Run Mac’s Flurry screensaver on your Windows PC

via Download Squad by Lee Mathews on 12/18/08

We’ve covered plenty of software that brings Mac OSX features to Windows systems, like stacks and expose. Suppose you’d like some Apple ambiance while your system is idling.

DeviantArt user Ausrif has created a Windows version of the stunning Flurry screensaver. To install it, extract the .scr file from the zipped archive, right click it, and choose install. You can then configure it from the display properties screen.

Five different flurries are available: classic, RGB, fire, water, and psychedelic. It also supports multiple monitor configirations and can display one massive flurry across both or a different one on each monitor. The visuals are fantastic, especially considering the download is only 54kb.

The .scr file scanned clean with ESET Smart Security v4 beta and on novirusthanks.com.

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SHIFT: Google Chrome signals the death of the Operating System

 

via DVICE by Charlie White on 9/18/08

googlechrome_shift.jpg

Someday soon, you may not even notice which operating system your computer is using. That broadband-connected machine may not have an operating system on board at all, at least not like Windows and Mac OS X are today. That’s because there’s a new kid on the block, but he’s not even on your block at all, but storing your data and running applications based somewhere else, out there, on the Internet — or as it’s more commonly referred to, “in the cloud.”

Google’s doing all it can to expedite that exodus, pounding its latest nail into the coffin of conventional earth-bound operating systems with a web browser called Chrome. With architecture that runs Javascript web applications as separate services, it’s fast, and primed to make it easier to compute in the cloud. This could be the beginning of the end of the operating system as we know it, and that won’t come a moment too soon.

Head in the clouds
Some applications are tailor-made for cloud computing, and the best, most popular example of that is Gmail. You access Gmail’s interface in any browser, and all your email is stored on Google’s servers, giving you 7GB of free storage for all your messages and their associated attachments. Using Google’s renowned search prowess, you can easily find important info in those emails using simple keywords. Even better, you don’t need to worry about backing up anything, and you can access your email from just about any connected computer, as long as it has a browser.

The best part of Gmail’s cloud computing: tapping into the wisdom of crowds. With Gmail, you’ll never have to deal with spam again, because Gmail’s millions of users each have the ability to report spam, instantly inoculating all the other users from it. The downside: there are ads running down the right side of every email you receive, but it gets to the point where you never even notice them.

Enter Chrome
The benefits of cloud computing are extending far beyond Gmail, with useful apps such as entire Microsoft Office-like application suites Zoho Office Suite and ThinkFree Office, a free online version of Adobe Photoshop, powerful FitDay weight loss software, Quicken Online for personal finance, and a whole lot more mostly free choices. Here’s where Google Chrome comes in. With its ultra-fast compartmentalized approach to running Javascript, the programming language that makes all this neato stuff happen, Chrome makes Javascript a much more attractive platform. Chrome is so powerful, even in its infancy, it breathes new life into Javascript, maybe even pushing aside Adobe Flash and its nascent competitor, Microsoft’s Silverlight.

But wait just a second here. Javascript and its streamlined underpinnings in Chrome (and also in upcoming versions of Firefox and Internet Explorer) is not going to completely render operating systems such as Mac OS X, Windows XP, Vista, and Linux obsolete. When running many office-like apps, it’ll just make the OS invisible, and some users will stop caring which OS they’re running. But that’s true only to a point.

Down to Earth
Some applications need to stay close to the hardware, right there on the desktop because of the current impracticality of moving huge amounts of data over the Internet. Games with huge graphics files that must be processed quickly will stay on the desktop for now, high-def video editing applications need to stay local because the gigantic file sizes involved, and for now, processor-intensive apps such as speech recognition do best on the desktop.

Mind your own business
Then there are the security issues. A large number of users aren’t comfortable with all their most sensitive data residing on a far-away server that’s beyond their control. What if a hacker breaks into a server farm and steals all their data, or what if the government insists on Google giving up that data? The IT departments in many corporations will never submit to a loss of control as significant as this. But for me, I trust Google, am not a vice-presidential candidate, and figure that if the government wants any of my personal data, it can grab it from me at home easier than it can extract it from Google’s servers.

Cloud wins in the end
Given all that, the cloud still wins in the end, and Chrome leads the way. I don’t think Chrome will be loaded onto PCs without an operating system underneath, at least not for a long while. But someday soon, it’ll be available cross-platform, and then you could have a Mac in one room, a PC in another, and another machine running Ubuntu in your vacation chalet in the Swiss Alps, and most of your same apps and data could be available on all of them. Beyond that, when U.S. broadband speed and freedom catches up with the rest of the world, we might be able to do all our computing online. Maybe the OS won’t die tomorrow, but its importance is already starting to shrink so much, that soon it won’t even matter anymore.

 
 

What They Said: The 5 biggest drawbacks of the MacBook Air

via DVICE by Kevin Hall on 1/24/08

Apple MacBook Air roundup.jpg

The MacBook Air may be one of the thinnest laptops ever made, but Apple had to make some sacrifices to shed all that poundage. Did the company go too far? Some reviewers on the Web think so. Of course, a lot of the criticism centers around the stunted functionality the Air suffers because of its excised features — such as the lack of an optical drive and Ethernet port.

But that’s not all the reviewers nitpicked. The Air has issues that go beyond its jettisoned components — the single USB port took some heat, for example, and not for the reason you’d expect. Click Continue for five downsides of the MacBook Air that have come to light since its big debut.

1. It does have an optical drive, after all
Apple offers an external CD/DVD drive for the MacBook Air. Be forewarned, however, if you buy one, it will only work with your MacBook Air — other MacBooks just don’t pump out the power necessary to keep the external drive running. That’s all right, since other Macs tend to have optical drives. To its credit, it looks like the Air has one powerful USB port.

2. Single USB port is picky on drive size
The USB port is hidden in a foldaway hatch alongside the headphone jack, and it looks like anything but your average thumbstick may have trouble connecting with the MacBook Air. Make no mistake: not all USB drives are created equal.

Engadget tried the slim Sprint / Novatel U727 USB EV-DO modem and couldn’t get it to fit. Since Wi-Fi is your only option with the MacBook Air, it’s important — especially to us bloggers — to have an alternative when that isn’t available.

It’s like the iPhone’s recessed headphone jack all over again.

3. Power cord options more finicky than a cell phone’s
Let’s say you misplace your power cord. Well, if you happen to have one of Apple’s other MagSafe chargers sitting around, you’ll have to accommodate the MacBook Air if you want one of them to fit. Gizmodo confirmed that, on a table, other MacBook chargers won’t fit in the Air, though the Air’s charger will work with both MacBooks and MacBook Pros.

So you’ll actually have to put your laptop in your lap, which may not be so bad according to Steven Levy from Newsweek. Levy says, “the Air doesn’t run as hot as Apple’s other laptops — it’s actually possible to work for an hour with the device on your lap without the feeling that your fertility is at stake.”

4. Low battery life
Apple’s best-case scenario for the MacBook Air is five measly hours. Walt Mossberg from the Wall Street Journal found that with the screen’s brightness all the way up, music playing and his Wi-Fi active, the MacBook Air only managed 3 hours and 24 minutes. With all of that turned off, Mossberg says, “you could likely get 4.5 hours in a normal work pattern.”

What’s worse, the battery is sealed into the laptop. Forget carrying a spare with you to swap out if the battery is low. But, as David Pogue of the New York Times points out: “That’s a familiar Apple trick for saving bulk; as on the iPod and iPhone, sealing the battery eliminates the need for a walled compartment, battery contacts and a door.” The worst that can happen? Your battery dies and “you’ll have to pay Apple $130 to install a new one,” says Pogue.

5. Remote Disc isn’t quite there yet
Apple does offer an alternative in recompense for the MacBook Air’s lack of an optical drive: the Remote Disc feature. It allows you to install software onto the Air using another machine, even a computer running a Windows operating system.

Edward C. Baig from USA Today gave the feature a whirl, though the trouble he ran into wasn’t necessarily the Air’s fault: “I ran into initial snags trying to remotely install software from the DVD drive in a Dell PC, until tweaking settings in Windows.” Baig reports that Apple is “working with the companies to try to resolve compatibility issues.”

The Bottom Line
The MacBook Air is a challenging design — no question there. It has the screen and keyboard of your average notebook, yet shares the attractive slimness and low weight of an ultraportable. Apple has tried its best to balance sacrifice with functionality, and in the process toes the line between a logical step forward and a radical leap.

Is it for you? You’ll have to decide for yourself.

Remote Disc: no movie playback, no HD support, and everything else you need to know

via Engadget by Ryan Block on 1/24/08

One of the more more interesting, albeit minor, announcements at Macworld was Remote Disc, Apple’s method to undermine the need to bundle an optical drive with the Air. To our chagrin, Apple also undermined the ability to do much fun or useful with the disc sharing system. Here’s what you need to know about Remote Disc, top to bottom:

  • The Remote Disc installer is 42.3MB for Mac, and takes almost 86MB of space! AND it requires a restart of the host Mac. (Windows, ironically, does not require a restart to begin sharing media.)
  • You have to ask permission to use the drive every single time, there’s no client whitelist or anything like that. Even if you’ve already asked permission on that drive and disc, if you stop using it and come back to it, you have to ask permission again.
  • Every time you ask permission as a Remote Disc client, the host gets a popup asking if it’s cool to share your drive. You can, of course, accept or decline (but the only way to stop getting prompts is to turn off disc sharing).
  • Ejecting the disc on the client side does not eject it on the host side.
  • Ejecting it on the host side, however, gives a host-side prompt about the disc being in use. You can override and eject, however.
  • To reinstall or boot from CD using Remote Disc, the host must use the installed Remote Install Mac OS X application. It’s a fairly simple process, but sharing an install CD over a wireless network is asking for trouble. It took an absurd amount of time (nearly 10 minutes) to boot over 802.11g. You need bandwidth.
  • To remote boot from a shared CD, hold the option key while starting up. You’ll be presented with a BIOS-level WiFi / network selection that looks surprisingly unpolished for Apple (but works with WPA and advanced WiFi crypto all the same)

Bummer for media:

  • You can browse the file contents of DVD discs, but you cannot actually play that media back over the network.
  • You can’t rip DVDs over the network using a tool like Handbrake.
  • You can’t even browse a music CD or listen to tracks. Don’t even think about burning a disc remotely.
  • Remote Disc appears only to be able to share CD / DVD drives and CD / DVD discs, not high capacity / HD optical drives.
  • We tested sharing a regular DVD over an HD DVD drive, no luck. Data CDs on DVD drives worked fine though.

We’ve heard of some client firewalls harshing on Remote Disc, but we didn’t see any issues when testing. Despite its shortcomings, it did work exactly as advertised, and with zero fuss. We miss anything?

Gallery: Remote Disc: install and host side disc sharing

Gallery: Remote Disc: client side disc sharing

Gallery: Remote Disc: shared remote install, host and client

MacBook Air processor situation gets explained

via Engadget by Donald Melanson on 1/18/08

We already knew the basic details about the processor at the heart of Apple’s MacBook Air, but those itching to know exactly how Apple and Intel managed to cram everything into that oh so small package may want to head over to AnandTech, which has pieced together a fairly thorough report on the matter. As the site reports, the processor is based on Intel’s 65nm Merom architecture and packs an 800MHz bus, yet it uses the significantly smaller chip package that Intel had originally only planned to debut with the launch of its Montevina laptop platform later this year. That combination, along with the Intel 965GMS chipset with integrated graphics, allowed for a 60% reduction in total footprint size, and a TDP rating of just 20W, as opposed to 35W from the regular Core 2 Duo processor. If that’s still not enough MacBook Air minutia you, you can hit up the link below for the full rundown.

[Via AppleInsider]