This week at Mobile Tech Manor #22- holiday edition

mobile-tech-manor-large-23This week has been atypical as can be at Mobile Tech Manor (MTM) due to the holidays so this column will be shorter than usual.  The week saw a lot of fun stuff going on that I’ll share with you along with some mysterious computer ailments that still plague me.  Come on in and we’ll chat for a while.

It was a short week with the holidays here in the US but that just means a lot gets crammed into a shorter period of time.  I was able to try out something that I’ve been wanting to try that turned into a lot of fun so let’s start with the fun stuff for the week.

Fun stuff

I have been sharing about my switch from the 17-inch MacBook Pro to the aluminum MacBook for my main desktop system.  That switch was completed this week as the Pro was shipped out to the new owner who is no doubt having a lot of fun today as a result.

The MacBook is working well in its new role as primary computer something that will no doubt get even better when I pick up an external monitor to extend screen real estate.  I plan to do that first of the year after all the upcoming traveling is done.

The most fun I had this past week was playing a game on the MacBook.  I have long played Call of Duty 4 (COD4) on the Pro with its dedicated graphics system (ATI) and I wanted to try playing it on the MacBook since it only has integrated graphics.  The new MacBooks use NVidia integrated graphics which both Apple and NVidia claim are much better than the standard Intel integrated graphics commonly used in laptops and while my impression of the new graphics have been good in daily use nothing tests that like game graphics.

COD4 has very sophisticated game graphics and I didn’t expect it to run well on the MacBook.  I have yet to see any system with integrated graphics that will run games like COD4 well and I didn’t expect much from this test.

Boy was I surprised!  COD4 runs extremely well using the new NVidia integrated graphics which shares system memory but that didn’t slow this down at all.  The graphics play well at high levels of detail and there is no choppiness or other issues at all.  I ended up spending far too much time playing COD4 as a result but it was all in the name of research.  Sure it was.

While I wasn’t playing games I was able to come up with a solution to a problem that has vexed me for a while.  I use Google Calendar to keep up with my schedule and I have configured iCal to integrate with it.  This has worked well but I have run into some issues the more sophisticated my usage has become.

One of the problems with this method is the fact that iCal makes the online Google Calendar into a non-standard calendar within iCal.  It shows up as a “Google Calendar” and while that is OK it prevents me from syncing iCal directly with MobileMe and the iPhone.

MobileMe only syncs iCal local calendars so that doesn’t work with Google calendars the same as with local calendars.  This had started to give me problems as I did more sophisticated things like displaying the public calendars of others in iCal.  I couldn’t display them on the iPhone nor in MobileMe and that meant I couldn’t sync them either.

My research pointed me to a utility called BusySync which is designed to run on the Mac and allow easy sharing of calendars with others on your local network.  One of the features of BusySync allows you to configure it to keep iCal and Google Calendars synced up too.

What is significant about how it does this is that Google Calendars appear in iCal as local calendars.  This makes a big difference because once BusySync is configured and running all Google Calendars can now be synced by MobileMe and thus work everywhere like they do within Google Calendar online.  This is a huge benefit for the way I work currently and it’s worked flawlessly.

It worked so well out of the box that even though it has a 30-day free trial I paid the $25 for a BusySync license immediately.  It’s that good.  Now I have my Google Calendar displaying everywhere alongside the GigaOM company calendar and Kevin’s Google Calendar.  They work just like my own calendar so I can have Kevin and my schedules displaying side-by-side in iCal, in the MobileMe Calendar app and also on the iPhone.  The other calendars can be toggled off and on at will and it’s a great boon to my work.  Most importantly it’s auto-synced among the MacBook, MobileMe and the iPhone.  It just works.

Not so fun stuff

I recently reported on a strange problem that was caused by the most recent update to OS X and this week the problem surfaced again for me.  That’s the one where Bluetooth suddenly disappears and the only way to get the new MacBook to see the Bluetooth hardware again is to reset the NVRAM.

Gladly this reset solution works every time but I sure hope Apple will get a fix for this soon.  The problem definitely set in when OS X was updated to 10.5.6 and they need to fix it.  It’s more a bother than anything else since there is a workaround but let’s get it fixed properly.  It’s only happened twice but it’s a show-stopper when it occurs.

The other happening that was not so fun is disgusting.  This week saw the finish of our HP Magic Giveaway contest and we announced the winner who is getting a huge prize bundle.  This winner is showing the spirit of the season and is actually giving the bulk of the prize package to a deserving family.

That’s why we got so upset when we had not one but two imposters try to claim the prize winnings!  The first imposter tried to pass himself off as the real winner and without going into detail let’s just say that Kevin and I were immediately suspicious that this was not the real winner.

We were in the middle of dealing with this imposter when a second crook contacted us to claim the winnings by claiming to be the real winner.  I demanded a phone number to call this second person and the second imposter immediately confessed to be a “bad, bad person” trying to get what he wasn’t entitled to.  Talk about putting a damper on what should have been a great “feel-good” moment.  Thankfully the real winner turned up shortly and the prize package will be on the way very soon.  It puts a damper on the giving season when crooks like this appear.

eBook of the week

This week I continued reading about the adventures of Dirk Pitt in Trojan Odyssey by Clive Cussler.  I love the way that Cussler bases these novels on historical events and facts and then uses his great talent to shake up our understanding of these events.  It’s a great read and another good book inthe series.

Wrap up and travel season beginning

That’s it for this holiday week.  A lot of time has been spent preparing for the trip to the Consumer Electronics Show in just over a week.  Kevin and I will both be attending and our schedules are already chock-full of events to cover for you.  That’s why it was important to get the Google Calendar issue fixed.  We’ll be heading to San Francisco right after the CES so it’s a busy travel time coming up.  Hope your holidays were great and see you next week.