Kensington Orbit Optical Trackball

Posted by Mark

Kensington Trackball

Over a year ago I purchased a trackball mouse to use at home. Because my desk at home was small, whenever I was using the computer my wrist would start to really hurt because my hand was always half dangling off the desk and I was always positioned in a very anti-ergonomic position.

I did some research and in the end I decided to go with the Kensington Orbit Optical. The reason I went with Kensington was because of the way the trackball is shaped and because it uses optics. The shape of the trackball allows me to rest my wrist onto it and allows me to control the ball with my fingers. The use of optics allows the trackball to be extremely accurate and very easy to roll. The Kensington trackball also came with PC and Mac drivers.

The first question people ask is, so is it really better then a regular mouse? The simple answer is no. The trackball works differently from a regular mouse. When you spend years working with a mouse and then move to a trackball, the change takes getting used to. I use the trackball at home but not at work. The reason is I can control the mouse better then the trackball, and this is after using the trackball nightly for over a year. The mouse is just more natural to me and the speed and accuracy I work with the mouse I can not get with the trackball. But, I didn’t get the trackball because its a better tool then the mouse. I got the trackball because my wrists were hurting me, and because of the trackball I don’t have that problem anymore.

The trackball is very comfortable to use. Very comfortable. You don’t have to move your hand or wrist when using it, just your fingers. I work on the computer all day at work and by the time I get home my wrists are hurting. Using the trackball at home allows me to recover while still using the computer. It really makes a big difference, since I have gotten the trackball at home I have never had any wrist issues.

How is the actual Kensington trackball? Its great, if you want a trackball this is the one to get. Amazon have it for only $25. Thats really cheap. Unlike normal trackballs this has an optical sensor which means its ultra accurate and is dust and dirt proof. The trackball is very smooth, the form is ultra comfortable. The size is nearly twice the size of a normal mouse. The dark grey area you see in the pictures is actually a rubbery material. The trackball comes with a USB to PS2 adapter for those of you who dont have a free USB port.

I just ordered and received my second Orbit trackball a few days ago. The reason is my first one got worn out. The rubber feet under the trackball got unstuck, the rubber wrist rest started peeling, and the whole thing started looking.. aged. So I went and ordered another one and it feels really good.

I will give this trackball a 4 out of 5. When comparing the trackball to a mouse if just comes down to how comfortable the person is with each. This review is of the Kensington Orbit Trackball, and as a trackball this is just really hard to beat. I have used the Logitech optical marble mouse but the shape and feel of it is just terrible compared to this. And for only $25 is really a steal.

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How to Install Tiger without a DVD Reader

Posted by Mark

Yesterday I installed Tiger on my PowerMac G4. It wasn’t very easy. The problem I have is that my PowerMac can’t read DVD’s and Tiger came on a DVD. To solve the problem I figure I could put the DVD in Nat’s PowerBook, then connect her mac to mine by booting hers up in target disk mode. When I did that though I only was able to see her hard drive and not her DVD drive. Then I decided to try something else. I opened up Disk Utility on Nats PowerBook and in the options chose to create an image of the DVD and saved it on her Hard Drive. A few minutes later I had a 2.3GB image file of the DVD. I then connected a mini ipod to the powerbook, and in disk utilities chose to format the ipod. I then told it to restore an image onto the ipod and chose the Tiger image which I had just made a few minutes earlier. This move basically turned the ipod into a Tiger boot disk. I then plugged the ipod into my Powermac and a finder window opened with the Tiger setup file. I double clicked on it and it told me I needed to reboot my mac. Once it restarted it loaded up the Tiger installation and i proceeded to install tiger on my mac.

The Problem
After finishing installing Tiger I booted up and everything was working fine. When I tried to connect to the internet though it gave me a modem error, something about it not being turned on. I look at the modem and it was blinking red instead of the usual green. Turns out the DSL modem drivers are not compatible with Tiger. To solve this issue I went to Hawalli and purchased a DSL Modem with a built in wireless router for KD30. I then came home and set it up to connect to the internet and share it across the network. It worked. Now since the new DSL modem does not require a computer to be connected to the internet, I can now reboot my mac and shut it down whenever I want without it effecting anyone on my network. Previously I had my powermac connect to the internet and share the connection over the network. That wasn’t practical because if I rebooted or shutdown my mac for some reason, the internet would disconnect.

dashboard widget

Tiger Experience
I have been using it for a short while now and things seem a tiny bit faster. When I first booted up Tiger it was a bit slow doing stuff because Spotlight was trying to index my whole drive. Once it was done indexing things came back to normal. The new mail program looks a lot more cleaner and cooler. Dashboard is interesting, my favorite widget is the flight tracker. It actually shows me the departure and arrival time of any flight plus where the plane currently is on the map. I might post a more fuller review later on but so far I like Tiger.

My Mac Specs
Graphite PowerMac G4 733MHz
1MB L3 Cache

Update: someone made it aware to me that I could have booted the powerbook using the Tiger CD and put my powermac in Target Disk mode. Then on the powerbook when it asked me where I wanted to install it I could have chosen the drive from my mac. Might have worked and been quicker.

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A9 Search

Posted by Mark

I tried using A9 ages ago but I never got into it. Today Tivo Guy tells me that if you are an A9 regular user you can get a π/2 (thats pi over 2) amount of discount on Amazon. Thats around 1 point something percent off by just using A9. Not a bad idea, so I decided to check out A9 and I was incredibly surprised at how much it has improved since the last time I used it. Its fast, very customizable, it remembers your previous searches and my favorite part.. you can search for websites AND images AND wiki all at the same time! Really cool check it out

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50 Random Observations on “Tiger”

Posted by Mark

Warning: For mac geeks only. A guy who got Tiger has posted 50 observations about whats new. Tivo-Guy got and installed Tiger yesterday and hopefully I will get it off him today. Can’t wait. [Link]

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Upgrade Your Aging Mac

Posted by Mark

I have a G4 733mhz PowerMac at home and its really starting to show its age. I have been wanting to get a G4 1.4GHz upgrade chip for a while now so today I was checking amazon and to my surprise they now have a 1.7Ghz upgrade chip! But the problem is I don’t know if I should pay $500 and upgrade my mac or pay more and just get a new one.

I don’t like the current PowerMac G5’s. I have a Dual 2GHz G5 here at work and I just think it lacks personality. Nat and my Brother both have 12inch PowerBooks and I don’t like those also. They seem very fragile and look very normal. My favorite Macs at the moment are the iMacs and the iBooks. I used to have an iBook before but it died. I think they are a really good steal. For $999 you get a gorgeous 12inch iBook with a CD-Writer, Wifi, Bluetooth, and a 1.2Ghz chip. I also like the 20inch iMac’s because they are so fucking huge yet so small at the same time.

So I guess if I had a lot of money I would turn my current mac into a server and I would get a 20inch iMac and a 12inch iBook.

If anyone is interested in checking out the 1.7Ghz upgrade for the mac here is the amazon link.

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What do you carry with you?

Posted by Mark

I was having a discusion with K about the stuff we carry around with us all the time. He was telling me how if the PSP came with a 60GB drive we could drop the iPod. I went ahead and mentioned if the PSP also had PDA abilities I could drop my PDA. Basically it turns out we both carry a lot of gadgets with us. He carries the following with him: laptop / pda / phone / psp / ipod.

I carry the following with me always: camera / phone / psp / ipod / moleskine / 3 types of pens / swissarmy knife / keys / wallet / hand sanitizer / fresh mouth spray

What do you carry with you?

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Adobe, Freehand and Previous Acquisitions

Posted by Mark

Yesterday Adobe announced a merger with Macromedia. The largest issue I saw with the merger was that Freehand would be killed off. That didn’t matter to me since I prefer Adobe Illustrator but I know there are many designers who prefer Freehand. So I decided to do some research and this is what I found out.

It turns out that this is not the first time Adobe buys a company that owns competing products. Back in 1994, Adobe purchased the company Aldus which back then was releasing Freehand which it marketed under license from Altsys Corporation. Adobe also picked up Aldus’s PhotoStyler which was a competing product for Photoshop and Hitchcock which competed against Adobe Premier.

After the merger, Adobe killed both PhotoStyler and Hitchcock in-favor of its own stronger products Photoshop and Premier. Freehand was the biggest issue back then though. The merger between Aldus and Adobe came close to collapsing many times because Altsys Corporation who had licensed out FreeHand to Aldus claimed that it would be unfairly hampered by Adobe’s competing product Illustrator. To resolve this issue once the merger took place FreeHand was sold off to Macromedia. Now after yesterdays Adobe and Macromedia merger, Freehand is back with Adobe.

The biggest gain of the Adobe and Aldus merger was the software Pagemaker. Pagemaker was released in 1985 and is generally credited with creating the desktop publishing field.

The issue with Adobe’s GoLive webdesign software conflicting with the newly acquired Macromedia Dreamweaver software was also dealt with before. In 1999, Adobe acquired GoLives CyberStudio software and renamed it to Adobe GoLive. With that acquisition, Adobe killed its own webdesign software PageMill due to the superiority GoLive had.

In conclusion, although the merger between Adobe and Macromedia is a big thing, its also not the first time something like this has happened. Out of the previous mergers Adobe was able to improve its suite and benefit us all. But, monopolies never are a good thing either and if Adobe decides to slack off then we will all be in trouble. Many people are now expecting Adobe to purchase its major desktop publishing competitor Quark. But I believe that might not happen since all Adobe would gain is to kill off a competitor its already slowly but surely beating. So we will now have to wait and see what Adobe will do next.

Aldus and Altys settle dispute over FreeHand
The Aldus Adobe Merger
Adobe kills Aldus PhotoStyler, Hitchcock
Aldus on Wiki
Adobe acquires Aldus
About Adobe, Premiere, and All That

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Control your home with a PSP

Posted by Mark


Someone managed to create software for the PSP that allows him to have full control (Play, Stop, Pause, Menu) of his DVD player, TIVO, and High Def TV, all wirelessly from his PSP. [Link]

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Adobe & Macromedia

Posted by Mark

Like Nibaq just posted, Adobe just acquired Macromedia. What does this mean to us? Well first lets see what major software both companies have.

Acrobat, Photoshop, Elements, Illustrator, InDesign, GoLive, Premier, After Effects

Flash, Dreamweaver, FreeHand, Director, Fireworks

The biggest and most controversial problem is Illustrator and Freehand. Both softwares are currently being used although in the past few years FreeHand has lost a considerable share of the market, they still have a cult following. But, between Illustrator and Freehand, there is no question, Freehand will die. Its been dying slowly anyway but I am sure the fans will cry murder. Fireworks which conflicts with Photoshop and Elements will also die out, Photoshop has a much larger market share and a much stronger brand. GoLive and Dreamweaver, GoLive is out for sure. Adobe has been trying to play catchup with Dreamweaver for a very long time and this way they can just trash GoLive and pickup the much more popular Dreamweaver. Director will be a very nice addition to the Adobe Suite and I hope they manage to integrate it nicely with the other Adobe software, which I am sure they will. Finally owning both Flash and Acrobat I think is a very strong package, PDF is used a lot in the print world while Flash is used alot in the digital one. Owning both means that they will have a very strong position in both medias. All they need now is to buyout Quark and we will have another Microsoft-like company to deal with.

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The PSP Review

Posted by Mark

Its been a week now since I got my Sony PSP so, here is a review of my impressions.

The Screen
When we first got the PSP, both me and nat were completely surprised at how cool the screen was. It was stunning, nothing like anything we had seen before. Now, a week later, the screen still does look as good but of-course the shock and awe period is over. The colors and the contrast are really perfect. When one of us is playing the other one can still see the screen. The viewing angle didn’t seem to matter much, wherever the other person sits next to you, they will be able to see the screen. The 2 dead pixels are totally invisible. They are still there but they are so small you can’t see them, only when the screen is completely black you might be able to spot them, depending on how good your eyesight is. The screen is huge, and I am sure some people will manage to break it, and that makes me wonder, how much will a replacement screen cost and can it be replaced?

The Controls
The buttons are all laid out like the PS2 controller. The analog controller isn’t what I thought it would be. I was expecting it to be larger and more like the analog controllers on the ps2 and xbox joy-pads, but the one on the psp is smaller and slides in different directions and doesn’t tilt. Its awkward to use but maybe I could get used to it. Until I do though I am have been using the regular directional pad for 95% of the time. One major problem I have is the Power/Sleep button. Its located to the right of the device and sometimes when I get excited and press the R button on top hard, the whole device moves in my hand and that results in me accidently activating the power switch and putting my PSP to sleep. It hasn’t happened a lot but enough for me to mention it as a problem. Luckily they must have thought about this and there is a HOLD button which stops the PSP from accidently getting turned on or off. The start and select buttons are located under the screen next to the mute and brightness buttons. When the room is dark its hard to find the start button and you cant really feel your way to it since it isn’t extruding from the PSP that much. It would have been a lot cooler if the buttons under the screen had backlighting but then I guess it would be annoying when playing games.

The Handling
How does it feel holding the PSP? It’s not perfect but definitely feels better then holding the GameBoy SP. The gameboy SP was squarish and tiny, it never felt comfortable in my hands. The PSP on the other hand is much wider and so allows me to stretch my fingers completely underneath it. I would have preferred it if the PSP had more rounded edges but I am sure it would have made it look a lot uglier.

The Battery Life
When I first got the PSP I was expecting that I would face battery problems but I haven’t yet. The PSP is like a PDA or a phone, you use it through out the day at different intervals, then at night before you sleep you put it on charge. You can save battery life by dimming the screen a bit, it has 3 brightness settings, low, med and high. When the room is dark I have it on low since the high brightness is blinding, this also helps extend the battery life. You can actually keep it on the low setting all the time since really its not low at all and is very usable. Anyway basically I did not have any battery problems. Incase you will be traveling on a long flight, my advice is get an extra battery for $40. Its as easy as replacing the battery on your walkman.

Load Times
I was concerned with load time. I thought the load times would be a real pain. Well they are not. Since most of us own PS2s or Xbox’s then we are used to load times. But the PSP has one advantage over the PS2 and Xbox, sleep mode. With sleep mode you never have to load a game from start which is when most of the loading time goes. Instead, when you want to stop playing, you just hit the power switch and it puts the PSP to sleep. When you want to play again you hit the power switch again and it instantly comes on and you are back to where you left off. You can go to sleep at any point in the game, even in a middle of a race if you want. Its very practical. Load times from menu to game takes around 10 seconds, depending on the game but you don’t really notice it since we are already used to it from our xboxs and ps2s.

You can mount the PSP as an external hard-drive on your PSP by connecting it via USB. Thats if you have a memory-stick installed. Once you connect the PSP to your computer you can do many things. Mainly though you can copy movies, pictures and music onto the PSP. I got a software for my mac called iPSP, this software allows me to sync my PSP with iPhoto, iTunes and even converts any movie I have on my Mac so that it becomes viewable on the PSP. The biggest advantage of this USB connectivity is that you are now able to backup your game-saves AND most importantly, download other peoples saves from the web onto your PSP. Say for example you don’t have the time, skill or patience to open up all the cars in Need For Speed (cough cough like me cough cough) you can just download a 100% Complete save from the web and then copy it onto your PSP and just like that you now have all the cars and money you could ever dream of. Its all very easy. If you have wifi at home you can connect your PSP to the web to play multiplayer games or to download updates. It was very easy to connect the PSP to the local network and once I did it I was able to click the Download Content button in the game WipeOut Pure and the PSP opened up a web browser and took me to the WipeOut site. They didn’t have any content for me to download but when they will I would be able to get it. Once you are connected to the web there is a button in the main menu which checks and sees if your PSP has the latest software installed, if not, then it would download it for you and install it. In the near future you will be able to play games online against other people but at the moment no online multiplayer games exist.

tony hawk face mapping

The Games
I have WipeOut Fury, Tony Hawk and Need For Speed.

Tony Hawk – With Tony Hawk I was able to map my face onto a skater! I always wanted to do that. Basically what you do is you take your picture (I used my passport photo), and you save it as a 128×128 pixel jpg and you copy it onto your psp. Then in the game there is an option to download face, you click it, find your picture and press ok. Thats it, then you make minor adjustmants like skin tone and stuff and you are done. In the picture above I was trying to get my nose the right proportion. The game in general is basically exactly like the console versions. If you want a full review check out IGN.

WipeOut Pure – Wipeout is a showoff the system graphics game. Everytime I am showing off the PSP to someone I load Wipeout. Its fast, its 3D and its futuristic.

Need For Speed – This is currently the most game I play. Its extremely fast, and the graphics are also cool. Its my pick up and play anywhere game.

The PSP is definitely the coolest portable game system out there. The only competition is the Nintendo DS which pales in comparison. The PSP is not cheap but its not meant for kids either. The PSP is also not just a game system, its a portable entertainment center. Its a movie player, music player, picture viewer, videogame system and maybe in the future an internet browser. The system has a lot of potential and I am person waiting for MAME to be ported to the PSP, that would kick ass. Final score 4.5 out of 5.

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