Review: Apple Wireless Mighty Mouse

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

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

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”.

Farewell to Rob and Patrika

First of all, apologies for the delay in making these photos available. I’ve been working figuring out how to best publish these images, and needed to hack some software to get my images to display properly.

It’s been a while since our farewell dinner party for Rob and Patrika. I hope they are doing well in California. Though we no longer have them around, I’m at least glad that their last party here was an enjoyable one filled with Patirka’s spicy soup, our pasta and meatball sauce, and, of course, Allen’s famous garlic bread. Didn’t think Allen could cook? The evidence is in the pictures above.

The new iPod Nano

Apple recently released a few new iPods onto the music scene, but it may be confusing what these new iPods offer. First up is the iPod Nano. The Nano has been available for some time now. Apple has made a few important, albeit relatively minor, changes to this popular model. The Nano is, of course, the successor to the Mini. This smaller and easily pocketable version of the iPod has a relatively small capacity (now 2GB-8GB, note the increased memory in the new high end model) but is arguably more portable. The original Nano won points for its smaller case and bright color screen when compared with the mini, but many preferred the more durable (and scratch-resistant) colorful aluminum shell of the mini.

iPod Nano

Arguably the biggest advance of the new Nano is that it combines the best of both worlds. It maintains the small, slim design of the original Nano while bringing back the scatch-resistant aluminum body. The software and screen are slightly updated with features such as search. Capacity has been doubled to 2 GB at the low end and 8 GB at the high end, with a 4 GB model in the middle. The middle capacity model comes in silver, pink, green, and blue. The low-end model is avaialble only in silver and the high-end model is available only in metallic black.

What’s the bottom line? If you already have a Nano, there’s no reason to upgrade because the improvements are minor (unless you are in desperate need of more storage space). If you have been thinking about buying a Nano, the new models are more compelling, largely for the more durable case design. These Nanos won’t play video, movies, or the new games Apple has released for the full-sized iPod, but if highly-portable music playing is what you are after, the new Nano may fit the bill.

Stay away from

I have generally had good experiences from online vendors despite a long and varied history. Anyone looking for a good deal on an unlocked GSM phone is bound to come across a wide range of online storefronts. GSM is the technology used by carriers such as Cingular and T-Mobile. Their phones use a SIM card, a tiny chip that holds information identifying the phone number, identity, and sometimes even address book of the phone. To change phones, you can simply take the SIM card out of your old phone and pop it into the new phone…assuming your phone is “unlocked.” Many phones sold by carriers come “locked”, so they can only be used on a single carrier. Unlocked phones have the advantage that they can be used on any other GSM network (including carriers in other countries). The only caveat is that the some carriers use different frequency, but there is a growing population of “quad-band” phones that support all the currently used frequencies. One such phone is the Nokia 6131 flip phone, for which I’m working on a review. Despite not being available through any carrier, it is available unlocked through many online stores and is a great option for someone looking for a feature-packed compact flip phone.

One store to stay away from, however is To be fair, I’ve ordered several phones from this company without incident, but when I opened the box for the latest Nokia, I knew something was amiss. The box was not sealed and the packing job seemed unprofessional. There was no clear shield on the screen that normally has to be peeled off, one of the great joys of unwrapping new electronic gizmos. To my surprise, it quickly became apparent that I had been sold a used phone that was masquerading as new. Several SMS text messages were already on the phone, as were some pictures that were clearly not taken by me.

Any store worthy of its name would immediately take the phone back and offer profuse apologies, but is apparently not in that category. After several emails went unanswered, I waiting on hold several times only to be instructed to call back on a different line. When I finally spoke to a “manager”, they tried to walk me through their website by instructing me to click on links they didn’t exist (had they loaded the website up themselves while rudely talking to me, they would have seen that the page they were referring to had been renamed). Instead of simply taking the information over the phone, they had me download a form and fax this over to them. Even after going through this excessively tiresome process, I found there was no reply to my request for a refund, even after several emails. It was only after I filed a formal complaint via that I was eventually given an RMA number. After following the similaly convoluted insructions for including the appropriate documents and forms in the return package, I waited for my refund.

Fortunately, I had sent the package via the USPS certified mail with tracking. I could confirm that the company had received the package, but I had no response. Several emails later, including via the PayPal site were not helpful. A formal request to escalate to PayPal‘s management proved equally useless – PayPal is notorious for offering buyers little, if any, protection. Eventually, was able to reach someone via telephone who promised that my refund would be sent by the day today. Whether this is true or not is unclear, but one thing that is certain is that I’m going to steer clear of in the future, and I recommend you do the same.

The MacBook “moo” is fixed

I’ve recently commented about previously reviewed Apple MacBook’s tendency to produce a “mooing” sound when its processors are tasked. This annoying sound has finally been eliminated through a recent firmware update by Apple, making this laptop considerably more acceptable. Reports are that operating temperatures are also reduced. The update is available through the built-in software update mechanism in the Mac OS.

Big Hack Attack

Right lower lobe infiltrates

Despite my new passion for daily apple eating, the adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” doesn’t seem to hold true, unless it’s referring to me as the doctor. Despite spending most of my day isolated in an office, I still managed to acquire some sort of respiratory infection that has left me with intermittent fever, fatigue, and a persistent, hacking cough that decides to become particularly virulent between the hours of 1 and 4 AM. My wife insists that I am waking up the neighborhood. I’ve tried various over the counter remedies to stop the hacking. They all prove quite successful in making me feel strange, but none seem to do much about the cough. My favorite discovery was that theobromine, a compound in chocolate, may be effective in controlling cough. I tried some strong dark chocolate. While tasty, this did little for my fits of coughing. Hopefully whatever this is will find I’m not an interesting host and move on soon.

Stylish TVs demand stylish furniture

Why go through the trouble of spending thousands of dollars on a sleek and slim plasma or LCD HDTV only to have it sit on your outdated AV console. Flat panels allow for more interesting mounting options. While wall mounting is the sleekest option, it may not be practical for everyone. Walls facing the outside world generally can’t be used and corner positional may preclude the use of conventional wall mounts. Some also fear the permanence of traditional wall mounts. Conventional stands don’t highlight the slim design that makes flat panels so attractive to begin with.

Picture of Sanus PFFP2b

The solution is a flat panel stand. The two best options appear to be the Sanus PFPP2B and the BDI Vista 9960. Both mount your flat panel on a compact stand and provide two glass shelves for your components (each supporting about 50 pounds). The BDI may look a little more polished, but is also twice the price. Both are definitely worth looking into if you have or are thinking about buying a flat panel HDTV and are not eager to wall mount.

How do you like them apples?

A crunchy apple

Everyone knows I am a fan of these apples, but over the past month or so I have developed an insatiable appetite for the more conventional apples. These fruits which are mushy and bland foods only to be eaten because they are “good for you” now have emerged as crunchy and delicious delicacies. I find myself eating several a day, which no doubt puts a dent in my budget. The only wrinkle in my plan to survive off these ruby gems is the dreaded oral allergy syndrome, a cross reactivity between conventional plant allergens and fruits that leaves the eater with a swollen and irritated mouth and lips.