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Feb 29,2008(FullFilmJacketFriday)

By now, everybody has heard Apple will be releasing the iPhone/iPod Touch SDK next week.  For the past six months, we had been working on various iPod projects.  Today we went out and picked up a few more iPods from our local Apple store.

When the Apple clerk was ringing up the sale, we realized these iPods would get trashed pretty quickly if we didn't get some cases for them.  The problem is, knowing the folks here, the iPods would be out of their cases more often than not. 

Remembering how well a protective film worked for our iPod nano, we decided to see what was available for the iPod Touch.  We found a product called BodyGuardZ which claims to be the toughest film covering on the market today. 

Some readers may remember the early days of film protection.  We are happy to report that things have come a long way since 2005. Back then we had to make our own soapy solution and dip the films into a tub of liquid.  Today, products such as the BodyGuardZ comes with everything needed for applying the film to the gear.

Each package contains two sets of covers, a bottle of spray on application solution, a squeege card, and full instructions.  Some users may want to use both the front and back films, but based on our experience with the nano, it is likely that most can get by with just covering the front. - Wan Chi Lau (permalink)


Feb 28,2008(TelescopeThursday)

Michael Covington is a name which came on to our radar when we started researching books on the topic of AstroPhotography.  A few readers who were REALLY into astrophotography clued us in on the "Practical Amateur Astronomy" series published by Cambridge University Press.

The three volume set covers how to use a modern computerized GOTO telescope, what to look at with these computerized scopes, and how to take pictures of what you are looking at through them.

Like other Covington books, these are also based on the author's actual experience with the equipment.  The information are both practical and clearly presented.  We are sure we'll be referring to these as we start actually getting some field time with our scopes.

While we have assembled a reasonable collection of different scopes for out first RainyDay StarParty, we don't yet have a computerized telescope with a GOTO function. 

If readers have any recommendations, drop us a line and we'll check them out.  However, whatever we end up getting, we are confident that Michael Covington's "How to Use a Computerized Telescope" will be a handy companion guide for us in its use.  - Wan Chi Lau (permalink)


Feb 27,2008(WowUsWednesday)

There are many ways to disappear.  One way is to blend in with your surroundings.  Artist Desiree Palmen has been working on her own interpretation of "blending in" with these optical mind-benders since 1999.

Check out some of her more recent works below.  We some humorous, some disturbing, but all thought provoking.

Today's pick was sent to us by Georgina.  As always, we like to thank our readers for all the wonderful and fascinating "WowUsWednesday" submissions!  Keep sharing them and we'll post them as time permits.  - Wan Chi Lau (permalink)


Feb 26,2008(TechTuesday)

Recently we upgraded the Mac mini with the latest version of iLife.  Getting the new iPhoto features was our reason for the upgrade.  However, we soon realized that iMovie and iDVD also had some significant changes.  However, when we ran those apps, we noticed the Mac mini ran a lot slower.

We traced the problem to the fact that we only had 512MB of RAM in the machine.  As most readers probably already know, upgrading a machine's memory is probably one of the most cost effective way to increase its performance. 

There are a LOT of memory vendors out there.  They are NOT all the same.  When we needed memory, we head to a company called RamJet.  Their site is easy to use.  The "memory locator" on the site will make sure you get the EXACT type of memory you need for your machine.  The RamJet service is great and their memory modules are guaranteed for life.  What more can one ask for?

This memory upgrade project is something that most readers should be able to do with no special tools.  While opening the Mac Mini can be a bit of a challenge, the upgrade itself should be very simple.  We'll show readers how to open it and upgrade the memory step by step.  This is definitely a great project for a Spring rainy day. - Wan Chi Lau (permalink)


Feb 25,2008(MoreDetailsMonday)

Here are some more FirstLook details reagarding the LapWorks Attache ergonomic laptop stand/cooler we mentioned on Friday.  The stand is weighs 2.5lbs and is about 13"x12."  It is a little more than 1.5" thick when laying flat but can be set at four different support angles.

The Attache may work better on a desk, but in our FirstLook we'll be using it on top of a swing-away platform.  In today's setup, we won't be hooking up any external keyboards or mouse to the stand.  We just wanted to see how well it holds the various laptops (Pismo, Picturebook, ThinkPad, MacBookPro) we have around the office.

The 13"x12" surface easily accommodated all of the laptops we tested.  The computers stayed in place securely.  They did not slide around or move in any way.

While most laptops vent from the side or the rear, the battery, hard drive, and processor all tend to give off a significant amount of heat which users can directly feel on the bottom of the laptop.

We had mentioned in the FirstLook that the surface is slightly curved for better air flow.  Looking at the setup from the side, one can see the curve created an opening for plenty of flow regardless of the type of laptop. 

After playing around with the various laptops on the Attache, we did notice a few potential problems.  First issue was the tab at the base extended a bit high if the laptop was really thin like our Vaio 505VE.  Fortunately, during actual use, the clearance was such that it was not an issue with any of the laptops. 

The second issue was that many of the screens tend to hit the tabs when we tried to close the laptops.  We thought this would be a rather annoying problem when our interns casually pointed out that we were just too rigid in our thinking.  They then made this small adjustment and said that was the reason why they should be making more money.  Wise-asses :-) - Wan Chi Lau (permalink)


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