iPad great for autistic children

I know, I know, we talk a lot about Apple products. And, I know, we’re Apple geeks. But be honest. Every time again, the greatness of the brand is confirmed. And every time from a different angle. Take Shannon Rosa. Shannon won an iPad in a raffle. And when she came home she gave the iPad to Leo, her nine-year-old son. Leo is autistic. He is a very slow learner, he is not conversational and can have serious outbursts of anger. But when he, almost without any training, started to play with the iPad, his mother stood in awe. Intuitively he flicked though all the icons, trying one app after another. And he started to play with apps that help him how to spell, to make puzzles and to remember pictures. For 30 minutes straight. To the amazement of his mum.

In just the few months the iPad is on the market, developers many applications especially for users with special needs. And with success. Many autism experts and parents have used the iPad with these special apps in many occasions with autistic kids all around the world. All are amazed with the results it gives. Studies already show the results on the learning abilities of some of these children. In some cases, kids have been able to communicate directly with their parents for the first time in their lives, thanks to the iPad.

Rosa is very happy she won the raffle. And full of admiration with Apple’s CEO. “I don’t usually dabble in miracle-speak”, she says, “but I may erect a tiny altar for Steve Jobs in the corner of our living room.”

See SF weekly for the whole story: iHelp for Autism

Losing my virginity, with FaceTime

Although the iPhone 4 is not yet officially available in the Netherlands, we bootlegged it via the UK. It turns out that you can actually make a phone call with it, so that’s good news. Apart from making a phone call, there’s one other nifty feature on the device, called FaceTime. According to Apple:

People have been dreaming about video calling for decades. iPhone 4 makes it a reality. With the tap of a button, you can wave hello to your kids, share a smile from across the globe, or watch your best friend laugh at your stories — iPhone 4 to iPhone 4 over Wi-Fi. No other phone makes staying in touch this much fun.

But wait, there’s more:

FaceTime works right out of the box — no need to set up a special account or screen name. And using FaceTime is as easy as it gets. Let’s say you want to start a video call with your best friend. Just find her entry in your Contacts and tap the FaceTime button. Or maybe you’re already on a voice call with her and you want to switch to video. Just tap the FaceTime button on the Phone screen. Either way, an invitation pops up on her iPhone 4 screen asking if she wants to join you. When she accepts, the video call begins. It’s all perfectly seamless. And it works in both portrait and landscape modes.

That sure sounds appealing to me. Frequent traveling and having a family at home makes me the perfect FaceTime user. There’s only one caveat: you need somebody else to FaceTime with. And that other person must be on the iPhone 4. Not the 3GS, the 4. Luckey I was smart enough to call a few friends, asking whether they wanted to participate in this little experiment and order an iPhone 4 as well. One of them was Kurt. It took a while, but now Kurt has his iPhone 4 too, and since today he’s operational (OK, to be honest, Kurt did not only wanted the iPhone for FaceTime. There’s more he liked).

So Thursday evening my iPhone rang, with a funny sound. It said: Kurt wants to connect via FaceTime with you. So I picked up the phone, and there we went…

Pretty impressive. Now if only the Samsung Wave would adopt the open source FaceTime technology as well (Apple and Samsung seem to borrow things from each other anyways, lately), Kurt can actually use it with his wife Una, too…

How valuable will this become, once available through 3G networks? Will it change the way we communicate or is it just a ‘nice to have’ and ‘Apple gimmick’. Let us know and drop us a line in the comments below.

iPhone4: an amazing videoproduction kit…in your pocket

In our previous post we spoke about the next development in video-production: 4K with the RED camera as an example. Now, that’s high-end film making. But let’s take a look at the other end. Let’s look at mobile phone video-production. And that’s not only filming, in HD, but do the editing as well.

Indeed, we talk about the iPhone 4. Despite all the hassle about antenna problems this phone is no doubt moving the boundaries of film making. Not only for the amateur-family-shooter, but also for the (semi-)professional video producer. Check out the video below, which was entirely shot and edited on the iPhone 4.

And if you liked that, check out the making of this video.

See the extremes with the earlier mentioned RED and 4K? No matter the unprecedented quality you can produce with this camera, try to fit it in your pocket. Now there’s no reason to miss any moment that should be captured and published anywhere at anytime. No doubt this will initiate another wave in citizen jounalism, as also mentioned by Vincent Laforet.

Another example, a corporate video from Ducati. Yes, shot on the iPhone4.

OK, Apple, now make this thing available in The Netherlands, we can’t take this torture for much longer…

Yep, I finally got one in my hands

Say no more, it’s… gorgeous…

Hacking away!

mbm

You won’t believe it, but I am actually typing this on my tiny little HackBook, aka Dell Mini 9. Running Leopard 10.5.6 smoothly and all hardware -as far as I can see now- seems to be working. The keyboard is really small, so I have to get used to it quite a bit. But overall this is one dell of a machine (pun intended). So what happened between now and my last post about this emotionally challenging experiment?

It took Dell about three weeks to actually deliver the box. On a Wednesday I reserved the evening and dubbed it my solo Hackintosh event. I’m not stupid using a computer and I usually find my way around, but I’m certainly no hardcore hacker. So a tedious online research on the protocols of hacking a Dell Mini 9 was imperative. Fortunately I was not the only nerd with the desire to have a Mac the size of a book so I could find a vast amount of forums where real geeks were kind enough to describe the process step by step. I even prepared a USB stick with the necessary software: MacOS X. 

But first back to the box. Being a Mac user for almost my entire computer life (not true, after my Commodore 64 and Amiga I did start using a PC/AT but was converted to a Mac when I was working for Janssen Pharmaceutica back in 1993, and never looked back) you get used to quality. It sure does sound like a cliche, but opening a Dell box is not the same experience as opening an Apple box (yes, I am biased but doing my utmost to be objective. Seriously). From a marketing point of view intruiging. Apple’s packaging is a true form of art, with even the plastic bags inside sealed with silver wires. Dell’s box is just… a box.

Unboxing a Dell is... different

Unboxing a Dell is... different

Once opened I was first confronted with the physical form factor of the Dell Mini 9. I confess, it did touch my feminin part in me: “How cute!” (now this is out in the open I will from now on only talk GHz, GB, RAM and CPU power). The price tag of €299 became obvious. The Dell Mini 9 feels more like a Fisherprice laptop with plastic all over the place.

So I was ready to go but first I needed to make yet another USB stick with a ‘bootloader’.

[GEEKTALK MODE ON]
Originally the Dell doesn’t recognise the Mac OS. In order to ‘fool’ the Dell one need to load a specific piece of software during startup which makes it understand a USB stick with MacOS X. This bootloader has to be set up in Windows XP. So here the fun started…

Although I use XP in a compulsary way at work, I soon came to realize that being a Mac user I am really, seriously spoiled. I booted up XP and entered the confusing world of this antique OS. OK, I admit that my Dell came with XP Home Edition which is no doubt the most notorious and inferior OS in the family of XP, but still. It started with a mismatch between the keyboard and the OS. I had a US keyboard whereas XP thought I had a Dutch one. Result: all symbols completely messed-up. That really became a problem in the next geeky part, creating the bootloader. I also needed wireless internet but Windows could not get any connection (although it said it was connected but could not find an IP address, or something like that).

I won’t go into detail, but creating the bootloader involved starting up the command line after which I ended up in a kind of window with DOS. Wait, I’ll write that again: DOS. As in Disk Operating System. As in the eighties.

So the code I had to type read something like this: ‘cd C:\syslinux-3.63\win32’, and after that: ‘syslinux.exe -ma E:’. But the keyboard was really freaking out on me. I just could not find the bloody ‘\’. And as you can see, I kind of needed that symbol quite a few times. And did you ever try to find a setting in XP where you can just change the keyboard layout? It drove me nuts and made me want to throw the bloody machine out of the window! And that after only thirty minutes! Aaahh… those good ol’ pre-Mac times of CRA (Computer Related Anxiety).

Anyway, my basic knowledge of DOS which I was forced to learn at school back in the early nineties was still present somewhere in my memory. Eventually I was able to create the bootloader and I was ready for the real work: hacking!

One USB stick with the bootloader in the left port, the Mac OS USB stick in the right. After changing the boot order to start up from the USB bootloader funny letters and numbers magically appeared on my screen. Now it was time to pay attention. Being faithful to my research I typed in ’81’ at a dedicated spot somewhere in the process and to my delight the uberfamous Apple logo filled the tiny 9″ LCD screen. It felt like coming home.

The rest was just the normal setup of Mac OS X. The only thing I still had to do was changing the EFI so that the Dell was actually booting from the Mac OS and voila. I was the owner of a real HackBook.
[GEEKTALK MODE OFF]

The final part of the transformation was applying the specially designed Apple logo over the Dell logo on the cover of the HackBook, and the removal of the cheapo sticker ‘Intel Inside’ and ‘Designed for Windows’ inside. Pathetic, but a neccesity if I ever wanted to be taken seriously among my few friends I still have.

It really is feline...

It really is feline...

Till now all seems to work. Sound, webcam, dimming the screen, wifi. Even the soft pulsing LED when the lid is closed. The battery lasts for about 3 hours which is reasonably good. As said, the keyboard is really tiny but I guess that’s the price one has to pay to be portable. The HackBook is really light which is most welcome when I’m traveling (the second main reason why I bought the Dell mini). I have installed only a few programs since I want to test to what extend the HackBook can be used for what it is designed for: the Cloud.

I will be traveling soon. Expect feedback on my findings using this device on our blog.
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Hell just froze over. I bought a Dell

mbm

OK, this is going to get tough. Years upon years I’ve been preaching the Mac-religion. To friends, family, friends of family and family of friends. And pretty successful I might say. The number of first and second line switchers (second line is a switcher switched because they switched due to my annoying rambling of the superiority of the Mac platform) add up to almost 70. Steve can be proud, his Reality Distortion Field worked.

I have yet to find anybody who regrets the switch, we are all happilly using our little machines and during these years I built up some credibility as a Mac geek. Always open for questions and couldn’t stand when I was not able to solve the issue. I could not accept letting down people who I personnaly brought on board.

Just bought the new MacBook together with the 24 inch Cinema Display. I couldn’t be happier. So I thought.

That’s all going to change now. Familiar with the term ‘Netbooks’? These are very little laptops (9 inch screens), having absolutely no power (1.6 GHz) and virtually no memory (1 GB RAM and usually 16 GB Solid State HD). They are designed for being online, and being online only. For using the Cloud for what it’s meant to be used for: storage and applications. They are priced very low, in the EUR 200-300 range. The perfect travel companion, the ultimate portability communication tool. There’s only one problem:

Apple doesn’t have a Netbook…

Bummer. They have an iPhone, and according to Steve that’s close enough. Although I do love my iPhone (no, I actually adore it) it’s not the real thing as far as computer is concerned. Sorry Steve, this time I have to disagree with you. So who is making Netbooks? Well, the usual suspects: Dell, HP, Sony. But also some newcomers like Asus (these are the Taiwanese boys and girls normally producing the laptops for the usual suspects).

I was intruiged by the concept -after all, it is a gadget- and started my exploration. Thanks to the marvelous decision to put Intel hardware in a Mac, the Mac OS now runs on Intel. However, out of the box it’s impossible to install Mac OS on a computer other than a Mac. Actually, the license agreement forbids it. Fortunately some clever guys were able to hack the OS and creatively named it ‘Hackintosh’. By using this approach people are able to run Mac OS X on any (non Apple) computer.

It turned out that the Dell (of all brands) has the best Hackintosh Netbook on the market; the Dell mini 9. All functionalities work and once you’ve done the hack you have a real Mac on Dell hardware. Of course that’s only the first step. The second step involves stickers. But that’s really nerdy…

Anyway, it took me a holiday in Indonesia and almost two weeks back in the Netherlandsto get used to the idea that I might be buying a Dell. I have been checking my Mac Rumor RSS feeds frantically to see if Apple hasn’t released a MacNetBook themselves. They introduced all kind of stuff these twoo weeks (iMacs, Mac minis, Mac Pros, iPod suffles) but no Netbook.

So today, 15 minutes before a EUR 50 deal when ordering online would expire, I took a deep breath and did it. I bought my Dell Netbook. I am still confused. Did I do the right thing? Well, we just have to see. I will keep you posted about my experiences with the transformation of the Dell mini 9 into the MacBook mini. In a week time I might have replaced an obsolete piece of junk operating system with a perfectly running superior feline operating system, or it might turn out that I lost a few hundred Euros.

But then I will get some friends back…

 

The end goal

The end goal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the 'raw material'

This is the 'raw material'

We’ve come a long way

Around 1994 was my first confrontation with a Mac. Coming from the Commodore  Amiga world I was desperately ‘lost’ in the entire ‘PC’ world, a world which was forced upon me by the university, companies, friends and family. No icons in this world, no pull down menus. The first attempts of Microsoft to create a GUI with Windows 3.1 were at first pathetic. But I had to go with the flow. At least to be able to make some research papers for my study.

And then came the Mac. It was a small Mac Classic, snoozing on my desk at Janssen Pharmaceutica in Belgium (the entire company was on Macs then). It could do pop up screens -called windows-, there were pull down menus and even a metaphore for the desktop. I was sold.

From that day onwards, till today I have never looked back and owned several Macs. You have to know that now it’s OK to own a Mac. Actually, it’s pretty cool. But in those earlier days you were an outcast, a true loser supporting a company on the verge of bankrupcy (which was actually true at that time).

The battle between the two camps (Windows vs. Mac) was fierce and last till today. One weapon Mac bashers loved to throw at you is shouting that the ‘Mac was a toy’, with all those colorful icons and strange form factors.

Well, we came a long way, didn’t we?

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