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Stupid Mac tricks

Last Updated May 25, 2006

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MacBookThe Apple MacBook (Courtesy of Apple)

The Apple MacBook has been out just over a week and already people are doing silly things with it.

Like certain models of the PowerBook and iBook before it, the new MacBook line of Apple laptop computers has a motion sensor inside them. The intended purpose for the motion sensor is to detect sudden movements, such as the computer being dropped, so that the read/write head of the hard drive can be parked to prevent damage to the hard disk itself. (IBM/Lenovo has included such a system, advertised as an "airbag" for your data, on some of its ThinkPad laptops since 2003.)

Starting with the PowerBook, programmers began to use the data from the motion sensors for purposes other than saving information from a (literal) computer crash. Bubblegym is a computer game controlled by tilting the PowerBook. A program called Stable Window creates a window on the desktop that remains level relative to the ground no matter how the computer is tilted.

When the MacBook Pro and MacBook came out there was renewed interest in programs that could be controlled by titling, swinging and smacking the Mac.

The coolest ("cool" being a relative term in a tech column) is MacSaber, a program that generates the sound effects of a Star Wars light sabre based on the movement of the laptop. Gentle movements create the low hum and more sudden movements produce the electric crackle of two light sabres clashing.

Fans of the program have, of course, posted videos of themselves on YouTube and Google Video swinging their computers around like Jedi masters. I'm waiting for the video of someone dressed like Mace Windu accidentally flinging his new MacBook Pro across the room.

A more practical motion sensor hack, called SmackBook Pro, allows you to switch between several virtual desktops by tapping the computer on one side or the other. This turns the motion sensor into a usable input device, like the keyboard or the mouse, which doesn't require you to pick up the computer to use it.

And for security, MacBook users can install iAlertU, a program that acts like a car's security system. It arms using the MacBook remote control, making a chirping noise just like a car alarm. Once the system is set, moving the computer triggers the alarm, siren, flashing lights and all. The latest version also takes a picture of the thief and e-mails it to the laptop's owner.

Updates to previous articles in Tech

From May 11, 2006: PS3 and Wii at E3

Nintendo give the first indication of how much its new Wii gaming console will cost. At a press conference on its financial results, the company said Wii would sell in Japanese stores for no more than 25,000 yen, about $250 Cdn or $223 US. However, as some Slashdot readers pointed out, Nintendo's current console, the Gamecube, initially cost 25,000 yen in Japan, but $199 US in the States. That's the price market analysts predicted when Nintendo first unveiled Wii.

Rumours swirled this week that Sony's PlayStation 3 would not play borrowed, used or rented games, or that Sony would try to stop the sale of second-hand PS3 games. Both rumours have apparently been debunked, but Sony really didn't need the bad press after a lacklustre reception for its new $600 game console at E3.

From Nov. 18, 2005: U.S. still in control after internet summit

The One Laptop per Child association revealed its latest prototype for the $100 laptop aimed at schoolchildren in developing countries.

The case has gone from green to orange, and the hand-crank is no longer there to provide power, but the laptop now has "ears," which can extend for better wireless reception.

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