MashupCamp 5 in Dublin

I and a few of my team have just registered to attend and participate in MashupCamp 5 which is being held at Trinity College Dublin on 12-13th September.

The two days are being run as an open space/unconference with a preceeding Mashup University on the 10-11th. We will be bringing Lotus Connections along to show and play with, with the aim of discovering integration points between social computing within the enterprise and beyond the firewall. There’s already a proposed discussion item about “Mashup Adoption Issues Across the Enterprise” which sounds promising.

So, if you are going be sure to look out for us. I don’t know yet how we will advertise our presence or anything! IBM are a sponsor of the event so maybe we can get some goodies or something. The list of attendees includes Stephen O’ Grady from Redmonk, who I look forward to meeting.

Thoughts on the new Apple keyboard

Apple Keyboard

Lana went all the way to the Southampton Apple Store at the weekend, just to buy me the newly released Apple keyboard. That’s why I’m marrying her. The fact she was also going there for her hen party is just mere coincidence 😉

The keyboard is one aspect of Apple hardware I’ve never been entirely happy with. I’ve owned the black keyed version which came with the G4 PowerMac range and both the wired and wireless versions of the most recent design. In all cases I’ve struggled with the rather heavy nature of the key action, and also the way they seemed to be too closely packed together for my hands. Hence I was immediately interested in the new keyboard when it was surfaced on Engadget, and then announced last week.

The concept of putting a laptop style keyboard into a standalone form-factor is genius, and the thing really is unbelievably thin, but at the same time very sturdy. When you put it side-by-side with the old keyboard it makes the old one look positively obese. It’s truly a triumph of design. However, with any keyboard, the proof is in the typing. I must admit that I’d always looked at the keyboard style of the current Macbook range with some skepticism (and hadn’t really spent any time using one) compared to the more traditional laptop keyboard design of the MBP and the Thinkpads I’m used to using at work. Despite my earlier comment, the spacing between the keys just didn’t look natural. However I pleased to say that it works like a charm and my typing on the new keyboard is smooth and quick. There is a satisfying feel and response to the keys, and you certainly don’t get the feeling that you have to press them down hard like I did with the old style Apple keyboard.

I went for the wired version for the extra keys (most notably a numeric pad) and simply because I have no need to go wireless. Aesthetically, I have to say that the new silver and white design, whilst probably made to look good with the new iMac, works very well with the older one with the silver of the iMac base and white of the main unit matching the base and keys of the iMac perfectly. Check for yourself:

Apple Keboard with iMac

Apple have released a software update for OS X 10.4.10 (the minimum supported level for the keyboard) which adds support for some of the new buttons for Expose and Dashboard. Some people have complained that some functions have moved F-keys, but I don’t find this to be an issue. I’m also particularly please that the Apple key has been officially labelled as “Cmd” as I always struggled with remembering that Command=Apple.

Overall, I’m very impressed. I’m seriously considering buying a couple to use in work…

Update-a-thon

Nearly a month after moving into our new flat, Eircom have finally managed to not only provide us with a phone line, but also with broadband. This has given me the opportunity to do a bit of housekeeping on the various gadgets and gizmos which have been starved of an internet connection over the past couple of months.

First off was the iMac which got OS X 10.4.10 and a few other updates automatically installed. Lana’s iBook also received the Apple update treatment. The iMac, and therefore my iTunes library has been offline since before iTunes Plus songs were released so I also popped onto iTunes Music Store to download 158 non-DRM’d tracks from EMI to update my library. Finally, I updated Adobe Lightroom up to 1.1 and look forward to playing with the new features.

Next to receive the automatic update treatment was the XBox 360. There was an auto update for the dashboard to provide support for the forthcoming wireless guitar controllers for hotly anticipated Rock Band game. Forza 2 also updated when I fired that up and went online with it for the first time.

Next was the Linksys NSLU2 NAS device. This has been a little neglected over the past six months or so, sitting happily on the network serving up music to the XBox via uPnP using TwonkyVision MediaServer. It received a firmware update to the latest version of Unslung, and also a new version of TwonkyMedia, taking it up to the current 4.4 release. The net effect of this is that it can now stream video to the XBox as well, including high def content.

Finally, since I no longer use my Nokia N80 on Orange UK, and got it unlocked before moving over to Dublin I decided to update it’s firmware to turn it into an N80 Internet Edition. Orange don’t allow this firmware upgrade by default, so the Nokia Software Updater does not offer it. The solution is simply to use a bit of software to change the product number on the device (instructions here). This proved to be simple and easy. One immediate benefit is that I can now use the phone to make VOIP calls over my wireless network, including Skype calls using http://www.fring.com/. I’ve yet to make a Skype call, but am intrigued to find out how it performs when I phone my folks up this weekend.

Wedding progress, and honeymoon plans

We are now less than three weeks away from our wedding, and fingers crossed everything is in place. The last week or two have been busy in terms of finalising a lot of the fine detail including the order of service, gifts, invitiations and the like. Pretty much everything is in place now, and RSVPs have been coming in. We are waiting for the final few and then the fun task of table assignment begins!

The one thing we have now done is sort out our honeymoon. Eschewing convention, we are going to fly to Boston where we will spend nine nights touring around New England before ending up in New York for a night or two before flying home. Sitting on a beach for a couple of weeks isn’t really our style, and whilst honeymoons are meant to be a relaxing recovery from the wedding itself this is far more fun. Lana is looking forward to staying in the Inn at Harvard, along with visiting Salem, whilst we are both looking forward to spending some time exploring Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. We’ve been to New York before, but it will be nice to finshing our short trip there.

We are hoping that nine nights will give us plenty of time to leisurely wend our way along the 250 miles or so between Boston and NY, with the odd diversion along the way. If anybody has any tips on great places to see, stay at or eat in then please let us know!

New iMac

As the purchaser of a iMac at the start of the year, I went through the usual doubts and uncertainties about how long my purchase would remain current. Just to recap, I got a 24″ iMac, with the following upgrades: 2GB RAM, 500GB SATA hard disk, 256MB nVidea graphics card. Although the 24″ iMac had only been out for a couple of months, I was aware that the overall design was getting on a bit, and was probably due an update sometime this year.

Yesterday saw that update, and I’m breathing a sigh of relief that there’s nothing too revolutionary about it meaning my current iMac doesn’t seem so obsolete (in reality it isn’t obsolete at all, it’s still a hugely powerful machine for what I do with it!) I’m quite impressed with the way that the 24″ model’s base specs have been upgraded. The processors have a boost, topping out with a 2.8Ghz Core Duo Extreme, whilst the maximum amount of memory is up to 4GB from 3GB. The graphics are ATI across the range rather than the previous ATI low end and nVidea high end choice, and 256MB is standard. Finally, the hard disk sizes are upped, with the max now being 1TB.

The thing I’m most happy with is that the overall styling is similar, albeit with a brushed metal and glass look rather than white plastic. Most importantly as well, the screen resolution hasn’t changed, with the 24″ still being 1920×1200. I’m quite happy that my iMac has a matt screen rather than the now standard glossy screen which to my eyes is not as good for photo work.

I’m also happy that the new models don’t yet have any HD drive, and have stuck with DVD for the time being.

The one thing I’m less happy about is the fact that the cost has decreased quite significantly, with the top end iMac 24″ now coming in at £400 less than I paid for a faster processor and equivalent memory, graphics and disk to the one I specced. Still, overall it could have been worse.

One thing Apple should be slapped for is shipping the top end iMac with 2x 1GB memory chips. If you want to upgrade to 3 or 4GB in the future you are going to have to chuck one or both of those away.