March, 2008

Mar 08


I’ve been thinking that same thing about CNN — WTF? Here’s a site with some of the more absurd headlines from CNN lately, but even without the news about how Bono’s neighbors’ smoke is bothering him or tips on how you can live in a spaceship (both, sadly, actual headlines), I’ve felt that CNN on the Web has gotten painfully bad (not to mention gems on television like Anderson Cooper 360, because, as everyone knows, he is The Mole.) The most egregious problem I’ve noticed lately is the ridiculous inclusion of articles written by advertising partners like — while there are notes that they’re written by business partners, they’re packaged and formatted like any other articles on the site — painful, painful bias.)

I keep checking CNN for my news mostly from habit and muscle memory, but need to find something better. I think what I’m looking for has these characteristics:

  • broad & international — I’m interested in all of it — worldwide news, but also US sports, entertainment, business, tech, etc
  • not too overwhelming — the home page is about the right number of articles
  • no advertiser-based editorial bias/inclusion of articles by advertisers
  • ideally, edited by humans

I’m looking for something that’s coherent, too — not an aggregate reporting like Digg or Google News.

Any favorites?

Mar 08

MacBook Air

I’ve had my MacBook Air for a month or so now, and wanted to write some things down about it. The bottom line is that for me, it is so far a really great machine that I like a lot. But it’s decidedly not for everyone — I think for most folks that it won’t be a good choice, but it will lead to more work to slim down laptops overall, and eventually start to make them more invisible.

The physical characteristics are all completely wonderful. It’s light, it’s thin (so thin that it’s actually hard to find a good bag to carry it around in), and the feel of it is just terrific. It’s a clearly different feel to carry it around, and when it’s closed on a table it tends to disappear. In general, it just gets in the way less than most other computer technology does. It’s hard to overstate how good the physicality of the machine is — it’s the best feeling machine I’ve ever worked on.

The screen is incredibly, incredibly bright. And I’ve come to really like the flat chiclet keyboards that the MacBooks (but not the MBPs) ship with. I also really like the SSD in mine, although, as reported many places elsewhere, it doesn’t seem worth the $900 premium — but in my experience, in addition to making the machine mostly totally silent, it makes application startup & switching feel very very snappy, even on the slower MBA processor. And overall, the machine runs much cooler than my last Intel MBP — never gets too hot.

I’m a little indifferent to the multitouch trackpad — it’s not super-easy to map gestures to command key combos, so only a few applications have support presently — which means that it’s not yet becoming muscle memory for me to use pinching & swiping. Maybe once the new MBPs with multitouch become more prevalent we’ll start seeing better support.

It’s consistently annoying that there’s no battery life indicator on the outside of the laptop — so I have to open the machine to figure out if I’ve got any juice left.

But the main problems, really, are that (1) there’s very little disk space, and (2) the ports & connectivity are very minimal. Disk space is self-explanatory — with 64 GB, I haven’t really fully moved in — have left most of my music and all of my movies and photos off the machine so far, not to mention all my virtual machines. That’s causing me to move more aggressively to using web applications for everything — I now use Pandora for most of my music listening (and have discovered a couple of great bands already), Google Reader for my newsfeeds (in particular because it lets me read news in a synchronized way on my iPhone), and for our finances (no more Quicken, which I was running Windows in a VM for). And for someone like me who works at a Web company, it’s a great prop (“runs Firefox great! what else do you need??”). [and, btw, it does indeed run Firefox 3 Beta 4 wonderfully — it’s a really nice release that I think everyone is going to be very happy with.]

The ports are a bit of a bigger problem. No optical drive, so far, is okay, although it makes it pretty tough to do things like recover from a catastrophic failure. We have an external drive at the office, which I’ll undoubtedly have to use. The remote disk stuff is neat, but not particularly performant. Sort of have to ante up for the ethernet adapter, too, and it’ll help if you get an external USB hard drive — since there’s no firewire, you can’t start this machine up in target disk mode (and can’t connect to one in that mode), so overall it’s a big PITA to get even a few GB moved around.

None of that stuff is a huge problem for me, for a couple of reasons. First, I’ve had a lot of Macs over a lot of years, and I’m resourceful (relative to the mass market) in terms of getting outcomes that I want in over-constrained situations (like no ethernet). More importantly, though, I’ve got more machines around when I need them — an iMac in the office at home, a community superdrive at work, etc. Lots of folks have written that the MBA is a great secondary machine for traveling & such — that’s not my situation — mine is the primary machine, but I’ve got enough supporting infrastructure around to make it really work.

Anyway, I like it, and it’s making a big difference in how much junk I end up carting around — it’s way smaller, lighter, and still provokes double takes at how thin it is. So far so good.

Mar 08

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, by Chuck Klosterman

Par for the course for Klosterman — great, edgy, pop culture, music & sports essays. Fun to read, but probably not as good overall as IV .

Mar 08

The Dark Knight Returns, by Frank Miller

A friend gave me this when I admitted that I’ve read fewer than 5 graphic novels in my life. I enjoyed this one, and think it’s clearly a legitimate form — with the images and expressions, the exposition is distinctly different than traditional novels, and I think the impact on the reader is quite different. I’ve read three in the last few months, between Diary of a Wimpy Kid , Persepolis, and this. Won’t replace more traditional books for me, but I think we’ll see more and more mixed format work over time.

Mar 08

What the Dead Know, by Laura Lippman

Mostly picked up this relatively standard mystery fare because Lippman used to write for the Baltimore Sun and is presently married to David Simon, a favorite of mine, and because this book was on a number of “Best of 2007” lists. Pretty good for a mystery, fast pacing, good writing, although not really a genre that I usually read too much. Good airplane book, I’d say.