Just in case this is missed in my last post, This blog will not be updated further. Please click the link to read my blogs.
WordPress has been a fantastic blogging platform. Because of WordPress, I’ve been able to share many great ideas, read about the even better ideas from other people, and hopefully have helped the community. I setup this page a good while ago in search of a place to blog, and WordPress has not only met my expectations, but exceeded them.
So really, there isn’t an explanation for leaving, I just am. You can keep up with my current blogging adventures over at my homepage.
Don’t worry, I will leave everything exactly where it is, so you can reference to any of my informational posts in the future. As far as hosting files goes, I’ll need to configure that later.
Many thanks to the WordPress team, who works very hard to keep the blog as awesome as it is. When it comes to a full-featured blogging site, WordPress will be my first recommendation.
Introduction: A Different Philosophy
Apple products, like the iPad and the Mac, have always been known for their incredible design, no doubt about it. Apple’s dedication to providing a superior hardware and software experience has made them the multi-billion dollar industry titan we know today. Companies like TwelveSouth and Griffin design accessories that land on the Apple Store page time and time again, making more customers happy with their bite taken into the Apple. So what happens when you decide to break all the rules in Mac product design, make a keyboard with neon green backlighting, and designate it for the Mac? You get a keyboard none other than Razer’s 2013 BlackWidow Ultimate – Mac Edition. Just one glance at this keyboard and it’s clear that words such as “minimalist” or “aluminum” aren’t anywhere in Razer’s vocabulary. I’m not even sure if Razer has a dictionary, with product names like “Tartarus”, “Ouroboros”, and “Anansi”. The three snakes that represent Razer’s brand seem like something only a 12-year-old boy would find fascinating, and in Razer’s factory, high quality plastic is king. The BlackWidow Ultimate attempts to combine both form and function with a keyboard that offers functionality not offered on other Mac keyboards, while maintaining poise as a keyboard that doesn’t have “GAMER” written all over it. Having spent just over a couple of months with the BlackWidow Ultimate, it certainly is not for everyone; but for its intended audience, it’s nothing short of a great value.
History, Unboxing, First Impressions
In order to fully appreciate this keyboard, it is important to understand its relatively short product life cycle. First introduced at Gamescom in 2010, the BlackWidow Ultimate shipped with Blue LED’s and had a glossy exterior finish. While it looked nice out of the box, many complained about fingerprints, a problem with any glossy finished product. In late 2012, the BlackWidow Ultimate received a facelift, featuring: a matte surface, green LED’s, capitalized keycaps, and compatibility with Razer’s latest software offering, Synapse 2.0. The original BlackWidow Ultimate was designed as a Windows keyboard, but a Mac version shortly followed, retaining the same aspects of the Windows model, save for dedicated media controls and Command/Option keys. Believe it or not, I went to great lengths to find a 2010 Mac BlackWidow Ultimate, having scoured websites from across the globe. The few e-tailers who could ship the 2010 version wanted absurd amounts of money for the keyboard, so it appeared that I was in luck when I found one in an eBay auction with a starting price of $25, in the United States! As tempted as I was, something was holding me back; not the keyboard itself, but the Razer Orbweaver and all of its green backlighting glory. While I certainly could have modified the Orbweaver’s LED lights to match my keyboard, I decided that spending $85* on a keypad was already insane enough, and that I may as well go for the brand new 2013 BlackWidow in order to keep things matching on my desk; modding either 20 switches to match a blue light keyboard seemed like the exact opposite of Saturday afternoon fun.
I managed to snag the last 2013 model directly from Amazon for full MSRP of $139.99 (and has not been back in stock as of this review), and had it in just under 2 weeks. Having to wait for so long drove my excitement down just a bit, as I FINALLY got to unbox this mechanical beast. The box is massive, but purposefully contains the stiff cardboard that secures the keyboard. When taking the BlackWidow Ultimate out of its packaging, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the sheer weight of this thing. While the box says it weighs around 6lbs., it feels more like 8 at first because its so incredibly solid. Once it is on your desk, it isn’t going anywhere without two-handed force. To attest to the build quality, the braided connector cable makes a bold statement. While very gamer-ish, thick wire will always beat out thin in terms of durability, and immediately increased my confidence in the lifespan of the BlackWidow Ultimate. The matte finish, another upgrade from the previous model, looks a lot better in person than any default image can express. While not completely fingerprint/dirt resistant, you don’t need to worry about cleaning the keyboard every five seconds; just once in a while will do if you’re careful with what’s around your desk. Unfortunately, the ugly Razer logo sits directly centered beneath the Right Command key, and glows in conjunction with the rest of the keyboard. As I quickly learned, however, electrical tape is my friend; and a couple of carefully placed pieces later, the logo has been given a proper burial. Once I accomplished this, my feelings towards the keyboard were only further satisfied as I realized that this keyboard looks even better than before. On another note, transitioning from a keyboard with smaller keys, like I did from my Logitech K120, requires a bit of acclimation to the BlackWidow’s layout, mostly due to the position of the keys; I found myself making few, but noticeable errors such as typing an extra letter or two every few minutes. After just three hours or so, I was fully acclimated, and error-free.
Like with any keyboard, one of the first things you probably test out are its keys. The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate features mechanical Cherry MX Blue switches on every key — all 112 of them. These switches are notable for being incredibly loud, and live up to their name in the BlackWidow Ultimate, providing a tactile feel rivaled to retro keyboards. Simply put, every keystroke is as enjoyable as the last, but may annoy your next door neighbor. Luckily, Razer also offers the BlackWidow Ultimate in a “Stealth” Edition, featuring MX Brown switches, which significantly reduce noise in exchange for some of the tactility the Blue switches have. Unfortunately, this “Stealth” edition is not available in a dedicated Mac layout; those who want the Mac layout must opt for the regular edition. I personally feel that the Blue switches provide the most authentic typing experience, but YMMV. As a gaming keyboard, though, I wonder why this keyboard was not offered in MX Black or Red switch option; both of which are enjoyed by hardcore gamers. The BlackWidow Ultimate has a standard QWERTY layout, complete with a number pad as well as five additional macro keys lined up in unison from the ` key to the Control key. Each key has a matte finish as well as an individual LED. New to the 2013 revision is a green neon undercoat applied to the base of the keyboard, making the black keycaps stand out even more, providing a real “wow” factor. The transparent lettering on each key is located at the top, centered directly above the LED. For keys with additional symbols, like numbers and brackets, Razer has opted to only illuminate symbols/numbers that do not require holding Shift. While working on code in low light, I have to hunt-and-peck for commonly used symbols like pipe, brackets, and so forth. It gets annoying quickly, and it appears in this instance that Razer sacrificed usability slightly to maintain a uniform appearance.
Specific to the Mac layout outside the Command/Option keys, are the function keys, drastically different from their Windows counterpart. While crafting these keys, Razer took to the layout of the standard Apple Keyboard, so everything is exactly where you expect it. The Mission Control and Dashboard keys (F3 and F4 respectively) also received a facelift to match newer Apple keyboards in light of Apple’s OS X Lion (and beyond). The music control and volume keys are universal to the system and work across applications; meaning the Pause/Rewind/Forward keys work in Spotify or other music apps without any additional programming. Unlike the Windows version of the BlackWidow Ultimate, the Mac version features a dedicated Media Eject key, a treat for owners of older Macs, or those with external CD/DVD drives. While Apple allows for a keyboard shortcut to sleep the Mac by pressing Command-Option-Media Eject, using Eject will not work with any shortcut. To the right of the Media Eject button are two blank function keys, F13 and F14. The Mac version of the BlackWidow Ultimate has 19 function keys, with Function keys 15-19 along the left side of the keyboard as macro keys. While Razer’s product website shows the BlackWidow Ultimate with M1-M5 keys on the left hand side, the Mac version does not have these keycaps, but nonetheless function exactly the same as its Windows brother. Keeping this in mind, it seems Razer has given Mac users a bonus with seven blank keys, compared to six on the Windows version, ready for macros or any function you can imagine.
Like many modern mechanical keyboards, Razer provides additional I/O on the right hand side of the keyboard, featuring a USB 2.0 port and Headphone/Microphone ports, fantastic for those with PC gaming headsets. The USB port and Audio jacks require dedicated inputs; meaning you need 2 USB ports and an audio source to get them working. Personally, I use a Sabrent USB Audio card (Amazon link), to power the additional audio input/output. While all connectors are braided and gold plated (a huge plus), having 3 USB ports (or 2 and 2 audio jacks) to fully run this keyboard is asking quite a lot, particularly for Macbook owners, as all MacBooks and most Macbook Pros come with only 2 USB ports. The easy answer to this problem is a USB hub; but make no exception — you are going to want a powered USB hub. Having the keyboard and audio card plugged into a non-powered USB hub gave me many issues with audio quality from both the headphone and microphone jack, as well as many frequent oddities with the keyboard acting up.
Software: Razer Synapse and the Mac, Gaming
While a ridiculous concept for the average consumer, the BlackWidow Ultimate requires software to fully function; and whether you like it or not, you’re going to need it. Out of the box, the BlackWidow Ultimate functioned like a normal QWERTY keyboard, including the function controls and on-keyboard backlighting. At this point, the F13-F19 keys, Game Mode, Macro key, and key programming were useless, so I downloaded the latest version of Razer Synapse directly from their website, which was version 1.17 at the time. Synapse is like the nervous system of Razer products, allowing you to maximize your keyboard’s potential, or connect it with other Razer peripherals you may have. Customizable profiles for your devices are saved “over the cloud”, effectively getting all of your friends to install their software so you or they can use this “precious” keyboard. Unfortunately, after installing Synapse, my function controls just stopped working. I couldn’t change the brightness, change the volume, or do anything outside typing. Even with multiple computer restarts, I eventually resorted to downgrading Synapse to an earlier version, 1.14 to be exact. Alas! It finally was working! I took a chance by re-updating to version 1.17, and had no troubles either. For software that acts as a nervous system for my keyboard, it was having some serious jitters.
Once you’re inside Synapse, you’re presented with a nice interface that allows you to manage your Razer keyboard (and works with multiple Razer devices quite nicely). At the top of the interface, you can access your account information and opt to select the offline mode; Synapse requires an internet connection for initial setup, updates, and accessing profiles saved “on the cloud”. In the middle of the home page is your device, in this case the BlackWidow Ultimate. Left-clicking each key allows for you to program it for a number of functions such as: Cut/Copy/Paste, Keyboard Shortcuts, launching applications, controlling your other Razer products, and more. To the left of the home page, you can create an unlimited number of profiles (with support for key-switching for up to 10 via function key), which is useful for games or specific applications. A nice bonus found underneath the profile page is the Link Application checkbox; with this, any app you select will apply your chosen keyboard profile upon launch, and is great if you happen to have multiple profiles. Backlighting can also be adjusted in the Lighting tab, with a slider option for custom brightness, or to have the keyboard pulsate. I find the pulsate option annoying for actual use, but cool to show off. The keyboard itself can adjust backlight via the F5 and F6 keys, but only supports 21 levels of brightness, from no brightness to maximum, which really is too much for most. Next, the Gaming Mode tab simply enables or disables the keyboard’s Gaming mode, represented by a crosshair’d G letter, and allows the F1-F12 keys to function as normal function keys. This may be more useful for the BlackWidow Ultimate’s Windows version, but is still nice to ensure that you don’t accidentally hit the Mission Control or Dashboard keys by mistake.
Finally, we have the Macro Menu, which allows for multiple key sequences to be recorded, and activated with the press of a key or key command. The macro is an invaluable feature for MMORPG players and certain types of gamers, and Razer has done an excellent job with this feature. Activating Macro mode is as simple as pressing Function plus the Macro key, located next to Right Option. Pressing Fn+Macro twice will begin recording your macros, and pressing the escape key will end the session. Programming macros on the BlackWidow Ultimate by itself is a nice feature, but somewhat pointless since the keyboard lacks any RAM to save your macros locally; rather, you must rely on Synapse to get anywhere. Fortunately, Synapse’s software works well, allowing you to adjust time between key presses, input custom time delays, or allow for no delay at all. For the right person, or an MMORPG player, the macro function is well done and highly useful.
Now, I don’t really consider myself a computer gamer by any measure, but I did use the BlackWidow Ultimate for a few games here and there. After all, this is a gaming keyboard. One of the major features of this keyboard is that it has “Anti-Ghosting” technology, meaning that it can keep up with lots of simultaneous presses. While it does not feature true n-key rollover due to USB limitations, having seven or eight keys pressed is no issue for the BlackWidow Ultimate; but at this point, its worth checking out that Macro feature. In games, the QWERTY side of the board holds up quite well, but I did have some issues with the arrow keys; about one in 200-300 presses would fail to register correctly. I’m blaming this on user error due to the amount of actuation force required — only 55g, and the fact you don’t need to “bottom out” in order have the key register, unlike a standard membrane key. I’m also not much for the Macro features, as my Razer Orbweaver will fit the bill in those scenarios. All in all, gaming was very nice on the BlackWidow Ultimate compared to my cheap K120, but serious gamers may want investigate other MX switches before deciding if the MX Blues are for them.
Criticisms and Potential Improvement
When you’ve owned as many electronic gadgets and gizmos as I have, you realize that there cannot be such a thing as a perfect product, because if a product is perfect, why would you bother revising it? Razer, like many electronic companies, understands this idea very well, and have shown signs of progression in all of their products. The 2012 BlackWidow Ultimate is a great revision from an already great product, with more friendly backlighting and a matte finish. That’s not to say this product can’t be greatly revised, so I’ve come up with a list of revisions that could help differentiate themselves further from the competition:
The Logo: The green glowing logo I mentioned earlier is an eyesore, at best. That’s not to say it can’t have a logo, but it should probably be printed in black like it is on the Razer Orbweaver. In my opinion, the keyboard would look considerably better out of the box with this option.
Focus on Low Power: Since I have plugged this keyboard into my powered hub, I have had almost no problems with it. While in a standard 4-port hub, it would: frequently disconnect, activate Game mode with or without its indicator, disable media and volume controls, switch Macro keys around, disable backlighting or make it set to maximum brightness, simply not work upon waking my Mac from sleep, and the list goes on. The same results occur in other non-powered USB hubs, so it is my guess that the BlackWidow Ultimate needs either a direct computer connection or a powered USB one.
Backlighting: For a $140 keyboard, being limited to green backlighting is a love/hate relationship. I love it, but it would be great if Razer went with RGB lighting in their next revision. As mentioned earlier, it would also be nice if Razer backlit commonly used keys as opposed to simply their un-shifted value, particularly with curly and angle brackets.
Synapse: Let’s face it, being required to sign up for an account through Razer just to use your hardware properly is downright silly. While Razer probably means well with their “cloud” philosophy, it’s pretty easy to see past the fog and understand that it’s just another way for the men upstairs to make more money. I also had a terrible out-of-box experience with Synapse, and had Razer just decided to include on-board storage for Macros, Synapse wouldn’t really be required. Of course, corporate culture doesn’t like it too much when consumers win.
MX Switches: With the amount of knowledge consumers have today, it’s incredibly easy for them to make informed purchases, and mechanical keyboards are no exception. $140 is expensive for a keyboard, and the lack of customization in switches means people who want anything other than Blue and Brown switches buy outside the Razer brand. For the Mac edition of the BlackWidow/Ultimate, having Brown MX switches would be a great option to reduce noise, or maybe provide one with Black switches for heavy handed typers. While the MX Blue and Brown switches are more tactile, broadening the customer base is never a bad thing.
There’s a reason why mechanical keyboards are making a comeback from the 1980’s-90’s, and it’s because they provide an unmatched typing experience not found in the average keyboard of today. While many seem to suffice with membrane or scissor-style keys, those who care about peripheral quality are rewarded with a product that will outlast the membrane keyboard many times over. While almost any mechanical keyboard will work with the Mac over USB, finding one that is built for the Mac is becoming more and more difficult. And that’s if you opt for one without backlighting. If you demand a mechanical keyboard for the Mac with backlighting, look no further than the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Edition, because there isn’t anywhere else to look. Sure, you can take any backlit mechanical keyboard and use it with a Mac, but it cannot provide an “authentic” OS X experience. Of course, touch typists and others believe that backlit keyboards are moot, but in my opinion, if you’re going to spend $140 on a keyboard, why wouldn’t you get the complete package? That said, the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Mac Edition is really quite a special keyboard. While large on the desk, it’s not gaudy at all, and again, that matte finish makes it look excellent. Green backlighting may turn some off, but I believe the backlighting is an important part of this keyboard’s design, and it works very well.
If there’s one thing that this keyboard does other than type, it’s that it proves everyone (including me), wrong about “gaming” products; they can look great on your desk, and you’re going to want to look at it. The only real problem with the BlackWidow Ultimate then is it’s price, because you can do a lot with a $140 keyboard budget. The regular BlackWidow model, without backlighting, is available for $99.99 and is exactly the same thing as this keyboard sans backlit keys. Outside of Razer, you can buy a Das Keyboard Professional S Mac Edition for $133, or you can go retro with an Apple Extended Keyboard II complete with a USB adapter for ~$75, depending on the eBay auction. With all this in mind, I recommend this keyboard solely on the want/need to have backlighting; if it’s not needed, you can do better than the BlackWidow Ultimate. But, if you want the complete package, and the bragging rights of owning a mechanical backlit keyboard designed for the Mac, the BlackWidow Ultimate delivers big time. I just wish Razer could come up with better product names; for a black widow, this thing is loud.
Let’s face it. I’m an Apple guy at heart. I’m shoulders deep into the Apple eco-sphere, owning many versions of iPhone, an iPad, and a Macbook Pro. I want another Mac and I’ll probably buy the next version of iPad (if it ships with Touch ID). To anyone who asks me “what kind of smartphone should I buy?”; “iPhone, duh!” are usually the first two words that pop out of my mouth. But recently, I did something even I wasn’t expecting to happen.
Like many shoppers on Black Friday, I picked up one of those things called the Surface RT; that thing most of the internet doesn’t like. The Independent says that the new high-end Surface Pro 2 (a $1000+ tablet, mind you) is “worth your time, but perhaps not your money“. Motley Fool has a piece on why Windows should kill Windows RT, the software that runs on Surface and Surface 2. Fortunately, Simon Bisson over at ZDNet is a bit more optimistic, calling the Surface a “good device, that’s made better with Windows 8.1“
Now, I ordered my Surface RT on eBay (thanks to the Microsoft Store being down!) for $169 refurbished. Like many, I would argue that the promotional price of $199 for the Surface NEW is a better buy; but seeing as how Microsoft had prolonged periods of downtime on their online store, I had to go elsewhere. I got my Surface in a timely fashion – arriving Wednesday evening. Let me give the Surface a couple of bonus points here, because unboxing my Surface was actually exciting. The packaging was actually very nice and well-thought out; blue and white make for a surprisingly appealing box.
But unfortunately, that’s where it ends. It takes around a minute or so to boot the Surface, which is respectable given its hardware, but setup is rather mundane unless you already have a Microsoft account. To save time, I just used the existing Xbox Live account I have; and I found myself at the home screen quickly. My device shipped with Windows 8 (not 8.1) – so I was aware of the update waiting for me. However, the System Profiler informed me that I had 38 system updates that needed to be installed. Yes, a whopping 38 updates. On top of that, 15 of the default apps needed updates from the Windows Store. Even though I had 50% of battery capacity, I still needed to let my Surface “be fully charged” in order to apply any of these updates. So, now am I not only waiting a few hours (or overnight most likely) for my device to charge, but I now need to wait many hours just to get my tablet up to speed. If you follow me on Twitter, I joked about how I wished my Surface a “bon voyage!”. Surprisingly, my downloads were quick, but that’s probably because I had to leave my Surface right next to my wireless router. All in all, I would argue that the updates took around 6 hours or so to install. Ironically, it was the Windows 8.1 update that actually installed the fastest – in only around 20-30 minutes despite the 2GB file size.
Now, the real reason why I’m even writing this piece is because of the experience that Surface RT delivers. On paper, it’s superior to my iPad 3; double the RAM, double the cores (Tegra 3 is a quad-core processor all-in-all unlike the A5X chip which only delivers quad-core graphics). Device connectivity is far, far superior on the Surface, and I really enjoy the mouse support on Surface, which is not found on iPad. Having an almost-full suite of genuine Microsoft Office (the Mac version is laughably bad in comparison to Windows offerings) is simply amazing. But even with all of this, there’s something missing about the Surface. And this thing isn’t exclusive to just the Surface RT – it applies to Windows itself. Simply put:
There just isn’t any…pizzazz.
There isn’t anything about Surface RT that has that wow factor. Everything about the Surface RT just feels incredibly bleak. Now, don’t mistake this to the iPad, because as I’ve quickly learned, comparing the two tablets is like comparing apples to oranges. They both deliver entirely different experiences. But when I’m using my iPad, I feel as though I actually can have the best of both worlds: The iWork suite is great for writing up quick entries. There’s no shortage of financial tools for iPad, and if you’re willing to shell out the big bucks, lots of enterprise quality software. But more importantly, the iPad is fun. It is an incredibly fun device. The Surface reminds me a lot of an average corporate Joe, who likes working in his office, but never wants anything more from life. When I try to do something that isn’t related to work on my Surface, I just get frustrated. Web browsing is nothing short of an awkward experience, and using more than one app at a time is just plain silly; mostly because these apps don’t scale correctly to take advantage of half the screen. And when that’s one of the major selling points of Surface, you can’t help but wonder what else the Surface is going to make “not fun”.
All of this said, I don’t recommend one device over the other. But, if there’s one thing I have learned from Surface RT, it’s why Microsoft has delayed Office for iOS for such a long time. While the iPad and Surface are two different kings of their own mountain, if you had to place a bet on whether I still own my Surface in a month, the wise man would bet against it.
If you remember Apple’s iPhone event in September, you recall that Apple was including access to iWork (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) and iLife (iMovie, iPhoto) for free with the purchase and activation of a new iPhone/iPad after Sept. 1st. Tuesday (Oct. 22), Apple did the same with the new OS X Mavericks: not only making it free, but iLife and iWork free with purchase and activation of a new Mac. Hopefully by now you understand the premise of this post due to italics, so let me explain.
NOTE: iSuite is used throughout the post and refers to both iWork and iLife combined.
The terms purchase and activate are used jointly, but play two distinct roles in getting this iSuite free. Purchasing is not limited to just the iPhone 5s/5c/4s, but rather any device at an Apple store capable of running iOS 7 after 9/1/2013. Based on my experiences, this includes both in and out of warranty replacement phones/tablets. For example, say you drop your iPhone 4 and it’s cracked/broken/destroyed in a volcano/whatever. Since Apple Retail does not repair devices, you get a new iPhone 4 and are billed the cost of replacement (free for in-warranty replacements). Of course, once you get a new/replacement device, it’s likely the Apple Genius assisting you activates it on your respective carrier.
Most replacement devices at Apple Retail (save for the new models) have not been configured to iOS 7, and are still running a variant of iOS 6. The fact that these devices aren’t already on iOS 7 is irrelevant because of this: Upon initial activation, Apple runs a system check documenting the date of activation, and will also document the Serial Number of the device alongside the AppleID used the first time for sign-up. The reason why eligibility for the iSuite is hardware based makes sense when thinking about it. This makes a few scenarios virtually impossible, such as:
- Restoring a device purchased before Sept. 1 in order to get free iSuite
- Using someone else’s AppleID not associated with a device purchased after Sept. 1 to get a free copy of iSuite
- Using your own AppleID to get multiple copies of iSuite.
- Gifting the iSuite to a friend/whomever as a result of this promotion without their AppleID credentials
Being hardware based also makes a few other things possible, such as:
- Searching for warranty information through Apple’s Website
- Skipping the AppleID login upon initial setup
- Tracking App Store purchases
- Application and Springboard behavior detecting a new user (upon initial setup)
- iCloud configuration
Now, if you’re really unlucky like myself and end up with more than one replacement, you can gift the iSuite to a friend/relative/pet/etc. All you need to do is obtain their AppleID credentials, and when initially setting up your replacement device, sign in with their AppleID. Because of the hardware check mentioned above, Apple will believe this ID has been associated with a device purchased after 9/1/2013, resulting in the iSuite being free on their account. You must make sure the ID you want to have the iSuite free on is the first ID you sign in with. If you attempt to use another ID after one has already been setup, the check will fail, and you will not get the iSuite for free.
A Note about iSuite on Mavericks:
Update: As of this posting, there is a workaround that allows you to install a copy of the iWork ’09 trial and then simply update to iWork on the App Store. This is both legal and supposedly allowed. Note that this does not include iLife, so if a method for that is known, I’ll be sure to update.
OS X Mavericks is still relatively new, and the new Macs have just been released, so it is hard to say whether this process used for iOS will be the same for OS X. It’s also important to note that there are no removable parts on an iDevice unlike the Mac, so whether or not the outcome of installing a new hard drive with a copy of Mavericks guaranteeing a copy of iSuite for free is still up in the air. Of course, the initial serial number check will probably put a damper on your plans, but either way, you should not be discouraged. The new iWork and iLife are fantastic on both iOS and Mac, and are worthy of their price points.
For those a little out of the loop in the digital graphics world, Wacom announced a major refresh in their line of graphic tablets. Previously, Wacom’s entry level tablets were known as Bamboo; they are now Intuos. The former Intuos line, designed for professional use, are now Intuos Pro.
The new Intuos line has been redesigned from the ground up, and comes in a lovely silver and black finish. Honestly, for “alum-heads”, or those who love matching aluminum products with their computers (mostly Macs), it’ll look gorgeous on your work station. There are three entry level models to chose from: The Wacom Pen and Tablet model for $79, the Pen and Touch model for $99, and the Manga edition, also for $99. To newcomers, such as myself, this may seem a bit confusing, so allow me to explain a little better.
- The $99 Manga edition is simply the Pen and Touch model bundled with animation software, to “inspire” those interested in anime drawing.
- The $99 Pen and Touch model comes with a very different stylus than the Pen only model, and also comes with additional software, such as Photoshop Elements, Sketchbook Express, and ColorEfex WE3. The $79 Pen only model DOES NOT come with any of this software listed.
- The $79 Pen and Tablet model does not support any form of touch; your only way of interacting with the tablet is through the pen and hotkeys.
- For $199, you can buy a Wacom Intuos Pen and Touch Medium, which sports a bigger surface area. This may help artists used to sketching on paper make a transition to digital sketching.
- If you want a new Intuos tablet right now, head to your local Best Buy. At least in my area, they aren’t flying off the shelf and had a good selection.
- Unlike Intuos Pro, the regular Intuos line is NOT wireless out of the box. You must purchase a $39 wireless kit if you want this feature. Personally, I’d invest in a longer MicroUSB to USB cable first.
My next article will be comparing the new Intuos Pen and Tablet model to the Pen and Touch Model. Lucky for me, I have owned both, but returned one. To read the comparison, go here (link coming shortly)
For this post, I’m not going to explain/factually discuss the new software/hardware unveiled at WWDC for a couple of reasons:
1. Everyone else has done so.
2. You can just go to Apple’s homepage and learn about OSX 10.9, the iOS 7 beta and the new Macs.
Please note: These are NOT my actual opinions.
Alright. Let’s start off slow and cover the hardware unveiled.
2013 Macbook Air:
- “Guys, the battery lasts ALL DAY. We said something like this in 2008 when we introduced the Macbook Air, but trust us, it’s 2013. And in 2013, we only speak the truth, dude.” – someone at Apple.
- The 13′ model is now $1099. Am I supposed to be jumping up and down or something?
- Finding key differences in the 2013 Macbook Air in comparison to the 2012 model will be like playing a game of “hide and go seek” for 6 hours on an endless path of computer boards.
- There’s AC Wifi. But how many people can seriously benefit from it when people still find it convenient to pay for 3-5Mbps internet in their home? Maybe if all those people owned Drobos….which I’m sure someone paying for 3-5Mbps internet has not heard of.
New Mac Pro:
- “Hooray! Apple hasn’t forgotten about us!” – the entire computer nerd community who thinks it’s okay to buy Mac Pros, rather than using their own expertise to build a Hackintosh.
- Someone on Hacker News posted about R2D2 mods. I can’t wait to do this (if I can buy one)
- Pricing starts at $6,666.666 dollars. Tell no one.
- Crazy theory: 7 6’s = 7×6 = 42. 4+2 = 6. Do this 3 times (3 groups of (4+2)) and you get 18. Add the remaining 6 to get 24. 24 is divisible by 4, which = 6. I had a bagel for breakfast yesterday.
- “Guys, it is NOT a trashcan. It is the cylinder in which all of your dreams are stored upon.” – someone else at Apple.
- Thunderbolt 2.0: again, Apple is clearly a 2013 company. It’s the way of the future guys, so throw out your Thunderbolt 1 accessories, ’cause you’re gonna want TBolt 2.0
- Where’s the new Thunderbolt 2.0 display?? The first one wasn’t fast enough.
- There is no CD/DVD Drive. Please, just go buy an external already. Stop complaining.
OSX 10.9: Mavericks
- Wow, I knew the execs at Apple were self-centered, but this takes it to a whole new level. Naming an operating system after a beach? Or better yet, after something in California? What makes California so much better than the other 49 states and several territories part of the U.S.? But, what do I know. I don’t work for Apple. Maybe one day we will see the light of “OS Fripp” or “OS Savannah” once the board gets their heads out of that California sand.
- OS X Sea Lion really was a better name for OS X 10.9. Shame on the person who thought it’d be funny to get our hopes up. Sea lions are awesome.
- WOW, YOU HAVE FINALLY FIXED THE PROBLEMS WITH MULTIPLE DISPLAYS.
- No price was set. You have me worried I won’t be paying $19.99 for OS upgrades anymore. Maybe you’ll start tiering out OS X Mavericks: Standard, Premiere, and Developer editions. The first two cost $19.99 and $49.99, Developer edition is free w/active Mac Dev subscription. This is how you irk nerds.
- Please don’t drop C2D support. Sincerely, someone who wishes there were i5 13′ Macbook Pros in 2010.
- Hooray, we FINALLY get to experience the epic fail that is Apple Maps on our Macs! Yay!
- Flyover and Send to iOS will only work on Macs built and sold in 2013 and later. Sorry, but we don’t care about our 2012 crowd. You’re so last year.
- Guys, we basically stole 1Password for the Mac and said “here ya go!”
And last but not least…..
- “Guys, you have got to stop thinking about Steve Jobs. “Oh, Steve Jobs wouldn’t have wanted this, he wouldn’t have wanted that;” Shut up. I’m the captain of this ***** now.” – Tim Cook
- Notice how there’s only one or two photos of a black iPhone running iOS 7 on the Apple website? Yeah, that’s totally intentional. You need to buy white iOS devices from now on. Do it.
- The team at Apple wanted to set a record for “flattest thing ever” in an attempt to beat out Kansas as “the flattest state ever”. They totally succeeded.
- 14 Days ago, you could order a 4th generation iPod touch from the Apple website. It doesn’t support iOS 7. Coincidence? I think not. Fun fact: You can still order one from the refurb section of Apple’s online store.
- Apple decided to give the iPad Mini Airdrop capabilities, but not the 3rd generation iPad, which I should mention, is slightly more powerful. Hear that? Only devices with Lightning connectors get AirDrop. “Screw you legacy 30-pin connector people. That’s 2012. And we are a 2013 company.” – Apple
- They still haven’t fixed Maps. Maybe they will get around to it when they get their heads out of the California sand. Is it really that nice?
- WHY CAN’T YOU LET DEVELOPERS HAVE FILESYSTEM ACCESS ON iOS?? *cue a very loud “hmph”.*
Check back for my actual opinions, which is when people will actually be able to see iOS 7 and OSX 10.9 for themselves.
So, there’s a “new” app that has caught the eye of the folks over at IGN, and is gaining steam rapidly on the internet. I’m talking about none other than Super Monster Bros by Adventure Time Pocket Free … by Mario Casas
I’m not going to go into detail about how terrible the app is, the interface, or anything of that sort (though, it should be noted this game has not only blatantly ripped of Pokemon, but stole sounds from Super Mario Games). If you’re interested in that, here’s the IGN video right below:
What I really want to focus on, however, is the incredibly disastrous In-App Purchase system it uses.
For those who don’t know, there was an exploit with in-app purchases last year, discovered in versions of iOS 5.1 and earlier. It has been brought back only through a jailbreak tweak, for devices on iOS 6 and later.
WARNING: Expletives in this portion.
Want to know my problem with this app? The fact that it’s so heavily based on in-app purchases (that alone is enough to make me say “Fuck You!” to the devs), but the fact they can’t even add verification code to their application? Are you fucking with me? For the love of God, it’s not even that fucking complicated to do.
Super Monster Bros. isn’t the only application with this problem; popular apps including: Real Racing 3, Tiger Woods PGA Golf ’12, Plants Vs. Zombies HD, Temple Run, Paper by 53, and Top Gear Magazine all haven’t updated their apps to prevent the in-app purchase trick. The proof is in the pudding, as many other apps, including Jetpack Joyride, Let’s Golf! 3, TIME Magazine, Talking Tom, etc. all have verified validation code in their apps.
Is it ethically wrong to exploit these apps due to developer failure to add a few lines of code? Yes. Does it mean devs should throw in the towel? Not even close.
To get back on track, the In-App purchase system is one of the worst I’ve seen in a while. While playing the Super Monster Bros., you’re constantly bombarded with in-app purchase reminders. It seems as though the entire game is based around these purchases. I mean it. The entire game is based on in-app purchases. Let that sink in your head for a second. Want to get to later levels? You’re pretty much going to need to purchase a new character. Purchase more shots. Purchase more lives. Am I annoying you yet?
The worst part about all of this is the price for all these purchases. Look at this screenshot.
A whopping THREE purchases are $99.99. There’s two that are $49.99 (one not listed). The rest from $.99 to $9.99. This is straight up robbery, people. If this is the future of freemium, I want nothing to do with it. That’s not to say the freemium model can’t work, because it certainly can. The real solution is for devs to get it together, and create something great; garbage like this should be a clear reminder to us all.
This post is for anyone who has ever said “Hey, I’m ‘hacking’ into your (insert account name here) account!” or, “Darn, someone ‘hacked’ my Facebook and said I like (insert expletive here)”.
STOP. This is not hacking. It is “un”authorized access, and there is indeed a difference between the two terms. What defines authorized access? How about unauthorized? Hacking? I’ll explain below.
Authorized Access: You being a bit too trustworthy with your info. Let’s just say for example that you (the user) allow your browser to Auto-Fill your passwords/login info. In this case, the browser is doing it’s job by remembering your credentials for the correct site; it doesn’t give two cents about which user is accessing these given credentials. It could (and should) be you, but it could also be: your dog, your 96-year old grandma, maybe even Jill from work. Point being, you allowed others to gain access. Therefore, it’s not unauthorized. Yes, the same concept applies if you walk away from your computer and leave your twitter page on the monitor – you’ve still authorized anyone to use your credentials; the browser is just doing as the user says.
Unauthorized Access: This one is probably the most confusing of the three. To be as brief as possible, it mostly concerns ethos, or emotions behind authorized access. Here’s a real life example: Me and a (now) ex-girlfriend used to “share” login passwords. She would login to Twitter on my computer and (most likely) absent-mindedly consented to allow my Twitter client to store her info. Several months later, the credentials were still valid, and I used them to surf her account (and post a few statuses in binary, because). Now you’re probably starting to wonder, “How is this different from authorized access, as you outlined above?” The main distinction in this case can be outlined in a simple written diagram:
Authorized: You find a dollar on the ground. You pick up the dollar, and put it in your wallet. Someone dropped the dollar, but has forgotten about it.
Unauthorized: You know there is a dollar on the ground in front of Frank’s Deli at 123 Sycamore Street at 9:30 A.M. because you put it there.
TL;DR, My possession of those login credentials is unauthorized, because I shouldn’t have them.
Hacking: My favorite. Hacking should be pertinent to systems as a whole; particularly computer/infrastructure systems. This is in no way related to access, since successful hacking grants access anyways. Hacking can also be viewed as malicious, with intent to cause harm (though, there are hackers who do not follow this view, and are known as “white-hats”). Want to know what’s coming next? You guessed it, an example! Let’s say I want to login into someone’s Twitter account. I have no idea what the credentials are, so I’m going to brute-force attack Twitter’s servers in order to find them out. Hopefully, the attack can go quickly, but because this is Twitter, there are more than likely a lot of barriers to break (that is, if you’re even successful). Let’s assume Twitter hashes passwords with 256SHA encryption and are salted and peppered (If you’re thinking about a plate of hash browns at this point, it’s game over. If you’re curious about salting and peppering, go here). For those familiar with hashes, that’s three algorithms to crack.
Do you see the difference? Hopefully you do.
Now, stop saying you’ve “hacked their facebook” in tweets and statuses.
This article serves to guide those looking to downgrade their iOS applications for whatever reason.
- Any iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch
- The latest version of iTunes (NOTE: iTunes 11 no longer supports Custom IPSW files; you will need to find iTunes 10, and/or use a developer registered device with XCode to test applications not on the App Store)
- Mac or PC
The two main goals of this procedure:
1) Run older versions of apps on devices that don’t support the latest iOS:
Note: As of October 2013, users running unsupported/deprecated versions of iOS will find that it is now possible to download the latest supported version of an app for their device (i.e. Pages for iOS on an iPad 1; the newest version supports only iOS 7 and above, but an older version can be downloaded in its place, rendering an iDevice useful once again).
2) Allow end users of current iOS builds to revert apps to older states – i.e. a new update could include a serious flaw/bug/etc.
This article covers how to downgrade for both non-jailbroken and jailbroken iOS Devices.
NOTE: Downgrading apps that are server based will likely leave the app in question ineffective. Some examples are: Let’s Golf 3 (or most Gameloft apps), Twitter clients not using Twitter API v1.1, and so forth.
Downgrading a Version of an App normally (No Jailbreak):
1.) Search your Recycle Bin/Trash for the app you want to downgrade. You need to look here, since iTunes by default moves older versions of Applications to the Trash/Recycle Bin, but does not delete them.
1.1) Apps may not show up initially, since it may be a hidden file. You will need to enable Hidden Files and Folders; On OS X, launch Terminal.app and write the command “defaults.write.com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE” sans quotes. If you aren’t comfortable with Terminal, here are some other methods of enabling Hidden Files and Folders (Macintosh | Windows)
1.2.) Once you’ve enabled Hidden Files and Folders, search for the app in the Recycle Bin/Trash once more. When it appears drag it out of the Trash and onto the Desktop (or any directory you desire). If you still cannot find the app, it is either deleted from the system, or your files/folders are not hidden.
3. Now, you need to delete the current version of the app in question. In the App pane in iTunes, delete the specified App simply by right clicking it and selecting Delete. When prompted, make sure you select “Move All Files to Trash”. By not selecting this option, your older app may sync incorrectly.
4.) With iTunes open, drag the app you want from the Desktop (or wherever) into the iTunes menu bar. A small + icon should verify the app is ready to be moved into the Applications folder. (You may also work directly with folders in Finder/Control Panel if you wish. The path needed is /username home folder/Applications/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Mobile Applications.)
4.1) To verify that the older version of the app in question will sync correctly, right click the app (in iTunes) and select Get Info. Under the Account Name, it should read the Apple ID used to purchase the app. If it does not, you MUST authorize the particular Apple ID with your computer. To do so, go to Store<Authorize Account and enter the specified Apple ID and password.
5.) Sync as normal. If the app requires login credentials, you will more than likely need to provide them again. As I noted above, some applications may be affected by server changes, and may not operate as intended once on the device. This would include Twitter clients that have not updated to the v1.1 API and Gameloft applications.
Downgrading via Crack (Jailbroken devices only)
2.) You will need access to a repository that offers a tweak/package allowing cracked applications to sync. For this example, we will refer to AppSync. Open Cydia and Navigate to the following: Manage<Sources<Edit<Add. Now add the following Repo (URL): http://repo.hackyouriphone.org/. Once the repo is added successfully, let the device reboot/respring.
3.) Open Cydia again. Once the repo shows up in your repository list, search for AppSync for iOS 6.x. (Note: I have not yet tried AppSync for iOS 5.0 and above). Download and Respring/Reboot.
4.) Now, refer to the guide above for non-jailbroken devices. You will follow the guide step by step, except you will be transferring cracked apps (rather than ones from your Trash) into iTunes. If you need a place to find apps, here’s one of them. (Note: I don’t encourage pirating paid iOS applications. You should use sources like these to find older versions of applications only)
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, feel free to comment below.