Scottish independence referendum —  over the last 30 hours or so and finally plugged it in about at 18% power. Not seeing a dramatic change on my iPad Mini, although it seems to be charging more slowly.

2) On my iPad Mini, I’ve noticed a glitch that seems to lock up the Mail app if you do a bulk delete of mail. Not happening on the iPhone 5s.

3) The voice recognition is vastly improved. I’ve been using it pretty steadily.

4) The voice for Siri is much much more natural-sounding.

5) I’m actually using the Health app to monitor blood pressure, weight, etc. — but that could just be the novelty of the app, at this point.

Nothing else has particularly grabbed me beyond what was already mentioned in the first post.

I noticed that the new iOS update rolled up this morning quite by accident, and I think I got in before the masses swamped Apple’s servers. I threw it on the iPad and iPhone and so far, looks good, though I haven’t really dug in yet…

The download process: It seemed very quick, at first, then wen’t glacial about halfway through. Took about 30 minutes, but the actual update process was quick. Set-up was easy enough and the update did turn on the bluetooth, like it always does. I went ahead and fired up the iCloud files, or whatever they’re calling it these days, even though the calendars, etc. look to not be talking to the laptop now. This is supposed to be sorted with the arrival of the next OSX in a month or so. I can get by ’til then. I mostly use my calendar, notes, etc. on the iOS devices, anyway.

The look isn’t much different. The control panel is cleaned up, you can answer a text from the notifications screen. There’s the addition of a “Tips” app that I wish you could get rid of (you can’t), as well as Podcasts (which, again, you can’t delete.)

The great: Family sharing — you can share multiple iTunes accounts between family members, so now you can watch a movie, music, whatever another in the house has bought on their account. The downside — it uses the initiator of the sharing as the lead and billing for everyone’s iTunes goes through you, looks like. I’ll have to investigate.

Siri is much faster and seems to be able to handle accents a lot better. (My weird mid-Atlantic American/Scots blather confuses the ol’ iPhone most days. It also fills in as you speak, instead of waiting until you’re finished, so you can see where it’s having trouble.

The good: Voice messages in the Messages app. The health app could come in handy.

The “meh”: Addition of a timer for shooting pictures with your mug in them. Time lapse video.

Performance: On the iPhone 5s, iOS8 is giving me no dramatic change in user experience outside of the better voice recognition. On the iPad, I noted the predictive typing slowed performance waaaay the hell down and made typing in Pages almost impossible. I turned it off and it started working well. Predictive typing didn’t come into play on the phone so far today, but i turned it off anyway.

Battery life seems a bit low, but then again, I’m playing with the devices pretty much constantly today to see what they could do so take that into account.

Overall, very pleased.

Here’s a few things to aid GMs with their james Bond: 007 campaign:

One of the things dropped to the public from the Edward Snowden leaks was the Advanced Network Technology catalogue.

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