Daily Archives: February 19, 2007

The Spike is back

Continuing the analysis of the growth (or not) of traffic to the site. Since Steve highlighted my previous post on the topic in his presentation at Lotusphere, it would be rude not to 🙂

Over the past months things have been fairly poor. For some reason the blog nearly disappeared from the Google index, and as a result I wasn’t getting much traffic from searches. As the chart shows though, I was still averaging around 250 hits per day even without that traffic, which I think is fair – peaking a little over 300 and dipping into the 100s at weekends. Unfortunately it doesn’t bear out my previous statement where I felt that my ~700 hits/day during January represented “sustained growth”, since it settled back to December levels. Clearly there is a way to go in terms of building long-term readership.

Late last week I noticed a small growth in daily hits, and popping some terms into Google it looks like the site is mostly back.

As you can see, on Thursday the site saw its single best day ever, easily doubling the previous record. This was mostly caused by a spike in hits on the infamous tax disc post, so again I theorise that a bunch of people got their renewal notices mid-month (the previous high of 1459 was also on 16th Jan, followed by this one of 3074 on 16th Feb).

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Photoshop Lightroom out today

It’s shipping.

Waiting for the download link to drop into my inbox.

*drums fingers*

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Thoughts on a MacBook Pro – the hardware

A number of decisions were involved in choosing my new laptop. I’d pretty much known I’d go for the Core Duo option (i.e. the Pro). However, it wasn’t until I was in the store and asked Adrian where the white and black ones were that he explained the Pro only comes in brushed metal. No matter.

The first choice was screen size. Pretty straightforward – 13″ too small, 17″ too expensive. 15″ is nice. I spent my test drive in the store using a 17″ model, but that would have been even bigger.

I did struggle to make a choice over the type of screen… glossy or matt. I tried both: played movies, viewed photos. The contrast and saturation on the glossy one was really good. Both are very sharp. There was a bit of reflection on the glossy screen though, and when I got to the point of ordering, the sales assistant asked what I’d be using it for and recommended matt for photo processing. Ironically, I think the Apple website recommends glossy for photo processing, I’ll have to go back and check 😉

I wanted the upper spec in terms of memory and CPU, since I knew I’d be working on photos later.

So that was that. Now that I’ve used it a bit, my impressions of the hardware are (mostly) extremely positive.

The power adapter is a work of art, for starters. Magnetic attachment to the laptop. Clip to keep the wire in order when coiled away.  The plug or cable slides sideways onto a little lug which prevents the cable being kicked out of the power brick – very thoughtful.

The machine itself is weighty, and obviously longer than any Thinkpad I’ve ever handled due to the widescreen, but very very slim.

I do find the catch on the case to be a bit fiddly to press in, since it is very narrow (clearly I have fat fingers), but I like the way the sleep light comes on when the machine is in standby.

Keyboard excellent, although the narrowness of some of the keys bothers me a bit, I’ve missed the enter key a few times and switched caps lock on accidentally. I’ll adapt. I like the way it lights up according to ambient light levels.

I’m still getting used to a single mouse button. I love the Trackpoint on the Thinkpads, and have never used the trackpad even on the ones that have it. In the shop, I kept on tapping the trackpad to click. I know you can turn that on, but having used the MacBook for a bit now, I think I’m adapting to the button. I did actually try the tap-to-click function, but found it easier to use the button in the end.

The MacBook Pro comes equipped with Bluetooth. I checked for nearby devices and it immediately found my old Sony phone, generated a random pairing key, and then offered to sync with the phone book – nice – no need for additional software. 

It took me a week before I picked up the remote. I wasn’t sure what to expect. It looks like the old type of iPod shuffle. Press the menu button, and the MacBook immediately switches to Media Player mode, with a choice of playing a DVD; going through your iTunes library; browsing photos (although I’ve yet to work out how to stop it from playing annoying music when it puts on a slideshow); and looking at movies. The movies option also has a pretty trailers option which connects to the QuickTime trailers on the Apple website – advertising yes, but a handy touch when I didn’t have any actual movies to watch in the iTunes library.

I’ve not plugged it in to an external display yet – a moment of potential joy for the future. I like the range of ports on the machine, and the arrangement along both sides… The only thing I’m not so keen on is the lack of PCMCIA or ExpressCard slot – USB or FireWire peripherals all the way.

The only actual, physical concern I have is that the SuperDrive is unbelievably noisy. Is this normal? It makes a really nasty clicky clunky noise when a disc is inserted. It seems fairly quiet after that, though, and reads discs without any issues.

Currently I’m using an old Thinkpad backpack to carry it – I need to look around for a suitable case or shoulder bag.

We were watching an episode of Sex and the City the other night, and I noted that the Apple logo on the top of the iBook that Carrie was using was the other way up to the one on my MacBook Pro. That one was facing the user when the lid was closed. Mine faces away from me, so that it’s the “right way up” to an observer when the lid is open.

And with that statement… I’m going to be one of those Mac fanboys, aren’t I? You can tell already.

Fare dodging

South West Trains really are keen to stop fare dodgers.

You get on the train. Within minutes, there will be an announcement that says “you must buy a ticket before you get on one of our trains, if you do not show a valid ticket when you are asked, you must pay a penalty fare”. The scrolling announcement in the ceiling is synchronised to say the same thing at the same time.

Then, there will be an announcement that “there is about to be a full ticket check, please have your tickets ready”.

Just to make sure you’re fully indoctrinated, this happens after every stop, and if you are travelling up and down to London on a daily basis, you’ll hear it probably 12 times a day.

… and, ironically, as I type this, the guard just came to check my ticket.

Mac OS X, where’s the lock-in?

I’ve been accused of being a sell-out since I bought a MacBook Pro.

I’m still struggling to see the huge lock-in that people have been telling me I’d find in Mac-land. The only thing I can currently find is that I’m tied to Apple’s hardware. If I have a hardware problem I’d definitely take it back to base. If I had a hardware issue with a PC, I’d probably rip the guts out myself. Saying that, if it was a laptop, I’d think twice about trying to prise the case open.

Funny story: in the store, I was asked if I wanted to take the extended warranty (AppleCare, is it?), for a cost of something like £59. Apparently I could take it out any time in the first year, but if I didn’t take it on the spot, I’d have to pay the full cost of something like £250 later. The numbers are approximate and random, I don’t remember exactly.

Anyway, I hesitated.

The guy looked at me and said, “if you’re just starting university, it will see you right through”.

I looked back at him and said, “University? mate, you’re nearly 15 years out!”

At which point, it transpired that the cheaper price only applied if I was buying the Mac on a student discount, which clearly I was not.

The initial user experience has been pretty positive. After switching on for the first time, I essentially only had to choose the language, create a user, and I was in.

At registration time, I was asked if I wanted a trial .Mac account, but so far I’ve declined. I’ve already got email, already got my own blog, can find nice free tutorials, and use Google Talk / Jabber via iChat (and may move to another IM client which covers more networks). So, no lock-in there, that I can see.

On the software side, I’ve yet to find anything I’ve had to pay for. To be fair, my Lightroom license is already paid for by virtue of my being a Rawshooter Premium user. I’ve installed The Gimp and OpenOffice (although maybe NeoOffice would be better, since it is Mac native… I can’t quite see what benefit that gives me, maybe someone could enlighten me?). Basically I’m using open source or otherwise free software, exchanging files with other operating systems, and networking with both Windows and Linux.

Where is the lock-in?