Archive for March, 2013

Boomboxes Are Expensive When They’re Big Enough To Need Wheels

The Mobile Blastmaster exists. That's most of what you need to know. It's the boombox of your dreams, or more probably, your nightmares. It's a little red wagon on crack. More »


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Lily Newman

March 31st

Uncategorized

Review: TwelveSouth’s BookBook case for the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro

TwelveSouth-BookBook-MacBookPro-02 TwelveSouth-BookBook-MacBookPro-03 TwelveSouth-BookBook-MacBookPro-05

We’ve reviewed and enjoyed a number of TwelveSouth products over the years. We were intrigued by the hollowed out book idea with the company’s original BookBook case for the MacBook Air and since it has brought out similar hand distressed leather BookBook cases for other Apple devices, like the iPhone and iPad mini. While maybe not the ideal option for Apple’s anit-skeumorphic cheerleaders, I found the stark contrast to Apple’s sometimes cold industrial design a nice juxtaposition.

I tend to not use any skins, covers or cases when using my MacBook on a day to day basis. I slide my MacBook into a laptop pouch built-into my backpack or use a standard laptop case when on the go, and rarely do I actually leave the MacBook in the case when in use. A case was necessary for protection when traveling, but for me the average soft or hard plastic laptop case never quite does the pricey, Jony Ive designed Apple hardware inside justice. BookBook is different…

BookBook is made to stay on your MacBook when in use and, on top of protection from scratches and impact with its two hard covers, provides a nice level of security from prying eyes, easily fooling passers-by with its realistic, vintage hardback book design. However, that’s of course when the case is closed and inconspicuously resting on a table. When opened, BookBook for obvious reasons attracts more onlookers than your average laptop case, but that’s only a testament to its unique design. Designs vary from product to product, and there are competitors offering similar options, but TwelveSouth has become well known as the go to place for those looking for this unique vintage book design. TwelveSouth-BookBook-MacBookPro-02 Hands-on 

TwelveSouth isn’t shy about the fact that BookBook is made to look vintage. Hand distressed leather means the leather along the spine appears to be creased and worn in all the right places, while the two hard covers also come quite beat up. It means no two BookBooks will arrive exactly alike, but it also means you should expect your BookBook’s leather to have its fair share of imperfections. The leather is soft enough that it will continue to get nicks and scratches on a daily basis through regular use, but unlike other laptop cases, it only adds to the charm of BookBook’s vintage design.

TwelveSouth-BookBook-MacBookPro-03The spine of the BookBook isn’t just painted on like some of the knock offs on the market. Instead you get thick, rigid stitching that feels just like the binding of a real book- not only does it add to the realism of the hollowed out book effect, but it also provides an easy way to pick up and grip the case when it’s closed. I lose the handle that is standard on the laptop bags I typically use for traveling, but TwelveSouth notes that BookBook’s tight fitting, slim design with rounded spine will squeeze easily in laptop bags designed for the next size up MacBook. In other words, BookBook for the 15-inch Retina MacBook will fit in most bags with compartments designed for a 17-inch laptop.

The intricate detailing extends to the zipper itself with small leather zipper pulls that give the look of a decorative bookmark and light cream colored material surrounding the zipper to mimic the pages of an old book. One slight downside is the quality of the zipper. It didn’t pose any problems for me during my month with the case, but I noticed the majority of my other laptop bags, such as my PowerBag, employ much heavier duty zippers. TwelveSouth-BookBook-MacBookPro-01 Detailing on the spine and a small TwelveSouth logo indented in the bottom hard cover provides an easy way to see if BooBook is the right side up before opening.

The inside of both sides of the case is lined from corner to corner with a brown, velvet-like material that keeps your MacBook Pro safe from getting scratched by the case itself, but the lining isn’t thick enough to provide any real extra impact protection. The MacBook fits nicely in the case when open and in use, with TwelveSouth-BookBook-MacBookPro-04the top cover held to the display using the usual small, soft elastic bands. It’s the standard solution for laptop bags to stay attached to the display once opened, and it does the trick, but it doesn’t exactly have the same vintage feel and unique quality as the outside of the BookBook. I would prefer something more substantial to keep the MacBook secure and in place inside the case, but I didn’t run into any issues with the elastic bands and the MacBook doesn’t have much room to move around when BookBook is zipped up.

It’s a little heavier than your average lightweight sleeve at approximately 1.5lbs/22.5 ounces, but it also provides more protection compared to typical soft cases and sleeves with its stiff, hardback covers. The weight certainly isn’t something that would keep me from using the BookBook and fortunately the added weight in this case goes towards a generous covering of quality genuine leather and the durable protective hard covers.

There is a small amount of room for the MacBook Pro’s vents to breathe, but it did get noticeably hotter and louder over an extended period of use inside the case. You’ll likely want to remove it from the case when at home or office and using the MacBook Pro as your main machine throughout the day.

Changes from the old MacBook case TwelveSouth-BookBook-MacBookPro-07

While the Retina Macbook pro and its slimmed down profile would probably fit loosely in the old 15-inch Book Book for the non-Retina MacBook, TwelveSouth has thankfully made some tweaks to make a perfect fit. Anyone familiar with the BookBook for the last generation non-Retina 15-inch MacBook might notice a few changes. Gone is the option to choose all red or black detailing and new is a slimmer design that it first introduced with its BookBook for the Air. Apple shrunk the MacBook Pro down to the size of the MacBook Air at its thickest point with the introduction of the 15-inch Retina last June, so it’s only fitting that TwelveSouth would opt for the much thinner design and rounded spine for the new MacBook Pro lineup too.

It may be a hard sell to Apple purists with a phobia of covering up Jony Ive’s award winning designs, but if making your MacBook look like an old piece of literature is your thing, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a solution that does a better job than TwelveSouth’s BookBook.

BookBook for the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro is available now for $79.99 with free shipping. TwelveSouth also has the same version I reviewed today available for the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, and both the 11 and 13-inch MacBook Air models Users with the previous generation MacBook Pro can check out TwelveSouth’s other BookBook cases here.  TwelveSouth-BookBook-MacBookPro-02 TwelveSouth-BookBook-MacBookPro-03 TwelveSouth-BookBook-MacBookPro-05 TwelveSouth-BookBook-MacBookPro-06 TwelveSouth-BookBook-MacBookPro-08 TwelveSouth-BookBook-MacBookPro-07 TwelveSouth-BookBook-MacBookPro-04 TwelveSouth-BookBook-MacBookPro-01


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Jordan Kahn

March 31st

Apple

Mac

Okay, April Fool’s 2013 Is Happening

YouTube and GoogleMaps are getting the ball rolling today. According to the release above, YouTube is not actually a video viewing and sharing site, but an 8-year contest to find the best video anyone can make. And GoogleMaps now has a treasure map layer. Nice, we see what you did there. [CNET] More »


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Lily Newman

March 31st

Uncategorized

Robots Save Easter After Negligent Bunny Makes A Mess Of Everything

The Robotics and Perception Group in the Artificial Intelligence Lab at the University of Zurich is nailing it. Funded in 2012, they are studying the development of autonomous robots by making seasonal videos. Which is all anyone really wants. More »


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Lily Newman

March 31st

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Wooden Lamps Show The Light Within

There's something really meditative about these slotted lamps. They're made out of wood from California cypress trees and the light inside is a constant current LED, but the sculptural elements come through more than the utility as a lamp. More »


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Lily Newman

March 31st

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Smell-O-Vision Might Actually Be Happening, But Who Even Knows Anymore

Doesn't it seem like being able to smell a TV show would be undesirable a lot of the time? Alex Trebek's cologne would be wafting around your grandma's all through Easter dinner and then your house would smell like blood after the Game of Thrones premier. More »


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Lily Newman

March 31st

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Do You Still Print Stuff Out?

Yesterday I was printing a form and I realized it was the first time I had printed anything in months. For awhile I was the one who still had a paper copy of my bus ticket, Fandango confirmation, even driving directions. But yesterday I realized that my printer was covered in dust and stocked with ink and paper because I don't really use it anymore. I'm not someone who made a huge effort to be all digital, I just hit a tipping point. Where are you in the transition to paperless? How are things at your office? Ponder below. More »


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Lily Newman

March 31st

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DNA Is The Linux Of The Natural World

We probably all vaguely assume that computers will overthrow us someday, which may be why it's so unsettling to learn that computer code is evolving much like genetic code. By comparing bacterial genomes to Linux, researchers have found "survival of the fittest" acting in computer programming. More »


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Lily Newman

March 31st

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256 Shades Of Grey

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I want a black and white computer, and I don’t want it out of sheer, wanton weirdness. I actually think it’s a good idea. Here’s why.

A huge, huge proportion of the content we consume every day is text. And, for many, an equal proportion of what they work with is text — be it code, email, or published content like this. For the consumption and creation of text, a monochrome display is all that is necessary, and in some ways even superior to a color one.

Pixels on an LCD like the one on which you’re probably reading this are made up of dots or sub-pixels — usually one red, one green, and one blue. The transistor matrix changes the opacity of a sub-pixel of a given color, and by working together they can create millions of hues and shades. But they work (with a few exceptions such as sub-pixel font smoothing and pentile layouts) only as triads, meaning a display with a resolution of 1920×1080 addressable pixels has three times that many addressable dots. (This is the reason why simply desaturating the image does not improve the resolution.)

Consequently, if you were to remove the color filters, each sub-pixel would become a pixel — all only able to show shades of grey, of course, but pixels nonetheless, and far more of them than there were before. Result: extremely high spatial resolution, far beyond the so-called “retina” point, even at close range — beyond even glossy magazine levels of sharpness, a dream for rendering type. (The two previous paragraphs previously contained miscalculations as to the pixel density, which have since been amended)

It would also be brighter, or put another way, would require less backlight, since the removal of the filters allows far more light to pass through. That saves battery. Also saving battery is the reduced amount of graphics processing power and RAM necessary to store and alter the screen state, and so on. Small things, but not insignificant.

It would, of course, retain all of the other benefits of a modern, connected device, remaining as responsive and powerful as any other laptop or tablet, just minus the color. Logistically speaking, adapting existing content would not be that problematic (“time-shifting” apps and other extractors already do this). And it’s more than a glorified e-reader: the limitations of that type of hardware are lethal to many of the methods in which we are now accustomed to finding, consuming, and creating content (to say nothing of the screen quality).

Why black and white? Well, why color?

But what the hell is the point, you ask, if it’s not in color? The web is in color. The world is in color!

Your Instagram feed won’t be quite as striking in greyscale, it’s true. Rich media wasn’t designed for monochrome, and shouldn’t be forced into it. It demands color, and deserves it. Obviously you wouldn’t want to browse Reddit or edit video on a monochrome display. But if something does not require color, it seems pointless to provide it, especially when doing so has real drawbacks.

You’ve seen the apps that prevent procrastination, or make the user focus on a task, by blocking out distractions and the like. At some times, we want a tool that does one thing, and at other times, we want a tool that does others. That’s why computers are so great: They can switch between, say, text-focused work mode and image-focused movie mode in an instant.

They’re like Swiss Army knives: a corkscrew one minute and a can opener the next. But, as I tried to suggest in my previous column, if you tend to open a lot of wine bottles and very few cans, wouldn’t you prefer that you had a dedicated wine opener, without a bunch of other tools attached? That it can’t open a can is tragic, but more than made up for by its facility in its chosen task.

There will always be a place for the essential alone

I believe some people would not only be unperturbed by an inability to watch videos or what have you — in fact, they may prefer it. We already have different computing tools for different purposes, and we don’t demand that they all do everything — I have a laptop so I can write, as I am at the present, while enjoying some fresh air and coffee. I have a desktop for games and heavy productivity. I have an iPad for this, and an e-reader for that, and a phone for this, and a camera for that. What’s one more, especially when it would be, I believe, quite good at what it does, even if that’s “only” working with text?

There’s also a less practical, more aesthetic reason I would enjoy a black and white device. The content we consume and the ways we navigate it have become loud and colorful, and to me it does not appear that this profusion of saturation has been accompanied by a corresponding subtlety of design. The eruption of capabilities has made many lose touch with the beauty of austerity, and what’s billed as “minimalism” rarely is. There is a set of qualities that sets that starkness apart, and while we have always enjoyed ornamentation, there has always been (and will be for the foreseeable future) a place and purpose for the essential alone.

On that note, I think it would be an interesting experiment, and highly beneficial one, to attempt to rebuild, say, Facebook or an OS, without any color at all. When you subtract color cues like green for yes and red for no, or implicit boundaries based not on contrast and flow but on different coloration, the problem of presenting and consuming the information concerned is totally changed. Perhaps one would learn better the fundamentals of layout, flow, proportion, and so on, and that would inform the color world as well.

I read a lot, and I write for a living. I want a specialized tool for doing those things, just as a logger would want an axe instead of a big knife, or a runner a good pair of shoes instead of slippers. In the end, I like the idea of a black-and-white device and interface for many of the reasons I like black-and-white photography. It’s different, and has different strengths, and both requires and provides a different perspective. For me, that’s enough to at least want it on the table.


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Devin Coldewey

March 31st

Gadgets

What If The Sun Just Totally Disappeared?

This is actually a pretty great thought experiment. At first it might seem kind of pointless to talk about what would happen if the sun vanished, but it doesn't actually result in the immediate destruction of everything. Which is weird. Vsauce walks through a pretty nuanced description of how earth's natural systems would slowly fail, but over weeks and even years, not seconds. The cold would get us in the end, but extremophiles that live in deep sea volcanoes and thermal vents could survive for billions of years. If you're not heliocentric and human-centric things don't look so bleak. [Vsauce] More »


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Lily Newman

March 31st

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