The New Apple iMac (2019)

The new 27″ Apple iMac (2019) is very fast. Thanks to its Intel hexacore processor (which can be upgraded to an 8-core Core i9), this new computer zooms past through jobs like numerical simulations on Mathematica. The iMac Pro is still faster and more powerful but this regular iMac is cheaper.

The display is very good, although touch screen functionality is unavailable. Colors look alive and bright. 

This year’s model retains the old design but can be upgraded to use solid state drives (SSDs) and memory greater than 64 GB. You can buy more memory from Apple or from third-party sources like Other World Computing for a more reasonably priced upgrade kit.

To compare its performance with other Macs, try running Geekbench, a benchmark suite available for the Mac.

New MacBook Pro

I recently got myself a 2015 13″ MacBook Pro. I had it customized with 16 MB of RAM and a 512 GB flash drive. It’s a nice and fast machine. The Retina display is also very pleasant to the eyes.

I put some computational applications such as Mathematica 10 Home Edition and Matlab 2015 Home Edition. They both run great with the amount of memory and the 2.9 GHz dual-core Core i5 processor. For testing, I used the MacBook Pro as my main computer for a few weeks. The Retina display helps reduce eye fatigue, even if the fonts are small.

This is a great laptop. I only wish it can be configured with 32 GB of RAM like those workstation-class PC laptops.

2015 13" MacBook Pro 2015 13" MacBook Pro 2015 13" MacBook Pro

The PlayStation 4

On November 15, at 0001 hrs, I was lucky enough to purchase a PlayStation 4 at Amazon.com.  After a few minutes, all the available units were gone.  I had the package delivered overnight.

PlayStation 4 Unboxed The package was light and seemed smaller than the original PlayStation 3 package.  I immediately opened it to see if everything was in order.

Connecting the PS4 to the TV was a breeze.  Luckily, it also came with an HDMI cable since I didn’t have an extra one lying around.  I held my breath and turned it on, hoping that the unit I got had no problems.  The unit started without any problems and a nice blue light turned on.  The DUALSHOCK 4 controller also had a light turned on.

The boot sequence was quick enough and I went through the setup process without any problems.  After all was done, it prompted me to download an update for the firmware.  The process was okay and I had it up and running in no time.

The previous afternoon, I had purchased the game “Killzone: Shadow Fall” for the PS4.  I also bought the PS4 Eye Camera which costs U.S. $ 59.99.  Plugging the camera to the PS4’s auxiliary port was simple and I mounted it on top of the TV.  Included in the PS4 was an application called “The Playroom”.  Before I could use it, I had to calibrate the camera.  Calibration required me to move the coffee table away to have a clear space between me and the TV.

PS4 Power and Eject ButtonsNotice that the power and eject symbols are quite small.  The buttons are subtly located at the front of the unit.  The top button is the power button and the bottom one is the eject button.  There are two USB 3.0 ports in front which can be used to charge the DUALSHOCK controllers.

The hard drive installed on the PS4 is a 2.5″ 500 GB 5400 RPM hard drive.  It can be replaced by opening the top part of the case.  You can find tutorials on how to do this in YouTube.  So far, I’ve seen one video where the hard drive was replaced with a 1.5 TB hard drive.

The optical disc player is a front-loading unit.  The PS4 supports blu-ray discs and DVD.  As of this time, CDs are not supported.  I’m not sure if this is just a software issue.  Discs can be ejected either via the menu or the eject button.

The PS4 supports recording 15 minutes of gameplay and capturing screenshots.  You can even stream your gameplay to Twitch.TV if you want.  The quality of the stream is okay but a video capture card probably can deliver better resolution and frame rate.  Unfortunately, the PS4 does not directly support the use of external video capture devices, although a few people have successfully streamed using an external device with some hardware workaround.

A few more pictures of the PS4 are posted below:

PS4 Eye Camera PS4 PS4 and PS3

 

 

The Holidays Are Coming

Everyone seems to be looking for good bargains after Thanksgiving.  There are some who are already lined up at the stores that have sale items on Friday.  I’m just wondering if Apple products are going to be on sale as well.  At least OWC might have some Apple items on sale.

From Apple comes a new line of MacBook Airs.  They’re light and nice to use.  As for practicality, I’m still not sure about them.  However, if you just need something like an iPad but one that’s more powerful, the MacBook Air is it.  Note that it doesn’t have a touch screen yet though.

Another on my wish list is the new Apple TV.  It’s now a tiny black box that allows you to rent movies from the iTunes store and stream music and videos from different sources that support AirPlay (e.g. iPods, Macs, stereos).  I hope to get it for the holidays.  🙂

Computer Technology and Life

Obviously, computers permeate our lives in many ways through the gadgets and machines that we use everyday.  The Internet has also linked these computers in such a way that a vast amount of information can now be found flowing almost anywhere in the world.

I saw the revolution and evolution of computer technology from the time the Apple ][ was introduced.  Those were exciting days when 16kBytes of memory was a big thing.  There were competing makes and models of what were called personal or micro computers.  Remember the Ataris, the Radio Shack TRS-80s, the Commodores, and the Sinclairs.  There were others and even some of them predate the computers I just enumerated above.

On eBay, one can buy these computers, some of which are still in working condition.  I have a couple of Commodore 64s myself.  Try searching for the above computers and see how much they cost now.

In high school, I spent a lot of time, tinkering with the Apple ][ Plus.  I learned Applesoft BASIC and Machine Language programming.  Later on, I learned Pascal via Turbo Pascal which was later available on the IBM PC as well.

The IBM PC rose to become the dominant personal computer in the late 80’s.  Apple, however, introduced a great machine called the Macintosh (it was misspelled — it should have been McIntosh) which featured a graphical user interface (GUI) and a pointing device called a mouse.  Eventually, PCs (which usually meant non-Apple IBM-compatible computers) got their own GUI with the help of Microsoft.  It took at least a couple of versions before Microsoft Windows displaced the command line interface of DOS on the PCs.  Meanwhile, Apple Macintosh thrived, carving out a niche and building a loyal customer base.

The Internet was still at its infancy in the late 80’s.  Some domain names like SUN.COM were registered around 1986.  In the early 90’s, I got a taste of the Internet, albeit without the world wide web (WWW) yet.  FTP and Gopher were what we used to transfer files here and there.  It was entertaining and fascinating to know that computers were actually linked to each other and could pass information to one another.

Further down towards the mid 90’s, Linux rose to be a popular and useful open source project.  I was lucky to have tinkered with sometime in 1993-1994 when the kernel version was something like 0.99.  Once again, I was amazed at what one could do with a full blown Linux kernel-based operating system.  We used Slackware, one of the few surviving Linux distributions today, to set up Linux-based servers.

I found it cool compiling and running UNIX applications on Linux.  The X Window System provided the GUI with the additional functionality of remote Window sessions.  Samba proved to be a great thing for those that wanted to use a Linux server as a file and print server.  Of course, one could not help but gleefully hack and program on a Linux machine with all the free development tools available (Perl, C/C++, bash, tcsh, etc.).

……and many more things happened…….

Where are we today?  Mobile devices, embedded computers in machines, tablets, smartphones, multicore processors, etc.  It’s quite impressive to know they exist.  Even more so that these gadgets and embedded computers are (or can be) connected to each other via a network, wired or wireless.  They can even be accessible from the Internet.

We are all benefitting from these developments.  Should we also be scared of them?  We already face problems daily with computers getting affected by malicious software meant to steal our wealth and identities.  We also face the difficulty in making sure complex software don’t commit errors where lives are at stake.  With all the flow of information in the Internet, is our privacy not safe anymore?

Where do we go from here?  I guess we should proceed carefully but with a positive attitude.  As human beings, we are quite smart and we adapt.  We will learn from our mistakes and make things right.

….

Gaming On The PlayStation 3

Lately, I’ve been playing games on my PlayStation 3 (PS3).  It has been one year since I last played a game on the console, using it mainly as a blu-ray player.

I’m not an expert gamer and I do it just to pass the time.  However, I like playing games that have very good graphics, the ones which give you a cinematic experience.  Metal Gear Solid 4 is pretty good.  Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is also a winner.  Resistance: Fall of Man, being one of the first titles available on the PS3, is showing its age but the gameplay is still okay.  (I miss Gears of War, an Xbox and PC game which is definitely better than Resistance:FOM).

Note that I’m not playing the latest and greatest games.  I’m a bit hesitant to spend $50-$60 on a new game since I’m not yet an expert gamer.  I usually buy old and/or used games.  Amazon.com is one good source of them.

The New 2010 Mac mini

Apple had a surprise announcement of the new Mac mini.  It’s now in an all-aluminum case.  The form factor is a bit shorter but wider than the previous Mac minis.  They also upgraded the graphics and processors, making them faster (though I would still get the 2.5 GHz model and upgrade it to 2.66 GHz).

I am thinking of this as an alternative to an expensive 27″ iMac.  I would forego with the processing power of the iMac but I would save a lot enough to buy an iPad 🙂 .

I’ll wait and see.

The iPad Is Unleashed

It’s been a few days since the iPad was released to the public, generating a lot of buzz in the press and on the Internet.  There’s even one YouTube video of some guys smashing an iPad, presumably the cheapest model.

I visited our neighborhood Apple Store in the Galleria Mall and tried it out.  I was curious about the landscape-mode virtual keyboard and tried to type something.  I could get used to it after awhile but I was making mistakes.  I imagined myself using an iPad in some café writing an entry to this blog.

There’s a lot of things in my mind now as far as wanting gadgets is concerned.  I want this iPad and I want an iMac.  As for the iMac, I’m waiting for Apple refresh their current line of models to include the new Intel processors.  The iPad is a luxury for me, but I might like using it in my living room while watching TV.

Searching for Portable CD Players (aka Discman)

I was looking for a decent portable CD player to replace my old Sony Discman D-F411.  Coupled with a pair of decent headphones like the Sennheiser PX 200, the sound quality was pretty good.

I use the portable CD player to sample CDs and to compare CD sound quality to digitally compressed audio (MP3s, AACs).  I still love the sound of the CD, but I hope they improve the quality of compressed audio while reducing file size (there must be a limit to that, given that you throw away information to get to a certain file size).  Lossless formats would be ideal if it were not for disk space and bandwidth limitations (imagine iTunes selling lossless music files many times larger than AAC files).

Some of the major manufacturers of portable CD players have only a few left.  Panasonic doesn’t even have one featured on their web site.    Philips just has one model of portable CD player, but, if it were like my Philips portable CD player, it doesn’t support gap-less playback of contiguous gap-less tracks (something you would encounter often with classical music CDs, for example).

I am saddened by the demise of the portable CD player.  Sure, I do have two iPods, but portable CD players are something I’d like to bring around the house if I want to listen to a CD.  I hope that either the CD format remains or that a new type of media capable of storing uncompressed music emerges.  Perhaps, we’ll have one of those cube-like thingies that you see in sci-fi films…….

The iPad

Finally, it’s official: a tablet computer from Apple named the iPad.  The iPad starts shipping sometime March of this year.

It’s a nice device that somehow fits between an iPod touch/iPhone and a notebook as far as functionality is concerned.  One thing missing is a web cam so you could use software like Skype or iChat for videoconferencing (Note: Though Skype is available for the iPod touch/iPhone, the iChat isn’t as far as I know).

An iPad version of iWork will be available soon enough.  This will be a useful set of applications (spreadsheet, word processor and presentation) to those who need to make or read documents.  Most applications already on iTunes App Store will work without need for modification although software developers will have to slightly modify their products to take full advantage of the iPad’s large screen size.

Pricing is okay: it starts at $ 499 for a 16GB WiFi-only model.  This is, for an Apple device, okay but may still be steep for non-Apple users.