iPad Hater, iPad Owner.

November 16th, 2010 by pminton

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The iPad is an over-sized, over-priced iPod Touch. The iPad is underpowered. Why don’t I just get a netbook? The iPad is not a computer. The iPad pillages and plunders much like the Vikings of old.

Six months ago that was my side of the constant argument that resulted from the question “Why don’t you have an iPad?” That question would inevitably come because I have historically been an Apple Fanboy. I was an early iPhone adopter, I love my Macbook Pro and I’ve had various other iDevices and Macintoshes over the years. I’ve proudly put an Apple sticker on every car I’ve owned. I have defended Apple over and over to the chagrin of friends and family. But for some reason the iPad just rankled me and I resoundingly denounced it as a product I would never ever own.

Since then, however, the iPad has slowly been creeping up on my wallet. Waiting. For the right time to pounce and make it bleed Vulcan green.

Let me see if I can explain what has happened here.

The first time I put hands on an iPad at our local Apple Store I was summarily unimpressed. I don’t remember if there were any apps that close to launch that managed to turn my head aside from the apps I already had on my phone. The hardware has always impressed me, but I just could see spending that kind of bank on hardware when there was no interesting software available. Then along came Netflix. The first time I saw it in action I did not expect the Netflix for iPad experience to be anything less than tragic. I was wrong. I still wasn’t won over, but the money-assassin crept one step closer.

A while back I started playing 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons with some friends on a bi-weekly basis. When we started only 3 of the 4 players had iPads. Then one day the last holdout showed up with a shiny new Apple tablet. Since then, every two weeks I have been shown the wonders of iPad ownership and the much improving selection of applications available from the App Store including apps for both DMs and players. The update for the popular iPhone character sheet app i4e brought it to the iPad as a universal app. I didn’t care for the app on the iPhone because I felt like the screen was too small and the battery life too short. On the iPad, though, it isn’t far removed from having an actual 4th edition character sheet in front of you with the added bounus that the app does math for you (and for those players and DMs like me who can’t seem to add or subtract even small numbers this is fantastic).

From then on it was a race to see which app or feature of the iPad would pull the trigger. In the end, though, it was a combination of apps and my Fanboyism back from remission that got me. And a pretty excellent deal on Craigslist.

I can’t say anything like “Now that I have my iPad I can’t imagine life without it!” I can. The things I do with my iPad I could do with other devices I own. I could play Puzzle Quest on my DSi, I could use my wife’s Kindle to read books (or, you know, I could just pick up a realbook), I can use pen and paper to play D&D, and I could watch Netflix on the netbook the iPad replaced. Now I can do all that in one place and it’s all wrapped up in a really really slick package. The aesthetic was definitely a big factor in my purchase as it always is on Apple products.

What I finally realized was that the iPad is not a computer. It is a media consumption box. You read magazines, books, comics on it. You watch movies. You play games and you have to play inside Apple’s walled garden. You don’t usually find people who purchase an iPad for productivity (although there are some pretty nice productivity apps). Once I got what the iPad is and isn’t it was, for better or for hypocritical, it was pretty easy to actually buy the thing.

So there it is. I went from a hater what hadta hate to being an iPad owner in six months. Call me what you will: Fanboy, hypocrite, nerd or idiot. I can’t hear you over the sound of many Angry Birds raining property destruction down on a bunch of pigs.

Oh, and one more thing: Welcome back to Ectotechnica.com!


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Why Y’all Hatin’ da Playa?

February 7th, 2008 by pminton

In a post about the Macbook Air, Webupon lists 10 issues that they’re having with the tiny machine:

  1. Mono Speakers

    For a company that can attribute much of their recent popularity to an mp3 player, you’d think the MacBook Air would be friendlier to music lovers. Instead, the only way users can hear sounds in stereo is to connect a set of speakers.

  2. No SD Slot, ExpressCard Slot, or Apple Remote

    The MacBook Air just provides the bare minimum for laptops. In order to achieve average accessibility for a laptop, the MacBook Air requires several extra add-ons.

  3. One USB Port

    Surely Apple would realize that most computer peripherals today are connected using USB ports. Essentially, Apple has forced consumers to make a decision. Want to connect your printer? Better take out your mouse. Want to transfer some files onto a flash drive? Better unplug that iPod (for those that think they can connect their iPods with firewire, the Air does not come with that port at all). The worst part is that the ports are non-expandable, which means that no matter how much more money you want to shell out, you’re stuck with one USB port.

  4. No Ethernet

    Unfortunately, the only way to connect to the Internet using the MacBook Air is through a wireless connection. An optional USB Ethernet Adaptor can be added for wired connections however its use would take up the only USB port.

  5. It’s Actually Not the World’s Thinnest Laptop

    In 1997, Mitsubishi and Hewlett-Packard produced a laptop called the Pedion. At its maximum thickness, the Pedion measured in at 0.72 inches, compared to the MacBook Air’s length of 0.76 inches. More recently, the Toshiba Portege 2000 also beat the MacBook Air with a maximum thickness of 0.75 inches. Unfortunately, neither of these computers had the marketing machine that Apple has.

  6. No User-Replaceable Parts

    The hard drive, memory, and battery are all encased inside the laptop. Only the battery can be replaced, but it must be done by Apple for a fee. Other alternatives are possible but most are likely to void the warranty.

  7. Slow and Weak Hard Drive

    The 1.8″ hard drive only operates at 4200 rpm. On top of that, the maximum option of 80 GB is much less than the norm for laptops today.

  8. No Removable Media Drive

    There is no CD/DVD player on the MacBook Air. Users can access CDs and DVDs using software called Remote Disc but it requires putting the disc in another computer. Moreover, it’s been reported that Remote Disc cannot be used to install Windows, watch DVDs, or play music.

  9. Comparable Laptops Outperform the MacBook Air

    Many people feel that the Sony Vaio is the closest comparison to the MacBook Air. For about the same price, the Vaio TZ does not have many of the problems above, is 40% faster, has twice as much hard drive space and is lighter than the MacBook Air.

  10. Extremely Overpriced

    1.6 GHz, 64 GB hard drive, and no optical drive for $1800? 1.8 GHz for $3098? No thanks.

I genuinely agree with a few of the points on that list, but come on. A lot of it is just Apple-hating.

Let’s start with number 4. No ethernet port? Seriously are we going to pick on that? Are we not supposed to be moving into the future here? In an age where city-wide, free Wi-Fi is being discussed I don’t think this is that big of a deal. I realize that some hotels might have a wired port and no wireless broadcast (or no internet at all), but if you’re a business traveler (or just a geek) chances are you’re going to check that your hotel has Wi-Fi before you book. I do. Hell, I won’t stay in a hotel if it doesn’t have Wi-Fi.

Number 5. Are we really going to compare the macbook air with a computer released in 1997? That’s kinda like saying, “Well, I’m not going to buy it because my kid’s Leappad is lighter and thinner!” Also, the Pedion that they’re touting? $6000 in 1997. That’s what, $8-10k today counting for inflation? Seriously?

Number 7. 4200RPM hard drive. Absolutely it’s underpowered compared to other laptop drives, but can you imagine the heat that a 7200RPM drive would put out (if there’s even one of that speed small enough to work in the Air)? This is not a gaming laptop. It’s a second machine for travel, maybe for doing presentations. You can afford a slower HDD if it conserves some heat and energy, I’d think.

Number 8. No removable media. If they’d done a little research they’d have found that an internal hard drive in an enclosure can be plugged into the one (WTF was Apple thinking?!) USB port and it works just fine. Sure it’s not as fast as internal, but there you go. Oh, also? Apple sells a superdrive (look at the bottom of the page under “Configuration Options”) specifically for the Air so that if needed the consumer can buy one. Yes, it costs extra, but if you can spend $1800-3100 on this machine what’s another couple hundred dollars? Economic sitmulation, folks.

Number 3. Speaking of one USB port. How about a powered USB hub? Anyone? Hell I have two at home now.

Number 9. The Sony Vaio TZ? Costs $3600 as well. Yes the Vaio TZ has an internal optical drive, but the processor is slower (1.33 gHz) and it’s thicker. Credit where it’s due: The Vaio has more ports, it’s .35 lbs. lighter and you can have a hybrid drive that is quite a bit larger than the Air. However, they are very similar machines. You sacrifice one thing for another in any computer. And guess what. They cost approximately the same.

Another thing that has been left out of the article (in point #10) is that the 64GB drive (on the Macbook Air) in question is in fact solid state. We’re talking about 64GB of flash memory, not the spinning HDD which is actually 80GB.

Something else that needs to be taken into account: Apple’s business model doesn’t really seem to allow a lot of overlap in their target consumer brackets. People that buy an iPod don’t necessarily buy an Apple computer. People that buy the entry level Mac Mini don’t buy an iMac. People that buy an iMac generally don’t buy Mac Pros and so on and so forth. The Air is being marketed at a higher consumer bracket than the average. It’s basically a second machine for someone that already has a Mac Pro desktop and can afford to overspend on the Air.

Do I think the Air is overpriced? Well, if you compare it to the Vaio like Webupon there did, no. Is it overpriced for me? Absolutely. Do I want it? No, I like my MacBook Pro just fine, thanks. Do I think Apple might’ve gone a little overboard here? Yes, and maybe a little underboard too. What with their only being one USB port, no firewire and no optical drive.

Do I think that there needs to be more research done for web-articles? Absolutely.


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Um. WTF?

January 11th, 2008 by pminton

By Pminton

OK. I’m a Soul Calibur fan (despite the fact that The Chad Pwn’d me with his eyes closed). I’m also a huge Star Wars fan. What I’m not sure about is this trailer for Soul Calibur IV featuring Darth Vader and Yoda as playable fighters.

I’ll also refer you to today’s Penny Arcade strip for it portrays my initial reaction better than I can write here. I have gone from Gabe’s wide-eyed, conspiracy-theorist diagrams to Tycho’s scathing skepticism. I am both sides. On one hand I’ve always wanted to see Star Wars characters in a fighter (aside form the completely terrible Masters of Teras Kasi) but, on the other, Soul Calibur has always been a more story-driven fighter than most. How in the name of the seven gaming hells are they going to explain this? Alternate universes? Space-time rifts? It’s all inside an autistic gamer’s snow-globe?

For some reason this is unsettling. At first I thought it was because they were using the Star Wars characters in a way that made no sense. Then I thought about Episodes I - III. It’s already been done. So, why am I so wary of this crossover? I think it’s the scene where we see a lightsaber being blocked by a metal sword. A lightsaber. By definition it can cut through nearly everything (I’m pretty sure that dude’s sword isn’t made of cortosis). It made me realize that a full-fledged Jedi (or Sith) could take any Soul Calibur fighter apart without even igniting their saber. So, they have to be dumbed down to fit the physics of the game. Doesn’t that just make them regular SC characters with a different skin? I know that games don’t have to make sense and I’m trying desperately to keep this post from turning into a fanboy argu-rant so I’ll just leave it at that.

Except that everyone knows that a (dark) Jedi would win. Every time.


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Final Fantasy VII: A Decade of Final Finality.

December 21st, 2007 by pminton

Ten years is a long time. Things change, things stay the same and as humans we like to revisit and reminisce. That’s what we’re doing here.

A decade ago Squaresoft (now Square-Enix) released what was arguably the RPG that would define the genre for a long, long time to come. Final Fantasy VII brought together great storytelling, amazing (for the time) visuals and pretty excellent gameplay to make something that gamers the world over still talk about reverently. I still have conversations with people about where and when they were when they started playing, what was going on when certain key events came about and how many weeks it took them to breed the elusive Gold Chocobo.

My wife is not a gamer. She’s picked up a few since we started dating and then married. Currently she’s taking on Puzzle Quest and My Sims. She listens to us talk about FF VII and apprently was intrigued by the story but didn’t want to play the game. So, we compromised: I’ll play FF VII again (for only the third time, actually), she’ll watch and then we’re going to write this story. Being the 10th anniversary of the release is just a happy coincidence, but it’s great timing. I’m going to focus on things like how well the gameplay has held up over the years, a comparison of the visuals then and now, the similarities and differences in FF VII and modern games and probably a fair amount of nostalgia. My wife will be chiming with the newcomers perspective.

Since the game comes in at around 70 hours to complete we’re going to break this up into separate articles. Consider this your introduction, the next installment will cover the first disc and so on. Hopefully we’ll finish the whole thing sometime in February or March.

Until the next time: Courage!


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