AnalogSenses

By ÁLVARO SERRANO

Exciting news

September 09, 2010

Introducing, for the first time, my personal website for those of you who understand Spanish (it is, after all, my first language).

The purpose of this web is two-fold:

First, it will enable me to learn how to code and build a website, which I’ve always wanted to do. But I’m starting one small step at a time. At the moment the web is handled by Wordpress, while it’s up to me to figure out how to tweak the theme and learn basic CSS. Who knows, maybe I’ll build a new one from the ground up one day. Suggestions, by the way, are not only welcome, but encouraged ;)

Second, I feel more comfortable writing about certain things in Spanish. Things that wouldn’t fit very well with Tumblr, or the tone I’m trying to set for this blog. But don’t worry, Analog Senses is very much alive, and it will continue to see the same kind of content that before. Only bigger, better, and uncut (and more frequently updated, I hope!)

That said, I give you alvaroserrano.com. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I do publishing it.

Cheers,

Álvaro.

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Minimal Mac: Year One →

August 10, 2010 |

Minimal Mac turns one.

I thought, especially for those that have not been here since the beginning, an appropriate way to celebrate would be for me to call out some of the posts I think are not only a good overview of the year that was, but are also a reflection of what we believe in…

Minimal Mac’s first birthday comes with a nice treat from Patrick. A must read, no matter how you look at it.

Happy Birthday.

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Quote of the Day →

August 06, 2010 |

Too bad the only people who know how to run the country are busy driving cabs and cutting hair.

George Burns (1896-1996)

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A really bad case of Gadget Lust

August 01, 2010

Today I made an important decision. It’s a tough decision to make for someone like me, quite prone to the oh-so-sweet affliction known as Gadget Lust. If you know anything about me or you’ve read some of the previous posts, you’ll probably suspect that I’m a black-belt ninja master of the Geek Order and a confessed Apple Fanboy. Also, I like to think, I have a modicum of common sense.

Just let me say it out loud, for the record: I’m not getting the iPhone 4.

iPhone 4

Also for the record, my decision has absolutely nothing to do with all the “Antennagate” drama. Too much has already been said about that and I won’t be adding to the pile. By now, all the facts are well-known. I you don’t want the iPhone 4, don’t buy it. If you do, go ahead and get it. Plus, you’re getting a free case to go with it. Bonus.

The iPhone 4 went on sale yesterday in my country (Spain). Actually, some stores opened on Thursday night at 0:00h in Madrid and Barcelona so that early adopters could get their hands on one as soon as possible.

Two years ago, on the launch day of the iPhone 3G, I was one of them (remember that the original iPhone was never released in Spain, the 3G was the first iPhone we ever got). I spent 6 hours waiting in line to buy my 16GB black iPhone 3G, tied to a two-year contract and a monthly data plan that ran me at 25 € per month (roughly $30) for 1GB (after that, the speed was reduced but I wasn’t charged more). The voice minutes were charged separately on top of that. All in all, I averaged between 80-120€ per month for the duration of my contract. However, I have to say that my carrier’s service during these two years was excellent. I never had network problems and the data speeds were great.

Today, I’m a free man. My contract expired two weeks ago, and I’m no longer bound to the greedy corporation that is Movistar. Their problem is simply that the game has changed. They’re no longer the exclusive carrier of the iPhone, all three major carriers in Spain (Vodafone, Orange and Movistar) offer it, each with different prices and offers to sweeten the deal.

If I really wanted the iPhone 4 though, I could easily get it, provided I was willing to keep my monthly bill within the 100 € ballpark, either by signing up to another 2-year contract with my current carrier or by changing to another one. I’m convinced that if I pressed Movistar hard enough, I could even get it for free.

But when the gadget lust wears off, and I can start thinking clearly again, I’m forced to see the reality. I’m extremely happy with my current iPhone 3G. I’m sure the iPhone 4 would be even better, but really, is it worth it to keep spending that much money every month? The answer in my case is no. By being freed from my contract, I have now the opportunity to move my number to another carrier, and take my iPhone 3G with me. The phone is in perfect working condition, as I have taken extremely good care of it for its entire life. The battery is almost as good as new, more than enough to last me a whole day and a night without having to plug it in, or worry about how I use the phone to avoid running out of juice.

And the other carriers have prices that Movistar can’t match. Not even close.  I’m changing to Simyo, a virtual mobile carrier (meaning that they don’t have their own network, and operate under another carrier’s network) with a much cheaper voice and data plan. Just for reference, my last bill was 82 € with Movistar, and in Simyo it would have cost me 27 €. That’s one-third the price. It doesn’t really get more black and white than that. And the best part is that I’m not tied to the new contract, I can just leave anytime, no penalty fees or anything like that.

The bottom line is this: it’s not that the iPhone 4 is not good enough to make me WANT to upgrade, it’s that my current iPhone 3G is also pretty damn good at the things I use it for, and therefore I don’t NEED to upgrade. Besides, by not upgrading I have an opportunity  to significantly reduce my phone bill (by two-thirds, that’s a freaking 67%). Given the choice of  having more features vs spending less money, I’m in a position where I can comfortably pick the latter.

As for the things that iOS4 bring to the table, I feel like I can live without them just fine for now. Many people seem to have experienced problems when upgrading to iOS4 from an iPhone 3G, so I’ve decided to hold off on upgrading for now.

Now, this is not to say that I won’t EVER get the iPhone 4. If at some point down the road I get a chance to purchase an unlocked one at a reasonable price, I’m pretty sure I will. After all, I’m a geek and the 4 looks great. But right now, the leap between the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 4 is not enough to lure me into paying that kind of money every month. I feel like my phone still has a long life ahead of it, and I intend to get the best out of it for as long as I possibly can.

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Review: Moshi iVisor AG - a matte screen protector for the 13" MacBook Pro

July 03, 2010

Anti-glare covers are a cheap and easy way to eliminate the biggest, most annoying issue that I have experienced with my 13” MacBook Pro 2010: The Glare™.

There is, of course, another option: having the stock screen replaced by a custom-made matte screen. TechRestore offers such service for the 13” MacBook Pro for $199 + shipping charges. This is obviously the highest quality option, but it’s also the most expensive, and will most likely void your warranty.  Besides, living outside the US, this is not a realistic option for me. But if you live there and want to give it a try, this promises to be a great choice. After all, the warranty loss is really not much of an issue if you don’t have AppleCare, because the one-year-warranty that Apple offers by default is simply laughable. The good part is that TechRestore will offer you an extended warranty that covers any issues you may experience as a result of the screen replacement. That is, I would say, a great way to gain the customer’s trust.

After carefully examining the different anti-glare protector options available, the decision came down to two models: Power Support’s Anti Glare Film and Moshi’s iVisor AG.

Both have their pros and cons, but what’s curious about it is that they turn out to be pretty opposite implementations of the same solution for the same problem. They both cost $35, so price is not a deciding point. Their main differences are:

  Power Support’s Anti Glare Film ($34,95):

*   Good: Once installed, it adheres to the screen perfectly.

*   Bad: According to most people, installation is a pain, mainly because of the bubbles that appear beneath the film, which are nearly impossible to avoid. The good news is that most of these bubbles will work themselves out over time due to the static charge that keeps the film “glued” to the glass. However, any dust particle caught between the screen and the film will result in  a different type of bubble, that can only be eliminated by removing the dust particle. In order to do that, you need to remove the film, catch the dust spec with some tape, and then reapply the film. This, of course, without letting  any other particles get in the way during the process. According to most reviews and comments, this is nearly impossible to do properly, meaning that if you don’t get it right the first time (and chances are you won’t), the film is ruined and reapplication is not really an option. Some people go even as far as to suggest that you buy two of these when placing an order. One for practice, and another one for the real application, when you get REALLY good at it. This effectively doubles the price, but if you manage to do it right, the result could very much be worth every penny. And it’s still a lot cheaper than TechRestore’s screen replacement.

  Moshi’s iVisor AG ($35):

*    Good: Easier installation process, 100% bubble-free guaranteed. The hard part is cleaning the screen and working on a dust-free environment, but the included microfiber cloth certainly helps, which is a nice touch. If the end result is as good as Power Support’s film (and there’s no reason to think otherwise), then this is a no-brainer.

*    Bad: The black bezel that surrounds the iVisor AG is odd. First, it’s not necessary (the MacBook Pro’s own bezel is already black, so what’s the point?) And second, in order to avoid covering the ambient light sensor and the MacBook Pro logo, these areas of the bezel have been degraded from black to almost transparent. The final appearance can be weird, like these areas are washed-out, or something. This is just cosmetic, of course, but for $35 they could have thought it through a little bit more.

In the end I decided that I didn’t care so much about a black bezel and I’d rather have a pain-free installation, so I went to a local Premium Reseller and got the iVisor AG. Moshi’s reputation among their customers is nearly impeccable, and most of the comments I read said that their products are of high quality and that their attention to detail is impressive. This also eased my mind into picking the iVisor AG over Power Support’s anti-glare film.

Let’s now see how it performs, and whether it’s worth getting it:

Installation

This rocks, you can literally put it on in two minutes. Provided you can find a dust-free environment to work in, this will be a breeze. Just wipe the screen clean with the included microfiber cloth, and you’re good to go. Proceed as recommended in the instructions included and you should be OK. Just start aligning the top with the iSight camera and work your way down from there, it’s really easy. The iVisor AG won’t make any bubbles, as promised. Also, removing it and reapplying it is no problem at all. Just peel it off with your hand from any of the lower corners, and then put it back on just like you did the first time. No sweat. It doesn’t leave any residue on the screen when removed, which is great, too.

Matte vs Glossy

Bye, Bye, reflections!

After installing the iVisor AG, reflections are literally gone. I mean it, there’s a huge difference. Here are some examples (click through for the full-sized versions):

Killing reflections

Killing reflections 2

Normal usage

Under the Sun

If reflections are in your worst nightmares, then this thing is for you. Even under direct sunlight, the MacBook Pro screen is definitely usable. Please note that any laptop will be uncomfortable to use under the Sun for an extended period of time. While the iVisor AG is good at handling reflections, it’s not magical.

Under the Sun

Under the Sun

But…

The iVisor AG is a great product that does extremely well the one thing you bought it for: killing reflections. However, it’s not a product without its flaws. Some of them are more important than others, and it’s up to you to decide whether they are deal breakers for you. Here’s a breakdown of  its weaker points:

Text Sharpness

This something I noticed only after purchasing it. The easier installation process means the end result is not as high-quality as one would expect. The adhesive used by Moshi is located only on the bezel of the screen protector, and instead of adhering itself to the whole screen with static charge, it just sits on top of the glass. This allows for a bubble-free installation, but it means that there is always a tiny gap between the iVisor layer and the actual glass, which produces a certain loss of sharpness that can be noticed especially in text. This can be very annoying at times until you get used to it, because your eye constantly tries to focus the text, which is impossible. It’s also especially bad with a white background, because the white light diffracts when it travels through the iVisor, resulting in a miniature rainbow effect on every pixel that makes it look like the screen under the protector is dirty, which is not the case. Moreover, it’s frustrating because if you press the iVisor onto the screen with your hands you can see the text perfectly clear, which gives you a hint of how good this protector could be if the adherence to the screen had been better designed (ahem, Power Support, I’m looking at you).

Matte vs Glossy

An example from analog senses

Matte vs Glossy

Another example, from Minimal Mac

Now, it’s not as bad as it looks here. The on-screen text is definitely readable and it’s actually not bad if you use a decent sized font. The thing is: it’s just noticeable. All the time. This was my biggest gripe for the first few days, so much so that I almost tried to return it.  But it is kind of growing on me, or perhaps I’m getting used to it. Still, if you’re obsessed with details (and people that hate reflections so much tend to be), this could drive you mad. It’s definitely a quality loss on your beloved MacBook Pro’s screen. The question is, is it worth it in order to get rid of the glare? If you need to be on the move a lot with your laptop, I would say yes, definitely. However, if it’s just occasional use and the majority of the time you use it indoors, then not so much.

As a positive side-effect, this gap means that if a tiny dust particle is caught between the screen and the protector, it’s not a problem at all. That alone could make up for the loss in sharpness. It also means you can definitely remove the iVisor and reapply it without having to work on a clean room, which gives you more freedom to decide how you want to use it: you can either leave it on at all times, or remove it and only apply it when you can foresee intense working periods during which you’ll need to use your laptop (students, I’m talking about the month before the exams).

I’ve had it on for two weeks now, all the time, during which I’ve been using my laptop from moderately to rather intensely, and I’ve gotten used to it. Still, sometimes I think of how gorgeous my screen used to be and I get a little edgy.

Brightness

This is an obvious problem. Having something covering your screen means the light can’t travel through as easily as before. Despite Moshi’s claims that the iVisor’s transparency is over 90%, the brightness hit is clearly noticeable, especially when working with text. This means you’ll have to increase the brightness settings, which in turn will drain your battery. In my experience, having the brightness set at any point below six hits from max becomes pretty uncomfortable to use. Fortunately, the new 13” MacBook Pro (and the previous generation, too) has battery life to spare, so this shouldn’t bother you much.

Viewing angle

Simply put, it’s terrible. Anything other than looking straight at the screen becomes impossible to use. Again, this is especially true with text. It quickly becomes blurry and extremely uncomfortable to read. This is partly due to the before mentioned gap, as the distance traveled by the light is greater if you look from the side as opposed to looking straight at it, and the blurriness is increased accordingly. This is clearly not a way to watch movies with friends.

Colors

The colors are dulled and a bit washed out, but in my experience this was not nearly as bad as I was expecting. The screen still looks great when the brightness is set high. Still, if color is important for you, this could be a problem. This is clearly not for professional use (photographers, you’re out of luck). I’ve read that re-calibration of the monitor helps, but obviously it can only get you so far. If you need color accuracy, I would strongly suggest the TechRestore option, since the replaced screen has the exact same specs as the original, which are pretty good. For normal use, however, you’ll be perfectly OK.

Matte vs Glossy

The MacBook Pro screen with the iVisor AG on

Matte vs Glossy

The original MacBook Pro screen, without the iVisor AG

Matte vs Glossy

There’s not a huge difference in color

Conclusion

All in all, the iVisor AG is a good product and it will do its job tremendously well, but certain flaws keep it from being a great option for everyone. After getting used to it, I’m starting to really like it, but I can’t help but wonder if I wouldn’t have liked Power Support’s anti-glare film better. For what I’ve seen in using the iVisor, most of its issues are derived from the existence of a tiny gap between the protector and the screen. Thus, an anti-glare film that is perfectly adhered to the screen (like Power Support’s) would make for a terrific solution. In my opinion, if you’re relaxed about these limitations, then the ease of installation wins hands down. But if you’d rather have the best end result and quality, then it could be really worth it to spend the time and effort necessary to install Power Support’s anti-glare film properly.

Final Words

This was the first product review in the short history of analog senses, so it’s somewhat a special occasion. The reason there had been none to date is that, like I said in The Manifest, this is not a technology-exclusive blog, nor does it intend to add to the myriad of blogs already doing excellent reviews of devices and issues about which I could hardly offer any insight at all. My point is that I’m not planning to step on anybody’s toes, and I’d rather focus on other topics for this blog on a regular basis.

That said, I hope you have enjoyed this one, and even more, I hope it can be useful to you. You can browse through the whole set of images here.

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The second Rands in Repose benefit T-shirt is already available →

June 23, 2010 |

Besides it being an incredibly cool T-shirt for every nerd out there (and most normal people too), it supports a great cause: “100% of the proceedings from each shirt go to First Book, a nonprofit organization with the mission to give children from low-income families  the opportunity to read and to own their first new books”.

So what are you waiting for? Rejoyce in your own nerdery, and go buy one now.

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Quote of the Day →

June 19, 2010 |

A bore is a man who deprives you of solitude without providing you with company.

Gian Vincenzo Gravina (1664 - 1718)

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Counting from nine →

June 15, 2010 |

A very interesting blog, for those of you navigating rough waters.

Sometimes it helps to read about the experiences of others.

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"I'm not writing it down to remember it later, I'm writing it down to remember it now." →

June 15, 2010 |

So true.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Field Notes, the journal that gives my Moleskine a heck of a run for its money. Thanks to @moleskinny for the heads up!

Field Notes by Álvaro Serrano, on Flickr

I’ve always been a fan of the notebook. Even in the digital era, some thoughts are just meant to be written down on paper.

On a related note, you may want to have a look at this:

Pen and Paper are Mightier than the Laptop

Enjoy.

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