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The MagSafe Power Adaptor is just one of those touches that makes Apple so great. A simple, elegant solution to a problem. For those who have not come across these adaptors before, they are designed in such a way that the magnet in the plug is strong enough to keep it in while charging, but weak enough that if the power cord is tripped over or tugged, the plug comes out without taking the laptop with it or damaging either the adaptor or the socket. I live in a house where the number of Macbook Pros actually outnumber its inhabitants, and are regularly found perched precariously on just about any surface you can think of, with cables everywhere! The MagSafe adaptor has come to the rescue on more than one occasion. The design of the adaptor on my laptop is slightly different from that of my girlfriends 2009/2010 model. The plug at the laptop end is now an 'L' shape which make it look a lot neater, leading the wire out behind the Macbook nice and cleanly.
The downside I suppose would be that, like a lot of Apple's best ideas, they are expensive and patent protected and so probably not something you'll want to be replacing too often. That said, the smart design of these adaptors should mean they are a lot less prone to damage and outlast the MacBooks for which they are used
I bought this drive, like most people, to accompany my Mac Mini and it has served me pretty well. The obvious attraction is that it is designed to fit on top or underneath the Mac Mini and match its brushed aluminium and white plastic looks. I think this makes a fantastic addition to the Mac Mini or other small desktop, laptop, or notebooks for whom a lack of both storage space and connectivity is a problem as this provides a nice amount of both. It's 3 USB ports and 2 Firewire 400 ports have come in incredibly useful in connecting all my peripherals over the past few years.
The down sides are that it is a little loud and can get a bit hot. I used this drive for recording music and found that the sound of this hard drive doing its thing found its way on to a lot of my musical output over the last couple of years. The extra heat from stacking the drive made my Mac Mini's fan work a lot harder which again was pretty noisy - probably quite a bearable level of noise for most but not for its primary intended use.
That said, I would still recommend the MiniMax as I believe the combination of USB, Firewire and storage space will probably not be found for much cheaper or in a smarter looking package.
I've had my Lacie drive for about 4-5 years, and yet, a quick google search sees that it is still described as a 'new technology'. I get the impression that Lightscribe hasn't quite taken off!
Lightscribe is a technology that uses lasers, like those used to burn your CDs and DVDs, to print images onto your discs. It requires both a Lightscribe drive and Lightscribe CDs or DVDS which have a special coating which produces the greyscale image on the disc when it reacts with the laser.
While it is nice to be able to print directly onto the disc, the quality of the image is fairly poor. With all the brands of discs I have tried, the image just isn't dark enough. Text is therefore difficult to read and, well, images just don't look as cool as I thought they would. It is also very slow to burn the image, much more like burning a DVD than printing an image. Considering that the rival technology is discs with printable labels already attached which allow you to make use of the speed and image quality of a relatively wide range of modern printers, these two problems probably mean that Lightscribe is well on the way out.
As a CD/DVD burner in itself, it has worked fine, but is nothing special. I spent about £80 on this drive when I bought it. I think it would have to be significantly cheaper for me to recommend it today. The only people for whom I would recommend this product are those who need to burn and label discs on the go, and therefore needs something more portable than a desktop printer to burn their discs.
"Pixar's Cars is a decent movie" remarked Ryan Gosling to director, Nicolas Winding Refn......"but did it do justice to the Gary Numan original?"
I'm not sure that this conversation really took place, but it could have done. Drive is a film about a near supernaturally talented stunt driver with a mysterious past and a sideline as a getaway guy. He lives a solitary life in which he spends all his time in his car listening to dark, synth pop, until he meets a young lady (Carey Mulligan). Here is an insightful, if slightly vague synopsis, written from the point of view of the film's protagonist and courtesy of Mr. Numan:
Here in my car
I feel safest of all
I can lock all my doors
It's the only way to live
Here in my car
I can only receive [one station which plays french, electronic music]
I can listen to you [aforementioned radio station]
It keeps me stable for days
Here in my car
Where the image breaks down
Will you [Carey Mulligan] visit me please
If I open my door
Here in my car
You know I've started to think
About leaving tonight
Although nothing seems right in cars."
Fortunately, Gary Numan only wrote two verses for that song so as to avoid any spoilers.
I think that audiences have been fairly divided on this film, and I can kind of see why, although I personally think its a bit of a masterpiece. There is something about listening to big, dark, synthy pop music, while driving around at night which, for me, is weird and exciting and scary and romantic and exhilarating and somehow more than the sum of its parts and...well, this film is all of those things and captures it perfectly! Oh yeah, and the sum of its parts ain't bad either!
Ryan Gosling's performance is so heaped with charisma that I didn't mind the hours of silent, meaningful looks that occupied the role usually taken by dialogue. Yes, maybe in the real world, a man would have to do a bit more talking to woo a girl like Carey Mulligan, but the film doesn't feel like real life. The closest film in tone would be something like Blade Runner; a film where robots, thought to be lifeless and unfeeling, find they have the capacity for real emotion and to fall in love and stuff. I am going to invent a new sub genre for these two films; Dream Noir; I don't know what it means but it feels right. If someone were to ask me to sum up Drive in a sentence or two, I'd probably say "You know Dream Noir?" (knowing full well they didn't because I just invented it) "Its that" and I think somehow they'd know what I mean.
Anyway, its a really good film and I can't recommend it highly enough.
Kanye and I have a fairly tumultuous relationship. When his first album, The College Dropout came out, I was at university and my roommate introduced me to the album and I was really impressed. I have a varied taste in music but at that time, I tended towards the more folky, indie, shy-boys-and-girls-singing-about-heartbreak type stuff. I wasn't so into the bravado that went along with a lot of mainstream hip hop. It seems ironic now, but this is what made me like that record - that Kanye seemed more vulnerable, soulful and intelligent than a lot of what was out there.
A couple of awards ceremony outbursts later, my opinion of Kanye West had completely changed. He is such an - I want to use the word 'arrogant' here but I can't find a noun to go with it that is suitable for a family audience - an arrogant so-and-so!
Okay so I haven't talked about the music at all yet but I'm coming to that. What is amazing about My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, is that it manages to be simultaneously arrogant, chauvinistic, sadistic and unapologetic, while also, remorseful, vulnerable, intelligent, self-aware and ultimately, oddly sympathetic. For the many people out there who find Kanye West a fairly repulsive character, I'm not saying you have to change your opinion of him, but as the subject for a work of art, a self portrait, he is pretty awesome!
In terms of song writing and production, it is another massive, innovative step forward from his previous album, 808s and Heartbreak, although in a similar vein - quite synthy, dark, twisted (why is it so hard to avoid those adjectives?). In the past Kanye has made some bad choices with samples (Touch The Sky ruined Curtis Mayfield's Move On Up for me) but he's on form here. We get a few fairly oddball choices; King Crimson's 21st Century Schizoid Man is used to great effect on Power, and couldn't be much more apt. Using a track as beautiful as Bon Iver's Woods could have gone so wrong, but he manages to pull it off. The album's various contributors (Jay-Z, Rihanna, Justin Vernon, Nicky Minaj) are all used to great effect. Nicky Minaj's verse on Monster is I think the best thing she's done...aaarggh! That noise I just made was me realising I am boring myself and failing to do the album justice so I'm just going to bring out the bold claims and superlatives...
This is probably the best album of the last 2 or 3 years. Certainly one of my favourites. The album as an art form has been hit hard by the iPod generation but records as innovative, intelligent, and cohesive as this might just do a bit to buck the trend.
I bought this mouse after eventually losing my temper with my Apple Mighty Mouse. The Mighty Mouse scroll wheel had a horrible habit of getting stuck and, in a misguided attempt to unstick it, I threw it on the floor. I'll save that story for another review maybe.
When I looked around, I couldn't find many options for mice compatible with mac, so this gets instant points for that alone. On getting it home and trying it out, it is a lot more robust and comfortable than the Mighty Mouse and has a nice selection of buttons that are nice and easily accessible. A particular highlight is the scroll wheel. It can either be used in a sort of locked, 'clicky' mode, where it makes satisfying clicks as you scroll, and stops you from over scrolling the area of the page you want, OR you can use it in its 'spinny' mode, where you can spin the scroll wheel with your finger and whizz up and down pages in a fun, satisfying, and utterly pointless way! You can also tilt the scroll wheel left and right to scroll horizontally which is a nice feature. As I said, I much prefer the clicky mode, but the great thing about the mouse is that it allows you to customise the settings to the way you use it and the attention paid to how the mouse feels and responds is reassuring.
The Logitech software that comes with the mouse allows you to assign the additional buttons to various functions. The software isn't necessarily required however, although it would be a shame to let all the hotkey options go to waste. I haven't used the mouse all that much for gaming, but when I have it has done a pretty good job. Again, the customisation options are pretty useful here.
My only problem with the mouse has been that one of the buttons was a bit sticky for a while, although this seems to have sorted itself out. I have had the mouse for about 3 years and dropped it on a hard wooden floor on numerous, overexcited occasions, so by all rights, it should be faring a lot worse!
On a long train journey a few years ago, I had no book to read and no battery on my iPod so i looked around the carriage for a newspaper. All I could find was one page out of a broadsheet newspaper in which a reviewer was fawning over The Knife Of Never Letting Go. When I got off the train, I went straight to the nearest bookshop.
The book centres around a teenage boy called Todd who lives in a village of only men, who settled on the planet around the time he was born. All inhabitants of this planet can hear what is called The Noise - every thought of every creature within a certain radius. As you might imagine, this is a bit of a pain, particularly if you have to escape from the village's evil Mayor Prentiss!
This central idea allows for a lot of tension and suspense, but also, allows the author, Patrick Ness to explore ideas about adolescence, freedom of thought, power and influence. Phillip Pullman is an obvious comparison as his His Dark Materials trilogy has a similar level of philosophical depth to its fantasy, but this also reminded me a lot of Catcher In The Rye. Todd, like Holden Caulfield, is forced to grow up by events out of his control, and there is something very sad about this aspect of the book. On the bright side, there is a dog whose thoughts tend to revolve around his bowel movements, so there is something for everyone!
What is unique about the Seagate Momentus XT drive is that it uses both a traditional hard drive and a new-fangled Solid State Drive (SSD) to do its thing. Why? Large capacity hard drives are cheap but relatively slow when compared to their SSD counterparts, and unfortunately, for most people, large capacity SSD drives are currently prohibitively expensive. The Seagate aims to provide a third way - fast, high capacity drives for the budget conscious. Has it succeeded? Well, yeah!
I bought this drive to go in my late-2011 15" Macbook Pro, primarily to improve performance when using Logic Studio to make music. My previous hard drive was the stock 5400rpm drive that came with the Macbook and I had trouble with my music projects when they got beyond a certain size. I'm happy to report that I've not experienced any such problems since the upgrade, and have noticed several other improvements in general use.
The hard drive works by continually moving the most frequently used files to the faster, SSD portion of the drive. This means that the improvement to performance will largely depend on the computing habits of the user. Those who use the same applications every time they use their computer will notice the biggest improvement. I personally use my laptop for quite a wide variety of applications and so the performance of the drive is also fairly varied. Thats not to say that it is ever slow, just that applications that have been used recently, open a lot faster than those that haven't. For me, most of the time I have a hard drive that is fast enough for me to never think about how fast my hard drive is. Then occasionally, my hard drive is so fast that I notice how fast my hard drive is, and it is a pleasant surprise. An all-round, positive experience!
The only thing I would say is that unfortunately, it does not have some of the other benefits of SSDs. It is fairly quiet by most standards, but does a little hot and bothered when being used for gaming, video editing and other resource intensive stuff, although the performance in terms of speed and general snappiness remains very high.
Every so often, while walking about town listening to my iPod, I see someone with a pair of SR-60s on their head and we exchange a smile. Why? Because to own a pair of SR60s is to be let in on a secret - affordable, iPod-friendly headphones can sound so much better than most would ever have thought possible!
Before buying my SR60s, I had owned and auditioned several pairs of similarly priced cans from Sennhesier, Technics, Beyer Dynamic and Goldring - all of which had seemed reasonable at the time, but were quickly put in their place upon first hearing the Grados. I listen to a wide variety of music, much of which is fairly bass driven but I've found that most manufacturers seem to emphasise the low end too much. I imagine a large percentage of those buying sub £100 headphones will be upgrading from in-ear models, and bigger bass will be a big attraction, although the result is often boxy and fatiguing. The Grados by comparison have a much more balanced sound. The bass is not lacking, it is warm and punchy, but it isn't beating the mid and upper frequencies into submission and you get a good sense of detail throughout the frequency spectrum. I really recommend going into a shop with your iPod and testing a pair out for yourself. Oh, and if you do, maybe take a copy of one of the following albums, all of which sound amazing on the SR-60s and cover quite a wide musical spectrum:
Kid A - Radiohead,
Bon Iver - Bon Iver
Mesmerize/Hypnotize - System of a Down
Desire - Bob Dylan
Love King - The-Dream
In case you haven't noticed, I love these headphones BUT there are some down sides. The headphone cord has a habit of getting tangled and twisting over time and once this happens, it is pretty difficult to completely undo the damage. This is just a bit of a pain at first, but can eventually cause audible problems. I have undertaken a few repairs myself - replacing/resoldering the headphone cord - but really, best just to take care from the start.
Even so, I wouldn't hesitate in recommending these headphones to anyone looking for headphones at around this sort of price. In fact, at twice the price there is still not much genuine competition for the SR60s, aside from the other models in Grado's SR range. Certainly, anyone about to drop £200 on a certain, rapper-endorsed brand of cans, should audition a set of these and see who beats who!