ITLT: Ultrabook & the latest Intel HD Graphics

So I’m looking for a thin and lighter laptop like the Macbook Air and looking at all the ultrabook and it’s sad to see that it seems that only Apple combines the latest 4th generation Haswell Intel processor (with better battery life) with Intel HD 5000 Graphics (or above) at a reasonable price. The HD 5000 series have a pretty decent performance advantage over the 4000 series (also see notebookcheck.net stats).

Sony, Dell, Lenovo, HP, Asus and Samsung all seem to have Haswell CPUs but paired with the older 4000 series GPU instead of the latest 5000 series with a few exceptions in bold. (These are based on Australian sites and perhaps other countries may have different models)

So it seems there are only 2 non-Apple notebooks with HD 5000 series and both are high spec’d. Strangely the i7 model of the HP EliteBook Folio 1040 G1 with the HD 5000 doesn’t seem available and the one that i7 model with the HD 4400 goes for AU$3,199 (HP). The Asus Zenbook UX301LA model with the HD5100 seems to be super tricked out and is AU$2,865 (Scorptec) with the regular i5 version at $2,499 (AsusNotebook.com.au). The Airs start at AU$1,099  (11″) / AU$1,249 (13″) with a fully spec’d 13″ at AU$2,099 (i7, 512GB SSD, 8GB RAM). 

Even when ignoring the HD 5000 difference, I think all ultrabooks don’t meet the Air’s competitive price and spec combination (even when the Airs are configured with better RAM / CPU / storage). Hopefully with CES coming up, and the announcement of new ultrabooks, there may finally be a price competitive ultrabook to the MacBook Airs.

 

 

Note for personal future reference: 4th generation Haswell CPUs for each Intel Graphics series:

Creating a Brunei Apple App Store Account Without a Credit Card

As mentioned in our episode of Corner Geeks 8: The Brunei Apple App Store, the video below documents how to create a Brunei account without a credit card.

Do note:

  1. not all apps seem available (e.g. WhatsApp) but most seem there.
  2. no music / movies / TV shows available
  3. AV mentioned that they currently selling Brunei iTune gift cards

The gist of the process:

  1. Load the App Store in iTunes
  2. Search for a free app (e.g. Angry Birds)
  3. Download the free app
  4. Sign up from the dialog box
  5. Select "None" as a "Payment Method" section during the registration

I still think getting a US iTunes Account is still the best option as it is completely unrestricted. You can create a US account without a credit card, using the same method above but select US instead of Brunei. You will need to buy gift cards online though, and I have bought iTune gift cards from both PC Game Supply and Jerry Cards with good results so thus far. See which works best for you and join the ecosystem that has yet to be rivaled (especially outside the US).

Corner Geeks 8: The Brunei Apple App Store

Corner Geeks Logo beta 2
MP3 link (right click > Save Link As…)

A ‘live’ / non-Skype Corner Geeks recording this week as I sat down with @mfirdaus as we discussed the Brunei Apple App Store while also passing him the InstallESD.dmg file for Lion. We hope that this is the start of more services being opened to Brunei and perhaps a legal way for people to get music, movies and TV shows in the future.

Show Notes

  • Apple brings the iOS and Mac App Store to 33 new territories, including Brunei!

  • We can register with a Brunei Credit Card
  • AV Electronics, the premium reseller of Apple products, says they aren’t currently selling Brunei iTunes gift cards

  • Registration without a credit card is possible with the same hack/work around to register a US account without a credit card (try download a free app in the App Store and create an account from there)
  • Brunei just has an App Store, not a full iTunes store with Music / Movies / TV Shows
  • Not all apps available in the iOS App Store: e.g. WhatsApp (could be developer’s setting when publishing app or some other unknown restrictions)
  • Prices shown in store are in US dollars
  • App ratings are reset meaning Brunei apps could make it to the recommended list
  • Sources for US gift cards: PC Game Supply / Jerry Cards (I have bought once from each of these sellers before and can verify that they work)

Multiple Instances of VLC on OS X

Despite there being an option for Windows version of VLC, it seems to be absent in the OS X implementation of it. In order to run multiple instance of VLC on OS X you will have to open up Terminal and run the following command
/Applications/VLC.app/Contents/MacOS/VLC
Source

This assumes that you installed VLC into the Applications folder. Otherwise you will have change it to the appropriate path where it is installed. It seems that running multiple instances of a program is discouraged by Apple’s usability guidelines (as mentioned by the forum poster) which would be ironic as I believe QuickTime files in Windows all open in a new window / instance as opposed to using an existing one.

Canon CanoScan LiDE 20 on OS X 10.5.8

In order to get the Canon CanoScan LiDE 20 working in OS X 10.5.8 (and from the comment responses 10.6 Snow Leopard as well)

  1. Go to the Canon CanoScan LiDE 20 product page
  2. Click the “Drivers & Downloads” tab
  3. Select “Mac OS X” from the dropdown menu
  4. Download CanoScan Toolbox Ver. 4.1.3.0X (Direct Download Link)
  5. Download LiDE 20/LiDE 30 Scanner Driver Ver. 7.0.1.1aX (Direct Download Link)
  6. Install the CanoScan Toolbox first
  7. When installing the driver specify the “Plug-Ins” folder in the CanoScan Toolbox installation directory
  8. Open up the “CanoScan Toolbox, click settings and it should detect ScanGear CS 7.0X as the driver and scanning should work without a hitch
  9. The scanner is fully operational including the scanner buttons to scan, copy and email (the button actions can also be customized)

Update
Some tips that may help if you’re having installation problems

Playing Nice with Filesystems

If you have played around with any 2 of the 3 major operating systems (Windows, OS X and Linux) and start transferring files to and from external hard disk you will probably run into an issue with the type of filesystem you choose for your hard disk. Windows likes NTFS, OS X likes HFS and Linux likes ext. As you can see none of them are the same. Being different is not so much an issue, but being compatible and accessible to all is.

Based on default system settings:

  • NTFS is readable on all operating systems, but not writable on OS X. Most modern Linux distributions can write to NTFS drives
  • HFS is readable on OS X and modern Linux distributions, and not writable on Windows or Linux
  • ext is only readable on Linux and not writable on Windows or OS X.

or to put it based on operating system

  • Windows can only read and write to NTFS, nothing else
  • OS X can read and write to HFS and read NTFS
  • Linux can read and write to ext and NTFS and read HFS

Take note that there is also the older FAT32 filesystem that is fully supported for reading and writing by all operating systems but due to limitations of FAT32, I rather not consider this. Basically the main issues with FAT32 is that the maximum file size is 4GB and the maximum partition size is 32GB (actually Windows can’t format a FAT32 partition greater than 32GB but can read FAT32 partitions of more than 32GB. Use GParted or just filter this Google search to be able to create and format a partition of 32GB). If these are limitations you can deal with, for the sake for interoperability stick with FAT32.

Now to solve the problem of support for each filesystem in each operating system:

NTFS:

  • OS X: NTFS-3G + MacFUSE
  • Linux: NTFS-3G
  • I’ve been using NTFS-3G in Linux for many years and haven’t had any problems with it and so far it’s working well with OS X too
  • On another note if the NTFS drive is not unmounted properly or there are some issues with the file system integrity, it is necessary to use Windows scan disk to rectify the problem. Thus this requires a copy of Windows to fix the filesystem.

ext:

  • Windows: Ext2 Installable File System for Windows
  • OS X: Mac OS X Ext2 filesystem
  • I’ve had issues of only being able to mount an ext2 partition in Linux and it gave a mount error in Windows and OS X and was due to an inode issue as new Linux distributions create the file system with inodes of 256 bytes but Ext2 fs only supports the older version with 128 bytes. And the only solution is to back up the files, and reformat partition with inodes of 128 bytes (-I 128) and restore the files.
  • Filesystem integrity issues should be able to be fixed with “fsck” from a Linux distribution / live CD. The great thing about this is that you can get a Linux distribution for free and this recovery can be done with out any strings attached.

HFS:

  • Windows: MacDrive (US$50, read and write), Paragon HFS for Windows (read only)
  • Linux: Enabling HFS writing in Ubuntu
  • Note: I have not personally tested these so I cannot give first hand experience of how well it works or what issues can be had with this.
  • I believe that HFS+ journal
  • I would believe any filesystem repairs would have to be done in OS X (similar to NTFS and Windows) and if so this enforces that you have OS X at hand, and in order to have OS X you must have Apple hardware or a Hackintosh either way this is very restrictive.

So it is pretty easy to get full read and write support of all 3 default file systems on the 3 major OS’s but there are issues. So far I’m inclined to stick with ext2/ext3 just due to the fact that it has no restrictions in terms of filesystem repair. I’ve had many NTFS issues related to damaged filesystems that required Windows and the inconvenience of taking the drive out of my box to find a Windows box was too much.

Witch for the Mac

Ever want to be able to switch between windows quickly at the flick of a keypress? Yes you can do it with the Command + Tab shortcut that is build into OS X, but the problem is that it shows all applications not all windows open. Luckily there is Witch that fills in the gap.
witch keyboard shortcut badges

Witch installs as a preference pane in System Preferences and has quite a few configurations shown in the screenshots below. You can configure the shortcut used to activate Witch, however it can’t be remapped to replace the default OS X’s Command + Tab application switcher. Windows can be organized by application or window details (name / launcher / activity order) thus you are not constrained to a single configuration. Shortcut badges, is a nifty feature, as it adds a keyboard shortcut to the Witch menu. A badge with a number will show up next to the application window and show in the screenshot above, and a single number can be pressed to activate the appropriate window: an added shortcut and time saver.

Cons
On the down side, the application costs €9.95 (~US$15 / ~B$21), doesn’t show all windows and performance issues. While the application does not cost that much, it does annoy me that in order to get OS X to work the way I want it to, it seems I have to fork out more money for some application to fix the problem that shouldn’t even be there in the first place. With regards to Witch now showing windows, I notice the help dialog (e.g. Finder > “Mac Help” menu item) and Google Chrome both don’t show up in the Witch menu. I think the Help dialog could be an OS X issue because it is not accessible via default OS X application switcher (Command + Tab) nor through any windows switcher (Command + `). Seems like the Chromium / Chrome issue is known and it’s strange as it does show in Command + Tab. With regards to performance issues, I find that if I don’t use Witch all the time (sometimes I still use Command + Tab), when activating the Witch menu it takes a while to appear and sometimes it doesn’t appear at all.

Verdict

Witch provides a feature that OS X sorely lacks for keyboard users. However due to it not providing full keyboard access to any window in OS X, it defeats the purpose for me to buy it, especially since I use Chrome quite a bit. Maybe the next time around

Preference Pane Screenshots – Triggers
witch pref pane triggers tab

Preference Pane Screenshots – Behavior
witch pref pane behavior tab

Preference Pane Screenshots – Appearance
witch pref pane appearance tab

Update 1: Seems that X11 windows are not recognized either so GIMP users are left out in the cold by Witch too =(