This week at Mobile Tech Manor #19- CES is coming!

Mobile_tech_manor_large_2Another week has come and gone and Mobile Tech Manor is getting ready for the holiday season.  The ginormous Consumer Electronic Show (CES) is the second week in January and this year it’s got a bizarre schedule.  Planning for the CES was front and center all week alongside all the normal things that occupy my time.  We’ll talk about my week so come on in for a good visit.

The flu is breaking

The evil flu that has kept me in its death grip for over three weeks is finally releasing me this week.  I am gradually feeling human again and can see the end of it in sight.  The ironic thing about this flu is I got my annual flu shot just a week before exhibiting the standard symptoms.  It’s no fun and kept me wiped out far too long.  I’m back in rare form now, though.

The desktop it is a-changing

I have been sharing my desk with the aluminum MacBook and the 17-inch MacBook Pro and as expected it gets a bit much to be moving back and forth between the two.  The ideal setup would be to have one single system to use at the desk and even better if it’s the same one I grab to take mobile.  I decided that system should be the new MacBook since it’s a better performer than the older MacBook Pro and with the svelte 13-inch screen it’s a good mobile system.

This would only be practical if I had an external monitor to use at the desk as the 13-inch screen while nice is not big enough to use for hours each day.  The MacBook only had 2 GB of memory too which is just not enough when I’m running Vista under Parallels.  The latter problem I handled by ordering 4 GB of memory (the maximum Apple specifies) from Crucial for $131 which was a decent price.  I found cheaper memory at other sites but in the end I decided to go with the Crucial memory since that is what Apple used.  Their system scanning tool was cool as it scanned my memory and determined the proper memory to buy.

The memory showed up yesterday and it was a simple process of opening the battery compartment with the lever and then removing 8 tiny screws.  The 2 GB of memory that shipped with the MacBook was occupying both memory slots and was easy to remove.  The bottom one has very little clearance and it was tougher to remove but I carefully popped it out.  The two new memory cards slid right in and it took a minute to put it all back together.  I fired up the MacBook while holding my breath as I always do but the system booted up no problem.  I checked the System Profiler and sure enough my MacBook is happy with 4 GB of memory.

I can report that Parallels is running much better with the extra RAM which is what I expected.  I have Parallels set up to dynamically assign RAM as needed and it’s running as fast under Parallels now as it does on "real" Vista systems I’ve used.  Parallels gives the option to assign a set amount of RAM to the virtual machine and I wonder if that would be more efficient than the dynamic setting.  I’ll have to test that and see if it makes a difference.

I have to admit I am surprised that the extra memory also seems to make OS X run better too.  I don’t have any benchmarks to back this up but the system does seem a bit snappier.  I didn’t expect having more than 2 GB of RAM to impact normal operations much but it does seem faster now.  Memory is so cheap that I recommend maxing out any system that you use.

I gave a lot of thought to the external monitor need and finally decided to go with the new 24-inch Cinema Display from Apple.  There are many cheaper monitors out there but in the end I felt that the dock-like features of the Cinema Display were worth the premium.  The display runs at 1920×1200 which is a good resolution for that size screen and it will display true HD. 

The dock-like functionality I alluded to is accomplished by some unique features of the display.  There are three powered USB 2.0 slots on the back of the screen to handle peripherals in place of the hub I use now.  The display has an internal power supply for the MacBook which eliminates the need to use the notebook’s power adapter at the desk.  The display’s three connectors on a single cable include the MagSafe power for the MacBook, a mini DisplayPort connector that works with the new MacBooks and a USB connector.  The whole thing works like a seamless system and it’s a simple matter to disconnect the display from the MacBook to grab it and go mobile.  I hope the display will be delivered next week as Apple is showing it will ship in 7-10 days.

The big display is glossy like that of the MacBook and while many hate the glossy screens I really like them.  I find the colors to be brighter and more vivid on glossy screens than the matte variety.  I frequently get emails that ask me if it’s normal for the matte screen on "device X" to display washed out colors.  I find that is usually the case when compared to glossy screens and I’m glad the big Cinema Display is nice and glossy.

The Cinema Display has an integrated 2.1 speaker system so I can get the Harman-Kardon speakers and subwoofer out of my way too.  I’ve read good reports about the sound quality of this integrated speaker system and I hope it’s decent since I usually have iTunes or Pandora playing all day long.  The display also has an iSight webcam which means I can use either that one or the one in the MacBook.  I’ll have to see if they conflict with the various programs that use the webcam.  I’ll likely use the MacBook at the desk as a second monitor to augment the big display although if I choose I can also run it with the lid closed.

I will probably sell the MacBook Pro when the display is here as I will no longer need it.  I have to check with Apple to see how to transfer the remainder of the AppleCare warranty to the new owner when I do sell it.  I am pretty sure it is transferable.

CES planning and errata

The big CES show is always right after the holidays which makes it a mad rush normally and this year it’s an odd schedule on top of it.  The show starts on a Thursday and runs through the weekend which is bizarre to say the least.  I have been told by a couple of company reps that their teams are only attending through Friday and then leaving so the weekend may be a bit strange.  Rumors are flying that this year attendance is going to be lighter than in years past.  This is probably true as the hotels in Vegas, while normally sold out months before the show, still have vacancies and are slashing their rates this close to the show dates.

Kevin and I will both be attending and we’re already seeing our calendar fill up with meetings.  It’s always a very busy show with miles of walking each day and it’s a lot of fun.  Part of the fun of planning for the show is deciding what gear to take with us to cover the show.  Last year Kevin took the EEE PC and it was a little tiger that impressed the heck out of me.  I took the HP 2710p and the HTC Advantage which worked well but I can’t this year.

I sold the 2710p this week and shipped it to the new owner yesterday.  It was hard to do but I couldn’t bear seeing it sitting on the desk neglected.  I feel good about selling it as the buyer is really excited to use the Tablet PC and he’ll love it.

I am leaning toward taking the MacBook and the Advantage again as I feel comfortable having the Mac to do the heavy lifting.  I haven’t decided if I will live-blog the show with the Advantage like I did last year.  That worked well but I like blogging more detail about what we see.  Maybe I’ll come up with a way to mix up the two methods.  I’m open to ideas as to what you’d like to see from us this year.

The MacBook should be a good tool to take as it’s small enough to be highly mobile yet it’s powerful for any audio or video work I may need to do.  Last year we did both audio and video recording at the show and the MacBook can handle either easily.  The second battery I have will let me get 8-10 hours of use each day so I should be good to go.

eBook of the week

This week I found a new series and rather than start with book one I started in the middle of the series.  The book is Atlantis Found by Clive Cussler and the story features Dirk Pitt, a man’s man who works for a government agency that deals with global marine issues.  The story is a little far-fetched as it involves the discovery of the "Fourth Reich" but it’s been a fun read.

See ya

That’s it for another week at Mobile Tech Manor and I enjoyed sharing it.  This time next week I should have the big display and I’ll share how it’s working for me.  See you next week.