Month: September 2007 (page 1 of 5)

A Year with the Mac

It was one year ago today that I took delivery of an Imac, my first ever Mac. While I’d had an iPod for a couple of years and used a Mac at university, this would be my first time away from pc’s and Windows. While the learning curve was steep’ish I took to the Mac really well and even though I’m still learning I’m now a fan of the Mac operating system and the hardware that Apple make. While Apple products are not to everyone’s taste and they are always accused of being expensive I can’t see me moving away from the Mac platform anytime soon.

The hardware has been great so far (touch wood). I was slightly apprehensive about buying an iMac due to it’s all in one non upgradable design. However I’m a console gamer now and have no real need to upgrade the hardware a bit at a time. The hardware’s most impressive feature is how quiet it is. You hardly notice it’s on which I certainly can’t say about most PCs that I’ve owned and used. One year on and it still feels fast as it did on day one even with new software that’s come out over the last couple of months that usually push up requirements.

The iMac is used every day and wakes from sleep in a couple of seconds while taking the same time to sleep at the end of the day. It sure beats the experience I’ve had using Windows and the slow start-up times or slow times when setting the machine to sleep. Even when i have to reboot for software updates and the like, the start-up times have remained consistently quick. It’s obviously slower than day one due to the apps I launch at start-up but it doesn’t slow down as much as Windows does over time. I guess what I’m trying to say is…it just works. Always. Not had a problem yet. I’m not saying there are no problems, but I’ve had none…yet.

One issue I do have are Apple mice. They really do suck. I bought a wireless Mighty Mouse and I lasted three weeks with it before putting it aside and plugging in my Logitech. From reading elsewhere seemingly Steve Job’s hate’s clicks and buttons but really – only having one mouse button is really limiting. The Mighty Mouse has a virtual right click and also a squeeze click but I found the squeeze was difficult to do and the virtual right click awkward as you had to lift from the left click for this to work. The Mighty Mouse is now an occasional laptop mouse…very occasional.

The operating system is also a lot more user friendly than XP and although I haven’t used Vista enough to be sure, I’m off the mind that it has a better set of features than it too. Through the use of Expose, Dashboard, Spotlight and Preview I find that day to day tasks are more easily carried out on a Mac than on a PC. I can get more things done and I’m also more pleased with the end result. It’s very hard to put into words why it feels and works better, but it does. I also make far more use of the built in app’s like Mail, Address Book, iCal etc than I did on Windows although I think Vista built in app’s are far more useful than XP’s. The O/S is also more fun than Windows and looks/feels a lot more stylish and has a lot of polish. Again not a big feature but it’s another little plus point. Oh, no spyware or virus worries either. It’s also about to get better (I trust) with Leopard coming out in the next month or so. What helps the O/S and Apple are the third party app’s found on the mac.

Some of them are Mac only exclusives and it’s no secret that I craved a couple of the app’s so much that they helped seal my move to the mac platform. Many are tightly integrated with the mac platform so much so that they feel like part of the O/S which I can’t say for many app’s on the Windows platform. Another little push came from Parallels, virtualisation software that meant I could move to the Mac but be safe in the knowledge that a fast and fully working XP was merely a button click away. I also think there’s a myth surrounding third party app’s. Before I switched I was told by a few people and also a lot of blogs that there isn’t as much shareware/freeware/third party on the Mac platform. While that’s true from a quantity point of view I’ve found the quality and range of app’s to be excellent and there is nothing that I feel I’ve missed in moving platforms.

So there you have it. A happy switcher one year on. During that year I’ve also seen a couple of friends move to the Mac who also have similarly positive experiences. Maybe it’s the Apple halo effect, maybe it’s the positive press that Apple garner on the web or maybe it’s just that the alternative to Windows and PC hardware is a better end user experience – can so many people be wrong? There are definitely some issues, it’s not a platform for everyone (gamers for example) and not everything is wonderful but in general a Mac makes for a great home computer that I would highly recommend. A few months after buying an iMac I also bought a Macbook Pro which again has been a good investment. Next Apple product will probably be an iPhone but not the first version. I reckon I can hold off until a 3G phone comes out in 2008. My only regret about switching a year ago is this…I wish I had done it sooner.

Halo Update

Still loving it, campaign on legendary is very hard, multiplayer is very very good and the ability to download maps and game variants that other people create and share offers so much life. We played a rocket racing mode tonight which was great fun.

There have been lot’s of reviews but I’m wondering…another 10 from Edge? I think it would be justified and would also be the first game series to be awarded two 10’s.

JBL Creature II's

Creature IIMy old external speakers failed so I picked up some new speakers for the iMac yesterday. The JBL Creature II’s have picked up a lot of good press over the last year so i was confident of a good sound. However I wasn’t prepared for just how…bad they sounded. I always thought the left/right speakers were too small and my gut feel looks to be right – they were very very poor.

No matter what settings I used I either got a very tinny sound with some or too much bass, or I got no treble at all with the same mix of bass. Very disappointing and they were returned this morning for a full refund. I did luck out though – the old speakers have started to work again (they were throwing out a lot of static with no inputs) so that will do for now. However I’ll keep my eye’s on these Audioengine A2’s (cheers Shakeel for the tip) as they look ideal for my needs.
as they look to be exactly what I’m after and they’ve had good reviews so far. Just not out in the UK yet.

So despite good reviews elsewhere, from what I heard with my own ears I would recommend staying well away from these speakers.

Halo 3 Rocks

So I’ve had 3 or 4 hours on Halo 3…enough for a quick opinion but not much else.

It’s a very pretty game. There’s been a lot of talk that it’s not up to par with Gears or Bioshock but in those games you only see a few enemies at a time and the levels are small and enclosed. The maps in Halo are very big, have lot’s of enemies, ships flying around, vehicles etc and I think it looks stunning. No glitches, always smooth (although I haven’t played much) and a very solid feel. They are also far more colourful than the drab, but detailed, Gears and Bioshock.

Halo 3

I’ve only played through a tiny bit of the campaign (screenshot from my campaign trial this afternoon) as I’m keeping that for co-op only. The sections I did play were pretty tough and the AI seemed much improved. I also kept running out of weapons and didn’t get to see any new weapons at all. Still, early days for the campaign. I played on heroic although fancy doing co-op on legendary to keep the challenge high. Looking at my friends list today there were a couple of folk running through the game on normal….looks like they took 6-8 hours to rattle through the game. So play on at least heroic to enjoy the game at it’s best. Thank goodness co-op mode was added as this will probably be the first Halo campaign I will actually complete.

However the campaign is the smallest part of Halo 3 – the emphasise looks to be on multiplayer as that’s what will keep gamers occupied for the next couple of years. I say years as I played and enjoyed Halo 2 for over two years and I hope this latest version has as much depth online as the previous version.

Halo 3 - Sword Action

I’ve only really played Team Slayer (4 vs 4) and on 4 maps so far. Firstly, no lag to be seen. Second, no cheating either. The new weapons offer quite a varied arsenal and it will take a while to get used to them. Old ones have also been tweaked. Sword for example does not last forever and also takes longer to pull out and use – it’s still powerful but not as much as in Halo 2.

Gameplay hasn’t changed too much but that’s a good thing as there wasn’t too much wrong with Halo 2. Bungie have addressed some community issues though. No more listening to morons on Live screaming, swearing, shouting, calling you gay, asking if you want a cup of tea and a scone. There’s a variety of options including not hearing opponents and being able to quickly mute your team. They’ve also introduced push to talk which has quietened things down too. It made for a far more enjoyable online experience.

Halo 3 - Flying Sword

There seem to be many more online game modes with the ability to create your own and share those creations with friends. Rocket Warthog racing anyone? I’ve not had any time to dabble with Forge which is a game mode in it’s own right that allows one team member to drop weapons, vehicles, change spawn points – basically customise the map to their hearts content. This is another option that should give longevity to the title.

Bungie have also increased web and community integration. Using the theatre mode I can share film and screenshots with friends and also via the Bungie website. I can download screenshots from Bungie and also select in game clips from the website to view on the 360. As the movies use the in game code you can only view the movies in game on the 360. How lovely (but massively bandwidth intensive) would it have been to save movies to a Bungie Youtube equivalent that could have been used to share in game movies with anyone? They have also made it easy to see what your friends are playing and how far they are in their game and they’ve upped the post game analysis details on their website.

The screens above are all from my short play time this afternoon (Flickr set here and will grow over time). The top picture shows the level of detail seen in the campaign mode. The next two are from one game of Team Slayer. The second picture is me wielding a sword and about to double kill another red guy. The last picture is an in air kill, again with the sword. You can also see a team mate sniping form right to left. The level of detail (bullets, blood etc) in incredible and a great example of how good the Halo 3 engine really is.

That’s about it really. A cracking update to the Halo universe and something I’ll look forward to playing for many months. Call of Duty 4 though will provide some stiff competition as it’s online mode is excellent. I probably played my last game on it tonight though as most of my friends will be picking up Halo 3 tomorrow. Let the big team battles begin.

WordPress 2.3

Upgraded to 2.3 this morning. Considering the back end changes to table structures it went very well and successfully imported my tags from UTW. A couple of plugin’s are borked due to the changes and I needed to tweak the template a bit but we’re there now.

So glad i did this first thing as Halo 3 has just been delivered. Expect some impressions and screens later today.

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