Archive for January, 2008

Intel trip

The opportunity came unexpectedly, I really need to thank Dr. K on this since it was my first business trip ever. After we landed in San Jose, I (and possibly Dat) was like an excited child and couldn’t calm myself when the SUV came across many big names, i.e. Yahoo, Sun, and Intel, along the highway. Although sounds a bit silly, I really didn’t realize until then that I was actually in the Silicon Valley – the mecca of technologies. Looking around with admiration, I kept imagining how great it would be to work here when I graduate.

The meeting with Intel was on the next day. As Dr. K indicated, I had mixed feelings about this trip as well. We were exposed to some of the frontier research that Intel has been focusing on. Nonetheless, it is obviously not an easy task to ask for someone else’s latest inventions. Another soothing fact was that the working condition there cannot compare with what we have in our lab, where everyone has a dual-monitor workstation.

Intel Trip

Introducing the MacBook Air

MacBook Air Close Lid Front

MacBook Air Display

MacBook Air Keyboard

Steve Jobs unveiled the ultra thin laptop that has been rumored since (or as early as) last July, and it has a nice name: MacBook Air. What an amazing coincidence (if you noticed my blog name)! Anyway, let’s take a look at its specifications first.

– Height: 0.16-0.76 inch (0.4-1.94 cm)

– Weight: 3.0 lbs (1.36 kg)

– Price: $ 1,799/3,098

– 1.6/1.8 GHz Core 2 Duo

– 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM onboard

– 80GB 4200-rpm PATA hard disk drive/64GB solid-state drive

– Intel GMA X3100 graphics processor

– 13.3-inch glossy screen

– Optional external USB MacBook Air SuperDrive ($99)

– Optional Apple USB Ethernet Adaptor ($29)

– Trackpad with multi-touch gesture support

– 802.11n & Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR

– 1 Micro-DVI

– 1 USB 2.0 port

– 1 Audio out (analog)

– Built-in mono speaker and omnidirectional microphone

– 5 hours wireless productivity (built-in battery is also not user accessible)

It indeed took Apple quite a lot effort to squeeze so much content into an envelope-size laptop, pushing the limit to the extreme. One of the biggest steps toward achieving the ultra slimness is the 60% smaller CPU. Giving up the optical drive is also a common practice to reduce both height and weight. The elimination of ethernet port was a surprise at first, but became reasonable when I realized that the port alone is of certain height and wireless access is much more ubiquitous now. Furthermore, having an iPhone more or less has led me to appreciate the joy among the fingertips. Simply put, the design of MacBook Air is so gorgeous that I wouldn’t want to take my hands off if I ever touch one.

But as the name implies, it is not for the pros (as in MacBook Pro). It is suitable only for those who are rich and like to show off, those who travel a lot, and last but not least, girls. First of all, I think Apple made 1.8-inch 4200-rpm hard drive as a standard option because it needs a relatively cheaper solution. Portability, performance and price, you always have to give up one of them. I have a ThinkPad X41 and a couple of my friends use X40, the 1.8-inch hard drives were giving us horrendous experience. However, I am curious to see how they perform under OS X because I am willing to believe that there are noticeable improvement but the problem is how much. Solid-state drives, although extremely fast, give the MacBook Air a whopping price tag. Note that the RAM is soldered to the motherboard so there is no space for an upgrade. Another annoying fact is that it only provides one USB port. Perhaps Apple is so confident with the trackpad that a mouse is considered unnecessary, or perhaps it is encouraging the use of Bluetooth mouse, or is it just me not getting enough USB ports? Also, analog audio out and mono speaker (comparing with the optical digital output and stereo speakers on both MacBook and MacBook Pros) may be simply the compromise to meet the design requirement, which is solely portability. Thus, if you are a serious programmer/designer, do not buy the MBA. Nonetheless if you do have (a lot) money to spare, getting one for your girlfriend or yourself is not a bad idea.

One more thing to mention, Jobs’ claim of the MBA being “the world’s thinnest notebook” is in fact arguable. I saw some post mentioning Sony VAIO X505 to be thinner than the MBA, but found out that it is really hard to tell after re-examine the specs of X505 (0.3-0.75 inch). It (1.85 lbs) is however, lighter than the MBA regardless of the difference in screen size (10.4 versus 13.3).

Jobs also announced 1.1.3 firmware upgrade for the iPhone in his keynote. I had the plan to update until I came across some early adopters’ posts reporting various problems and errors. iPhone owners shall be patient and wait for official solutions.

Big bang for official iPhone waitors in China

Since China Mobile has terminated discussions with Apple to bring the iPhone to China, the remaining possible choice of carrier for iPhone waitors in China is only China Unicom. However, due to the popularity of China Mobile I would speculate that most of these iPhone fanboys will be forced to make a decision on whether they should switch mobile carrier. And that is already under the assumption that China Unicom seals the deal with Apple.

Unfortunately, I doubt if China Unicom can even benefit from adopting the iPhone. One reason is the fact that there are already tons of unlocked/hacked iPhones out there, and why would people bother to buy a contract-binding one from a minor carrier. China Mobile has probably already calculated the money they can possibly make out of the iPhone and as a result it cannot accept Apple’s offer based on the fee sharing agreement. Moreover, the refusal would possibly aggravate the situation of purchasing and using hacked iPhones. Thus China Unicom cannot and should not rely on the iPhone to raise its marketshare. While I am curious to see its reaction toward this piece of news, I also feel pity for those who are waiting for iPhone’s official release in China.