Jul 18

2012 MacBook Air

When the MacBook Air debuted in 2008, I wanted one in the worst way. I had been considering moving from a Windows laptop to a MacBook for some time, and the commercial showing the ultra-thin Air being pulled out of a manila envelope had me at “hello.”

Using one, though, shattered any hopes I had of actually owning one.

The first generation MacBook Air and the two revisions that followed were, for my purposes, virtually unusable. Slow and sputtering, they offered sexy sleek, a high price tag, and little else. So I passed in 2008 and went with a unibody MacBook instead. 

But time passed and hardware improved. Last year when the Air moved from the Core 2 Duo to the Intel Core i5, I tried one again, and was blown away with the improvements in performance.

The 2011 MacBook Air was the best laptop I’ve ever owned. It was blazingly fast, had great battery life (at least for me) was thin and light, and did everything I needed a laptop to do as well as I could imagine it being done.

But time passed and hardware improved. I’ve just upgraded to the new 2012 Ivy Bridge MacBook Air and it’s even better than last year’s model, and with a lower price.

Here’s a brief rundown of the improvements:

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Jul 18

Java DangerViruses were a major concern for PC users in the first decade of the 21st Century.  Antivirus and anti-malware utilities were mostly subscription solutions, and many users would either forget to renew each year or opt to spend the cash elsewhere.  And most email was client-based, meaning malicious code piggybacking a message arrived unfiltered through Outlook or Eudora, leaving the user to deal with the threat him or herself. 

But as time passed, free security software became more commonplace.  Email moved from the client to the Cloud with services like GMail and Yahoo! removing threats before they ever got to your PC. These shifts, along with improved OS-level security, made it more difficult than ever for bad actors to get dangerous code onto your machine.

Today, with these vulnerabilities largely closed, the scumbags behind malware have moved on to other methods of getting their crap onto users’ PCs.  Not content to concede defeat – or give up the money to be made from your personal information or your fear – they’ve shifted focus to widely used third-party applications as points-of-entry.  And among these applications, Java has become a gateway of choice.

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Jul 13

Join MP3s Together to Create One Single File

Several years ago, I ripped a short story from an audiobook CD (Stephen King’s Everything’s Eventual) and stored it on my Mac.  I came across the book last week at the local library, and decided to listen to the tale again.

But when I found the folder that contained the audio, I discovered that I hadn’t used iTunes’ built-in joining feature at the time I ripped the CD; there were several .MP3 audio files, one for each track of the disc.  This is not the ideal way to listen to an audiobook on an iPhone or any other device.

So, I decided to re-rip the original disc, but it was missing from the case.  Typical.  I was stuck with those 25 or so files, but still wanted a single Audiobook file for the story.  So the search began.

Turns out there are several tools for joining MP3 files on a Mac, but most are paid applications and I didn’t want to shell out $20 just to join a few tracks.  But I found a free solution that worked quite well, and offered a lot of other useful features as well.

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Jul 11

SugarSync & DropboxI’m on constant lookout for better ways to keep all of my data painlessly in sync, both between devices and between my devices and the Cloud.  Dropbox has been my drop-it-and-forget-it syncing service of choice for much of the last three years, and it’s unquestionably a great option for many users and uses.

But earlier this year I went in search of… not a replacement to Dropbox, but a service that would add to and complement what Dropbox already did for me.  My search led me to a lot of syncing services, but in the end there was only one that did everything I wanted: SugarSync.  As I wrote in April, SugarSync was the best method for keeping certain work files synced between my office Windows desktop and Mac laptop, and it it performed spectacularly for this purpose.  Still does.  But over the last three months, I’ve found that it’s also a worthy Dropbox replacement, particularly if A) you have limited free space on Dropbox, and/or B) you are willing to pay for a syncing service but find Dropbox’s $120, $240 or $600 yearly costs too high.

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