Daily Archives: Thursday, 20th Dec 2007

Apple Keyboard

OK, as USB keyboards go, this is relatively expensive. I paid £29.99 in my local branch of John Lewis, and I haven’t seen it for much less elsewhere. However, it’s a seriously nice piece of equipment. While previous Apple keyboards have tended to be slightly naff plastic thingies, this one is something else altogether. What we have here is a thin piece of aluminium with full-sized keys embedded in it. The keys have enough travel and positive feel for you to know you’ve pressed them, and with this being a dedicated Mac keyboard, there are some nice functions built in. Some of the function keys are set to do such useful things as control the volume and playback in media applications such as iTunes and QuickTime, though this can be turned off so they act as normal F keys if you use applications that make use of them. Whichever option you choose, you can get the “other” function of the F key in question by holding down the Fn key. I had a Microsoft wireless keyboard that reprogrammed the function keys, but making that behave normally required a press of a lock key, which caused me some occasional confusion. The way Apple have done it seems more sensible to me…

If you’re a “switcher”, you’ll get this kind of keyboard if you buy a new iMac or Mac Pro. The layout is similar on Mac laptops. If you follow my example and get a Mac Mini, you can of course use any USB keyboard, but if you want to learn the Mac way of doing things, getting a keyboard with the right labels on the keys seems like a good move to me. There is also a wireless version which lacks the numeric keypad on the right, so it’s more like a laptop keyboard. Interestingly, the wireless is of the Bluetooth variety – all the desktop Macs come with Bluetooth on board – rather than the wireless dongles used by most wireless Windows keyboards. I’ve seen one of those, and apart from lacking some keys and a wire, it’s much the same as this one.

This keyboard also has a couple of USB ports for mice or other peripherals, which is handy. It’s a nice bit of kit, and given the good “feel” and metal construction, not too outrageously priced.

Logitech LX7 Wireless Optical Mouse

One of the problems with having two computers on my desk is the tangle of cables involved. While I’ve managed to get the keyboards sorted out with a minimum of tangling, the meeces were a different matter altogether. I recently bought a basic but quite nice Microsoft mouse for the Windows box, but the addition of the Mac Mini meant that I had to bring my basic and not very nice Dell mouse out of retirement. I did consider buying an actual Apple mouse, which would have gone with the keyboard, but after reading a few reviews, I decided that the “Mighty Mouse”, especially the wireless version was a bit too expensive and a bit too naff[1] for me. A bit of reading in forums led me to this particular mouse as an alternative. It’s compatible with both Windows and Mac, runs off two AA batteries (allegedly for six months or so) and fits my quite large hand nicely. It moves smoothly over my mouse mat, and the buttons and scroll wheel all behave as expected. If you want to tweak its behaviour, you have to download the software from Logitech, as they don’t bother putting a CD in the box. But if you’re happy with the default behaviour, just plug in the USB dongle and you’ll be fine. Nice kit – for reasons that are not at all clear, Amazon have it in blue for a quite reasonable £19.98, or in grey for a quite expensive £34.94. I have the blue one, in case you were wondering. It’s a nice mouse for under £20. It’s a very nice cordless mouse for that price.

Update: I really like this mouse. It feels a lot more pleasant to use than just about any I’ve ever had. Well worth £20, if not more.

[1] It’s not one of their finer designs…

Mac OS X Leopard Edition – The Missing Manual

The fun bit of getting to grips with a new computer is working out where features live, how you do those routine tasks that have become pretty much automatic with your old system, and generally “getting it”. I’d done a fair bit of reading of magazines and websites before I got the Mac Mini, but I was definitely lacking some basics. I got a couple of books, one specifically about using Unix on the Mac[1], and the other a “Visual Quick Start Guide”, which contains a lot of useful information, but not quite as much as I need. The only reason I got that one really was that this one wasn’t in stock at the time. But I happened to be in Waterstone’s yesterday, and there it was on the shelf, all nearly 900 pages of it. Like any other member of the “Missing Manual” series, it aims to take the place of the printed documentation that software companies don’t think we need any more. I’ve only just started using it, but so far I’m suitably impressed. Lots of detail, lots of screenshots, and all written with a light, easy going style. The book is sufficiently up to date that it mentions the 10.5.1 Mac OS update, which is quite remarkable, really. It’s more usual practice for books to be based on pre-release code and rush released complete with references to features that are either absent or subtly (or not so subtly) different from reality. Being from those nice O’Reilly people, the UK price isn’t hideously inflated above the US one – I was pleasantly surprised to find it was £21.99, rather than the £25 or so I was expecting. It’ll be cheaper from online suppliers, but at the time of writing, Amazon don’t have it in stock, so if you wnat it, visit your local bookshop.

There’s a lot of helpful sections, including a nifty “Windows to Mac” glossary, listing the equivalents of Windows functions on the Mac, which is great. And rather than increase the price of the book by adding a CD full of stuff that would be out of date as soon as it was pressed, the publisher provides a website with links to all the (mostly free) applications mentioned in the book.

If, like me, you’re considering moving to Mac, or are definitely moving to Mac, this book would be a good investment, time saver, and quite possibly sanity saver. Good stuff.

Having said that, the online help in Mac OS X is pretty damn good. I needed to copy some files from my PC to the Mac, and my *mumble* years of Microsoft networking experience were of no help at all. Fortunately, the help told me what I needed to know (smb:// was the key, if you want to know that sort of thing), and it worked immediately, with no fuss at all. Which is interesting, as I’ve known people have trouble getting two Windows PCs in the same room do that without arguing about it. Not that I’ve ever had a problem, but it’s not always obvious…

[1] Hey, I’m a geek, what did you expect?

Taxman?

Just to terrify any American readers, this is a prominent sign at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. Could it possibly be the secret headquarters of the Infernal Revenue Service?? Have they spread even to Scotland just to keep an eye on all those American tourists? Are they using Scotland as an offshore tax haven? :lol:

Taxman?

Taxman?

Mysterious Scottish location of the American tax authorities?

Or is there another explanation? Take a closer look…

The explanation

The explanation

Mysterious Scottish location of the American tax authorities?

This bit of Lightroom work was done on the Mac – the first I’ve done!

Weight Report – 20 December 2007

Ooooh! More progress! Today’s weight is lower than yesterday’s and is the lowest it’s been since April. For anyone who really likes detailed numbers, as of today I’m 3.8 pounds (1.7kg) lighter than at the beginning of the year, 11 pounds (5kg) lighter than at the beginning of October, and just 2.2 pounds (1kg) above the lowest weight of the year which was recorded on 30 January.