Nike+iPod Internals

Curious how the Apple/Nike+ iPod accessory set works, the hackers over at SparkFun have taken apart both the shoe insert and the iPod receiver. You can check out all the details here, including some discussion of the hardware choices Apple made.

Interestingly, the shoe insert is transmit-only, whereas the little white gadget that plugs into the iPod’s dock connector has a chip capable of both reception and transmission. With the right hacking, it might be possible to get iPods to talk to each other over a short range — surely not fast enough to transfer music, but “now playing” info is within the realm of possibility.

Nike+iPod Internals

MacFUSE

Amit Singh, author of the excellent book Mac OS X Internals, has published a Mac version of FUSE, a kernel extension that allows various data structures to be “remapped” as a local file system. Even internet-dependent sources like Flickr photo albums, RSS feeds, and remotely-connected SSH sessions can be represented as files in a folder. If you’ve never seen technology like this before, this video demo shows just how cool this stuff is. There’s already a FlickrFS extension that can be implemented with FUSE, so it shouldn’t be too much trouble to implement it on the Mac, making Flickr photo managing as easy as drag-and-drop. After backing up my current system (this is unsupported software), I’ll try installing MacFUSE and a handful of plugins.

MacFUSE

Macworld Roundup

So, the iPhone has arrived. Never before on a mobile device have I seen such colorful graphics, beautiful animation, and usable features. If they didn’t already seem last century, Windows Mobile and other smart phone systems really have to catch up to Apple’s designs. The multi-touch interaction looks like it’s done just right, and everything “scrolls like butter,” as Steve said last year. While I was almost sure that Apple wouldn’t create a mobile phone, I knew that if they did, it would put other hardware and software solutions to absolute shame.

While Steve’s keynote answered many of my initial questions, I’m very curious if Apple will allow third parties to develop their own applications and widgets, as they’ve done with Dashboard in Mac OS X. As I live in the midwest, Cingular coverage is next to nil out here, so loading an iPhone optimized version of Skype would be ideal for me. WiFi coverage is better in my area than the average cell signal, making my iPhone almost exclusively 802.11 based — fine by me, as broadband is thankfully plenty fast. With internet access almost anywhere now, third party widgets that access the internet would be so much more popular. Finally, I can take my Chuck Norris Facts widget on the road with me, and stay up-to-date with the latest trivia.

In all seriousness, though, Apple has set the bar for mobile phones so high, and yet they won’t even be shipping the iPhone until June. I do wonder if they will continue to update the iPods, or force users to buy an iPhone to take advantage of all the new features? Rumors have been answered with what looks to be a stellar product, but there are many more questions to come. And, naturally, I want to take the iPhone apart and see what makes it tick.

Also new at Macworld is the tv (that’s Shift-Option-K to make the Apple logo on the Mac, by the way). I was surprised at how much 802.11n was downplayed — it’s a huge factor in the performance of the device, and requires an all-new AirPort Extreme base station, which may soon replace my WRT54G. Apple is really pushing new TV technology, too. My main standard definition TV still only has composite (yellow) video-in, so I’m S.O.L. when it comes to the Apple tv. I’m not about to drop Xbox Media Center any time soon, so I may consider assembling a Front Row/Apple tv skin for XBMC, just to make it more friendly and Mac-like.

The year has just begun, and there’s bound to be all kinds of new goodies in store. Apple really knows how to kick off a year. Start by revolutionizing the mobile phone industry, they maybe move into dual quad-core Macs. Who knows — we may all be typing on multiprocessor and multi-core machines before the end of the year!

Macworld Roundup

Toast 8 Released

Today at Macworld, Roxio released an all-new version of Toast Titanium for Mac. Notable features include support for Blu-Ray burning, transferring video from a TiVo to your Mac, spanning data across multiple discs, better DVD handling, audio mixing, and tons more — all in a shiny new interface. You can check out the new look by viewing the photos I’ve posted on Flickr.

Toast 8 Released

“24” Season 6 DVD Leak

In a surprising turn of events fitting only for a show such as “24,” a privvy few have managed to get their hands on the first DVD from the sixth season and have released it on the internet. Right now, the DVD-R version of the first four episodes from the as-yet-unaired season are available.

From the release:

At the end of Season 5, Jack Bauer was kidnapped, beaten, and taken captive in retribution for his involvement in a raid on the Chinese Consulate eighteen months earlier. Now, there’s a new president, Jack Bauer is missing, and the U.S. is under siege from terrorist attacks more threatening than anything we’ve ever encountered! There is only one thing that can save the nation
— Jack Bauer must die.

Get ready for the most explosive, the most terrifying, the most heart-pounding four hours of television ever. Included on this exclusive DVD are the first four hours of Season 6 – 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. – and a never-before-seen 12-minute preview of the next explosive episode. And you thought your rush hour was tense…

“24” gets better with every turn, and this season is already no exception. It hasn’t even begun airing on national TV yet, and I’m already enjoying it. Here’s hoping the whole cast survives this season…!

“24” Season 6 DVD Leak

Mac DVD Burner Upgrades

Not long ago, a question was asked of me whether or not the Mac Mini could have its stock SuperDrive upgraded to a faster burner. When I was selling mine, I noted that I upgraded the burner to a brand new drive, but never detailed how I researched the upgrade before attempting the switch. Here’s the long and short of doing an upgrade on a Mac which uses a slim optical drive.

Upgrading the DVD burner to a newer model will not only bring shorter burn times, but in the case of my PowerBook and Mac Mini, Dual Layer capabilities. Opening the PowerBook is considerably more complicated than the Mac Mini — some experience working inside laptops will be useful if you intend to crack open an Apple notebook. First, though, you’ll want to make sure a new drive will fit. Finding out which drive your currently own is trivial, thanks to Apple’s System Profiler application. You can launch it either by opening the Apple menu, About This Mac, click “More Info…”, or by opening System Profiler directly in the /Applications/Utilities folder. In both cases, under the Hardware heading, highlight “ATA,” which will list the attached ATA (better known as IDE) devices. Older machines which use IDE hard drives will list a couple devices here, whereas the Intel based Macs will have Serial ATA hard drives and list them separately in their own Serial ATA category. You will want to take note of the optical drive manufacturer, which is most likely one of the following: NEC, Matsushita (a.k.a. Panasonic), Pioneer, Sony, or NEC. The most common manufacturers Apple uses are Panasonic and Pioneer. Note the entire model name and number of the drive, and read on.

While most Macs (and PCs) use slim DVD drives of the same dimensions, double-checking your hardware’s compatibility before jumping into a $100 purchase is certainly a wise choice. (MCE reports that the MacBook Pro 15″ and MacBook make use of a non-standard 9.5mm internal SuperDrive). For the Mac Mini in question, the original Apple branded SuperDrive was a Panasonic UJ-846. A little Googling turned up the specifications of it at Panasonic’s site, where they report its height (the most important measure) is 12.7mm. I’m an avid fan of Pioneer’s DVD burners, so I picked out the newest slim drive they offered, the DVR-K06. Again, some searching turned up the specs, and the equal height of 12.7mm. Knowing that both drives are of the same height, the upgrade proceeded as planned.

eBay Tip
Search for DVR-K0*. The * wildcard character allows for both the DVR-K05 and DVR-K06 models to be listed. Apple added support for the DVR-K06 in 10.4.6. Whichever you choose, rest assured it will be fully supported in all iApps.

The DVR-K06 drive I wanted was available from my favorite hardware supplier, NewEgg, so I ordered it and had it a short few days later. They no longer sell any slim, slot-loading drives, so you’ll have to find one elsewhere today. A number of online stores sell them, and eBay is also another great source.

After receiving the new drive, you’ll need to open up your Mac and install it. The Mac Mini has no screws on the outside, and requires — per Apple’s own Service Source documentation — a paint scraper to open the case. For detailed instructions, what could be better than a video? Other World Computing, who also sells Mac-compatible Dual Layer burners, offers a number of great take-apart and drive installation videos in their Tech Center. For PowerBook and other portables, you’ll find the iFixit guides invaluable. Their tutorials are as good, if not better, than Apple’s privvy documentation.

With a new drive installed, you’ll be able to back up huge iTunes and iPhoto libraries, applications, and documents on discs with double the capacity of a standard DVD±R, on the order of 8.5 GB. Hopefully this run-down will give you enough insight and confidence in purchasing a new DVD burner to keep your Mac running like new for a long time to come.