Apple Macbook 12 Retina 2016 review

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I’m typing on a MacBook 12 Retina 2016 … and I like it. ūüėÄ

With an iPad Mini I wrote about 40,000 words thumb typing on the split keyboard and I was actually ok with that. ¬†But I was always looking for the right physical keyboard to add to the Mini. ¬†I tried two but in the end it was iOS that ended the Mini’s run as a content creation tool.

So I went with a cheap Dell 3531.

I knew what I really wanted though:  an iPad-ish sized machine with a physical keyboard and glorious battery life, but not iOS.  For a long time I had my eye on the Dell XPS 13.

The perfect combination finally appeared in the Macbook 12. ¬†This past Christmas 2016 I put an order in for¬†a refurbished¬†2016 m3/256 in the correct color, space gray. ¬†I ended up with a new one and a free Apple¬†multi-port dongle for the same price, but that’s another story (caused by UPS).

The thing that made the difference here is MacOS (vs iOS).  There were now no limitations due to software.  The limitations due to having only one USB-C port are mitigated with the dongle.

SIZE:
The approximate size of this laptop is slightly smaller than an iPad Pro.  It is thicker but it will still fit in sleeves designed for a regular iPad.  It will stick out since it is about 0.75 inches wider than an iPad is tall.

 

BATTERY LIFE:

Outstanding.

I have gotten, no kidding, more than 12 hours of casual use, such as typing on this blog.  That was 1/3 brightness.  50% brightness brings it into the the realm of 9-10 hours.  Certainly still fantastic.  Running out of power is not a worry of any sort.  With my Dell 3531 I was always distractingly conscious of the battery life lol.

ERGONOMICS:
When closed it feels awesome, like holding a favorite paper notebook.  Opening the lid can be done one-thumbed, barely raising the base of the laptop, yet keeping whatever angle you set the lid.

And now the keyboard. ¬†Yes, this keyboard. ¬†I like it. ¬†I’ve seen youtube videos and articles online talking about the keyboard. ¬†But for me it’s fine. ¬†Keys are spaced out quite nicely, easy to type on and the feel, or travel, of the keys is again, just fine.

And, they’re backlit. ¬†That may seem ho-hum to you but my Dell was not backlit lol. ¬†I t was something I always wished I had. ¬†I knew what I was buying when it came to the Dell so that’s ok.

TRACKPAD:
Yep, I love the trackpad. ¬†The Windows/Dell combo tried to mimic many of the gestures in it’s own trackpad but smoothness, the robustness of the software, yes, software, simply was not there. ¬†It would take several swipes for the trackpad to recognize what you were trying to do.

With the MacBook trackpad it almost seems to read your mind.  It is awesome.

CONCLUSION:
All told I am very pleased with my MacBook 12 m3/256gb space gray. ¬†It’s a keeper ūüėÄ

Bose CineMate 15 review

The Bose improves with a lower price …

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Summary …. by price:

$599 (full retail): 5/10

$299 (factory refurb): 8/10

Yes, you read that correctly. The product improved with a lower price. ūüėÄ

 

Details:

The refurb was purchased at the Bose store during Black Friday 2015.  At $599 you keep walking.  But at $299 it was worth taking an auditory sample.

The sound is great.¬† It’s not surround sound, nor are there connections to add surround speakers, but the center speaker does impressive work with voice, soundtrack and music in the typical living room.

The highs are crisp and the mids are clean with good separation between the two.¬† Another soundbar/subwoofer combo I had was muddled.¬† It was also only $99 on Black Friday ($149 retail).¬† A soundbar/subwoofer combo worth spending any money will be, in my estimation, $250+.¬† Otherwise just save your $250 and use the TV speakers.¬† I’m serious.

The subwoofer pounds nicely and the system has an abundance of useful power, ie: no distortion in scenes such as the ones in Edge of Tomorrow.  A rotary dial on the back of the subwoofer for adjusting bass level is the ONLY adjustment available in the system.

Who is this package for?  The person looking for a clean, compact design for a small space.

The unit comes with four rubber feet with adhesive that you press on to the four legs.¬† These rubber feet isolate the sub from the floor.¬† They also prevent the sub from sliding … and they work extremely well!.
The ‘strap’ on top is Gorilla duct tape that I added.¬† It’s the easiest way to pick the thing up!

The system has three controls:
Power
Volume
Bass setting

That’s it. No Bluetooth, no different equalization options and the subwoofer is wired.

The package does come with an optical cable and multi-function Bose remote.¬† I don’t know how well that works as I use a Harmony One remote¬†I purchased several years ago.¬† The One does operate the Bose just fine.¬† After all, it’s just a volume control lol.

It’s an easy hookup. You have three inputs¬†on the back of the small center speaker: RCA, digital coax and optical.
You can use the coax OR the digital, i.e. not both, with the RCA (say, for a CD player).

I run the optical only.

The system is intended for home theater use (vs use as a pure stereo system).

The most streamlined connection would be for all your inputs; set-top box, media box (like Apple TV), Blu-ray player, etc to connect to your TV.

Then run the optical audio output from the TV to the CineMate 15.

As you can imagine the Bose CineMate 15 is intended for use with later model gear.   Most everything five years old or newer, that connects with HDMI, should be fine.

The connection process is: TV cable to center speaker, then the permanently attached, thick double cable from the center speaker down to where it separates into two connections that plug into the subwoofer.  The subwoofer plugs into wall power.

BoseCineMate15-9276 BoseCineMate15-9277

BoseCineMate15-9281 BoseCineMate15-9282

 

Here it as part of a 46″ flatscreen setup:

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We went into orbit!

Our AMSAT Fox-1A satellite on board NROL55
Our AMSAT Fox-1A satellite on board NROL55

That’s right sports fans.¬† We went into orbit.

Yep¬†… Low Earth Orbit (LEO)

Our Amateur Radio satellite, Fox-1A (now officially AO-85), hitched a ride on #NROL55 this morning out of Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Anyone with a ham radio license can utilize the transceiver on board the satellite, at least once we complete testing and confirm full functionality.  The satellite is currently transmitting telemetry.

  • FM mode
  • UHF uplink: 435.180 MHz, PL tone 67 Hz
  • VHF downlink: 145.980 MHz.¬† This is the frequency on which you listen.

Lotsa moar details (PDF): Fox-1A Operating Guide

AMSAT blog posting: Announcement

ūüėÄ

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Update Dell 3531 Inspiron 15 Laptop

EVO850 250gb SSD for Dell Inspiron 15
EVO850 250gb SSD for Dell Inspiron 15

I couldn’t resist.¬† I went ahead and swapped the spinner for a solid state hard drive.

(HERE is the original review)

Big, BIG, improvement in speed.  I could finally use my laptop the way I use the desktop.

It was ok for a few hours.  Then I ran into the RAM memory limit, with the operating system (Win 8.1) closing down windows every now and then, typically webpage tab(s), again owing to the way I use a computer.

Some might say that I could simply increase the size of the page swap file.¬† Yes, and I did do it and yes it does ‘solve’ the memory issue.¬† For those unfamiliar, the page swap file is what the operating system uses as ‘hard drive RAM’.¬† This activity results in a lot of read/write cycles on the hard drive.¬† Not much of an issue with spinner drives but it can be a problem for solid state drives.¬† Solid State Drives have a finite limit of read/write cycles.¬† It’s way up there in number but still, there’s a limit.¬† One interesting way to differentiate cycles between SSD models is actually to look at the warranty, some are five years, others are two years and the really expensive ones are 10 years.¬† The cycles directly correspond to the warranty time.

So I finally got the 8gb RAM stick (THIS) and swapped out the 4gb RAM stick.  The 3531 uses one stick.  Fortunately the 8gb stick is only $60 bucks or so.  I often maxed out the 4gb.  My usage pattern seems to touch on 6.5GB according to the Task Manager.

Another speed ‘improvement’ of sorts, specifically when web surfing, is to activate the ActiveX Filtering.¬† In IE tap on the Gear graphic, mouse down to Safety,¬† and tap on ActiveX Filtering.¬† What this mostly does is¬†stop the webpage from taking over your computer in order to load those infuriating sidebar videos lol.

This Celeron processor model, with an SSD and 8gb, has the speed feel of an i3 chip model.  All told, given the original price, this is now an $410 laptop.  The SSD was $110 and the RAM, $60.

It appears that the 3551 is the new version of this laptop, as of 7-9-15.¬† Of course the EVO850 250gb is now $97 and the 500gb is $162.¬† But that’s going to always happen and there will always be something better/faster/cheaper.¬† I knew that when I bought the parts.¬† If I didn’t I would continually be waiting and¬†never actually have the components that would be useful.

Yeah, just do it ūüėÄ

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