My iPhone 4S reaction

Having watched the iPhone 4S announcement, it’s clear to me that Apple is unmatched in overall phone quality for most people: designing everything from the processor silicon, to the camera lens, to the app ecosystem puts them in a class of their own.

The only hope for competitors to make a better phone is to concentrate on niche markets: Geeks who want full control of their phones have the Google Nexus line. Some will swear by their physical keyboards, integration with proprietary cloud apps, or their enterprise-secured OS.

But if your needs are like those of most of us, no matter your budget, there is nothing out there that, on a whole, beats an iPhone.

(Before anyone accuses me of fanboy bias: this post was written from an Android phone, and I have no idea what I will buy next. I’m in that geek niche where there is still a heated competition.)

Macs get viruses. And the trojans are getting more deceptive.

For years, virus makers have been tricking people into installing trojans under the disguise of a program intended to actually remove trojans that weren’t there. They usually did so by disguising themselves as part of Windows XP – which was an obvious fake for anyone using any other operating system.

But today my boss ran into this and asked me to take a look:

Imitation OS X UI attempting trojan installation
(click image for full-size version)

Look at that imitation of the OS X Finder. Not perfect, but it’s pretty dang good! I wouldn’t expect everyone to be able to tell that it’s fake.

News of legitimate Mac trojans recently cropped up again, but it looks like they’ve gotten even more sophisticated with some pretty convincing fake Finder interfaces. People used to assume that Macs aren’t targeted for viruses for their lower market share, but it looks like that’s an even more unsafe assumption now. If you use a Mac, you aren’t exempt from being safe with your computer: don’t give it your Administrator password when you aren’t trying to install or update software. Any other time, it’s a trap!

Going the “turbo Honda” route with my new computer

2011 is my upgrade year for the “main machine.” I had been spending a while trying to figure out the best fit between performance and portability, and had settled on the $2,199 15″ MacBook Pro. But I ended up going with the $700 cheaper 13″ model and investing less than half the savings in some great custom additions:

MacBook Pro internals with upgrades labeled: Crucial C300 6Gbps SSD, 8GB 1333MHz DDR3 RAM, MCE OptiBay Hard Drive bay

At the end of the day, I have:

  • 2011 Unibody 13.3″ MacBook Pro
  • Dual core i7 “Sandy Bridge” – 2.7GHz, up to 3.4GHz turbo mode, hyperthreading, on-chip integrated graphics (outperforms my 3-year-old discrete GPU, which was more than I needed)
  • 128GB Crucial C300 SATA 6Gbps SSD (solid state drive). (Crucial announced a new model the week after I installed it, grr!)
  • 8GB Corsair 1333MHz DDR3 RAM
  • MCE OptiBay hard drive bay (replaces waste-of-space DVD drive with original 500GB SATA hard drive)

I came in almost $300 under my originally planned purchase, and got the added benefits of a more portable system and a blazing-fast SSD. I simply cannot believe how much of a difference the SSD makes; I’d guess that many people would feel like their old computers were brand-new if they installed an SSD. My system boots in mere seconds, and almost all applications load instantaneously. (Big ones like Photoshop take a couple of seconds.) I was really happy that I could get rid of the DVD drive and keep my capacious media drive with me with the MCE OptiBay (though it has pretty bad shock protection and a couple of big screws that hopefully aren’t digging into the unibody’s lid.)

The only hard part is getting used to the glass-covered 1280×800 screen. There is no matte option for the 13.3″, and it’s sheer marketing evil that Apple offers better resolution on the 13.3″ MacBook Air while forcing Pro buyers up a price notch to the 15.4″ to benefit from a high-res display. The glass covering the display is… interesting. Yes, it has more vibrant colors, but it also has terrible glare, and is also a major fingerprint magnet to boot.

So I’m pretty happy with it, all things considered. I’m very surprised with just how much performance can be squeezed into a 13.3″ package- except for the requisite screen size difference, this is a no-compromise high-performance device suited to be my only PC, and it’s under 5 pounds and an inch thick. I feel like instead of paying more for a V8 BMW, I bought a cheap little Honda Civic and gave it a killer turbo while keeping the weight low.

For others looking for a new computer, I recommend:

  1. If you don’t run CPU-intensive tasks like media encoding or gaming, consider just throwing an SSD into your current system instead
  2. If you think you need the specs of a more expensive model, compare its marginal cost with that of upgrading a cheaper one.