Category Archives: thoughts

Enter the SSD — Speed Redefined

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Last year, I told a friend that I would buy a SSD (Solid state drive – a new form of hard disk running on memory chips instead of disk platters) around mid-2009.

3 weeks ago, I did just that – but only remembered telling my friend this after purchasing my Intel X25-M SSD. So my prediction did came true (I swear I did not buy the SSD on purpose just to prove myself right!).

After receiving my Intel X25-M 160GB SSD, I hopped around like a happy geek at my office. OK.. that did not happen. But I was all excited even though I blew my last pay cheque on a mere 160GB hard disk – it cost me around 700 USD (2550 Malaysian Ringgit to be precise).

So why on earth did I blow such a huge amount of cash on this thing called the SSD? Let’s do a reality check, shall we?

According to Newegg.com,

the 160GB Intel X25-M SSD cost $619 USD

whereas the Seagate Momentus 7200RPM 2.5″ SATA is $129.99 USD

Holy f–k! Now if my math skillz still prove to be strong, what I paid for actually equates to 2 freaking TERABYTE (2000GB) of hard disk space. So why on earth did I pay the same price for only 160GB?

Folks, an SSD is no child’s play. Ask any pro’s about SSD’s, what comes to mind are two things – SPEED and RELIABILITY.

The SPEED is intense, when I say that 90% of the applications on my MacBook Pro launch instantly when I click on them, I ain’t bullshitting. Even Adobe Photoshop CS4 launches in 3 seconds, that gives you an idea how fast SSD’s are.

The way I explain the speed to my dad is: “It’s like upgrading from a scooter to a f–king bimmer!”

My VMware Fusion’s Windows XP virtual machine is now just like an app. A fresh boot’s resume is just 2 seconds, then the consequent resumes are so fast that the progress bar had no chance to appear.

All that speed, do I really need that? To most people, the price tag is just too hard to swallow and I won’t blame you, I hesitated many times before finally joining the SSD club. But let me tell you, once you go SSD – you’ll never want to use a traditional hard disk anymore.

The reliability of SSD’s is a plus point, as they run on memory chips and there are no moving parts at all. As my boss puts it: “you can now throw your laptop around with no worries”. Btw, he has two OCZ Vertex SSDs, one for his Sony Vaio Z and another one for his MacBook Pro.

Now, if I get you all excited bout SSD’s – read on.

Not all SSD’s are made equal. I have done my research for a few weeks and I have concluded that (Multi-level cell) SSD’s are ranked like this:

1) Intel X25-M (good all round performance, seems to hit top speed in almost every situations, very high IOFlops compared to competing drives, but much higher priced)

2) Samsung P128/256 , Corsair P128/256, OCZ Summit (these three are using samsung controllers, seems to have speed in between Intel and the Indilinx drives, but seems to suffer major in performance degradation but I believe this will be solved in future firmware updates)

3) OCZ Vertex (Indilinx controller, seems to be a winner in file copy tests – but falls when performing at random 4K blocks, however this is still a very good drive)

DO NOT BUY JMicron controller drives (i.e. OCZ Apex), they are utter crap. End of story.

If you have any questions regarding SSDs, don’t hesitate to post a comment here. I hope you find my post informative ;)

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Windows 7 Public Beta First Impressions

People call me a Mac fanboy, but deep down inside I still want Windows to be a great OS one day. Maybe the time has come. I went to download the public beta and installed it on my desktop. The boot time was decent, but not as quick as I thought. On my first boot, I was greeted by a fishy wallpaper:

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What’s with the eye-pleasing fishy wallpaper? Has Microsoft turned to feng shui this time round? Maybe it did work.

I was surprised my wireless driver wasn’t installed, this may prove troublesome to people who have no access to a dual boot installation or another PC to download the necessary drivers, or perhaps a network that allows LAN access.

Sound driver not detected as well, but that’s fine given that not many people own a Razer Barracuda AC-1. I mean, Ubuntu didn’t detect the driver anyway – and it didn’t support my audio at all the last time I tried looking for the driver (Ubuntu fans, start flaming).

After installing my wireless driver, I was pleasantly surprised that the interface for connecting to a wifi is simple just like the one on Mac’s. I don’t remember this was the case for Vista, but then again I use Vista maybe once every full moon. My only Vista installation is in my MacBook Pro that I only boot when some LAN gaming is needed.

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Let me know if you see a similar list of wireless networks, maybe we can have dinner sometime.

Another thing I discovered about Windows 7 is the ability to easily do split screen for 2 different windows. I just have to move a window to the left corner and wha-la, it resizes itself to exactly half of the screen. And if you want it to occupy the whole screen and is to lazy to click on the Maximize button, you can drag it upwards and it’ll do the trick.

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And if you haven’t noticed yet, that’s right, now the taskbar has the resemblance of a MacOS X dock. It now revolves all around icons, I love it very much. Hover over one icon and it’ll show you the windows that belong to the application. Microsoft has seriously taken usability into interface design – and not hideous “eye candy”. Kudos.

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Overall, I gotta say I like Windows 7 much more than Vista. In fact, this post is written live from Windows 7.

On the other hand, Vista gave me terrible first (and last) impressions, it made me want to delete it after using for a few hours and I have done this a few times even with Service Pack 1.

Have you tried Windows 7 yet? Would you?

So… How Good Is The New MacBook Pro?

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Really, really good.

For the first time my palms sweat not because of the heat, but the excitement and the intense feeling of using this sexy beast.

One of the major differences between this and my old 1st gen MBP is the display. It’s now LED back lit, which means much brighter display. I also noticed that the colors are more… colorful? They don’t look pale and half-dead like my old MBP’s display. I suspect the display is not using a TN panel, but rather a MVA or PVA panel (TN panels are usually the cheapest panels, 22″ LCD screens that are priced around 250 AUD uses this kind of panel).

Two graphics cards. Yes, TWO! But why you ask? First, I very much welcome Apple’s decision to use Nvidia’s platform for their MacBooks. Nvidia’s chipset is a lil unconventional, in the sense that it’s kind of like a hybrid chipset that has a GPU (or rather graphics processor) in there as well. The good thing is, you can switch between the integrated 9600M GT GPU and the 9400M GPU. If you’re just surfing the web, doing emails, or rather flirting with your fling, then 9400M is the way to go. It gives you an extra 45mins to 1 hour of battery life when not plugged into the charger. Also, another thing I noticed is, it runs much cooler too (could just be a placebo effect, lol).

I expect Apple to harnest the power of the other unused GPU in the next Mac OS, Snow Leopard where the technology called OpenCL will come to play. OpenCL is pretty much like CUDA where it allows programs to harnest the processing power of the GPU to do “number crunching”. So basically, the GPU is like an extra “processor”. I read that there’s this security research company that used CUDA to decrypt wireless passwords. They claimed that using CUDA sped up the process by 100 times. Now, that’s impressive.

Another thing is Hybrid SLI. Those of you hardcore gamers out there should know what SLI or Crossfire is. It basically allows you to combine 2 or more graphics cards to pump up more Crysis FPS. Hybrid SLI is just the same, but it combines both the integrated GPU (such as the 9400M) and the dedicated GPU (9600M GT). Right now, Apple doesn’t support this but it might come as a firmware or software update in the near future. Fingers crossed!

Chiclet keyboard. Mmm, I love it. It makes typing much more enjoyable.

Magnetic latch? F**k yeah! Cool factor++ (Hi Vince)

All ports moved to the left side. Good, now I can plug in all my peripherals and none of the cables will interfere with my mouse whenever I’m gaming (At one point I was actually looking for a 90 degree angle firewire 400 cable, lol).

No FW400 port? Damn, spent 16 bucks to buy a 6 to 9 pin cable.

MiniDisplay port? F**K! 50 bucks to get the god damn cable that allows me to use external display, and 150 bucks for a cable that lets me use a 30 inch or larger display if I plan to do so. No good!

No Toslink support anymore. Boo, no optical connection to my z-5500. But iPhone 3G headset support is pretty cool, now both the mic and headphones can be used without splitting into 2 separate ports.

Speaker holes are INCREDIBLY SMALL. No seriously, you will believe me when you look at the real thing. I guess it helps to prevent bits of food or junk to fall inside the laptop.

And finally… Prices for MacBooks increased by like 300 bucks for Aussie stores? WTF? And I thought I was gonna get a bargain by using my Malaysian credit card… :P

What do you guys think of the new MacBooks?

P/S: Oh btw, I’m currently looking for a job here down under. Hit me up if you know someone hiring for IT. ;)

One Month of iPhone 3G – Afterthoughts

It’s been one month since my iPhone 3G has served me. All I can say is this device has allowed me to use the internet on the go. There are also some features of the iPhone 3G that I like in particular:

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For example, I really, really love the intelligent auto-correction thing. It has allowed me to type fast without worrying that I am going to produce a typo. However, this only works if you are typing non-offensive dictionary words. So make sure you double-check what you have typed before sending the SMS/email. Trying to type “f**k you man” will produce “duck you man” and will make you look stupid. Be warned.

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Another thing that I really like is the ability to send and receive emails on the go. As you can see, my fellow friends are having fun comment raiding on a particular picture on Facebook.

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Apps, lots of them. I love having the ability to install apps that can help me identify songs (Shazam and Midomi) or allowing me to kill time (or as my friends describe it “looking like a retard”) by playing accelerometer-controlled games like Super Monkey Ball, Cube Runner etc (These games are controlled by tilting the iPhone itself).

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One last thing that I also liked is the ability to write chinese characters with handwriting recognition. On the above screenshot, you can see that I have typed my chinese name using handwriting recognition. Pretty neat.

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Now… Like I said, nothing is perfect. iPhone 3G has lots of bugs and problems even with the latest firmware. Here’s hoping that the next firmware will fix all these issues:

Keyboard lag: Sometimes your keyboard will suddenly feel the force of the vortex and go into 1 character per second mode. This bug is really, really annoying. Some people has suggested that activating the “magnifying glass” a.k.a hold your finger onto the screen will temporarily fix the issue. I usually just quit the offending app (usually SMS or email) and relaunch it.

Various lags: Contacts take up to 3 seconds before you can smoothly scroll and sometimes certain parts of the iPhone system suffer from abnormal lags.

Installing apps using App Store: If you’ve got an iPhone running the latest 2.0 firmware, AVOID installing apps using the App Store on the iPhone itself. I have run into numerous problems that has caused my iPhone to get stuck at the apple boot screen and I was also required to restore my iPhone several times.

App crashes: This one is also quite annoying especially when you’re trying to show your friend some cool apps you’ve just installed. You launch the app and then, boom, it goes back to the home screen. This will never stop until you restart your iPhone.

Insanely long backup times: This is one of the most annoying thing to happen especially when your iPhone needs to get restored due to some stupid problems. My backup takes at least an hour and this does not even include the sync process. Some dude over the internet posted a video that showed his iPhone backup taking as long as 8 hours! How ridiculous is that.

Horrible 3G performance: Ok, I don’t really know who to blame for this. But Optus 3G performance is freaking horrible in Australia. Some dude even did both ping and bandwidth tests on all carriers and Optus has a staggering 1200++ ms ping while the others only have 200++ ms ping. Also, the bandwidth on Optus 3G is between 5 to 7 times lower than its competitors. Cmon Optus, fix this please.

As you can see there are a lot of problems plaguing the iPhone 3G now. The stability of this device is horrible, so horrible that it’s giving a bad image to the Mac platform. Please Apple, fix them soon! /endrant

Safari 4 Sneak Peak

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So the word is out that Safari 4 Developer Preview is in fact lurking around the hand of developers. Turns out that my free ADC membership has it up for download too. So I played with it a while and I will talk about one feature that sets it apart from other browsers.

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Safari 4 File menu

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Fluid

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Safari web app of Facebook(left), Fluid version(right). Notice that fluid has proper icon.

Safari 4 now allows you to save your favourite web apps as…. none other than APPS themselves. So what the heck does that mean? It means that you can have a Facebook app, Gmail app, WordPress app – you name it!

While some may argue the need for such a feature, I believe there are some people out there that relies heavily on web apps for their work. Thus, having a separate app for the site alone might help to:

– Prevent crashes when too many tabs are open in one browser
– Probably minimise memory leaks for leaving your browser on too long (???)

Some of you might be familiar with Fluid, an app that allows you to do just what I mentioned above. It has some rather cool features as well. But let’s see some main differences between the two.

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These are screenshots of a web app saved using Safari 4 on the left and Fluid on the right. Notice something? That’s right, Fluid version of Facebook seems to be almost 28 times larger. But then again, Safari doesn’t have as much features compared to Fluid. So it’ll all up to user preference, personally I don’t really need Coverflow view of all links on a certain page because even though that’s cool, it’ll just mean that my quota will drain faster.

What are your thoughts? Do we really need such feature? So far I think it’s kinda redundant, but then again I’m not really a web app maniac yet! ;)

Misu: Hands-on Review and Thoughts

Previously, I wrote about three different apps that allows you to take control of your iTunes/iPod music here. I stated that I did not have another iPod to test Misu. Earlier today, a friend of mine requested me to fill up her iPod with songs. I saw it as a perfect opportunity to test out Misu. I would like to thank Ollie Wagner for giving me the opportunity to test out Misu’s app at its fullest potential.

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Upon launching Misu, you can click on the iPod icons to swap their places. This allows you to choose which iPod is providing the music, and which one is receiving them.

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Here, you can see that my friend’s iPod is smaller than the amount of music that I have. Misu intelligently prompts you to choose if you want Misu to stop copying music when the target iPod is full, or you want to overflow the target iPod (I have no idea what overflow does because I chose the first option).

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Misu’s progress pie doesn’t seem to be accurate. It was stuck at 100% for quite some time (about 5 minutes). I think this could be due to the “Stop copying when Full” option. Nevertheless, it’s just a cosmestic issue and harmless.

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When copying is finished, a pop-up will appear asking if you want to copy Misu’s app into the iPods so you can launch Misu from any Mac. This is a very clever option in my opinion.

The copying of approximately 4gb worth of songs took about 10 minutes for me. After copying, I realised something – the songs are actually copied into a folder inside the target iPod. For some reason, I had the impression that Misu would automatically add the songs into the target’s iTunes library. I think this feature is not impossible and I hope it would be added in future releases.

For the techie geek like me, I would’ve preferred MacFuse + iTunesFS over Misu if I would like to painlessly copy music over from one iPod to another. Misu, on the other hand requires you to do one more step when you connect your iPod to your own computer, and that is to add them to your iTunes library and then sync them to your iPod. In the meantime, Misu is great and easy-to-use for people who don’t wanna fiddle with MacFuse. I believe there is a lot of room for improvement for Misu.

With more and more people getting iPhones and iPods (and storage getting bigger and better), Misu will no doubt be popular in the future because with the snap of a finger, you can have your friend’s music collection.

Interested in trying out Misu?

Misu is available for a free trial (with 15 songs limit) or you can get it for $19 per copy or $29 for 3 copies.

Clueless Blogger Writes on Why Vista Beats Mac OS X

I was surfing around and noticed that this article ‘Five reasons why Vista beats Mac OS X’ was linked in 9to5mac‘s site. I was curious so I clicked on it, expecting it to be an article with constructive arguments based on hard facts. But no, it made me laugh my head off. No surprise the article had negative rating (at time of writing it has -68 rating after 142 votes).

The first reason he gave was that Vista runs more software. Ok, fair enough Vista DO run more software. However, what was wrong is that he argued Virtualization software like Parallels won’t let you run even the most basic games such as FreeCell, Hearts, Pinball, Solitaire and Minesweeper. If that’s not funny enough, he argued that it’s because Parallels doesn’t support DirectX9. HAHAHAHAHAH!! Since when the f**k does Solitaire and Pinball require DX9? Also, recent versions of Parallels and VMware Fusion are already supporting DX9. This just shows how f**king clueless this guy is because he wrote his article only about 2 days ago.

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Then, he also said that Vista is safer. He argued that this was because the MacBook Air got hacked first in the recent hacking competition (PWN2OWN). I’m sorry but the MBA wasn’t hacked REMOTELY. On the first day of the competition, nobody managed to hack any of the 3 laptops (MacBook Air and 2 others that ran Windows Vista and Linux). So the next day, the rules was loosen and contestants were allowed to physically access the laptops. What!? It doesn’t take a genius to agree that it is much easier to hack a computer when you have physical access. Also, of course the MBA was hacked first. Who the f**k wants a black ugly Windows laptop that’s worth half the value? Vista more secure than Mac OS X? Then try running it without anti-virus and anti-spyware, dumb ass.

The 3rd reason he gave was “It’s the money, stupid”. He argued that a Vista machine is cheaper than a Mac. Even though that’s true, I don’t see his point here. If a Vista machine is 10 times cheaper than a Mac then he probably got a point. But no, I personally don’t think that couple hundred of bucks difference will make the London Bridge fall. Besides, you’re gonna spend a lot more money on a Vista machine by getting software licenses for your anti-virus/anti-spyware products. Have fun on a sluggish machine, bro.

The 4th reason he gave did not even make sense. He argued that the Vista is open while the Mac is closed. He said that Vista can be installed on all pc’s while installing Mac’s on pc’s will get you sued. While it is true that Mac’s can’t be installed on PC’s, it doesn’t justify as a valid point. That’s like saying the OpenOffice suite is much better than Microsoft Office because it can be installed on all kinds of OS.

The last reason he gave was even more ridiculous, he said “Two words — Steve Jobs”. He argued that Steve Jobs was a master marketer. So what? Who the f**k cares if a well-marketed product is actually good. He even said that Steve Jobs sends his lawyers after people who leak information on Apple products. Again, so what? It does not meet the point of argument that Vista beats Mac OS X. I really think this guy is f**king clueless on things he say. I’m willing to bet he didn’t spend more than an hour using a Mac. Hang on, maybe he did…. The last time he used a Mac was probably during the 80’s!