Apple, Reviews, Technology

11.6-inch MacBook Air Thoughts

The new 11.6-inch MacBook Air on top of the 12-inch PowerBook G4 and the original PowerBook 100.Since the Apple Event announcing the new MacBook Airs, I’ve been using a loaner unit of the 11.6-inch Air. I won’t bore you with yet another standard review of the Air; instead, I’ll share some thoughts from the historical perspective of a longtime Apple laptop owner.

Steve Jobs called the new Airs as the future of laptops. No doubt, but these seeds were planted many years ago by previous laptops and mobile devices.

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Journal, Reviews

G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra Movie Review

Adam circa 1987 with Cobra Terror Drome toy set

When I think back about my childhood in the eighties, several things stand out, including my introduction to Apple computers, Transformers and G.I. Joe. Growing up, I had a subscription to the monthly comic book and many G.I. Joe toys, as you can see in the photo to the right. Yes, that’s me back in 1987 with the dreaded Cobra Terror Drome toy set! I also watched the cartoon, but I much preferred the more realistic comic book, written by Japanese-American writer, Larry Hama. No one ever died in the cartoon and everyone always had a parachute in their back pocket when their plane or helicopter exploded. And, don’t get me started on the G.I. Joe animated movie with Cobra-La!

As I progressed through high school, my interest in the toys and comics naturally waned, but my love for G.I. Joe never really went away. I’ve always thought a G.I. Joe movie could be awesome, but only if it took its lead from the comic book and not the cartoon. When Michael Bay’s Transformers came out, I was very disappointed; it was all special effects and eye-candy; for instance, you couldn’t tell the Autobots from the Decepticons, as grey metaled robots beat up on similarly grey metaled robots. Transformers 2 was better, but not enough to improve my thoughts on the franchise. When the initial photos of Darth Maul/Ray Park dressed as Snake-Eyes came out, I thought, “Wow, this could be a really good and faithful adaptation of G.I. Joe!” Those initial thoughts turned to WTF after seeing the rest of the Joes dressed like Matrix/X-Men characters. The initial trailer — accelerator suits and all — only served to reinforce the potential trainwreck building in my mind. The kicker was the photo of Cobra Commander’s mask. The producers basically said f-you to 27 years of Cobra Commander canon, saying the hood was too KKK-like and would scare children. Ummm… isn’t that the point?

No Expectations, No Regrets?

Despite the nagging feeling in the back of my mind, my expectations were raised after some early positive reviews from AintItCoolNews. Of course, AICN has been accused of being paid Hollywood hacks, a feeling that only intensified after hearing that Paramount decided not to screen the movie for critics. Sure enough the high rating on the Tomatometer for G.I. Joe dropped like a stone on Friday and is currently at 42%.

Before heading out to see the movie, I asked myself, “Were these movie reviewers G.I. Joe fans growing up? Did they understand the mythology, did they know by heart nearly every issue of the comic book, did they know each character’s background and motivations, and did they ever play with the toys?” Who is the target audience for the film? Over the course of marketing our own documentary, AUTUMN GEM, Rae and I have had to answer that very question; show the film to your target demographic and audience, and they will love it.

And so, on Friday, I went with Dardy… and three of my G.I. Joe action figures in my pocket, hooded Cobra Commander, Snake-Eyes (1982 version, no swivel-arm battle grip) and Snake-Eyes (1985 – the definitive version), to the nearby Winchester movie theatre to see G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra.

Spoiler alerts to follow. If you’ve read this far, however, I think you’re hardcore enough that you’ve already seen the movie! This review is not so much a review but a free-flow of thoughts coming from 27+ years of being a G.I. Joe fanatic. You have been warned!

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Journal, Reviews

Steelcase Think Chair

Steelcase Think Chair

My new Steelcase Think chair arrived yesterday. It’s replacing a Herman Miller Aeron chair that I picked up from a dot-com bust company several years ago. The Aeron has been heralded as a great task chair, but I never felt fully comfortable in it. At the D6 conference, we were given Think chairs in the command center. The minute I sat down in it, I knew I was sitting in my next chair. Fortunately, Steelcase was offering a terrific 40% off discount for D6 attendees, and I quickly jumped on the deal once I got back from the East Coast

I’m really digging the adjustable arm rests, which can move forwards and backwards in addition to pivoting inwards and outwards. Now, I can be right up against my desk, and my forearms are supported by the armrests while typing. This wasn’t possible with the Aeron, whose armrests only pivoted inward. I also picked up the optional lumbar support and headrest, which will help to reduce neck and back strain during those 10-12 hour coding or editing sessions I frequently find myself in these days.

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Apple, Journal, Rants, Reviews

Apple Wireless Keyboard Review and the Big Control Key

Apple Wireless Keyboard - fn key to control key

It’s been over a week with my new Apple Wireless Keyboard, and the experience up until now has been a mixed bag.

First off, the positives. The design of the keyboard is remarkable; I love how it’s so thin and small. Since I have three monitors — two hooked up to my tower and the other being my laptop — I find myself able to reposition the keyboard much more easily than with the corded keyboard, whose cable always seemed to get in the way of other things on my desk. The key action is pretty good as well for the main alphanumeric keys.

My single biggest peeve with the wireless keyboard is the position of the fn key. Like on their laptops, Apple has placed the fn key to the left of the control key on the left-hand side of the keyboard. Adding another modifier key results in the control and option key being smaller than their counterparts on the corded aluminum keyboard. I tend to use the control key a lot during development. Because the position and size of the control key is so different, I’ve been making a lot of mistakes.

In the Keyboard and Mouse preferences pane, you can change what the caps lock, control, option, and command keys do. I had the idea to turn the caps lock key into control, which is similar to the keyboard layout on old Sun workstations I used in college. However, Apple has modified the caps lock key to reduce accidental activation. If you set caps lock to control, you really have to press the key hard in order for the control modifier key to register. So, that trick was not going to work for me.

Update 2008-04-12: In the recent firmware updates for the Apple wireless and wired keyboards, a remapped Caps Lock key no longer has the activation delay. This means you can now safely remap your Control key to the Caps Lock key.

I did some more research and found apps that modified keyboard layouts such as Ukelele, fKeys, and uControl, but none of them panned out. Finally, I came across DoubleCommand, which provides a wide range of control for mapping one modifier key to the other. Unfortunately, the current version, 1.6.6b1, didn’t have the option to remap the right option key to fn. Because the application is Open Source, however, I recompiled the app with that option enabled. Sadly, in the Keyboard Viewer palette (System Preferences->International->Input Menu), the right-option key looks like it’s masquerading as the fn key, but pressing fn-return doesn’t output the enter key. Hopefully, a newer release of DoubleCommand will fix this issue.

Still, the biggest boon is getting the fn key to act as a second control key. To solve the problem of the space between the fn and control keys, I first tried taking a stickie, cutting it to size, and placing it on top of the keys. It didn’t look pretty, so I got back to work. I printed a sheet of labels with control written on each label (using the Myriad Pro font). I then cut a business card which would provide a firmer backing for the label. I then stuck the label and backing to the key using some tape. The end result looks much more natural — a big control key on the Apple Wireless Keyboard!

Of course, in an ideal world, I wouldn’t have to do this. Apple should provide a wireless version of their aluminum corded keyboard. If they kept the form factor of this keyboard, however, they could improve the design by moving the fn key to the right option key. Expanding the arrow keys to full-size would also be greatly appreciated, even if it meant making the keyboard a little longer or wider.

Check out the photos below!

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Journal, Reviews

Commando II

Commando II

Earlier this week, I read the script to the never-filmed sequel to Commando starring Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Written in 1989 by Steven E. de Souza with revisions by Frank Darabont, Commando II racks yet another impressive body count for the invincible Colonel John Matrix.

For an Arnold film, there’s plenty of action to satisfy anyone who left Collateral Damage or End of Days wanting more. Surprisingly, there’s also some smart writing that’s very relevant in light of recent headlines. Update a few locations, replace a few names, and you’ll have a film that takes an intruiging look into patriotism and the export of democracy.

I’ve heard that Stallone will be back in Rocky VI and Rambo IV. Why can’t Colonel John Matrix return for one more tour of duty? One thing is for sure, Jenny is going to have to be rewritten as a college student or recent graduate. Alyssa Milano’s still looking young and nubile, but not high school young!

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