Strictly Commercial

January 20, 2009

Apple Peripherals: What’s wrong with this picture? (And what’s right.)

Filed under: Commercial, Random Musing, Technology — castlewriter @ 9:51 am

I own three Apple peripherals, but we’ll keep things simple by talking about only two of them with only a minor note on the third, since some of their deficits (and strengths) are shared.

Apple Keyboard:


We’ll start with the obvious weakness here: The keys. The white plastic doesn’t hold up to the natural oils of human skin. Discoloration happens quite easily and requires constant vigilance to minimize. In addition to this rather obvious deficit, the keyboard takes some getting accustomed to due to its exceptionally thin profile.

How can it be fixed? One minor modification: Change the keys’ material to black plastic.

Other modifications that would increase the appeal of Apple’s keyboards:

-Incorporate the backlighting present on the high-end MacBook keyboards.
-For the wired model, integrate a glass MacBook/MB Pro trackpad.
-For the wireless model, to compensate for the additional power requirement of the illumination system, develop a MacBook Pro style rechargeable battery.

The Apple keyboard line does have some outstanding strengths, however, and anyone who owns one knows them well already. For those who aren’t already enjoying an Apple keyboard, here they are:

-Large, comfortably spaced keys, even on the incredibly compact and thin wireless model. I’m typing this, in fact, on a wireless Apple Keyboard, and my large hands are well accomodated.
–Excellent depth of travel and tactile feedback on the keys.
-The wired model incorporates two USB 2.0 ports. The one on the right, in fact, is ideal for connecting your mouse.
-The wireless model has excellent power consumption and power management features, including what I suppose I’d describe as a “sleep” mode where, if the keys are untouched, the board goes into a low power mode. Additionally, there is a ‘Power’ button on the right side to shut the keyboard down completely in the event the user expects not to use the board for a significant length of time.

Apple Mighty Mouse:


Again, we’ll begin with the obvious weakness, and it’s the same one. That glossy white plastic looks fantastic fresh out of the box, but it doesn’t stay that way without constant inspection and maintenance. Not ordinarily a big gripe, except that when you buy a computer because it just works (and it does, really well) one of the things that should not be included is the need to spend between 10-20% of your computer hours polishing the thing. Another significant weakness, oft-mentioned yet still unaddressed by Apple, is the unseemly behavior of the far-too-delicate scroll ball, which likewise begins to demand constant attention after between two and four months of full time use. And finally, although not as offensive as the “puck” mouse that shipped with the iMac, Apple’s Mighty Mouse still displays an astonishing lack of consideration for ergonomics.

The fixes with the Mighty Mouse are similarly, and similarly easy and low-cost to implement:

-A change to matte black plastic trimmed in aluminum, both to minimize the need for time-consuming cosmetic maintenance and for superior aesthetics when coupled with Apple’s current desktops, laptops and the proposed Apple Keyboard family refresh.
-Replace the mechanical trackball (and really, what legitimate place does a mechanical trackball have on any piece of consumer electronics in 2009, anyway?) with a solid, touch-sensitive sphere or dome in the same location.
-Sculpted shape for greater comfort and control. The rationale behind the current design, aside from form overriding function, appears to be to accommodate ambidextrous use of the mouse. This can simply be addressed by offering the device in right-handed or left-handed models.

One other feature notably lacking but now a standard feature on mice from competitors such as Microsoft and Logitech are “Back” and “Forward” controls. With a new, sculpted shape, these could easily be integrated, allowing for greater functionality and comfort.

How about it, Apple?


January 16, 2009

Hiatus Interruptus

Filed under: Random Musing — castlewriter @ 8:26 am

Having been gone awhile, I got bored today. So this blog will resume. Can’t say how regularly. For now, enjoy a photograph of a shiny thing!


August 13, 2008

Second Life: Pixels and Panties

Filed under: Random Musing, Technology — castlewriter @ 12:18 am

Metaverse (n): The Metaverse is a virtual world, described in Neal Stephenson‘s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, where humans, as avatars, interact with each other and software agents, in a three-dimensional space that uses the metaphor of the real world. The word metaverse is a compound of the words “meta” and “universe“.

Sounds pretty noble, doesn?t it? Kind of enlightened and progressive, as if you?d peek into a metaverse and expect to see people expanding their minds, pushing the boundaries of the human experience and… ooh! Titties! Strip clubs! Back alleys full of half-formed dilettantes with papier mache hair and randy fellas with oversized plastic-looking… utensils waiting to jump on little colored balls that will simulate savagery. Not exactly what Neal Stephenson had in mind, is it?
But there?s more to the metaverse known as Second Life than the moistened jungle — although that is a part of it. Walk any street — or, for that matter, swim any ocean floor, fly through any asteroid field or visit any World War 2 battlefield, all to be found within Second Life?s wide and expanding boundaries — and you?ll run into people from all over the world, in all manner of guises. Tour a recreated French monastery with nuns who in the real world may be strippers, or explore the surface of the moon with lady firefighters, or wander through a medieval world of slave girls and alien warlords with really… um… interesting corporate CEOs…
It?s all in Second Life.
And although (just like in the real world) it takes money to make it look good, you can get your meta on in this particular ?verse for free. If you haven?t tried it yet, and if you?ve got at least 1Gb of RAM and a not-too-shabby video card, take yourself on over to and get your download on. Look me up — the name?s Wash Rau, and although I?m not particularly corporate or CEO-ish, I do make the ?alien warlord? bit look good.

August 11, 2008

The New Facebook: Land Of Confusion

Filed under: Random Musing, Technology — castlewriter @ 2:59 am


Welcome to the New Facebook! Now to continue the question implied in the title — tell me why!

Was there a reason for the change, Facebook? The only tangible effect of the redesign is to confuse and discourage loyal users – something you really do not want to do with a social networking site.

I?ve got an idea for you, Facebook – instead of going crazy with tabs and mouseover menus, just have the entire site run from a Unix style command prompt. Why? It?d be easier to relearn than this weird mishmash of Firefox-inspired tab mania and mouse-rollover shenannigans. Or maybe – get this! – maybe you could have little animals running around the screen, and you have to get a crosshairs on them and shoot them, and they splatter into the information you want! Hm, no, that?s too grisly. Maybe little stuffed animals could chase a monkey across the screen with machetes, and…

Hm. I think you can see a theme forming here. Think of the children, Facebook – think… of the children.

August 1, 2008

How To Make A Yellowjacket

Filed under: Commercial, Random Musing, Uncategorized — castlewriter @ 10:20 pm

What is a Yellowjacket? It’s drinkahol! Boozitation of the Purest Ray Serene! And something I’m about to have my second HUGE glass of! That’s right! Friends don’t let friends blog drunk – they ENCOURAGE them to!

So how do you make a Yellowjacket?

Start with 1/2 a glass — doesn’t matter what size glass, that’s up to your stomach and your best judgement — of Smirnoff Citrus.

Then add 1/2 a glass of unsweetened white grapefruit juice — I’m using Ocean Spray White Grapefruit juice for the purposes of this experiment.

Stir vigorously and enjoy!

Um… as always, drink responsibly — as in, don’t drink and drive. Or drink and shove rabid badgers down your underpants. Unless, you know, you really, really enjoy rabid badgers. Which would make you a freaky… freak.



July 31, 2008

iPod + iTunes: A completely unprofessional review.

Filed under: Random Musing, Technology — castlewriter @ 8:07 pm

It doesn’t have a web browser. It doesn’t check my email, or show me the weather forecast or stock quotes. Most of the time, it doesn’t even sync my calendars and To-Do list properly. And yell at it though I might, threaten it as I may, it staunchly refuses to do my dishes. These deficits aside, I’m pretty happy with my iPod Nano. I can listen to my music, watch my favorite movie or television show while away from home, listen to podcasts or audiobooks or play a quick game of Solitaire (which for some reason the fellas in Cupertino think is called ‘Klondike’) wherever I like. For a kid who remembers when the term “Portable Media Player” pretty exclusively referred to the old cassette tape Sony Walkman of the 1980s, all of that is pretty damned amazing.

There are things I’d like to see it do, as noted above, but the only thing I really have to insist on is the reliable synchronization of calendars, contacts and To-Dos — and only because that’s a feature it’s supposedly already got. One of the major benefits we’re supposed to get from Apple’s ‘end-to-end’ technology model, where the same manufacturer designs everything from one end of the experience to the other, is that it ‘just works.’ Well, this one little feature, trivial to some and critical to others, just doesn’t work — at least, not enough of the time to be relied on. Fix it, Apple.

That gripe aside, two months and counting of owning and using Apple’s hardware and software on a daily basis finds me a pretty happy camper. Sure, I’d love another gig of RAM in my Mac Mini. Sure, I’d love a discreet graphics card in there, too, or at least a better integrated graphics system than Intel’s flaccid little GMA 950. At the end of the day, though, it does what I absolutely must have it do. Most of the time, “good enough” really is good enough.

Oh — before I forget, rumor time. There’s one circulating that the 4th generation iPod Nano will resemble Microsoft’s 2nd generation Zune in size and shape. DON’T DO IT, Apple! I’ve owned two of Redmond’s little monsters — the first was a 1st generation 30Gb model in black. The thing was the flatbed truck of PMPs — reliable? Yep. Functional? Absolutely. Uglier than a baboon’s ass crack? *shudder* Ugh, God yes. The second one was a 2nd generation 4Gb flash model. It was a little prettier and a LOT more unreliable.

Steve, I beseech you! For the love of all that is powered by lithium-ion batteries, do NOT model an Apple product to resemble the laughingstock that is the Microsoft Zune. Seriously — really, really bad idea.

Oh, right, I included iTunes in the title, didn’t I? Well… um… I have it. What else is there to say? iTunes is basically unremarkable. And that’s a compliment! It does what you expect it to do (with the exception of syncing calendars, et cetera, blah blah blah already covered that) and it does it without a lot of fuss, flash or fanfare. (Pssst! Fix the damn calendar thing so people aren’t reading that and jumping around with their hands up like ravers with muscle tics!) There’s just not a lot to say about iTunes. Good program, gotta love it. No, really — you gotta, otherwise I’m coming to your house with a bag of rabid badgers — and then it’ll get weird.

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