Sunday, September 28, 2008

MacBook to HDTV via Mini DVI to DVI to HDMI

Since the MacBook is so good at playing different kinds of media, I plan to make it the media center of my life. I will store all music, videos, and photos there.

This led me to try to connect my MacBook to my Sharp Aquos LC46D64U 46-Inch 1080p LCD HDTV. I did some research and found that there was only one option if I wanted to have digital picture quality. I needed 2 cables because there is no such thing yet as a Mini DVI to HDMI cable:
  1. Mini DVI to DVI Adapter ($19.95)
  2. DVI to HDMI Cable ($19.95)
I picked these up, connected the Mini DVI end of the first cable to my MacBook, connected the DVI end of the second cable to the first cable, and finally the HDMI end of the second cable to an open HDMI slot in my TV. Then I switched the TV's input to the HDMI port I just plugged into, and voila! - it worked immediately! The 1920 by 1080 picture looked great.

The MacBook lets you choose between having 2 monitors and mirroring the same monitor. The settings are all under System Preferences > Displays.

Now, I can show photo slide shows when the family is over, I can watch video podcasts and YouTube videos on the big screen, and I can even enjoy the Twitter election feed from my couch.

Next I will look for the best way to get the sound from my MacBook hooked up to my Denon receiver.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Giving In and Buying a MacBook

I finally caved in to the marketing pressure from Apple and a lot of my Apple-religious friends. I bought a MacBook. Why would I do this after many years of trying to do everything with open source software? The main reasons are iTunes and my wife's need to use MS Office.

I need iTunes to manage my family's 3 iPods (2 of which I got for free at tech conferences and users groups). I also will need iTunes if I decide to buy an iPhone. I have been thinking about it because I am surrounded by friends and co-workers who swear up and down that the iPhone is the answer to all of life's problems. Anyway, Apple won't produce a version of iTunes that runs on Linux and that's a shame, but there's nothing I can do about it.

My wife has been using our Ubuntu linux desktop for the last few years, and has gotten along quite nicely until recently when she needed some advanced spreadsheet functionality like mail merge. I am disappointed to say that Open Office just wasn't cutting it. The feature set was either lacking or buggy. She was longing for MS Excel. MS Office is available for the Mac, so that problem could get solved too.

So far, the best thing about that Mac has been its packaging. It came in a slick box with fancy designer Styrofoam. It has stylish body and the l.e.d. lights have a pleasing glow. Also the screen has a great, kind of glossy, picture.

I do have some gripes:

For one thing, I can't find a way to turn of that annoying sound the computer makes when booting. A few blog posts I read say that you have to download some 3rd party software to disable it.

After 20 minutes of surfing the web when I first booted up, the computer crashed and the wireless card stopped working. I had to take the computer back to the Apple store. Thankfully they exchanged it even though I had purchased the MacBook from the online Apple store.

There doesn't appear to be any way to maximize a window. There is a green plus button on each window that makes the window larger, but it doesn't make it go full screen. Why can't I have this functionality on a Mac?

There is no concept of right-click! To get a context menu, I have to put 2 fingers on the trackpad and click the button. I guess I can get used to this, but come-on, would it be so hard for Apple to make the right side of the button do what Windows and Linux users expect?

You can only resize a window from the lower-right corner. This is unbelieveable. Both Windows and Linux allow you to resize a window from any edge of the window. I find this really annoying.

There are no Page Up, Page Down, Home, and End keys! The function key + up or down arrows will do the same thing as Page Up and Page Down. Also the Apple key + the left and right arrow will do the same thing as Home and End, but I'm just not used to it yet.

Pressing the red X button on a window closes the window, but doesn't close the application even if it is the last window open in that application. You have to remember to explicitly quit the application with an Apple key + Q. I always forget to do this and am left with many open applications as a result.

Despite all these gripes, I am happy to be getting to know my way around a Mac now. I have always felt completely lost on a Mac and these days, it feels like everyone and their mother has one.