Categories: Apple, Books, Geek, Personal, Technology

Walter Isaacson – Steve Jobs

My Review: I have conflicting opinions about this book. On one hand, it was great to come to know more about the life of such a prominent figure in the technology world as Steve Jobs, his personality, his goals, his quirks and what drove him. And the first part of the book is great for that. You get an interesting insight of the person he was, what led him to be such a driven person with a difficult personality but with an astute sense of taste and fashion towards the technology world. On the other hand, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Isaacson disliked Jobs and that is subtly shown throughout the book (especially, the second part) where he makes no effort to avoid describing Jobs as a petty man that most of the times acted as if he was a child with a tantrum. Sure, that may be true and I definitely believe that Steve Jobs was an extremely difficult person to work with. But isn’t it also true that everything Jobs touched, turned to gold? He led a garage-founded company into the company that fought the giant IBM. He bought a division of Lucasfilms special effects company and turned it into the leading company in the world for computer animation. He picked up Apple when it was near bankruptcy and led it to be the highest-valued company in the world. So he must have been doing something right. He deserves some credit for that, doesn’t he? At least to say that he had merit in choosing the people he worked with.

My Rating: 4/5

Jeff Lindsay – Dexter is Delicious (Dexter #5)

My Review: Having read the previous 4 books about the character that inspired the TV Show Dexter, I decided to pick up the series and read the remaining two books (so far). But this one was a total disappointment. The story was quite boring and cliché, plus Lindsay decided to use the very trending topic of vampires (not real ones, of course) that also happened to be cannibals and didn’t really help improve the story. Also, I still couldn’t decide if the constant witty remarks of the Dexter character are simple traits of his social-ineptitude and naiveness or just excessive sarcasm. Either way, I didn’t like it. Also, this was the first book after Debra (his sister) had discovered his “hobby” and so I was really looking forward to know how that would pan out (considering that is how [SPOILER] the tv show ended the last season). But it really wasn’t a big part of the story. And in the end, you can’t shake the feeling that Dexter got away clean from the huge mess he got himself into without really doing anything and just by being a huge lucky bastard.

My Rating: 3/5

Jeff Lindsay – Double Dexter: A Novel (Dexter #6)

My Review: Now this one was a pleasant surprise, at least compared to the previous book. Much darker and mysterious. The story delivers a different take on the Dexter series, one in which Dexter is now the one being hunted by a prey not that different from him. It still suffers from some of the aspects I pointed out in the previous book (the Dexter character is too naive sometimes, to the point of being dumb) but at least this one has a richer story with interesting developments.

My Rating: 4/5

Arthur C. Clarke – Rendezvous With Rama

My Review: This was one of those science fiction classics that I never had the opportunity to read. And since this year I decided to (try to) read all the classics that I never actually read before, this one was probably as good as any to start with. What a great choice I made. This book has everything you’d expect from a great science fiction novel: mysterious settings, unknown elements, stuff that stirs your imagination and a lot of food for thought. The end can be bitter-sweet, but it is only a reflection of the arrogance of humankind and the self-centric idea that we are alone in the universe. Fully recommended.

My Rating: 5/5

Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games #1

My Review: This book was a mere curiosity. I had seen the trailer for the new movie a few weeks back when I went to the cinema and when I noticed it was based on a novel, I decided to have a look. The formula used is not new, but it mostly works: taking place at a post-apocalyptic America, a Big Brother-like fight-to-the-death game where the contestants are lottery-drawn teenagers from the districts that lost the war against the “Capitol”, the story develops through the eyes of one contestant in particular, Katniss Everdeen. And the choice of the author to use the first person approach works quite well because it creates a stronger connection between the reader and the girl and you’ll end up feeling as lost as her by not knowing what’s happening with the rest of the characters on the book. Unfortunately, as I said, the formula is not new and the story ends up being a bit too easy to predict. Sure, there are some twists but you’ll spot them miles away.

My Rating: 4/5

Related: What I’ve been reading, Vol. I, IIIII and IV

Categories: Apple, Geek, Mac, News, Technology

2 weeks ago, amidst all the hype surrounding the iBookstore and the business model chosen by Apple to allow people to sell iBooks on the iBookstore, I asked the following question:

When I publish something through the iBookstore, am I the copyright holder of the book’s content?

Why was this question so important? Because, If the creator of the iBook is in fact the copyright holder of the book’s content, he/she can then publish the same book in other formats to reach out to other “readers”. If not, that’s a more serious issue because then authors are “stuck” with Apple’s format and cannot publish their books in more “widely-accepted formats”.

At the time, this was not clear in the iBook Author’s EULA. Rather, the wording in the EULA suggested that Apple was not only the owner of the format of book (.iBook) but also of the book’s content.

This raised several concerns to authors (as pointed out above), which is only natural, but now Apple has decided to make the EULA quite clear and stated the following:

If the work is provided for a fee (including as part of any subscription-based product or service) and includes files in the .ibooks format generated using iBooks Author, the work may only be distributed through Apple, and such distribution will be subject to a separate written agreement with Apple (or an Apple affiliate or subsidiary); provided, however, that this restriction will not apply to the content of the work when distributed in a form that does not include files in the .ibooks format generated using iBooks Author. You retain all your rights in the content of your works, and you may distribute such content by any means when it does not include files in the .ibooks format generated by iBooks Author.

I think authors can relax now. Basically, Apple is saying: if you want to sell iBooks, you can only do it through the iBookstore. If you want to sell your own e-book (with the same content as the iBook as long as you don’t use any of the same files in the iBook) somewhere else, you’re free to do so.

Categories: Apple, Geek, Mac, Technology

I’ve been acumulating a lot of links to some interesting Mac OS X tips on my Instapaper in the hopes that I’ll have the time to write a post about them individually but since I don’t see any chance of that happening any time soon, here’s the list for your enjoyment:

  • Select Text in Quick Look Windows – This one has bothered me for quite some time, but I’m glad there’s a solution for that. It’s perfect for when you need to copy a snipet of text or code from a document and you don’t want to bother opening the clunky editor just for that.
  • Always show the Outbox on – This together with this will do the trick.
  • Enable Full Screen Support for All Apps – Pretty self-explanatory
  • iCloud Documents in OS X – If you need to create iCloud-stored iWork files on OS X, here’s the tip.
  • Share Files between Mac and Windows – I also used this tip to share a DVD that for some reason was not working on my Mac DVD drive.

You’re welcome.

Published by António Lopes on July 14, 2011
Categories: Apple, Geek, Technology

Remember this?


This is a screenshot of (the very old) Super Off Road, commonly known as “Ironman”, a game that I used to spend hours and hours playing on my MS-DOS computer.

Well, if you liked this game and you have an iPad (or an iPhone), you’ll love this one:


This is Reckless Racing HD for the iPad and it brought me the feeling I used to have while playing Ironman: hours and hours of fun. It’s basically the same kind of game where you command tiny cars on off-road tracks racing other tiny cars. But now, with cool graphics and sounds. I was lucky enough to buy it when EA was having a sale on several games and it cost me only $0.99. 

Highly recommended!

Published by António Lopes on July 5, 2011
Categories: Apple, Funny, Geek, Mac, Personal, Technology


For reference, read this.

Published by António Lopes on June 17, 2011
Categories: Apple, Geek, Mac, Personal, Technology

I installed 4GB of RAM on my Macbook 6 months or so ago and, although I noticed some improvement on its performance (especially on video editing tasks), it still was having some stupid slow-downs that can only be interpreted as the Macbook’s “coffee break”, where it simply stopped responding and presented me with the wonderfully hypnotic beachball of death. Considering I still had a lot of RAM to spare and the CPU was usually very low during these breaks, there’s only one more part to blame: the ridiculously slow 5400 RPM Hard Disk that comes bundled with these Macbooks.

So, after being tired of hearing people saying how much faster their computers were after installing an SSD I decided to finally go for the jump. At first, after a friend suggested the Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 I really considered buying it since it was so cheap at Amazon. However, after looking at these benchmarks (thanks, Carlos), the OCZ Vertex series felt more like the best option.


Takes us to Warp 5, Mr. Sulu

I settled for the OCZ Vertex 2(1) on Amazon and after a simple installation and a clean install (which was long overdue) I was really amazed at the performance difference. It’s not only the time it takes to boot(2), it’s the (not so) little differences across the entire OS. Applications now open instantly. And you know that time it takes to open a folder on Finder that is not that long but it’s long enough for you to notice that it’s there? Well, now it isn’t. Or how quicker Spotlight and Alfred are that you can actually call them productivity tools now? It’s that amazing. Overall, it’s a new world of responsiveness that makes you feel like you just bought a new computer.

Keeping your SSD healthy

However, not everything is perfect in the SSD world. You don’t have to have crazy Google-fu skills to find a lot of people with SSD problems mainly due to their short lifespan (of the SSDs, not the people). So, if you’re the lucky owner of a brand new SSD you may want to prevent (or at least, delay) those problems by taking some simple measures.

First of all, activate TRIM support. Since native TRIM support will only come in Mac OS X Lion (due in July), the solution for now is to hack your way through that TRIM activation. Luckly, some guy has made the process as simple as to press a button, so, go grab the TRIM Support Enabler here.

Secondly, you’ll want to reduce the amount of writes that are done to the disk, especially those superflous writes that may be useful for special features but are far from being vital. This post is wonderful to guide you on some of those situations.

In conclusion

Go for it! Really! It may be only a few months or a year before I have to buy a new SSD but this was definitely the best investment on any computer that I’ve made so far.

(1) Before you ask why I didn’t get the OCZ Vertex 3, consider that my Macbook HD Interface is only Serial ATA (3 Gb/s) and the only difference from the Vertex 2 is that the Vertex 3 is 6 Gb/s

(2) Which now is merely a 4 or 5 seconds boot. But, actually, to me this makes no difference since I only reboot my machine for update purposes.

Published by António Lopes on June 15, 2011
Categories: Apple, Geek, Technology

Having heard about the availability of Al Gore’s latest book “Our Choice” as an iPad app, I decided to give it a try and see what this next-generation digital book was all about. About the content of the book, a review will be available soon in one of my “What I’ve been reading” bits.

Regarding the book format, I have to say I was skeptic about the fact they decided to use an app format instead of the iBook format (that already allows for the use of some rich content), but I remained curious considering an app format has the advantage of not constraining the way the content is delivered.

However, after reading the book I was very disappointed because, except for a few of the multimedia elements, it fails at too many levels to justify this kind of format:

  • No portrait mode. For many people (especially Kindle users), this is simply unacceptable;
  • No clear way of assessing the reading progress. There are no page numbers, no reference to the current chapter and no table of contents. The book is sequential and doesn’t allow simple random access. That’s the most basic feature of books!
  • No customization whatsoever. You can’t choose font type, size or color (including for background). No brightness controls too;
  • Multimedia components do not follow iOS’ best practices. For example, there’s no way to control sound or video playback or volume. If something wasn’t clear at first, you have to wait until the video finishes to play it again and listen to the whole thing again;
  • Some of the controls are not intuitive, which forces the reader to learn yet another set of gestures.

It’s just sad that people keep reinventing the wheel when we should have had Flying Deloreans by now.

Published by António Lopes on June 7, 2011
Categories: Apple, Geek, Internet, Mac, Technology

As many Apple fans out there, I followed the news at the WWDC keynote yesterday. I was quite pleased with the amount of new features both on Lion and iOS5 but what really caught my eye was the way Lion and iOS are starting to walk towards a unified operating system for all Apple devices. And in doing so, they are filling out the holes that were previously occupied with third-party apps that will now have to rethink their future.

One OS to rule them all

Both Mac OS X and iOS are walking towards each other in the sense they keep borrowing features from each other, but between Lion and iOS5, I’d say Lion is the one taking the biggest leap.

Let’s start with Multi-touch gestures. This has an impact on the way people browse in Safari or iPhoto, all to make it look and feel more like if you’re working on an iPad. Consider even the subtle change of reverse scrolling in Lion.

Then there’s Full-screen. Let’s not waste any display real estate, exactly like you have on the iPad or the iPhone. It actually makes a lot of sense, especially in smaller displays like in the Macbook Air or my white unibody Macbook.

The new version of Mail looks really familiar, doesn’t it? That’s because it is almost the same as in the iPad!

And if you still need more proof, check out Launchpad:


I rest my case!

More Apple, less third-party apps

Another thing that really surprised me in yesterday’s keynote was the way Apple seemed to be launching new features that were fulfilling most of their users’ desires. Apple is known for their innovative features but it is also known for not launching simple features like MMS or copy-paste on the first iPhone (when the competition had already done it 4 or so years ago) or the simple fact that we still don’t have SMS receipts on the current version of iOS. Yesterday was different. They sounded a lot like a company that was actually listening to their users and decided to act upon it by presenting some interesting features that aim at filling out some holes in the current version of iOS and Mac OS X.

But Apple’s faults on missing features are third-party developers’ opportunities. And if they have been taking advantage of those missing features by creating great apps (and gaining some money in the process), now they’ll have to rethink their future.

iMessage vs. PingChat (and a bunch others)

I’ve been using PingChat to exchange SMS and MMS-like messages (with reading receipt) with family and friends and it works great. But now Apple is launching their own version of this kind of apps. And I bet the integration with the rest of iOS is much more subtler than in PingChat, so… guess which one I’ll be using in the future? 🙂

Reminders vs. 2Do (and a bunch others)

This is one of those things that Apple haters love to point out: why doesn’t iOS include a simple way to sync ToDos with the Mac? This is 2011 and I still have to use apps like 2Do to manage my tasks between iCal and the iPhone/iPad. Finally, Apple has come to its senses and is now releasing the Reminders app that I hope will finally make my life easier on this end. 2Do is great and all but it still creates some (really hard to manage) conflicts when it comes to sync tasks between 3 different devices. I’d much more rather use an elegant Apple solution, which I hope Reminders will be.

Safari (with Reader and Reading List) vs. Instapaper

The only downside I see on this Instapaper-clone of the new Safari on iOS is the fact that it will only work on Safari and since I use Chrome on the Mac, I’m not quite sure I’ll stop using Instapaper. If only Apple would release the API for Reading List… (pretty please, with cherry on top?).

AirDrop + iCloud vs. Dropbox

Don’t start your flame-throwers just yet, I don’t really think that the AirDrop and iCloud combination will make me stop use Dropbox altogether. But I’d say Apple’s getting there and if they do it the right way in the future, I’d say Dropbox will lose a great chunk of Apple users.

Oh, and Wi-Fi Sync (vs. jailbreaking alternatives)

Finally! No more USB-based syncing!