Archive for October 2006

Review: Apple Wireless Mighty Mouse

Saturday, October 21st, 2006

Bottom Line: Apple’s compact bluetooth mouse looks superficially appealing, but it’s sluggish performance and lack of ergonomics makes it inferior to the competition.

Verdict: Not Recommended

I’m generally a fan of Apple products, so I had great expectations of Apple’s Bluetooth Wireless Mighty Mouse. It looked good with a smooth, buttonless design and a elegant power switch that doubled as a cover for it’s optical sensor. I had found the traditional wired Mighty Mouse to be reasonably useable, if not quite as comfortable to use as the larger Logitech MX900 that has been my favorite.

Apple Wireless Mighty Mouse

The wireless Mighty Mouse seems at first glance like an ideal pacakge. Though it lacks a charger, it’s turns off with a quick slide of the switch on it’s flat surface, saving power and making battery changes fairly uncommon. It uses invisible touch sensors to determine whether you mean to left click, right click, or center click (the small ball in the front center of the mouse doubles as a third mouse button). The mouse-ball, unlike the traditional scroll wheel, allows for scrolling vertically, horizontally, or diagonally with satisfying speed. In addition, this version of the Mighty Mouse uses laser-tracking, which purportedly allows for more precise sensing of the mouse’s movements and smooth operation on a wider range of surfaces.

The Logitech mouse similarly uses bluetooth to communicate with my MacBook and performs just likeo a wired mouse. Movements of the mouse are instantaneously translated into on screen actions. Unfortunately, my experience with the Mighty Mouse was quite difference, and herein lies the greatest flaw in this device. There is a subtle, but noticeable lag seperating the mouse’s physical movements from the cursor’s movement on the screen. This makes overshooting a target easy and can lead to frustration with what is an essential part of computing. Furthermore, while the Logitech design served as a comfortable rest for my hand, the Mighhy Mouse felt awkward to handle.

What’s most striking about this device is the lack of Apple’s traditional human-oriented design. This feels like a device designed for looks rather than for usability, rather than the combination of the two that is characteristic of most of Apple’s work. While the Logitech is not the most attractive mouse, it feels comfortable and natural to use. The same cannot be said of the wireless Mighty Mouse. It feels like I’m mousing underwater. I had high hopes for the mouse’s laser sensors to be able to operate on my frosted glass desk (where previous optical mice, including the Logitech, had failed). Unfortunately, the Mighty Mouse faired no better than its predicesors.

This one’s going back to the store. Better luck next time, Apple.

Returning to Montreal

Saturday, October 14th, 2006

Ishir enjoys the modern decor at Hotel GaultIshir sips a cappuccino in Duc de LorraineEnjoying a rum-soaked danish at Duc de LorraineIshir in old MontrealIshir standing in front of Montrea’s BiodomeIshir lines up with the penguins inside the BiodomeIshir waits in line for some of Schwartz’s famous smoked meatDuyen prepares to enter the the March??? Jean TalonIshir sitting outside Au Pain Dor???Duyen enjoys a croissant from Au Pain Dor???Ishir admires the produce in Jean Talon

Although I had previously taken a brief detour to Montreal with my roommates during medical school, I had long since forgotten the diversity and culture that this city offered. When Duyen and I were left unprepared with a week of vacation on our hands, we decided to return to this convenient escape by car. After about a 6 hour drive, we ended up at Hotel Gault, a hard to find “boutique” hotel which offers affordable room with ultra modern styling (styling that suits me just fine).

Though we were only there for a few days, we were able to explore a wide range of what Montreal had to offer, to be honest, I’m not sure it is really necessary to stay longer for first-time visitors. My high school French came in handy for initiating conversations, although I was decidedly unable to fool people into thinking I was fluent after a few sentences betrayed my weak linguistic skills.

The food was the highlight of the trip, particularly Le Club Chasse et Peche where I enjoyed a delicious Canadian bison along with some unusual side dishes like pureed cauliflower and leeks. Au Pied De Cochon (the pig’s foot) was decidedly less impressive. The oversized, fat-laden dishes lacked depth of flavor and the restaurant’s attempt to improve the taste through liberal salting was a failure. A case in point was the poutine; I had looked forward to this Canadian delicacy, but the Au Pied De Cochon version of the gravy and cheese drenched fries was almost inedibly salty.

Fortunately, the high caliber of bakeries more than made up for the relative failure of this second restaurant. Duc de Lorraine is a quaint bakery cafe serving fresh, light croissants far superior to most American versions. Their rum-soaked Danish was a bit mushy for my tastes, but the chocolatine was right on target. Despite being part a large commercial chain, the ubiquitous Premiére Moisson branches were consistently of high quality. Our final stop at Au Pain Doré only cemeted our confidence on Montreal bakeries. It’s too bad that most Bostonians don’t even know what they are missing.

The Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD battle rages on

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

When it comes to the Betamax-vs-VHF-like battle raging between the two next generation DVD formats, it initially seemed clear that Blu-Ray would win. It had wider industry support and seemed to be a superior technology. When the products actually started coming to market, HD-DVD took a surprise lead. Not only did it have the least expensive player ($499 vs $999 for Blu-Ray), but the quality was consistently higher.

How a few factors are emerging which may once again tip the balance toward Blu-Ray. Most importantly, a more affordable player will be arriving in November in the form of the Sony Playstation 3. Priced at $499 on the low-end (20GB drive and no WiFi) and $599 on the high end (60GB drive and WiFi), this will be a relatively low cost Blu-Ray player that also happens to play video games.

The other factor is the use of the superior VC1 codec (a codec is a compressor that allows video to be stored in a more efficient format). Initially, only HD-DVD used VC1, but now the Blu-Ray folks have caught on. Word on the street as that the latest Blu-Ray discs look just as good as their HD-DVD counterparts.

If the PS3 is a success, Blu-Ray will have a distinct advantage over the competition, but at $499 for the entry-level version of a video game player, that is still a big “if”.