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Articles: 2011 February

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Apple Watch: New MacBook Pro Lineup Today
Thursday, 2011 February 24 - 12:56 pm
... as expected.

The skinny:

All Models
  • "Thunderbolt" connector. This is the copper version of Intel's "Light Peak" technology; it's a single 10GB connection that will eventually replace USB, FireWire, SATA, and HDMI. The connector is physically identical to Apple's Mini-DisplayPort connector (and it's backward compatible), so you can already use it to connect displays.
  • High definition FaceTime camera (webcam). I'm not sure what that will do to upstream bandwidth requirements; I expect most users won't be able to take advantage of the full resolution.

13" MacBook Pro:
  • Prices unchanged at $1199/$1499
  • CPU changed from 2.40/2.66 GHz dual-core Core2 Duo to a 2.3 GHz dual-core Core i5 or 2.7GHz dual-core Corei7. That's a fairly significant improvement.
  • Standard RAM is unchanged at 4GB on all models.
  • Standard hard drive lineup up from 250/320 GB to 320/500 GB.
  • GPU is now the Intel HD Graphics 3000 instead of the NVidia GeForce 320M; this is a wash at best, perhaps even a slight downgrade
  • Battery life down from 10 hours to 7 hours

15" MacBook Pro:
  • Prices unchanged at the low and high end at $1799/$2199 (no more $1999 model)
  • CPU options now 2.0/2.2 GHz quad-core Core i7, instead of 2.4/2.53 GHz dual-core Core i5 or 2.66GHz dual-core Core i7
  • Standard hard drive lineup up from 250/500 GB to 500/750 GB
  • GPU is now Intel HD Graphics 3000 + AMD Radeon HD 6490M, instead of Intel HD + NVidia GeForce GT 330M; pretty much a wash
  • Battery life down from 8-9 hours to 7 hours

17" MacBook Pro:
  • Prices up from $2299 to $2499
  • CPU options now 2.2/2.3GHz quad-core Core i7, instead of 2.53/2.66 GHz dual-core Core i7
  • Standard hard drive up from 500 GB to 750 GB
  • GPU is now Intel HD Graphics 3000 + AMD Radeon HD 6750M, instead of Intel HD + NVidia GeForce GT 330M; this is an improvement
  • Battery life down from 8-9 hours to 7 hours

All in all, Apple sacrificed a few things (battery life in particular) to bump the CPU performance. These will be screaming fast machines. There's no small SSD for the OS as was rumored, and everything has retained roughly the same form factor (including the optical drive).
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Watch: New MacBook Pros, iPads Coming
Wednesday, 2011 February 23 - 4:57 pm
It's being widely reported that there will be a new MacBook Pro lineup tomorrow. A German site has posted what may be the tech specs for the 13" model. Key stats: Intel Core i5 CPU at 2.3 GHz, "Sandy Bridge" chipset with Intel HD3000 graphics, and a new "Thunderbolt" connector (which is Apple's name for the copper version of what Intel calls Light Peak... it's a high-speed interface for peripherals that may eventually replace USB, Firewire, SATA, and HDMI). The new connector would only make sense if there are peripherals designed to connect to it, so keep an eye out for a new Apple Display, or perhaps external hard drive options from third-party manufacturers.

An earlier report suggested that some of the MacBook Pro models may incorporate a small (8-16 GB) SSD designed to store the operating system installation only; this would allow for fast bootup times but still allow for larger and less expensive conventional hard drives. It seems plausible but there's no hard evidence for this yet. There were also reports that the optical drive might be removed, a la the MacBook Air. This seems unlikely.

Meanwhile, Apple has a media event scheduled for March 2; it's quite obvious that this will be an iPad 2 introduction.

There's also a rumor that Apple has scheduled a secret all-employees meeting for Sunday. I'm speculating that Apple will start rolling out an iPhone-based point of sale system, but most Internet rumor sites are pointing to a new business-oriented Genius Bar concept called "Joint Venture"; the idea is that Apple would provide businesses with a paid support option that includes on-site visits.

Finally... Steve Jobs: not dead yet. He thinks he'll go for a walk.

Stay tuned for more news!
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Downtown Raleigh Happenings
Wednesday, 2011 February 16 - 10:14 pm
Two restaurant closings to announce this week.

Cherry Bomb Grill, which just opened a few months ago, is closing. According to their Facebook page: "Cherry Bomb Grill will be reopening as a different restaurant/bar concept in March. It will, however, as previously stated, no longer be Cherry Bomb Grill, nor will it be Cherry Bomb Grill with a new name."

There were many issues with that place. It was supposed to be a retro, pin-up themed burger-and-beer place, but the giant bar and the TV screens made the place feel more like an ordinary sports bar. The signature burger was decent, but none of the other food we had there was very good. And I never once saw any of the waitresses dressed like a pin-up girl.

Also closing: Glenwood South institution Bogart's American Grill. Bogart's was a pretty trendy place back in 1998, but the menu doesn't seem so novel anymore, and the execution from the kitchen is inconsistent. At night, the fickle Glenwood South crowd no longer thinks of Bogart's as a singles hotspot.

It's prime real estate and whoever claims the spot will enjoy about six months of trendy fame. But as with any restaurant, the quality of the food will determine its long-term success. Let's hope for something interesting and unique.
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Posted by Ken in: food

Apple Watch: Tabloids Report Steve Jobs Dying
Wednesday, 2011 February 16 - 9:19 pm
Separate reports from various tabloid sources say that Steve Jobs has lost a lot of weight and is receiving chemotherapy at a cancer treatment center in Palo Alto. According to a doctor who has no connection to Jobs, Jobs is in the terminal stages of pancreatic cancer.

Also... Mariah Carey's sister is a $250-an-hour "adult escort".

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Well Hello Blog
Monday, 2011 February 7 - 8:54 pm
What has it been, a month? Hmm, Kato No Blogging Month... Kanoblomo?

So yeah, I've been slack. My normal sources of material are dry: college football season is over; I'm not watching American Idol this year, what with Simon Cowell being gone and all; and the frozen lunch experiment is over (though I have eaten a few new ones lately; I'll post reviews of those soon). Still, there are still things going on, and I don't want this blog to go dormant. So:

In Apple news, Verizon has rapidly sold out of their initial stock of iPhones. Some surveys have suggested that up to half of Verizon's Android customers are considering switching to the iPhone. Now we'll really see what happens when there's a level playing field.

In more Apple wannabe news, there are dozens of tablets lining up to be the #1 imitator of the iPad. Seriously, doesn't anyone have an original idea any more? And here's the thing: either the tablets are significantly more expensive than the iPad ($800 for the upcoming Motorola Xoom), or they're smaller (7" screens). The brilliant thing about Apple's product lineup lately is that they've secured the best prices on components, and other manufacturers simply can't compete.

Pundits think that Google is going to follow in Microsoft's footsteps and chase Apple out of the mobile computing market, but don't forget that Microsoft had IBM as a hardware partner in the early going. Google is relying on Samsung, Motorola, and HTC. Things are not the same here. And anyway, by the time tablet manufacturers have caught up to the iPad, Apple will already have moved on to its next big thing.

I did think the Xoom SuperBowl commercial was clever, even though Motorola was setting up a straw man. It's not like Apple has really taken over the world... they've just taken over the people who have taste.

Speaking of SuperBowl commercials, I liked the Volkswagen Darth Vader, the Faith Hill "Your Rack is Unreal", and the BridgeStone "Reply to All". The Coke and the Pepsi commercials were cute. There were a lot of losers, though: the commercials didn't work at all. The GoDaddy commercials were lousy. And the GroupOn Tibet commercial with Timothy Hutton? Tasteless.

I give Chrysler props for their edgy pro-Detroit Chrysler Eminem commercial. But people know that Chrysler is essentially owned by Fiat now, right?

Anyway... sorry for the long absence. More blog posts will be forthcoming in the next few days.

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Posted by Ken in: commentarytechwatchtelevision

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