MacBook Pros now feature a high-speed Thunderbolt Interface

Apple’s most recent update to their MacBook Pro lineup brought a very interesting update to the Mini DisplayPort. While it may be shaped the same, and function with HD and DisplayPort accessories, the port now has a lightning bolt next to it. This symbol is indicative of the new Thunderbolt technology place inside these powerful machines. This data port allows connection and use of high-speed Thunderbolt peripherals.

Worked on by Intel and Apple (engineered by Intel, introduced in the MacBooks) this is a new serial data interface is meant to function with all computer peripherals. Unlike previous ports, the Thunderbolt interface is capable of functioning with USB 2.0 and FireWire 400 or 800 devices (with the correct adapter). The creators of the Thunderbolt port wished to introduce a universal serial data interface, that could simultaneously carry uncompressed HD video. As a high-speed data transfer method, Thunderbolt sets the bar. Transferring data at up to 10 Gbps per-channel, the Thunderbolt interface is the fastest I/O for personal computers.

Designed under the codename “Light Peak”, the Thunderbolt port was intended to replay the wide array of I/O busses in use today (USB, FireWire, eSATA, SCSI, and even PCI Express). The concept behind the Thunderbolt technology was to slim down the necessary serial data interfaces to one all-around port. This idea was finally brought into reality with an adaptation of the Mini DisplayPort currently existing in Apple computers. Now (with the Thunderbolt interface upgrade), not only can this port drive displays, it is capable of using the PCI Express protocol to push data and HD video. It is meant to move data at high speeds, and simplify device connection. Like FireWire, Thunderbolt peripherals are daisy-chained (transfer data as well as video simultaneously).

Working with HD movies and music is one of the most taxing uses of CPU. Until recently, devices have been limited by connection speed. However, with its 10 Gbps transfers rate, Thunderbolt is intended to solve this problem. For professional and consumers, the Thunderbolt interface allows users to quickly transfers large collections of media. While devices are still in the development, this will soon have implications and be a mainstay of HD movies making, and Mac music studios.

At the moment there is a a bit lacking when it come to actual Thunderbolt peripherals. As the technology was so recently introduced, most companies are lucky to have begun development for the high speed serial interface. However, with ThunderBolt DisplayPort adapters it still functions with existing DVI and HDMI compatible monitors, and promises to be one of the fast I/O available for consumers. The next year should see the coming about of various Thunderbolt accessories and peripherals. It also provides Mac’s product line with a dedicate PCI slot (which has been in demand for some time now).

The Thunderbolt port is controlled by a new chip to the MacBook motherboard. The interfere uses 4 PCI Express circuits for data transfer, and the DisplayPort channel for video. The deceive is capable of simultaneously handling two data streams through a single port (in both directions).

With the removal of the ExpressCard/34 slot of their MacBook line, many pro users found Apple a little lacking when it came to integration with high-end video gear, and RAID hard drives. As the slot commonly has been used for adding additional I/O ports for laptops (such as USB 2.0 or 3.0 Superspeed, eSATA, FireWire, etc), Mac users found themselves at a slight disadvantage when it came to expandability. In their cooperative effort Apple and Intel planned to solve this problem with the Thunderbolt interface. Not only a high speed extension of the PCI I/O bus, but a fully function PCI Express card within the redesign Mini DisplayPort.

Currently, Thunderbolt cabling relies on copper wire, but Intel claims it will switch to optical down the line. Luckily for all of those who purchased current MacBooks with Thunderbolt, the later optical cabling should still function. The idea being the optical technology will be built into the cables themselves.

In theory the interface should function with any device that is PCI Express 2.0 compatible. This potentially means all USB 2.0, FireWire, and eSATA devices should function with the Thunderbolt port. It is capable of supply 10 watts or power to compatible computer accessories. It is unknown if USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt peripherals will function together properly, however, many users remain optimistic that an adapter will arise for USB 3.0 Superspeed to function with the Thunderbolt adapter.

It is important to remember that this technology is brand new. Unfortunately, most companies are still playing catchup with their introduction of gadgets compatible with Thunderbolt. However, with its high speed 10 Gbps I/O and versatility, the next year should see support for Thunderbolt added to many computers and accessories. Lacie (with the Little Big Disk) and Western Digital both have claimed to be releasing Thunderbolt hard disks in the near future; it is only a matter of time before most other provider follow suit.


Review of the Sony CMTBX20i Micro Hi-Fi Shelf System

If your looking for well recommended micro hi-fi component systems for home or computer audio, the Sony CMTBX20i is an excellent choice. This micro hifi system delivers quality playback for movies, music, or radio programs. It includes not only AM/FM and CD player capabilities, but aux-in (for laptops or tv) and iPod docking support. These high quality PC speakers are not too loud to disturb the neighbors, but not too quiet that you would ever want to return them.

The CD tray is one of the best features. It plays factory and burned CDs, but more importantly offers MP3 disc playback (even with ID3 tag support). Despite only having one CD tray, I’ve never encountered an audio disc incompatible with the micro HiFi stereo.


Sony CMTBX20i Micro Hi-Fi Shelf System

Even if you do lose the remote, all the device’s operational features are placed on top. Its essentially three boxes (four if you don’t lose the remote), but despite being blocky and a tad boring on the outside the Sony Micro Hi-Fi system offers incredible audio quality. Enough volume for a group of people, but consistent playback for quiet use as well. One of the best desktop speakers for office or small to medium room. The clean audio remain distortion and clipping free even near top volume.

These are some of the best studio quality desktop speakers without going to a pair of studio reference monitors. The micro Hi-Fi shelf system lacks a subwoofer, but its micro component speakers deliver more compensating with high quality frequency response. If your into heavily bass driven music, this is probably not the system for you, but otherwise its a great 2 speaker unit.

Camping Equipment for those on a Budget

Its already the beginning of April, and soon all the wonderful camping site across America will be bustling with tourists. Its easy to get discouraged when interested in taking a camping trip; both by the lack of amenities, and by the amount and prices of camping gear. But rest assured there are many opportunities that make camping much more affordable for anyone.

Tents are not always just tents. Even though they all say tent on the box, some tents last longer, are easier to put up, and more manageable to carry than others. Why waste money on a starter ten, when you could get a reliable one for an affordable price to begin with. Its simply a matter of determining what you want out of a tent, and going on from there. Many companies offer affordable tents that will provide years of use.


Coleman SunDome t 3-Person Tent – Good tent for a Great price

Cooking around the campsite can be as easy as cooking at home. With either a portable stove, or the right campfire worthy cookware, you can be preparing cooked means in no time. Some camp-ware even is worthy of kitchen use. In fact, cast iron cookware, which is more than durable enough for any campfire, will also make any excellent addition to any kitchen (as well as flavor).

Camping only has to be an expensive thing if you want it be. It is still very easy to go on a wilderness endeavor (long or short) without having to invest a large amount of capital. If your looking for a cheap vacation, or are a serious hiker/camper getting good deals on camping gear is always a plus 




Recording Equipment for Mac

Interested in creating your own mac recording studio; trying to record you own music or podcast? With the proper Mac recording accessories and Apple music recording software, audio production can be as easy as conventional methods.

In the past, digital has been seen as a step down from other methods (tape and LP). Until recently, little had been done to combat this (and many home studio owners found their audio quality a little lacking). Luckily, recent innovations have enabled high quality noiseless preamps to be added to many digital audio interfaces. Along with this, bit-rate has reached a quality to compare with alternate methods or recording. While it might not be quarter inch tape, the headroom of digital audio can provide some stellar results.

Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone
Blue Yeti USB compatible Mic

Blue Microphones Yeti – Easiest way to begin recording high quality USB audio

Plug n Play Studio Quality USB Condenser Mic for Mac and PC

If your interested in recording gear for Mac it will take a little research to get acquainted with the proper set-ups. Largely, take into account what you will be recording, what you would like to record, and how much you are willing to spend. Different studio setups will require different mac compatible recording equipment, but there is a fairly large amount of ambiguity in the use of different gear (such as mics and cables). If you are only looking to record voice, single instruments or podcasts, you may settle for a small setup. However, a larger band will require a greater number of tracks and recording gadgets to capture (hence a different set up).

If you wish to create studio quality recordings with Mac, it does not take a Phd. Really, it just takes some the best home recording equipment for Mac, some music recording software, and a little “how to”, and you can be own your way to producing your own home tracks.

LightScribe Drives for Mac – Disc Labels made Easy

Printing custom disc labels has become easy. While past generations would have to pay for high cost printing, put up with strenuous press on models, or sharpie their own labels in; today’s computer users can simply etch custom grayscale disc images in the same way they burn discs. With a LightScribe burner for Mac or PC you may easily burn permanent disc labels consisting of graphics and text.

A LightScribe external burner gives you the capability to easy produce printed labels on specifically coated discs. These unique discs are covered with photo-reactive material that changes color in the presence of the intense light (however not under household or everyday conditions). When the device etches a label, the laser permanently engraves a custom pattern into the disc. This pattern has been proven to last at least two years prior to fading.

External LightScribe Optical Drive

USB and FireWire LightScribe burner for Mac

LaCie DVD and CD Lightscribe USB 2.0 and FireWire External Disc Drive

External LightScribe drives come in two connection formats: FireWire and USB 2.0 (some feature both). This allows most Macs to easily connect and communicate with the device. Unfortunately, not every LightScribe drive has been designed to function OSX. Luckily, there are a large number of companies that released suitable products.

LightScribe labels provide for laser precision. Since its produced via the effects of a highly focused laser, LightScribe engraving allows the production of minute detail for graphics and text in any label. It may not provide color, but there exist 5 colors of CD and DVD to compensate.

LightScribe lets you seamlessly create custom disk labels without any of the hassle of toner of stick labels. Unlike adhesive labels, LightScribe media does not run the risk of becoming lodged, or making odd noises well within slot loading drives of Mac or PC.

Software is necessary for operation of a LightScribe for Mac. Usually if you obtain an external LightScribe burner it will come packed with the necessary device drivers and user interface to design and print labels. This software lets you precisely combine images and text  however you feel like arranging for custom disc graphics.

Mac Music Recording and Production Equipment

Looking to start recording your own podcast, album or soundtrack with a DIY Apple based home sound studio?

Today, home recording is easier than it has ever been before (especially when using a Mac). Unlike prior digital storage methods, current virtual sound recording can deliver high quality digital audio without significant interference or loss. Whereas digital once was seen as a step down from traditional methods, it is becoming a standard in most recording studios. While the mixers, microphones and software platforms used in many professional studios end up negating the cost advantage of digital audio; nearly anyone can obtain the basics for beginning recording on a Mac.

There are really only two necessary components to beginning recording:

First is sound recording gear; the microphones, FireWire or USB audio interfaces, digital recording consoles, headsets, and any other necessary requirements for software based audio recording. There are many brands available (Mackie, Alesis, M-Audio, Presonus, or Blue – to mention a few). With the availability of products online, it only takes a few days to obtain your own gear for recording. When looking at potential music equipment it is always best to consider whether the device will function with your Mac. Unfortunately, many companies remain very proprietary in their audio units compatibility. The first consideration is always whether or not it will function with Mac, the next is whether it will function with the software platform your using. Making sure a device is compatible with multiple suites ensures your gear will function with later software.

The second essential component is the recording software. Luckily for most Mac users, the computer comes stocked with the necessary software for recording. While GarageBand does not quite have the plugins or audio quality of apps like Pro Tools or Nuendo, it still packs a decent recording environment. For anyone recording their first album, or an ongoing podcaster, GarageBand can provide an adequate mixing and recording console. With its multi-tracking capabilities, built-in audio plugins, and significant system integration; the recording software is a great introduction to the digital recording world. In the end, if its features are a little lacking, you can always upgrade to a higher performing app.

Regardless to say, recording is hardly the restricted field it once was. While it still requires a small sum to begin any home studio endeavor; it still is possible for anyone with enough ambition, and research to begin their own recording projects. If you are looking to start recording either podcasts, music, or any other audio, creation of a home studio should be a serious consideration.


Mac Audio Recording Software – GarageBand

This page is in correlation with my Mac sound recording software webpage. After using, choosing and losing many Apple compatible audio applications, I’ve attempted to find which programs function best for the different tasks of recording and finalizing music, voice, or sound. It is important to understand that there is no correct answer when it comes to which is the best app; and that while one program might excel at one task, it may not perform as well for others. For example, many inexperienced musicians and podcasters may choose to begin recording with Apple’s GarageBand. The application is great for rudimentary plug and play use; record on your Mac’s built in microphone (poor audio quality unfortunately), a usb headset, or a compatible audio interface. For a podcaster, Garage Band allows Mac users an easy way of recording, mastering and publishing. The same is nearly true for music as well;  with little difficulty record multi-track audio and overdubs. If is your first or second go at recording, GarageBand can even provide an adequate mixing environment (it features many mastering and editing tools). While it may not provide studio quality effects, it can brighten some digital audio and remove the “recorded at home” feel. There are vocal and instrumental EQs as well as various simulated FXs (reverb, distortion, chorus, etc.), that, along with the easy to use GUI, provide a very comfortable working environment. With little experience, it is easy to master punching in and splicing tracks. Basically, if you’re looking for an easy to use app, the program can provide excellent usability. For a more professional console and environment, you may want to consider much more cost studio software; but for any starting recordist or podcaster the application can provide a wonderful recording and mixing experience.