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through the trouble of spending thousands of dollars on a sleek and slim plasma or LCD HDTV only to have it sit on your outdated AV console.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.

WWDC is tomorrow

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference kicks off tomorrow, and that can only mean one thing: several new announcements from Apple. Make sure you cancel any outstanding orders for Apple products, because there will almost certainly be news from the company after the keynote address is completed. Almost certain is a new Intel-based desktop (the Mac Pro), a pre-release version of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard for developers, and likely additional software announcements. Various rumors include the release of new displays, new iPods, and an cell phone. I’d be surprised if the new iPod or cell phone makes the cut, but expect we’ll see some new accessories in addition to the Mac Pro.

Stopping the MacBook moo

I was finally able to get my MacBook to stop “mooing” using a hack from the website Moofix. It’s not elegant, but it beats listening to a constant moo.

For those who are unclear on the subject, the moo is the sound the MacBook makes while it’s fans rev briefly in an attempt to cool the machine. This succeeds temporarily so the fan shuts off, only to restart seconds later when the machine heats up again. Apple needs to come up with a firmware fix for the problem, but the Moofix is a simple and effective solution for the time being.

Espressing myself

Espressing myself

Latte art. It sounds like a dark tradition passed between generations of a cult. Or perhaps a pass??? movement now relegated to museums. In fact, it is the art of pouring steamed milk into a cappuccino so that it forms an attractive pattern on the surface of the espresso. I first took up this hobby several years ago when I started working with serious espresso machines. The key step to creating latte art is the create a smooth even texture to the milk instead of a head of foam that sits atop a skimpy liquid.

To start with, it’s best to use something other than skim milk. 2% Lactaid seems to work well for me. I brew the espresso first, then start the steaming with the wand just under the surface of the milk. Ideally, I’ll get the mllk to spin in the pitcher. Once the pitcher has started to warm, I plunge the steam probe deeper into the milk while trying to maintain the spinning motion of the liquid. Once the pitcher is too hot to touch, it’s done.

I give the pitcher a manual spin then steadily pour in into the espresso. As the foam begins to collect on the surface, I shake the pitcher back and forth. With a finishing stroke, I move the pitcher forward, distorting the pattern into the flower-like pattern seen above. Does it work every time? Of course not, but if I have the right cup and everything goes just right, the results can be quite rewarding.

1080p: The Future is Now

If you are thinking of purchasing an HDTV, there’s one critical variable that is emerging as increasingly important: resolution. Although all HDTVs are higher resolution than standard television (or even the DVD-quality EDTVs that are now almost non-existant), there are two levels of high definition emerging: 720p (which often comes a slightly enhanced version dubbed 768p) and 1080p. The latter, as the name would suggest, offers a sigificantly higher resolution (and, of course, a significantly higher cost). Can you tell the difference? Probably not if you’re watching an HDTV broadcast and aren’t sitting too close to the TV, but the emergence of the BluRay and HD-DVD video formats will soon make the difference potentially relevant. While 1080p rear-projection TVs (RPTVs) have been in production for some time, this fall we’ll see the emergence of mainstream 1080p LCD TVs from Sony (via their XBR2, XBR3, and V2500 lines) and 1080p plasma TVs from Panasonic (the PZ600 line). How “mainstream” (i.e. affordable) these TVs will be remains to be seen.

A KRZY new cell phone from Motorola

Motorola’s RAZR was a hot phone of 2005, perhaps even THE hot phone of 2005, but already it’s looking passé and dated. Users of the RAZR know that, despite the slick look of the razor-thin appearance, the phone can be somewhat awkward to hold. Operating with one hand is particularly challenging given the thin profile. Get ready for Motorola’s answer for 2006, the MOTOKRZR:


The KRZR (oficially the MotoKRZR K1) is 42mm x 103 mm x 16 mm (narrower and slightly thicker than the RAZR) and features a glossy metallic finish, a 2MP camera, Bluetooth, and compatibility with GSM networks (e.g. T-Mobile and Cingular, though no word on whether these companies are selling the phone yet). Another version, the CDMA (e.g. Spring/Verizon) MotoKRZR K1m adds high speed EVDO data with music buttons and “music on demand” but has a lower quality 1.3 MP camera. It is slightly larger at 44 x 103 x 17.

My take? I definitely like the narrower and slightly thicker shape better than the RAZR. It looks to be a great compact phone. I worry that it might still include the traditional clunky Motorola interface and that the slick metallic finish might attract fingerprints like the black MacBook.

Review: Apple MacBook (Black, 2.0 Ghz)

Bottom Line: Apple’s new laptop is versitile and inexpensive, but there are a few caveats to be wary of.

Verdict: Recommended.

Apple’s recent switch to Intel processors has led to a flurry of releases for the California-based computer maker. Apple had been stuck in a rut with their end-of-the-line PowerPC G4 processor used in the old PowerBook line. The new Intel CoreDuo processors promised to offer significantly higher performance while maintaining reasonable battery life and size. The first laptop released with the new processor was the MacBook Pro, a laptop plagued by initial noise and unreliability problems that since seem to have been largely addressed. It looked almost exactly like the older PowerBook, but the internals were equipped with the speedy Intel CoreDuo, which largely succeeds in offering dramatically higher performance, provided you are using software optimized for the new processor. At this time, this includes most of Apple’s software, but not Microsoft Office and not Adobe Photoshop. This software will run, but the dramatic speed improvements won’t be evident.


The Apple MacBook is a smaller, slightly lighter machine that features a new design and two looks: the classic glossy iBook white, and a new matte black finish, for which Apple charges a premium. I went with the latter for this review, largely because I think the black (besides looking cooler) creates a better contrast with the screen. In addition to a new look, the MacBook sports a new keyboard with recessed keys that don’t touch the screen and thus avoid leaving unsightly marks. Although the keyboard looks dramatically different, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it felt pretty much like a normal keyboard; I could notice no downside to using it. I believe the switch was made so that Apple could implement a new design that integrates the keyboard into the body in a more robust manner than in prior laptop models. As a result, the keyboard doesn’t bend or cave in at weak spots. Instead it feels solid and well-supported, as does the rest of the notebook. Unlike the aluminum-based “pro” models, the plastic MacBook closes firmly and decidedly with a magnetic “latch” (not a visible latch, but a magnet built into the case). I like the feel and it lends contributes to the sense of high build quality. Continue reading “Review: Apple MacBook (Black, 2.0 Ghz)”