Use Your Mac for Something Other than Work this Holiday

by Joe Leo, Columnist November 22, 2006


FEATURE: (11.22.06)-- With Thanksgiving tomorrow and you having the day off, what are you going to do to pass the time away after stuffing yourself silly with turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, maybe ham, and everything else but the kitchen sink? Especially if your kids are hogging all the time in front of the TV screen with their (or yours) new Sony "Playstation 3" or the Nintendo "Wii"?

Don't fret. Forget the PS3 and the Wii... try the SMS, only on a Mac.

Grab your anodized aluminum contraption (no, not your iPod mini/nano/shuffle, silly), that PowerBook G4-- or MacBook Pro, MacBook, or late iBook G4, and amuse yourself with an internal feature of your laptop computer that not too many people know about.

Especially since Apple no longer touts it as a major feature in its notebook computers.

Underneath the hood of your Apple laptop is something called Sudden Motion Sensor which serves as a valet service after your long drive down south, or in layman's terms, if you drop your laptop there's a good chance that your hard drive will survive, data and all. Even if your laptop itself doesn't.

When the aluminum PowerBook G4s were refreshed down the line, Sudden Motion Sensor was one of its newest features. The late iBook G4s eventually gained it later on. All current MacBooks and MacBook Pros have Sudden Motion Sensor, but when you look at the tech specs for each, you won't find it listed there.

But it's in there. Why Apple decided to sweep it under the rug, we don't know. It used to be prominently displayed as one of the cool features unique to the aluminum PowerBook G4 (along with that even cooler backlit keyboard!). PC laptops don't currently have this innovation.

So what can you do with it that you can't do on a PS3 or a Wii, that will amuse everyone (not to mention yourself), and take your mind off the fact that you can't get your hands on that $249 or $599 system that you just bought for yourself (didn't you say it was for your kids?) since the entire family's here for the holidays?

Play games on your Mac. But in a special way, utilizing SMS (Sudden Motion Sensor).

Gaming has been pretty standard for decades since its birth. A console system, a controller (remember when it was called a "joystick"), and a TV monitor you connect to for its screen. With all the advances in the gaming industry--what with the release of PS3 and the Wii in the last few days--it's still pretty much the same old hat.

The technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, but the equipment and game play hasn't. With your Apple laptop and its relatively unknown SMS feature, you've got something that Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, or even Atari and Sega (gasp!) never had.

However, before you can get your "game on" this way, you'll need to install some third party software (of course, the games are a no-brainer) in order to let your Apple laptop become the console and controller, since, your Mac portable doesn't come with this feature built-in.

The software you'll need is called "AMS2HID" created by Amit Singh, and no, those aren't his intials in the first half of the name of the application program. It makes your Mac portable act as the controller mechanism for the game (or whatever other software program you're trying to control and/or use).

Basically, as Singh describes his application, it "...translates raw SMS orientation data into input data from a keyboard or a mouse." In essence, your laptop becomes an all-in-one gaming unit. No buttons to press (no strained thumbs because of that), no wires to connect, just pure fun.

Okay. So that limits you in what games you can play because the action in the game is controlled by the movement of your computer. Doesn't sound so interesting anymore does it? We never said it was an iPod killer, uh, next-generation gaming console killer. We said it would be amusing and fun.

Singh also says it best. "Perhaps the most interesting and entertaining demonstration of AMS2HID's capabilities is its use for playing a variety of existing games." And he describes it all on his site, including a link to a free video game that shows the basics of the SMS feature when applied to such.

And video games are apparently not the end of the line for all this Mac-centric/only fun.


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