The Weekly Report (4/14)

14 04 2008

Last week was probably the last normal week for me- over the next two weeks, my schedule is shaping out to be quite hectic. For starters, this Wednesday, I am traveling with my robotics team to Atlanta for the FIRST Championship Event until Sunday. Then, the next week begins my Spring Break; which means that I will not have dedicated periods of time to come up with articles everyday- I will be traveling various places throughout the week. Either way, I’m going to figure out some ways to keep the site busy even during my absence. Have a great day!

A Thought: Computers for All

11 04 2008

Recently I wrote a paper for school about a problem that I would like to solve. I thought I would share it with you guys today.

Living in the 21st century, it is almost impossible to avoid a computer. Not restricted to only homes or offices, computers control systems behind everything from banking to traffic lights. However a substantial percentage of people in the world do not own computers- in fact, some have never seen one! To someone living in the United States, on the East Coast, this concept is almost unimaginable. Everyone should have access to computers- from the deserts of Africa to the arctic planes in northern Russia.

Among the many issues in this world, education is often overshadowed by poverty and disease. While poverty and disease are more important, with good education, the percentage of disease and poverty can be reduced. While some view education in a traditional manner, with a teacher, blackboard and a textbook, the computer can be a very powerful educational tool and is often under utilized. Computers can not only serve as a teacher, but save paper and stay up to date- unlike textbooks.

While computers have the potential to replace teachers, eerily alike robots replacing humans, the execution is what has held the concept back. In the past, it was that computers were too expensive, not reliable, and not durable enough. With technology becoming cheaper, more reliable and more efficient everyday, it is now come time to start building computers meant for worldwide distribution at a small cost. For example, the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project goal is to produce a laptop for $100 that could be distributed to children across the world, in a variety of geographical locations. This is a step in the right direction. Not only is the OLPC computer durable but it contains a wide variety of educational software and tools.

Another step would be to standardize the software distributed on these computers- be it an OLPC or other machine. Assuring the quality and compliance to curriculum will not only help sell more computers, but allow for the use of this software across the world. The OLPC excels in its software and price point, but it’s superior hardware design makes it durable and usable even in the worst conditions. This is another area of importance as not everyone in the world has power or internet connection at home. The OLPC can be recharged by hand through its hand crank, and receive internet through a large peer to peer chain of other OLPC’s, starting with only one internet connection far away.

Everyone is in the position to help. Be it the OLPC project, or something similar; spreading computers helps educate. With the help from larger companies like Microsoft, Apple, Dell, Google, Intel and IBM we can all help to buy computers like the OLPC for children across the world in need. With creative ingenuity, like a small tax on all computers sold would help these companies subsidize the purchase of OLPC’s. You can buy an OLPC for yourself, but you are required to buy two- one for you and one for a child. Computers can help us with just about everything, and with some small steps in the right direction, make the world a better place for all.

WWDC 2008: Let the Madness Begin Part II!

10 04 2008

While the iPhone will probably be the center of attention at this years World Wide Developers Convention, at this point, it isn’t unreasonable to assume that there is going to be something relating to the Mac. If you haven’t already, check out Part I.

WWDC 2008
WWDC 2008 Invitation.

WWDC is often a very difficult keynote to accurately predict. While this can basically be said about any Steve Jobs keynote or Apple event, WWDC is often more unpredictable than the others and usually centered around one thing. For example, in 2005, after presenting some sales numbers, Steve Jobs spent the entire keynote discussing the transition to Intel processors. In 2006, Jobs introduced new Intel based replacements for the Power Mac G5 (now Mac Pro) and Xserves and demoed 10 new features planned for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard.

This year it wouldn’t be surprising to see both a software announcement accompanied by a hardware announcement. Like Macworld is primarily for the Mac, the developers would appreciate a keynote that includes something other than the iPhone. So at this point, the second generation iPhone will probably be released at a later date. However, we definitely should see information about the iPhone 2.0 software update, the App Store and, some examples of what developers have done over the months with the SDK.

As for the hardware, at this point, it looks like a laptop revision is in order for the MacBook and MacBook Pro. Coincidentally, both products are due for a redesign- both haven’t seen any hardware changes since the introduction of Intel processors. AppleInsider ran a story recently about the MacBook line redesign, how both laptops will get a style change similar to the new iMacs or MacBook Air. Apple seems to be moving away from White products- first seen last fall with the 6th Generation iPods. WWDC would be a very appropriate place to reveal new MacBook Pros.

While it is really way to early to predict what might happen at WWDC, we can tickle our imaginations for now. As it becomes closer, things will become more certain and the predictions can become more accurate. But, lets let it sink in. What do you think?

WWDC 2008: Let the Madness Begin Part I!

9 04 2008

With WWDC now only two months away, its is time to start thinking about what we might see in the Stevenote.

WWDC 2008
WWDC 2008 Invitation.

This years World Wide Developers Conference is shaping out to be one of the most anticipated in the past couple years. For those who are not familiar with WWDC, it is the yearly conference held by Apple for developing for the Mac OS, and now iPhone platforms. It is a showcase for new Apple software geared towards developers- WWDC also offers a number of hands-on labs and feedback seminars. Often Steve Jobs uses it to demonstrate the latest Mac Operating System in development, and usually updates Pro hardware such as the Mac Pro or Xserve.

Typically held in June, this year is no exception. This year, however, we saw the iPhone SDK announcement on March 6th which added an entirely new platform to the Apple Development scene and demonstrated the true power behind the iPhone and OS X technologies. This year we should see, among other things, more developers attending just because of the iPhone.

The iPhone, a key product in the lineup of the Cupertino company, probably will be the central focus of Steve’s Keynote. In March, Steve Jobs announced that the iPhone 2.0 Software Update would released in June, which could mean WWDC. There has also been an enormous amount of speculation about the second generation iPhone, with 3G- which is another possibility for WWDC.

What complicates things about the second generation iPhone however, is the FCC. If Apple wants to begin to manufacture the second generation iPhone, it needs to pass through the FCC. However, the FCC would spoil a secret release, which is why Apple announced the iPhone at Macworld 2007 and waited until June to release the iPhone. Now with the phone released, it becomes more of an issue, as the transition time between the two different iPhones could mean wasted sales.

On the other hand, the introduction of the iPhone 2.0 software could be a time killer for a second generation iPhone release- along with a price cut, it could keep people buying the current iPhones, even with a new iPhone revealed. Yet another possibility to consider is the introduction of a release of a new iPhone that will remain on the same shelf as the current iPhone- to break into new price points with the iPhone, analogous to the iPod and the iPod mini in 2004.

Whatever will end up happening, these are all ideas to consider for now. Another critical focus of WWDC is the Mac, which may loose some spotlight to the iPhone, but will definitely be mentioned. More to come tomorrow. Meanwhile, what do you think?

Screenshots 101

8 04 2008

This weekend, after witnessing a friend take a physical picture of something on his screen, I am writing the ultimate screenshot guide for OS X. Even if you already know how to take a screen shot you will probably learn something new!

Screenshot Example
An example of a screenshot.

A screenshot is a digital picture of the contents of your screen. You can use screenshots in a seemingly endless number of situations from proof, to create a receipt or document something funny found on the internet or your computer. In Mac OS X, all screenshots are taken in the PNG (Portable Network Graphic) format by default, which is a high quality picture format, and usually are about 150~200KB large- but depend on the size of the image.

Screenshot Information
Information about a Screenshot.

If you want to change the format which OS X saves the screenshots, you can change it by copying and pasting the following terminal command:

defaults write type image_format
killall SystemUIServer

Change image_format with your choice of:

Screenshot Order
An example of two screenshots.

Whenever you take a screenshot, it will appear on the desktop under the name “Picture 1” and will numerically increase (Picture 2, 3) as you take more screenshots (or have existing ones on the desktop).

There are four basic keyboard shortcuts to taking a screenshot in OS X:
Command (Apple) + Shift + 3 = Screenshot of your entire screen
Command (Apple) + Shift + 4 = Screenshot of a user selected area
Command (Apple) + Control + Shift + 3 = Screenshot of your entire screen, copied to clipboard
Command (Apple) + Control + Shift + 4 = Screenshot of a user selected area, copied to clipboard

While the screenshot of your entire screen (Command + Shift + 3) is useful, there are far more options for manipulating your screenshot using Command + Shift + 4; so the rest of the article will focus on the latter.

The Cross
The cross found by Command + Shift + 4

When you press Command + Shift + 4, your cursor will disappear for something that looks like a cross. You can drag it around the subject you want by clicking and dragging so that when you let go of your mouse button, it will take a screenshot of the selected area.

When selecting an area with Command + Shift + 4:
You can press the space bar and the cross will disappear for a camera that will automatically select the contents of a window.
You can hold down Option key to scale the selection area.
You can hold down Shift to only expand the selection box horizontally or vertically.
You can press space after making a selection to move around the selection box.

If you haven’t taken a screenshot before, I hope you can now refrain from taking a physical picture of your screen. Enjoy the new tricks, impress your friends and teach them how to take better screenshots!

The Weekly Report (4/7)

7 04 2008

This past week, we saw a great increase of traffic! I hope that we can maintain the increase this week, as we are avidly working on getting good content out, and exposing the site to more people. This week shouldn’t be any different, as we have a great lineup already. A podcast definitely will happen this week, as my robotics season is coming to an end. My last trip is to Atlanta next week, however, we won the New York City Regional this past weekend which was fun! As for Apple news, there is a growing amount of speculation and rumors over the 3G iPhone which will probably only continue to grow as the weeks progress. Have a great Monday!

Why 40% of all College Students Plan To Buy a Mac

4 04 2008

Recently, it has been estimated that over 40 percent of all perspective students plan to buy a Mac as their next computer.

Buy a Mac
“Buy a Mac and get a free iPod Nano” campaign

Last Wednesday, a report from Morgan Stanley revealed that 40 percent of all college students plan to buy a Mac as there next computer. However currently, Apple holds a 15 percent stake in the higher education market share. This indicates that this back-to-school season will see very strong Mac sales to students and Universities which are the most valuable customers.

Often Apple adds more incentive to buy a Mac by offering Students a $200 dollar rebate for a new iPod, or free iPod nano. This allows college students to save money, get a new iPod and helps Apple clear out stock of an iPod line nearing replacement. For the past two years, Apple started this campaign, “Buy a Mac and get a free iPod Nano” on June 5th, which is just before the back-to-school shopping season starts.

As Apple’s computer market share increases, we could attribute the gains to strong iPod and iPhone sales over the past few years, coupled with the Apple Retail experience and good brand affiliation. We could also look at the declining state of the Windows marketplace, mainly, Vista. Students, and the young crowd have always been a strong supporter of Apple. The ‘iPod Halo Effect’, may be coming true- the people who love their iPods or iPhones buy Macs and fall in love with OS X and iLife.

It is interesting, writing about the exact market which I fall in- I will be entering college as a freshman this fall. I can say, first hand, I have seen countless friends switch from a PC to a Mac for college throughout my years in high school, and I have yet to hear someone switch back. I know of many friends, some more tech-savvy than others; who plan to switch to the Mac for their next computer this summer. What appears to be a growing trend, these college students will not only help Apple now, but in the years ahead as well.

Noted in the same Morgan Stanley report, when the current college students matriculate into the workforce, Apple’s market share will be accelerated, much like Linux adoption during 1998-2003. Linux saw a eightfold increase in adoption, with 16 percent of all servers shipping with a distribution of Linux by 2003, compared to 2 percent in 1998 as Linux users found there way into the workplace.

With aggressive pricing and technical configurations, superior software and support, Apple can continue to drive more and more people to the Mac platform, be it College Students, IT professionals or businessmen. While the PC wars ended years ago, the competition has not ended- Microsoft has let their guard down. If 40 percent of college students intend on buying a Mac this year, what will it be next year? Only time will tell, but I will certainly be revisiting this article again in September and revealing what happened.

Why the iPhone Shortage has no Significance

3 04 2008

Recently, many news sources have been reporting about the shortage of iPhones at the Apple Retail Stores, and online at the Apple Online Store. While the shortage is growing, there is no true significance to it.

The Great iPhone Shortage
The iPhone shortage has hit the United States.

Friday of last week, reports first circulated that the three flagship Apple Stores were running low on iPhones- in fact, completely selling out towards the end of the day. Some originally speculated that this is a sign of a product refresh- but the shortage isn’t because of a second generation iPhone. The main cause of the issue is most likely the cut in manufacturing initiated by Apple earlier this year. On February 1st, 2008; AppleInsider published an article based on research from Banc of America stating Apple was cutting iPhone and iPod production for the March quarter.

“[Still], we remain concerned that iPhone production and demand are lackluster,” he explained. “After several data-points in December and early January indicated large production cuts of 50%+ to iPhone production for the March quarter, our recent checks reveal that production levels are 40–55% higher for [the first calendar quarter of 2008], than the recent cuts originally suggested, although still down significantly from two months ago.”
You can read the full article here.

While they speculated that the demand was shrinking, or might shrink, it appears that the demand is still strong- or strong enough to produce the current shortage we are facing. While the March quarter is traditionally one the the slowest for the iPod, it appears that Apple has underestimated the demand that still remains for the iPhone. While it is rumored that the second generation iPhone, with 3G will be making its way to our hands before years end, I think it is too early to attribute the shortage to an upcoming product release. This is why:

International stock of the iPhone is still at normal levels. Especially in Europe, where 3G has been a standard for years, you can still buy an iPhone at an Apple Store today. Europe is a prime target for a 3G iPhone- we will probably see a large boost in sales because of a 3G iPhone in the International market. If Apple is clearing out stock of iPhones in anticipation of a new model, Europe would be suffering from the same shortage. Another explanation for the iPhone shortage could be a slight strategical move on Apples part to boost iPhone numbers. While an iPhone shipped to an Apple Retail Store doesn’t count as revenue for Apple, shipping one to an AT&T Store does. Finally, while normally reserved, Apple has responded to comments about the shortage. In response to an email from Saul Hansell, after writing an article about the iPhone shortage for the New York Times, Steve Dowling says:

“We are working to replenish iPhone supplies as quickly as we can,” he said to me reading the same statement he offered to others. “Our stores continue to receive shipments almost every day.”

When Apple responds to something with that kind of detail, it usually means that they aren’t trying to hide something. Sorry guys, it looks like the second generation iPhone is still another month or two away. But, who really knows- we can only take an educated guess. If anything, the shortage demonstrates the continued demand for the Jesus Phone, even while rumors are stirring about the upcoming 3G update.

Teach your Apple Remote New Tricks!

2 04 2008

Yesterday, my article discussed the Apple Remote being removed from the box inside new Macs. Today, I’ll show you three ways you can better use it, if your were lucky enough to get one for free, or recently paid for one.

Apple Remote Tricks
Teach your Apple Remote new tricks!

If you have purchased a laptop since 2005, there is a very good chance it has a ‘SMS’ or Sudden Motion Sensor. This is basically an accelerometer which detects any sudden movement and will stop spinning the hard drive if enough movement is detected to protect it from being damaged in the fall, thus saving your data. Since the introduction of the Sudden Motion Sensor, developers have found clever ways to implement the accelerometer in their applications. Among the most useful is iAlertU.


iAlertU is an alarm system for your Mac. When motion is detected, the alarm is triggered, and it will even capture images from your iSight of the perpetrator. You can use your Apple Remote to enable or disable the alarm, and it will chirp like a car! iAlertU is free, and available for download from SourceForge.

If you of are the more curious type, you might have already discovered that within a lot of Apple applications, you can use the remote. If you haven’t, for example, in QuickTime player, you can use the pause, forward, backward and volume up/down buttons to control a movie playing. In Keynote, you can advance a slide with the remote. In iPhoto, you can advance a photo with the next button on the remote. Maybe you get the idea.

A couple less intuitive secrets about the remote:

You can put any Mac with an IR receiver, docked iPod (with IR receiver) or AppleTV to sleep by pressing and holding the Play/Pause button. Pressing any button on the remote will then wake up the device.

Holding down the Menu button on the remote during startup of an Intel Mac will bring you to the Startup Manager (also accessible by holding the Option key). Also in this menu, you can eject a CD or DVD by pressing the volume up (+) button on the remote.


Finally, if you are looking to do even more, there are a number of third party applications that will let you just about anything imaginable with your favorite remote. It comes down to a personal choice, but my favorite is RemoteBuddy. RemoteBuddy will allow you to use not only your Apple Remote, but many other IR based remotes- even a Wiimote! Touting support for over 100 applications, RemoteBuddy lets you easily configure your remote to do exactly what you want. Recently, RemoteBuddy added an ‘AJAX Remote’, which allows you to use your iPhone or iPod Touch to control your computer and interact with it similar to the Apple Remote, through Safari.

While RemoteBuddy is probebly the most robust and feature filled, you can also check out SofaControl, Mira and iRed Lite.

Hopefully now, you will give your remote a second look, and hopefully put it to use better- be happy if you got it for free!

Disable IR Receiver Preference Pane

Also, as a side note, I highly recommend anyone with a Mac with an IR Receiver goes into the Security Preference pane and disable the receiver, so only paired remotes will work with your computer. This prevents anyone else with a Apple Remote bringing you into Front Row, or whatever you have your remote doing.

The Forgotten Remote

1 04 2008

Recently, a friend of mine planning to buy a Mac asked me why the Apple Remote was no longer standard on any of Apple’s computers. I at first though he was mistaken- then I checked it out.

The Apple Remote
The Apple Remote

Apple likes to stay competitive. Apple wants to keep their prices down. Sometimes, in between the two, there has to be a compromise. When the MacBook Air was introduced, the Apple Remote was an optional accessory. Slowly, Apple began to remove the remote from the included items in their new Macs- it has become a $19 accessory. Now, if you want to buy a new Mac, and wish to use the remote, you will need to pay $19.

In October of 2005, Steve Jobs introduced Front Row in a Media event along with a new iMac G5. The main UI for Front Row was the Apple Remote, which would magnetically attach to the side of the iMac (a feature since removed). Then, as Apple began transitioning to Intel Processors in 2006, they added IR receivers to all of the new Macs (with the exclusion of the Mac Pro) and shipped them with Apple Remotes. Previously only shipping with new Macs, in Leopard, Front Row became a standalone application found in the application folder of all Macs running Leopard- not hidden in the depths of the Finder.

This isn’t the first time Apple has scaled back on included items, however. Those who have purchased an iPod before 2005 may remember that you used to get a charger with your iPod. The move was probably just cost cutting which saves Apple a couple of dollars per computer- if that. Whether Apple actually determined that most people didn’t use it, or had to cut a couple dollars, it looks like I’m going to have to pay an additional $19 with my next computer purchase. To me, I would prefer if they would allow you to opt out of the Remote for money back, as the price of their computers haven’t decreased.