Toys 2005

Just roll with it, baby...

I find it hard to believe that it was four years ago this month that the world was introduced to the Segway Human Transporter

MiscsegwayRemember that thing? 

It was the two-wheeled, gyropscopically equilibriated, personal transportation device marketed to just about anybody that was sick of using their two legs to get from point A to point B.  Just lean forward to move forward and, well, you get the point.

This thing was supposed to revolutionize personal transportation. 

Move over skateboard.  Outta the way, bicycle.  Rollerblades?  Bah!

The goal of the Segway company was to have sold 50,000 SHTs within the first year of business.  Their hope was to see their creation employed by commuters, shoppers, policemen, etc., the world over.

And, how has Segway done in its quest?

Well, about 6,000 units were sold in the first 21 months of business.

What happened to the Segway?  I feel like VH-1 should run a Where Are They Now? special. 

I don't know about you, but I have seen only one Segway HT in my entire life out in the wilds.  It was being used by a cop in Chicago on Black Friday 2005.  And how he managed to maneuver that thing through the throngs of frantic shoppers is beyond me entirely.

Aside from that, I've seen it on some TV shows here and there, most notably, Arrested Development where it is used more to emphasize the pathetic, overindulgent nature of its primary rider, GOB (Will Arnett), than as a form of product placement.

Don't get me wrong, the Segway company is still alive, though not necessarily well.  They still make the SHT (no jokes about what the initials almost spell, okay?).

But, you've gotta wonder what has happened to the Segway HTs that have sold over the years.  Where are they being used?  How are they being used?  Are they being used at all?

I'm here to tell you that, yes, Segway HTs are playing an important part in American society.  Their utilitarian nature has finally found its niche market.  And I think Segway will be able to bank upon this new group of SHT enthusiasts...

The Bay Area Segway Enthusiasts and their love of Segway Polo!

Yep, polo played on Segways.  When I read this article on Digg.com this morning, I couldn't help but laugh.  They even have a video posted on Google Video.  Has anyone actually ever seen this being played?  I would love to hear what you have to say about it.

I gotta give them props for creative uses for a rather expensive technology.  But, somehow, I just don't see this catching on too big.  At $4,000-5,000 per SHT, I think I'd be a bit afraid to use it for a mallot match.

P.S. To all of you actual Segway HT enthusiasts, I apologize if you are offended by the condescending nature of this post.  I just find Segway Polo to be one of the funniest things I've seen in a while.

P.P.S. To all of you Segway HT enthusiasts, I apologize if you find my humorous views on Segway Polo to be anything but funny especially if you really do take the game seriously.  Heck, I play disc golf and I'm sure some people can't find it in themselves to take that seriously either.  But, you know, one actually has a national organization and tournaments with cash prizes and sponsorships and I'm not going to say which one it is.

P.P.P.S. Okay, so my apology was less than sincere.  Yeah, I can be a sarcastic sumbitch, can't I?  But, c'mon!  Look at what I'm working with here...

I'm going to shut up before I find myself being chased down the street by a torch- and pitchfork-wielding mob of vindictive Segites.


It's gettin' hot in here...

If there's one thing I cannot help, it's looking at other people when I'm driving.  It's a compulsion.  I like to see who's around me. 

Even if they give me that "stop looking at me" look, I keep on watching.

I really can't explain why I do this; I just do.  Am I trying to determine what makes other people tick?  Do I use this as a chance to examine the proverbial human condition?

But, once in a while, you discover a little gem... something that makes you happy you are an ogler of your fellow human being... that one thing that makes all the dirty looks worthwhile.

Today, while shopping for some gifts for Katie after work, I was about to exit my truck in the parking lot at the Geneva Commons.  However, I was unable to open my door as someone decided to pull into the empty spot next to me.  It was a Yukon-esque SUV and, when I looked through the front passenger window, I saw a guy probably about 20 with a big fro (yes, he was white) and goofy Jack Osbourne-like glasses. 

Upon closer inspection of the interior of his car, I saw a small, five-inch video screen mounted in his dashboard.  Since there was no one else in his vehicle, I'm assuming that the video that was airing was for his own enjoyment (safety first, people). 

And, as I stepped out of my truck and looked closer at the video screen, I saw he was watching porn.

That's right... two naked women on one naked man.  And I would almost swear I saw a Santa Claus hat.  A right festive orgy, indeed.

I was in shock.  I was speechless.  I was a bit numb (and not just because it was -5 degrees F with windchill).  And, despite the cold, I didn't want to pull myself away.  Not necessarily because it was porn, but I wanted to know what this kid's reaction would be if he knew someone was hip to his dirty, little secret.

Okay, maybe a little bit of the reason was because it was porn.  But just a little bit.  I swear.

But I did the responsible, adult thing and moved on to commence with my shopping.

And, thinking back, I now understand why it was taking him so long to get out of his truck.  And it's not because it was cold outside.


All we hear is radio ga-ga...

MiscroadtripA few weeks back, I entered a contest on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) for a Griffin RoadTrip.  This is a device that acts as an in-car dock for your iPod so you can use your Pod through your car stereo.  What you had to do to enter was take a photo of the current method you use to play your Pod in your car and link to it from the comments section of the contest announcement page.

Not that many people entered the contest (maybe a dozen total) and, since my method was quite Rube Goldbergesque, I thought I stood a pretty good chance of winning.

I was wrong.

I did not win

And I was upset about not winning.

The primary reason I was upset was because Katie and I recently picked up the DLO TransPod -- another dock very akin to the RoadTrip -- for her iPod and car and we love it!  The reception is fantastic and the signal is of a much higher power than what I get out of my dinky little Belkin TuneCast II.  I've used her DLO a few times and it's always hard to give it back to her. 

I thought that I would resolve this by winning the RoadTrip... and save about $90 in the process.

However, I was checking out TUAW yesterday morning and saw a new post... one that had me very excited...

It seems that the fine people at Griffin are going to be giving all the contest entrants a new RoadTrip.  And the winner of the contest is going to get a "goodie bag full of Griffin gear." 

Now that's just too cool!  When I read this, my heart skipped a beat because doPi deserves so much better than the slipshod broadcast setup he currently plays through.  I want high quality sound, not the static I currently live with.

Thank you to both Griffin and TUAW!  You've made my weekend!


Get Lost...

A couple weeks ago, I forgot to tape the new episode of Lost that was on TV.  Actually, I didn't forget to record it so much as I forgot to leave the TV on the proper channel. 

It wasn't all that big a deal, initially, because, as I've said, the show isn't nearly as good this year as it was last year.  But it has been picking up a bit.  Thankfully.  And, when some friends told me how good that particular episode was, I became a bit upset that I had missed it.

Then I remembered...

Lost is one of the shows that they sell individual episodes of on iTunes!  And I now have a new iMac with OS X.4 and Quicktime 7 (two of the required pieces of software to view videos purchased at iTMS).

I had read on some sites that the videos purchased on iTMS, since they are intended for the new iPod, are not that great when viewed on a computer screen.  But I wanted to see this episode.  And the desire to do so was rapidly building.

Yep, it was time to dish out my first $1.99 for a TV show on the Web.

Let me tell you, it was worth it.  No, you cannot blow the video up to full screen.  That becomes a bit pixellated to say the very least.  But I was able, after playing around with different sizes, to get the episode to fill about one-third of my monitor.  And, that's perfect.  I'm sitting right in front of the thing.  It doesn't need to be larger than life and in my face.

Here are some screen caps (I've shrunken them a bit to minimize loading time)...

Misclost1

Misclost2

Misclost3

Okay, so maybe they're not the most flattering shots of Evangeline Lilly and Michelle Rodriguez.  But, they'll do.

I could keep watching some shows this way.  And since iTMS has expanded its offerings to include some stuff I really want to see like Monk, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The Office, I might really get into it.

Sorry, I'm not much into torrents and other forms of illegal downloading.  I once was a huge aficionado of services like the original Napster and Limewire after that.  But, when the place I work blocked out all gnutella clients and I was still on dial-up at home, I gave up.  And I just haven't gone back.  I guess that makes me an RIAA and MPAA posterboy... nah, not really  ;-) 

I don't look down on those that do use it, I simply don't have the patience to wade through all the crap out there in hopes that it will be a viable version of what I want and not some crap-quality rip or a recording of Madonna yelling "STOP STEALING MY MUSIC!" (yeah, she did something like that at one point).

Now, if only iTMS could get classic Twilight Zone...


You gotta hook it up...

Since Katie and I have such busy Mondays, she decided (with a little urging from your's truly) to give me my birthday gift today.

Now, we are finally really entering the 21st century.  Yep, we've gone wireless!  She bought me a Apple Airport Extreme station for the new iMac.  And, oh, is it nice.  I hooked it up and all I needed to do was tell the Mac to look for an Airport connection instead of a hardwired network connection and it was all done.  There is absolutely no loss of connection speed whatsoever (or, so far as I can tell).

Miscairportextreme

Damn if it isn't pretty, too.  Even if you are a Windows user, you've gotta admit that Apple takes even the most fundamentally boring pieces of hardware and makes them almost dangerously eye appealing.

One of the great things about this Airport Extreme is that it saves us a bunch of money in the long run.  We were thinking about having new phone jacks installed in our house to allow us flexibility for placement of the computers.  However, SBC was going to charge us $50 per jack that we wanted to have installed, plus a $90 service call fee.  That's just wrong on so many levels.  Now, we can use the phone jacks we have and use the computer whereever we want anywhere in the house.  But I do still need that wireless card for my PowerBook (thanks to Gary for the info on this one).

The only thing I have to do now is figure out this whole Mac firewall and wireless security thing and we should be set.  As it stands, anybody out there with a wireless card and no sense of morality whatsoever can just mack off our connection.  I don't like that idea.  Not one bit.


Welcome back...

... to another Mac lover's open arms.

Wow, it's been a week of welcomes for Katie and I.  First, we welcomed Jen to our family (and so have a couple other people in the comments to that post).  Now, we are welcoming a new computer to our household.

I teased you a bit yesterday saying that I would have more information about our trip to The Apple Store in Chicago, remember?  Well, that "more information" is our new purchase... a shiny, "refreshed" G5 iMac.  It is soooooo pretty. 

Katie and I have been wanting to get a new computer for some time now.  My computer at work has been bogged down with personal files that I've been really anxious to remove from the harddrive, but have had no place to which I could move them.  My pBook only has a 6GB harddrive and I have nearly that amount in just digicam photos.  Forget the fact that I have 35GB of MP3s.  So, yes, we've been talking about it for some time, but were unsure when, or if, we could actually do it.

But, yesterday, we did it.  We took the plunge.  We found our iMac. 

I said it's a "refreshed" one, which was terminology I was not accustomed to when dealing with purchasing computers.  According to the Apple sales guy who helped us, here's the classification structure:

  • "new" - duh;
  • "refurbished" - returned with a problem but rebuilt from scratch and good as new;
  • "refreshed" - opened, but returned without a problem.

Apparently, our computer was the victim of "buyer's remorse" or so the tag says on the side of it.  How anybody could have buyer's remorse with such a beautiful little piece of machinery is beyond me.  But, the Apple techs rebuilt it anyway so it worked like a brand-new computer and it's still subject to all of Apple's warranties and we purchased the three-year AppleCare extended service plan on top of that.

Because it was "refreshed," the price was cut from $1,500 to $1,150.  However, they marked it down even more before we got there and we walked out with a $1.5 K computer for only $900.  Of course, the warranty did up the price a bit.  But that's not so bad.

Here are some of the specs:

  • 17" display
  • 2 gig processor
  • 160GB harddrive
  • OS X.4 Tiger
  • iLife installed
  • Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.
  • 512MB RAM

Honestly, all we saw when looking at the thing upon purchase was the 17" display, 2 gig processor, and the harddrive.  I didn't even know how much RAM was on it or that it was Tiger as the operating system.  You would think I would look into this.  However, considering the price we were being offered, I knew that upgrading the RAM and the OS would be minimal. 

Anything we had priced through Apple's online store in the refurbished area was a minimum of $1,150 and, while they were all 20" jobbers, they only had 1.4-1.8 gig processors.  Having a 2 gig processor was a big selling point for me.  And, seeing how big the 17" display is makes me fear that a 20" display would be far too big and impractical.

No, this is not the new generation of iMacs with the iSight camera built in or the remote control with the Apple media center software.  Honestly, I could care less about either of those. 

However, when we opened the box and Katie pulled out a mouse and keyboard that had no wires, well, that was just icing on the cake.  I've never played with these types of keyboards and mice before, but it's soooo nice.  And then, before we fired it up, I found the CDs that said OS 10.4 and I just knew we made a great purchase.

We turned it on and had some fun.

Now, I'm sitting on my work computer typing this as I back up my MP3s to Katie's iPod and to DVD-R so I can transfer them off this computer and onto our new one.

And thanks to my parents for helping us with this purchase.  They agreed to boot a majority chunk of the bill and count it as our Christmas and birthday gifts for the year.  And, no, no matter what you say, I'm not using mom's picture as wallpaper on the computer as a way of showing my appreciation.  No.

We just need a name for the new 'puter, now.  Any ideas? 

Miscimac


If I had a million dollars (or just $29.98)...

MiscbnlstickThis is easily one of the coolest and most novel ideas I have seen from the music industry in a while.

The Barenaked Ladies, one of my wife's favorite bands back in the day, is attempting a new means by which to deliver music to the masses.  In this case, a 128MB USB thumbdrive loaded with the "For The Holidays Album" in mp3 format, live tracks, best of the ad libs (whatever that is), album artwork, a photo gallery, and the all-important "and more."

I'll be perfectly honest with you... I love this idea.  I never listen to CDs anymore and rarely buy them unless it's an album that I must own (I just bought WXRT's "OnXRT Live From the Archives, vol. 8" yesterday... great live recordings with all proceeds going to charity that is not available digitally). 

You get a cool little thumbdrive on which you can either keep the data that they give you or blank it out and use it for whatever you want, you can create a CD of the music to listen to on a stereo at home or in your car, or you can just load the stuff right into your computer's MP3 player.  There just seem to be so many practical purposes for this sort of media presentation.

This can be purchased at the BNL online store, Werkshop, and, supposedly, on Amazon as well although I'm having the damnedest time finding it.  It's a bit pricey at $29.98 (USD) or $35.00 (CAN), but it does have a lot of stuff on it and it's reuseable, which is a lot more than I can say for the CDs that are collecting dust on my shelves.

I love it.

I wish more bands would do it.

I am seriously debating picking this up.

You can't tell me you wouldn't love to own a USB drive that has "Barenaked on a Stick" emblazoned on the side of it, can you?


But you've gotta let me know... should I stay or should I go?

A little surprise was awaiting us on our doorstep last night.

Back at the end of September, I chronicled the problems we were having with our phone line at home.  Everything was connected to it and we were receiving little to no signal from it whatsoever, remember?  Well, as it turns out, the problem was actually our TiVo.  We had an electrical storm earlier in the month overnight that fried the internal modem of the TiVo causing it to try to constantly remain connected to the remote host.  This was killing our attempts to use the phone line for its primary purpose... to call out and receive calls.

I dealt with the problem with TiVo initially.  I called them up and explained the problem.  The guy I was working with said it was no problem and that they would send us out a new unit immediately and he would also include instructions and shipping labels to send our old unit back.  Then I told him we had purchased the unit at Best Buy less than a month before and he said, "Great!  Take the unit back to Best Buy and swap it with them.  Saves you and us a lot of time and hassle!  I'll just put a note on your account now that you are swapping units with them and that you will only need to transfer your TiVo box registration."

We went to Best Buy, got the replacement box, hooked it up, transferred the registration, and have been happily using it ever since.  That was that.  Or so I thought.

When Katie and I come home, we always enter through our house through the door in the garage, which makes sense since we park in the garage.  So we have to remember to physically take the time to check our front entry to see if packages were left out there.  It's rare that we actually get packages, but you never know.

For whatever reason, I checked there last night after coming home and I found a big orange and black box sitting on a plant stand to the side of our door.  It was a 40-hour TiVo box.  And there was a shipping label with our name on it.

I was so confused.  The situation had been resolved... hadn't it?

MiscackbarI was afraid to open the thing, thinking it may have been some sort of trick or sting operation.  A Fark-worthy, Admiral Ackbar-esque warning kept sounding in my head... "It's a trap!"

I called Katie at work and told her about it, she convinced me to open it thinking it may be an early birthday gift from someone or that explanatory paperwork may have been in the box.  I did so.

Well, it certainly isn't a gift from someone as the box contained nothing but the unit wrapped in plastic with the ends covered in the injection-molded styrofoam blocks.  That's right... no instruction manuals, no cables (not even a power plug), and no remote.  This was clearly intended as a replacement unit for the old one.  Just unplug all the old cables and stick them in this one and send the old one back.

However, there was no paperwork in the box, either.  The CS rep I spoke with said that any replacement unit would have instructions and pre-paid labels for shipping.  Nada.

Obviously, this is a complete "slipped through the cracks" sort of situation.  At least, I hope it is.  Because if it would have taken them over a month to send the replacement unit, I would have been a bit pissed to say the least.  That's not exactly customer service.  It's as if the repair order was canceled, but they forgot to notify a department that was waiting for confirmation to ship the unit.  When they never received it, they figured maybe they should just ship it out anyway.

Do I keep it?  Do I send it back?

We've been wanting a second TiVo to hook up in the living room so we have one connected to the cable box and can record the secondary shows we have that interfere with some of our season passes on the primary TiVo as well as recording movies and shows that are on our extended cable plan.

The way I figure it, TiVo should know that we have this box.  They sent it to us.  They should have record of it.  They know we resolved the problem we called about when we transferred our subscription registration to the new unit we got at Best Buy.

I would think all they can do is call me on it when I call to register this "new" unit.  Obviously, I have to register it to activate it.  There's no way around it, right?  So, if they uncover the error, it would happen during this registrationm, wouldn't it?

Should I just try to do it anyway, for kicks?  If it works, I keep it; if it doesn't, I send it back?  Sound reasonable?

I know, I know.  Why would I talk about it on my blog of all places?  Maybe it's because I'm giving TiVo yet another outlet by which to discover their error.  Maybe it's my non-Catholic, Catholic Guilt kicking in.  And please don't say, "if you're asking this question, then you already know the answer."  I hate that. 

Maybe the ol' Admiral is right and it is a trap... or a test... or something else all too sinister.

Or maybe I'm just reading in to it too much.

Maybe I will hook it up and try to register it.  I'll let them call me on it.


Everything's coming to a grinding halt... (Part II)

As you all know, the Lord Kapgar decreed yesterday a half day so that I may wait anxiously at home for the SBC DSL service technicians to arrive and fix my home connection.

But they never came.

Around 4 p.m., I finally called SBC and asked where the heck they were.  They were scheduled to arrive "between 1 and 5 p.m.  Apparently, shortly before they were to come out and check out what was wrong, they noticed an inordinate number of service requests all from the same area where I live.  They finally put two and two together (a mighty feat from the sound of things) and realized that it must be a remote terminal on the fritz. 

So they went out and fixed that.  Never called to tell me that they never needed to come to my place.  I never even needed to be at home.

They apologized for the lack of a call.  Yeah, right, whatever.  Cockknockers.

I cleaned.  Yeah, you read that right.  I cleaned our house so that we wouldn't look like complete and utter slobs when the technician came.  I even withdrew some cash from the ATM in hopes that this guy might know how to install phone jacks and would do so for a little "under the table" money so we could avoid a second service call (SBC maintains that phone jacks and DSL service are two different services that can only be accomplished by two different service technicians... I think that's hooey).

Didn't need the money.  But the pad sure looks nice.  Just gotta dust and vaccuum now. 

DSL is up and running.  A little sluggish, but it's running.  Okay, more like jogging.  Just so long as it doesn't pull another Jim Fixx.


Everything's coming to a grinding halt...

And Kevin spoke, saying unto the world, "let Friday be a half day."

So it was said, and so it was done.

For Kevin, anyway.

Yeah, today I left work at noon because of that ridiculously huge range of hours during which utility technicians may or may not actually arrive at my house to do some work.  Ever since we upgraded to the higher of the two speeds of DSL service through SBC, our connection has been wonky, to be nice about it.

Sometimes it works great, sometimes it works terribly, sometimes it doesn't work at all.

And the service is the only thing that could possibly have gone wrong as I have made no changes whatsoever to my computer.  No new software, no new files, no nothing.  I upgraded the OS approximately six months ago but it worked fine with the low-end DSL that we had for the first 10 months living in our townhome.  That DSL worked GREAT!  In fact, I was so happy with the service that I wholeheartedly recommended SBC DSL service to anyone and everyone I knew. 

Now, not so sure.  They ran a line check from the SBC service office and the first test came back negative (read: it all worked for them, so it looked negative for me).  The second test said that I was not receiving optimum connection speeds on my DSL.

Well, duh.

Hence why I called customer service in the first place.  Morons.  Do you really think I enjoy the realization that dial-up service worked faster than this "high-speed" DSL? 

No, I'm not completely trashing SBC yet.  For 10 months, I was completely satisfied with the service.  Now, if they tell me that they can do nothing or that the solution isn't compatible with Macintosh, just read as I trash talk them from here to eternity. 

I don't think it'll be a problem though.  They should be able to fix it.  And I'll soon be back up to snuff surfing and posting from home.  Hopefully.

If not, I'll be trick or treating the local SBC office.


I'd like to say, have a happy holiday...

Ooohhhhh... two posts in one day!  Hey, can't help that I've got lots of cool stuff to discuss.  Actually, it's a bunch of smallish items I wanted to mention.

Of course, this just means that I won't have jack to talk about tomorrow.

However, this first bit is somewhat time sensitive and must be mentioned today, lest it be too late.

International Something For You Day:
Tonya at Adventure Journalist has declared today a new holiday.  Specifically, International Something For You Day.  Your task, should you choose to accept it (and I see no reason why you wouldn't want to) is to spend $25 on yourself.  Be like Tonya and buy something off your Amazon Wish List, go get a manicure/pedicure, get a very inexpensive lap dance (Johnny?), or fuel up your truck like I am for a cruise around the area taking autumn photos.  Whatever you choose, make it something for you.  And make sure to mark your calendars for next year.  This one's definitely worthy of inclusion in the annual holiday rotation.  Heck, as far as I'm concerned, it trumps quite of a few of the standards.

MiscibelieveiBelieve:
If you own an iPod Shuffle, might I suggest spending half that amount on a new accessory?  iBelieve is a lanyard and replacement cap for your Shuffle that converts it into a rather large, white plastic crucifix to hang around your neck.  I find this thing to be absolutely hilarious.  And, yes, it's legit.  The order function really does work.  No, I did not order one as I do not own a Shuffle.  But, this accessory alone almost makes me want to buy one.

Google Moon:
First it was the entertainingly interactive yet completely worthwhile and utilitarian Google Maps.  Then, we all had fun watching the camera zoom into our homes and whip around the planet with Google Earth.  Now, you can view the lunar landing sites of the late 60s/early 70s with Google Moon.  Just promise me one thing, you will zoom in to the landing sites as far as the map will let you go.  The detail is amazing!

Ted Allen:
I dunno how many of you are fans of Queen Eye for the Straight Guy, but their resident food and wine expert, Ted Allen, was in Naperville, Illinois, last night signing copies of his new cookbook, Food You Want To Eat: 100 Smart, Simple Recipes, at Anderson's Bookshop.  Being the cookbook junkie that Katie is, she really wanted to be there.  Alas, she was working until 9:00 p.m.  So I went in to the signing for her.  He and Kyan were always my two faves on the show, so it was cool being able to meet Ted and have him sign the book as well. He really is a damn funny guy.  I've got a couple photos of him at the event up in Flickr (Photo 1 | Photo 2).


I’m no angel...

I'm a little pissed at iTunes Music Store right now.

I know, I know.  Head for the hills!  Protect the kids from the cats and dogs raining from the skies!!  Kevin's bitching about his beloved iTunes!!!

A little over a month ago, iTunes upgraded to version 5.  Some people had issues with the conversion... mostly aesthetic in scope (although there were rumblings of random songs disappearing).  I never had any problems with it.  It still worked.

Then, a mere three weeks later, Apple launched iTunes 6 to coincide with the new iPod launch and the fact that the store would be selling videos and have a beta version of "Just For You," a section with recommendations based on what you're purchased. 

Now, the functionality issues are arising.

MiscdepechemodeangelWell, I preordered the new Depeche Mode album Playing the Angel about a month ago, quite a while before iTunes 6 was launched.  This album, since I preordered it, came complete with a bonus track and video.  Cool.  I've preordered albums before with videos attached to them from iTMS and never had a problem (The White Stripes' Get Behind Me Satan and Black Eyed Peas' Monkey Business).  They play fine and I enjoyed watching them once or twice.  Cool little feature to make me want to buy the album from iTMS instead of from a bricks-and-mortar store.

I got my e-mail notification this morning that Playing the Angel was available to download, so I clicked on the link to download and got an error message.  Three years of constant iTunes use and I've never received an error message.  Guess I was due.  So I was fine thinking it was just an overload error.

Then I read the message...

Apparently, to view any of the videos available now in iTMS requires not only iTunes v.6 but also Mac OS X 3.9 or later (preferably X 4.0).  The computer I use for purchasing and ripping music is my work computer simply because my PowerBook at home only has a 6 GB harddrive and I have far more music in my collection than that, but it does have OS X 3.9.  So I use my work computer complete with 160 GB harddrive, but only OS X 2.8.  And there's no way that I can upgrade the OS at work unless I want to shell out for it with my own cash.

I ordered this album before this new system requirement was announced, so I should be allowed to download anyway.  I couldn't even download the songs sans the video.  I would've been willing to forego the video if it meant just getting my music.  But the only way to resolve the situation was to cancel the preordered "with video" album and buy the standard album version.  Not only does this mean that I forego the video, but I also lose the bonus track.

Kevin's not a happy camper.


Goodbye my friend...

I received this e-mail from TiVo a couple days ago (there is a bit more to it, but this is the bulk of it)...

Misctivoemail

This was a really cute e-mail.  And definitely effective as well.  I love the whole "Take a Moment of Silence" declaration right beside the wide smiling TiVo logo.  Deliciously sarcastic.  Although, I suspect it was unintentional as TiVo is not likely to create a derivation of their logo just for this. 

But it is kinda scary to think that the VCR which has dominated our lives for so long is soon to be going the way of the Dodo.  My family has owned a VCR since, I think, 1985.  We bought one when we moved to Connecticut.  And we used that bad boy like there was no tomorrow.  We taped anything and everything we could off HBO.  I remember all our old videotapes with multiple movies listed on each one with timestamps next to them so we knew how far we needed to fastforward to see it.

My personal fave, and easily the most overplayed, was my tape with Ghostbusters followed by Real Genius.  I watched that tape nonstop.  And, I'd be willing to bet it might still be packed in a box somewhere at my parents' house.

VCR... you were a good friend.  Thank you for years and years of entertainment.


Turn the clock to zero... we're starting up a brand new day.

MiscipodvidPrepare for another episode of "Geek on a Soapbox" brought to you exclusively by iPod with video.

Yep, you read correctly.  Apple's "Special Event" has happened and the new line of iPods is what we have.  And they are video enabled.  In fact, the entire line of iPods up to this point no longer exists.  As per the Apple Store, we have the iPod Shuffle, iPod Nano, and the new iPod.  They're not even differentiating it by calling it the "iPod Video;" it is simply "iPod."  And that is that.

One of the strange things about this new model is that they appear to have taken a liking to the purely flat-faced design of the iPod Nano and carried that over here.  Check it out at right.

It's quite a stunning design, all told.  I was afraid that the incorporation of video would require a much larger screen thereby throwing the aesthetics of the iPod's proportions into a state of flux.  Alas, they did not.

The screen does stretch out a little bit, but not too terribly much.  And it looks as though the click wheel is much smaller, relatively speaking. 

The site says that the new Pod is 4.2" H x 2.4" W x 0.43" D for the 30GB model and the same height and width for the 60GB but with a depth of 0.55".  The iPod I currently own is 4" H x 2.4" W x 0.5" D.  Not much of a difference in size.

But what I find truly amazing is that this new player, they claim, is capable of holding over 150 hours of video.  What resolution the video must be in to fit within the 150 hour time frame is beyond me at the moment.  But you must think of it in relative terms... you will have a much smaller video than that which you would be watching on your TV. 

But it also looks as though the iTunes Music Store will now be carrying video that you can download to your iPod.  Anything from video podcasts and short features to full episodes of TV shows like Lost.

Okay, I am drooling a little bit.  It is cool and is, once again, going to revolutionize the portable audio/video market much as Apple has been doing all along.  It is not the first portable video player, but it may as well be the last.  For whatever reason, no one seems capable of competing with Apple in this market.  They try and try; yet they fail and fail. 

The iPod is the one Apple product that appeals to anyone and everyone regardless of preferred computer operating system and computing ability.  It knows no boundaries.  And it's just getting more popular every day (oh yeah, sales figures for iPods are pretty encouraging as well).

For your drooling pleasure...

Miscipodvideocollage


C'mon people now, smile on your brother...

After work last night, I headed over to Lowe's to pick up another gallon of paint for our stairwell (time for coat #2) when I encountered what I thought was one of the most generous displays of employee relations I've seen in quite some time.

At the paint counter, I was number two in line.  When the paint counter employees came over, both of them helped the person in front of me.  I wasn't too upset about it as I figured that one of them was a trainee shadowing the senior guy. 

Miscsidekick2I was right.  As the trainee, Robert (who had the whole Ethan Hawke circa Before Sunrise look down to a "T"), waited for a gallon of paint to be shaken, his trainer, Luis, came over to me and apologized saying that Robert usually works in the receiving dock but he likes to learn new things, so he came over to the paint counter in his downtime.

When Luis started to mix my paint, we both looked over at Robert who was text messaging on a T-Mobile Sidekick II.  I thought it was a bit odd that someone would be messaging in plain view of the Customer Service desk as I feared he might be reported for improper use of work time.

That's when Luis explained to me that Robert was 100% hearing and speech impaired and he used the Sidekick to communicate with departments and individuals in the store (obviously, because he cannot hear the PA or use the phones). 

But what really blew my mind was that Lowe's actually purchased this Sidekick for him. 

I know that being a multimillion dollar hardware empire, the $300 that this Sidekick cost is not a big deal at all.  In fact, it's a pittance with respect to the bigger picture.  But I just thought it was such a grand gesture on the part of Lowe's to have done this for him. 

And I also know that this is likely to be more of an attempt at ADA compliance than anything else, but what are the odds that the ADA dictates you must buy a $300 high-tech communication device for your employees?  Not very good, I would think.  I'm of the opinion that a $25 pager would suffice to appease the ADA.

I was impressed.  I still am.  Being the cynic that I am, I tend to believe that goodwill gestures such as this are very few and far between.

Miscloweslogo


Down on my knees; baby, please don't tease.

Here goes round two of the "Will They or Won't They" Chronicles.

A little over a month ago, I reported about a "special event" that Apple was hosting at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.  The theory at the time was that the event was going to be used to announce the launch of a new line of iPods capable of video playback.

The invitation that many media outlets received featured an image that had a denim background on it.  At the time, nobody realized that this image could have served as an indicator of what was being featured... an iPod that fits in the pocket of your jeans. 

Well, as I have said, I was disappointed by the results of the event, which highlighted the now-released iPod Nano. 

I will admit that I'm not as opposed to the Nano as I was before since I have now been afforded the opportunity to play with it at Best Buy and that little color screen is really nice.  Still not nearly enough storage for me, but the design is growing on me a bit.

MisconemorethingHowever, iLounge reports that Apple has announced another event scheduled for next Wednesday (October 12).  This time around, the image on the invitation features a background draped with deep red theater curtains.

Could it finally be that Apple is announcing the iPod Video ("VidiPod"?) and that the iPod Photo prices will now go down a bit?  Maybe quite a bit?  I dunno, but it's one heckuva nice thought.

Considering the symbiotic relationship I have with doPi, I'm not sure I could replace him.  But it's still a droolworthy prospect.

In other iPod news, this one really hurt to read.  Thankfully it all worked out for the best.  Have any of you ever sent something computer-based or otherwise through the washing machine?  I did it with a SanDisk Cruzer Micro USB thumbdrive a while back.  While it did dry out and resume working, it eventually did crap out.  Not sure if it was laundry related, but the likelihood is pretty good. 

Also, The Unofficial Apple Weblog wants you!  If you are a Mac OS user, they want you to post a screen capture of your desktop to share with everyone else.  They also announced that there is a user group on Flickr just for this project.  CommandShift3 is the place to go to find this group, and it has been growing by leaps and bounds since TUAW posted their request.  In just a half hour, the contributions jumped from 312 to 353.  I still have yet to add mine.  Trying to find that one perfect photo since I rotate through a series of different ones.

I've always gotten a kick out of how people set up the desktop on their computers, be they Mac or Windows based.  How it's organized and decorated really can say a lot about a person.  For most of my coworkers, their desktops scream that they are either really busy or slobs.  I'm far too anal retentive to let my desktop become too cluttered.  Hence the minimal amount of icons you will see when I eventually take the screen cap.

Okay, got one...


I'm caught up in the spiderweb...

I find it amazing, with the technology boom of the last couple decades, just how intermingled and codependent seemingly disparate aspects of our lives have become.  You just never seem to think about it until something happens that makes you realize just how tangled a web it all truly is.

Take for example the little conundrum Katie and I are experiencing right now.

MiscphoneLast Friday and Saturday, the area where we live was hit with a ton of rain that resulted from Hurricane Rita hitting land in Texas and Louisiana.  I don't know if this was a result of these storms or not, but our home phone line went dead.  No calls in and no calls out.  I had to resort to using cellphones to get a hold of Katie.

She called SBC a few times to try to hash out the problem with them.  And we're still working at getting it all resolved almost a week later.  Should be fixed up by early next week.  We hope.

But where it gets weird is how many other things were affected.  And some that weren't.

For one, we can't get any PPV movies (not that we really do) from Comcast nor can we do much onDemand stuff.  The reason for this is because to obtain anything other than preordained programming, we need to have a working phone line that our cable box can use to connect and communicate with Comcast's servers. 

The second problem lies in our TiVo.  Ah yes, our beloved TiVo... we have fallen very quickly in love with our new toy.  Well, this, too, connects to its own as well as Comcast's servers via a phone line so it can get program information.  It can still be used during this downtime, but we have to manually set each program that we want to record just like using a VCR.  Okay, so it could be worse.  At least we can still record and we don't need to hook our old VCR back up.

But here is the really odd thing.  We have DSL service through SBC in addition to our phone service.  Basically, we hook up a DSL filter box to our wall phone jack and plug the DSL line into the side of it while the phone is still plugged in the front.  Effectively, both the phone and DSL hookups wind up going through the same phone jack that isn't working.

However, our DSL connection works perfectly fine.  In fact, it works better than it usually does.  I just don't get it.  Why would one thing plugged in to our phone jack work and everything else be kaput?

Before you say it's a matter of voice versus data transfer, bear in mind that our TiVo and PPV/inDemand are also data transfers and they don't work, but DSL is.

I'm baffled.


I'm the man in the box.

I was reading a pretty interesting story on Wired yesterday about what they've dubbed "Apple pack rats."  These are the people that not only buy and love their Apple products, but wind up keeping all the packing materials and documentation and all that other jazz.

To these people, opening their Apple-branded toys is a religious experience in and of itself.  Often times, they will have friends over and photograph the occasion as though it were Christmas.  And packing material winds up being used for decoration.

Okay, first and foremost, I'm not this bad.  Yet. 

I suppose if I had been an Apple nut before I bought my PowerBook six years ago, I might have treated the opening moment with some reverence.  As it was, though, this was my first Apple/Mac computer and I didn't know what to expect.  So, all things considered, it was just the opening of a box.  And, this is still the only computer Katie and I own.

But the opening of our iPods was treated a little differently.  It was a step-by-step "wow!" sort of experience.  I mean, c'mon, it has some of the coolest packaging around.  And it was a bit of a puzzle trying to figure out the best way to get the job done. 

What I find funniest about the Wired article was the timing.  Primarily because, just this past weekend, I was at my parents' house digging around in the crawlspace for some old sports pennants to hang in the garage when I found it.

What is "It"?

"It" is the box from my PowerBook.  I still had it.  I couldn't believe it.  All the styrofoam inserts were still inside as well as all the documentation and even the box from my VST internal ZIP-100 drive that was purchased at the same time as the computer (ZIPs were still very big six years ago). 

Of course I brought it home with me.  Much to Katie's chagrin, I'm sure.  But I've got it and I plan to keep it.

I thought I might share a few of them (one below and the rest are linked at left on Flickr) with you for kicks.  Maybe help bring back some memories for those of you who similarly love your computers and iPods and all the other jazz that Apple has created over the years (if there are some of you out there still actively using your Newtons... my hat's off to you).

Dsc01075


I'm alive... oh oh... so alive.

Do iPods have some kind of artificial intelligence somehow hardwired into their systems?  Or can they perform some sort of Vulcan mind-meld with their users?

Miscipod_1I'm asking this because of something that has been happening lately with my iPod.

Yes, I have playlists on my iPod.  However, I don't really use them that much anymore.  I'm kinda sick of what I've programmed into them and am thinking about deleting them entirely.

Forget about that "thinking" part.  It's done.  They're gone.  As we speak, they are being wiped from my iPod.

Yeah, I just get sick of them anymore.  It's like listening to the same old mix tape day after day after day.

So, what I've been doing lately, aside from listening to my podcasts, is to just take my entire iPod and set it to shuffle.  I never know what song or even genre will be played.  And, when you've got 2,303 songs on your iPod, there is a lot of randomness inherent in this approach.  Since I've copied over a couple hundred albums, in their entirety, there is a very great chance that I don't know many of the songs that are on my iPod.  I just put them on there to give myself a chance to listen to something new.

However, over the course of the last couple days that I've been doing this, I may think of a certain song or band and, lo and behold, that winds up being the next song or band played by my iPod.  It's eerie.  But I like it.  It's like some sort of symbiotic relationship that I am currently experiencing with doPi. 

I don't get it, but I won't complain.  He's been picking some great tunes lately. 

Heck, last night at the gym, I listened to a run of about seven great songs in a row while doing some cardio.  All were songs that I really like and are easy to work out to.  This morning, on the way to work, every single song that was played was absolutely spectacular.  And just what I wanted to hear at the moment.

Woah... I'm anthropomorphizing my iPod.  But maybe he deserves it.


We got to move these color TVs.

In a recent marketing course for my MBA degree, I was reminded of a concept that I had learned in marketing courses I took years ago during my undergrad pursuits.  The concept was that of the Product Life Cycle (PLC).

Basically, the PLC describes the innovation, early adoption, market saturation, and eventual market death of any given product or service on the market.  It's shaped like your standard bell curve and those who buy into the product or service fall into one of four areas along the curve. 

Miscproduct1_1

  • Market Innovation - Those who are always ahead of the curve when it comes to new product adoption.  They are always on the lookout for the "BBT" - the "Bigger Better Thing" - and will buy something as soon as possible.
  • Market Growth - A product makes its way into the market and is available to the everyman through regular market avenues like bricks and mortar stores.  It's still very early in the life of a product, but word is spreading as a result of the Market Innovators and people now feel a bit safer about buying into it.
  • Market Maturity - Other companies have caught on to the love and adoration of this new product and are now creating competitors.  This competition may or may not cause a price drop as some people may defect to these new products.
  • Sales Decline - People just stop caring so the prices tend to drop and those that were extra wary now have a legitimate opportunity to buy into the craze.

I do subscribe to this marketing fundamental.  It makes perfect sense.  However, I think they're missing a little something that is truly important in the product life cycle.  A whole crew of buyers that are completely neglected until the final stage of the PLC.  So, to honor this cadre of people, I would like to introduce my own marketing theory... the Product Salivation Cycle (PSC).

Miscproduct2

The stages here include:

  • Early Salivation - With the advent of the World Wide Web, just about anyone knows what new products are coming out well ahead of time.  We can track their production, testing, etc.  And, if we really like something, we drool for it.  Sometimes literally.  We aren't stupid enough to not admit that this product is coming and that it's cool and that we want it.  We just cannot afford to buy it when it first comes out or there is some immediate competition for the product and we are playing the "wait & see" game to see which one wins the likely market war that erupts.  One example would be DVD vs DivX.  We all knew DVD was better, but DivX had some pretty heavy hitting companies on its side.  So we waited.  DVD eventually won out and then people started looking into it a bit more.  But this doesn't happen until the next stage...
  • Increased Yearning - More and more people that we know are buying into the product.  We see it everywhere.  On the street, at the gym, at work, in print ads, on television, on billboards.  And we really want it now. For example, an iPod was one such product that just erupted and we saw it everywhere.  And you always knew it was an iPod because of the white cords that ran from someone's hand or waist or bag up to the sides of their head where it was plugged in like Frankenstein's feeding tube.
  • Price Drop Droolfest - With competition arriving from dozens of upstart companies and other, more established companies that are finally realizing that they are losing out on a huge market share, prices are starting to go down a bit.  When PDAs were first introduced, they were expensive as hell. But as new models arrived and competition increased, you suddenly found incredibly less expensive models just about anywhere.
  • Eventual Acquisition - The market is completely saturated by this time and prices are at a level where you can finally afford to buy that new toy.  Of course, when you walk around with your new toy and try bragging about it to all your friends, they reply with a collective "meh."  They all have moved on to the next BBT and you are stuck back at the beginning of the PSC.  Sorry, sucker.

Why am I going on about this?  Because, for as much of a geek as I am, I always feel like I am in the third or even fourth stage of the PSC. 

My first iPod was obtained at the tail end of the third generation model.  I have a 15GB touch wheel with four buttons across the top.  I knew a bunch of people that had either first, second, or third gen models well before I did.

I didn't get my first standalone DVD player until the end of 2000.  Three years into the life of DVD players.  I have to specify "standalone" because, technically, I did have one in my Mac laptop, which represents the one time I was closer to being a product innovator.  I was able to show off my DVD-watching capabilities on my laptop as early as the summer of '99.  And it was cool, and people said so, and I basked in the glow of their adoration for... my computer.

MisctivomanLast night, Katie and I finally jumped on the TiVo bandwagon.  There was an offer at Best Buy allowing for a $150 rebate on the TiVo box if you sign a one-year agreement.  It was the 40GB, second generation model and we've been wanting one for sometime now.  With the rebate, the box wound up costing a mere $50.  How can you say no to this offer? 

We went in to the store and saw a bunch of people walking out with the same product.  Luckily, there were still plenty left, so we nabbed one.  Oh, we also had about $15 in Reward Zone certificates, bringing our net overall cost to $65 (we purchased the extended warranty for $30).

We were stoked.  It felt like Christmas for both of us and we enjoyed every last minute of the time spent opening the box.  It's amazing how user friendly a product can be when the design team really puts some care and thought into a product.  The little set-up poster they include reminded me of the detailed, yet ubersimple, instructions that come with HP printers. 

And then the stickers.  Oh the stickers. 

Much like my Mac or any Mac that someone may buy, you get logo stickers so you can advertise your love of and affiliation with a growing population of freaks and geeks that use this product.  There were two little TiVo man stickers in the box and, something that actually makes them cooler than the Mac stickers, they are static labels.  I LOVE STATIC LABELS!  And the TiVo logo is one of my favorite product logos since the Apple/Mac logo and the old PrimeCo purple alien logo.

We now have our TiVo set up in our bedroom and we've already signed ourselves up for season passes for several of our favorite shows.  It is so simple that it's completely ridiculous.  The hardest thing about it was pulling out the TV so I could plug in the cables to the back.

But I do have one question for some of you out there that are more experienced with TiVos than I... when we flipped over to our DVD player to watch a movie last night (the DVD player runs through RCA A/V inputs much like the TiVo is, but in its own set of plugs), we flipped to the A/V input for the DVD player, but we were still receiving audio from the TiVo box itself.  How do we shut that off so it doesn't happen?  For the time being, we just clicked the TiVo button which sent the box into the menu thus negating audio input and watched the rest of the movie.  But this pause only lasted a half hour.  Luckily, a half hour was all we had left to this movie so we finished it before the TiVo audio kicked back in.  Help.


Shrink to Fit.

MiscipodnanoWell, it's not exactly the announcement I had been hoping for, but, at the "special event" that Apple held today at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, the company announced their new iPod Nano.  No, this is not in reference to my grandmother so much as it is to its size. 

The new iPod Nano is a shrunken version of the full-sized iPod with color-screen capabilities and is available in both 2GB and 4GB varietals. 

Yeah, it's cool and quite cute and, in my opinion, beats the socks off the iPod Mini (which I'm assuming will now be a defunct product line; and, judging by the fact that the "pick your iPod" menu bar on Apple.com no longer features the Mini, I must be right), but it's not something that I want.

I've got too damn much music for something that only has a mere 2 or 4 GB to possibly make me happy.  Right now, I'm pushing the 42GB mark in music.  I needs me a 60 gigger.

What I was really hoping would be announced was an iPod Video since Apple recently expanded their iPod copyright to include video capabilities.  The release of a video-enabled Pod would mean that the iPod Color and iPod Photo lines would be dropped in price. 

However, since the iPod Nano is a replacement for the iPod Mini, the only price drop we'll see is in the Minis due to the fact that they will no longer be a viable product line.  There will be a mad rush at Apple Stores, Circuit Cities, and Best Buys everywhere, I'm sure.

Damn.

Just when I got my hopes up.

Oh yeah, they also announced an iTunes capable cellphone to be available through Cingular.  Oh well.  Katie and I dumped Cingular about a year ago because their local coverage had gone to pot due to their GSM conversion.  Too much frustration due to dropped calls and new blackout zones that never existed before the switch.  We're on Nextel now and pretty happy.  Well, this is a Motorola phone and they make all the Nextel phones, so maybe sometime down the road?

Not the most thrilling "special event" in my honest opinion.


Could you take my picture? Cuz I won't remember.

I know that there may be several of you out there who will read this post and disregard it with an offhanded "meh" for one of two reasons:

  1. You just don't give a rat's ass because you are not privileged nor cool enough to own an iPod (what are you waiting for?).
  2. You are far more intelligent than I and already know this.  If so, my hat's off to you and why the hell didn't you tell me this sooner?

For those of you who actually do care, I uncovered a little nugget today that I am stoked about regarding my iPod and iTunes.

MiscitunescoverartWhen you buy an album from iTMS and load it to your copy of iTunes, it comes complete with the cover art for the album which will show in the album art window in the bottom left of iTunes or on the screen of your iPod if you own either the iPod Photo or the iPod Color. 

I always liked having the album art available as one of the benies of buying from iTMS, but I really don't buy that much.  So the ratio of albums in my iTunes that do have cover art available to those that do not is quite skewed.  I was also always told that the only way to get the cover art was to buy from iTMS.  No way I'm repurchasing all those albums just to get cover art.

However, while playing around with iTunes, I discovered a way to actually manually load the cover art.

In iTunes (Mac version):

  1. Pick the album or track in your library menu to which you want to apply cover art.
  2. Click "cmd/Apple + I" to bring up the track/album info window
  3. If it's a single track, click the "artwork" tab and search for the artwork on your computer (you can always nab the artwork from Amazon.com if they have it available, which, in most cases, they do)
  4. If you've selected multiple tracks from the same album, the "multiple song information" window will come up.  Just double click the empty "artwork" window and find it on your hard drive.

iTunes will then apply the album art to all the selected tracks.

I'm sure there is a way that is quite similar to perform this action in the Windows version of iTunes.  However, I do not have iTunes on my PC so I don't know quite what that method is.  If anyone else out there would like to play around with it and uncover the secret, by all means, post it in the comments here.

Now if only I had known this before I uploaded 8,000+ tracks to iTunes.  I'm gonna be here forever playing catch up.  But it's fun... in a wholly masochistic way, of course.  Hey, it's a good warm up for that day, down the line, that I may try to score me an iPod Color.

In other iPod news, iLounge reports that Apple has organized a "special event" on Wednesday, September 7, at 10:00 a.m. (PDT) in the Moscone Center in San Francisco.  The likelihood is that Apple will be officially announcing the release of video iPods.  They already expanded their copyright to include video capabilities just a few weeks ago, so the announcement was inevitable.

Do I want a video iPod?  No.  I have enough trouble trying to fathom watching video on a PSP which has a much bigger screen than an iPod, yet is still too small for my preferred viewing pleasure.

Am I looking forward to the release of video iPods?  Hell yes.  Why?  It means the price of the iPod Color will go down.  Yeah, baby!!!


This is the end, my only friend...

I tried to call Katie this morning on her cellphone and this is the message that I got...

Please wait while the Sprint customer you are trying to reach is located.

MiscsprintnextelOh dear God, no.  It has happened.  We are Nextel customers and I was horrified, a few months ago, to discover that Nextel was merging with what is easily rated the worst cellular service in the Chicago area... Sprint.

Sprint is notorious in our area for having the worst coverage and the highest dropoff rate around.  I know friends who signed with Sprint and were kicking and screaming until the end of their contracts because they just couldn't wait until the agony was over and they could bail out to another... any other... service provider.

The last time I ever heard such negative regard for such a popular company was AOHell due to their incessant pop-ups and advertising and just general pain-in-the-ass procedures.

Now, we are becoming one with them.  And it pains me.

From what I've read, Nextel customers are being switched over to Sprint's service and towers.  This explains the difficulty Katie and I had talking to each other today when I finally did get a hold of her.  We both had five bars of service and were still having difficulty understanding each other.  Also, we were in our cars while talking and, in areas that we normally have service, we did not, and vice versa. 

This is going to be a painful transition period.

Do you think it's possible to be let out of a cellular contract because the company with which you started your contract no longer exists as it did when you signed on the dotted line?  Would this constitute a breach of contract?  Hell, considering our service will likely go to pot, this is a definite breach of contract in that they are no longer providing the quality of service they promised me.

Yeah, right.  That one would hold up.

One can hope.


Crash (into me).

As much as I love my computer, some things can go wrong with it every once in a while.

Tonight, for example, I had typed up an entire post about a local radio station that streams via MP3 (making it compatible with iTunes) and I had it all ready to go when disaster struck.  As I was trying to insert an image into the entry, Firefox decided to crap out on me and my entire system subsequently froze.  I'm sure it wasn't helped by the fact that I was running a Software Update at the time and just completely forgot that it was operating.  I'm not even going to try to remember all that I had typed.  So, I'll just leave the topic alone by saying that you should really check out WONC 89.1 FM's streaming MP3 broadcast.

MisclombardNormally, this isn't that big of a deal.  Any modernized Mac could run both simultaneously without a second thought.  But I still have my beloved PowerBook G3 Lombard (same laptop used by Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City - but I had mine first) as my primary computer.  I haven't upgraded the RAM in this beast since 2000 when I bumped it up to 192 MB from the 64 MB that it came with. 

Back in 2000, 192 was pretty sufficient to get just about anything done.  Now, however, 192 isn't even up to snuff with the system minimum that comes with almost all new Macs.  They all barebone it at 256 MB.  And, in most cases, 512 MB is the bare minimum that any self respecting designer would run.  Take into account the fact that most of that 192 MB is spent on running OS X.3, it really doesn't leave much for multitasking other operations.

I just haven't bothered to upgrade.  And, yet, I know I desperately need to.

I do have some sites in mind.  MacSales has the RAM available and for a very doable price.  The only catch is that I can only upgrade the topside RAM.  You see, the G3 PowerBooks have both upper and lower memory slots for RAM.  The upper level is the only slot I can readily access as it's seated right underneath the keyboard.  I can't even figure out how to get into the lower slot.  Even if I could, the G3 PB only supports a max of 384 MB of RAM and, ideally, I would like to throw a 256 MB chip into both slots to bring the total RAM up to 512 MB. 

So, maybe I just deal with it and buy the 256 MB chip that is available on MacSales and upgrade the upper level only to bring my power up to 320 MB.  If I can find an easy way to upgrade the lower level (which comes with a native 64 MB chip) or find someone that can do it for me, that would be great.  But for now...

Oh, and I'm done procrastinating.  I'm buying the damn chip now.  I need it.  No two ways around it.

Forgive me, Katie.  I know I promised to not spend money frivolously right now, but this is far from frivolous and definitely necessary.


Working for a livin'.

Being what I like to refer to as a "minority computer user" -- a Machead -- I am more than willing to help those people in need when it comes to figuring out something on Macintosh computers or their Apple-related hardware and software.

Take, for example, today... I was sitting in the Atrium reading a book when a I spied a woman in her mid to late 40s (obviously one of our continuing ed or grad program students) working on an iBook.   I smiled to myself, thinking, "ah... yet another enlightened soul.  You go girl!"

Miscmaclogo_1At one point, she got up to leave and asked me if I could watch her stuff.  I agreed.  Upon her return a couple minutes later, I said, "all your stuff is still here."  She laughed and said, "I doubt anybody could get away with my stuff that quickly."  I replied, "I'm a Machead.  I would've run off with your laptop in a heartbeat."  She laughed again, but then got intrigued and asked if I knew much about configuring iPods, specifically her new iPod Mini.  Apparently, when she plugged in her iPod Mini via the USB port on the computer, her songs weren't uploading automatically as the instructions said they would.  She had nothing to show on her Pod for the dozen or so CDs she had ripped into iTunes.

I tried to let her know what things to look out for but I think I was just confusing her.  So she pulled the iPod out of her shoulder bag and asked if I could look at it.  Sure, no problem.  I plugged it in, it showed up on the desktop fine and even autostarted iTunes.  I just went into the options, clicked a radio button and the Pod burst to life loading her entire song library. 

She was exceptionally grateful going on and on about how simple I made it look (it really was) and how she can now finally use her Pod.

We started talking about music and she asked if I'd heard of the company called Shure.  Ummm, yeah!  They only make the best-rated, noise-canceling earbuds that you could ever ask for on your Pod (or any digital music player for that matter).  I had actually been pricing new earbuds for my Pod this morning and was despondent over the sheer cost for Shure buds.  At the low end, as per the Apple Store, they price in at nearly $150.  High-end models on the Apple site cost somewhere around $300.  They may have even come more expensive, but I was too depressed to really pay much attention.  I could never justify spending that kind of money no matter how much use I would get out of them.  Looking on the Shure Store site, they have buds ranging from $109-499.  Ouch.

She said that her son is a mechanical engineer working for the company and that he's getting her a pair of the buds (no specifics as to which model).  I was ready to drool.  She started talking about how he loves working for Shure and that they are a local company, which I did not know.  They also have infrequent inventory closeout sales that they were considering opening up to the Web community as well.

We were talking for about ten minutes before one of her classmates showed up and my cellphone started ringing.  We said our goodbyes.  And, as I walked away, I kept wishing that she was grateful enough to call her son and have him hook me up with a set of buds.  Even just a discount.  Any help at that price point would be greatly appreciated.  Alas, no such luck.

Despite the lack of recompense, I was still more than happy to help her out.  And, I find that just about any Mac user seems willing to do the same when they find a brethren in need.  Funny how that never happened when I was strictly a Windows user. 


What's goin' on?

Just taking a few quick looks around the Web today and I've come up with some pretty interesting stuff (yeah, it's a slow day; can you tell?).

Somebody downloading a damn Faith Hill song beat me to the 500,000,000th download grand prize on iTMS.  Man,  I actually bought some songs from the store in hopes of winning all that great stuff.  It can't get much better than 10 iPods of your choosing, a 10,000-song giftcard, four front-row tickets to see Coldplay live, and backstage passes to that same show.  Ouch, that hurts.  Amy Greer, I hate you.

MiscdeathstarsubwooferYou all know that I am a Star Wars geek, I'm sure.  Love the films.  And this is just what I need for my home stereo system to prove my unending devotion.  A custom-built Death Star-themed subwoofer.  This thing is big, bad, and beautiful.  How can you not love it?  But, please check the page out beyond just the photos.  The guy selling this thing has a great sense of humor.  Hilarious description, funny quotes, and spectacular answers to questions posed by eBay members.  Priceless.  Too bad he won't deliver overseas.  I'm sure Katie is crying over that fact, too.

If I ever find out that I have a pilot with multiple personality disorder, I'm going to be very upset.  Especially if he tries to play the roles of both pilot and co-pilot at the same time.  Just not good.  Or if I hear my pilot come over the PA and announce that his name is Captain Striker, I'm bailing out.

Why, after the past couple of years that he has had, anyone would want to get into a "long-term" relationship with Jude Law is beyond me.  Masochistic?  I'd think you would have to be.  No sense of self worth?  Probably required.

Apparently, Katie and I are not the only ones who got a big kick out of Sunday night's episode of The Family Guy.  Blogs are abuzz regarding the rip of the a-ha "Take On Me" video featuring Chris.  Don't forget the Truffle Shuffle and the Chinese monkey, though.  Those scenes were great, too.  Ah hell, the whole damn episode rocked.  There wasn't a single unfunny thing about it.  If you found nothing funny about that episode, there is just no hope for you.  If you missed it, check out [adult swim] on Cartoon Network on either Wednesday or Thursday.  I think that's when they replay the new episodes that just aired that past Sunday on Fox.  But don't quote me on it.

There has been a lot of talk about the slump in which the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) spent most of this summer.  Apparently, profits each week of the summer have been down as compared to the same week last year.  Even with films like Star Wars - Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith and Batman Begins bringing in boku bucks, it still was not enough to remove the industry from the 19-week slump from which it lingered.  And what movie ended the slump?  Fantastic Four.  Can you believe it?  This is a film I have absolutely no desire to see whatsoever and I'm a self-professed geek.  Yet it broke the slump.  Last year's movies in that weekend release slot must've really sucked.

Oh, and with the release of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this past weekend, I think the end of the summer season of movies has officially drawn nigh.  Some might argue that the drop-dead date already passed weeks ago in terms of quality.  Just look at what we have to "look forward" to the rest of the summer...

  • Bad News Bears - okay, I actually do want to see this; but I don't think this is the sort of movie to build a summer schedule around.  July release?  Maybe August or September.
  • Devil's Rejects - umm, yeah.
  • Hustle & Flow - not quite sure what to make of this one.
  • The Island - I've heard that Michael Bay finally has a decent script and some thought-provoking ideas in this movie; but it just doesn't look like something I want to spend my money on.
  • Stealth - and this is how Jamie Foxx decided to follow up a Best Actor Oscar win in Ray?  Anyone remember Mira Sorvino?
  • Sky High - this is another questionable one.  Seemingly cutesy idea, but I somehow doubt the execution is there.

There is a bunch of other crap being released in August and September with the only potentially so-so film being Dukes of Hazzard.  I'm not holding my breath on that one, but I'm seeing it anyway with Katie and my friend, Nate, because he is a Dukes junkie and his girlfriend staunchly refuses to see it.

The next movie I want to see doesn't come out until October 2 and that's Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-RabbitWallace & Gromit are pretty damned funny and they were developed by the same crew (Aardman Animations Ltd.) that brought us one of my favorite "animated" films of all time... Chicken Run.  Note that I put "animated" in quotes because it's really stop-motion Claymation and if I said it was my favorite stop-motion Claymation film of all time, it wouldn't really be in that great a company as it's one of the only ones I've ever seen - aside from old Ray Harryhausen films, and those are just classic.

I'll probably see Legend of Zorro on October 28, and I'll definitely see Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire on November 18 and the Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on December 9.  Other than those few, there really isn't much to look forward to in the holiday season in terms of movies, either. 

And they wonder why revenues are down.  It's just like the music industry.  It's not a matter of stuff being pirated online, it's that they're putting out nothing but crap.  Occasionally, you can sift through the nuggets and find a gem, but they are few and far between.  And, sadly, getting worse before they get better.


Mac attacked!

I've been having a strange little glitch with my Mac G5 tower at work.  It's just an odd little annoyance that only recently hit a bit of a head in my mind.

On a very rare occasion, when I click on any desktop icons, the computer would sit there and think for a second, then the icons and the control bar at the top of the screen would completely disappear, and then they would reappear after another second.  The folders that I have there, including my hard drive, would not open at all.  It's as though they had temporarily been negated from existence. 

Put simply, I would be unable to open any of my work files whatsoever.  I couldn't even open them by going in to the software and trying a File>Open.  However, nothing would happen to the application dock at the bottom of the screen at all.  I could open any piece of software I so desired as long as it had a shortcut in the dock.  And this is strange because the software itself is stored in the hard drive that I was unable to access by clicking on it from the desktop.  Go fig, right?

This usually only happens once a month, if that.  And the problem is quickly remedied by either a restart or a complete shutdown, depending on my mood.  So I just assumed that this was some sort of communication error in the computer.  No big deal.

Last week, however, I was restarting and shutting down over half a dozen times with no luck whatsoever.  I just could not get my Mac to open these desktop icons.  Finally, I broke down and called Justin, our resident Mac expert.  Of course, as you would expect, as soon as I hung up with him and restarted one last time, it worked fine.  So I put the problem out of my head.

Until today, when some woman from our IT department showed up saying she was there to fix my Mac problem.  It caught me a bit off guard as I had forgotten about the problem over the weekend.  I explained what happened and that it wasn't currently happening.  She decided to take a look anyway which I was fine with.

I must admit that I was very wary of her for a few reasons:

  1. I've never seen her before in my life.  Thus far, Justin has been the only one to take care of big Mac problems on our campus as he is the only one willing to do so.  We have a couple other people that have taken on the task of learning about network troubleshooting on Macs, but not hardware/software problem solving.  So when someone completely new showed up, a red flag went up in my mind. But I was willing to let her give it a go if it meant that we would have another Mac tech around the proverbial shop.
  2. She told me how it was so weird to work on a Mac again after two years.
    Ding ding ding ding ding ding!!!  Set system to DEFCON 2!!!
  3. She told me that the last time she worked on a Mac, it was on OS 9.
    AWOOOOGGAAHHHHH!!!!  Run for the hills!!!!  Duck and cover!!!

Was I wrong for freaking out a bit?  I know it's my work computer, but I have become a bit attached to it.  I love that G5 like a surrogate second computer (nothing will replace my G3 PBook).  Plus, it has all my MP3 files on it.  I do not want to lose those (most have been backed up to DVD-R, but still and all the same).

Well, she couldn't figure out what was wrong.  She even opened up the belly of the beast to make sure all connections were securely in place.  She was at a loss.  I think she's currently talking to Apple to see what they can recommend.  I'll keep you informed.

In other Mac news, Justin, the same one I mentioned above, had some old Mac hardware lying around and decided to give it to me to play around with.  The stuff still works, or so he says, and I can do whatever I want with it since the school was just going to donate it anyway.

Miscpowermac5200_1Miscpowermac5400What he gave me includes an old UMAX SuperMac.  Dunno about the processor in it or anything as I have yet to fire it up.  He is also bringing me an old all-in-one Mac.  He wasn't sure offhand if it was a PowerMac 5200 (pictured at left), a PowerMac 5400, or a PowerMac 5500 (at right), but any of them would be fun to play with.  Yes, he does know his stuff, but the computer was just given to him and he's never had much of a chance to play with it.  It's been sitting in his at-home workshop collecting dust.  Not that I'm much of a Mac tech at all.  But it could still be fun to see what one of those boxes would be capable of doing when souped up a bit.  I've heard they can run OS X pretty well if given enough of a kick in the seat, per se.

I told him if he ever finds an old flavored iMac to send it my way.  We have several up on our campus on Lake Geneva and they tend to go on the fritz every so often (as computers that are five years old are expected to do).  That would be fun to play with.  I know they're not the easiest to fix, but a little tinkering never hurt anyone (and my wife is cringing as she reads this, I'm sure).

I'll let you know if I'm able to do anything with it or if it all just blows up in my face.  Bear in mind that it will be some time before I really have much of a chance to play with it.  Hell, I may just wind up reselling them on eBay or something.


An even more Intel-ligent Mac? (and more)

I've only used the whole "tidbit" thing a grand total of like three or four times on this blog and already I hate it. So I'm just going to type my random thoughts and hope that all of you are capable of sorting them out as you deem appropriate.

Miscq101First, I need to thank Tony of the afternoon drive-time Woody, Tony, and Ravey Show on Q101 Chicago (101.1 WKQX) because, for the first time in nearly a dozen attempts, I finally made it through during Tony's Dumbass Contest. The mindless trivia challenge that Tony posited was "name the two shows that have characters named Kelso."

I'll give you a second...

Michael Kelso (Ashton Kutcher) on That 70s Show and Dr. Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins) on Scrubs. I'll be honest and admit that it took me a second or two to remember Dr. Kelso only because I'm so accustomed to hearing Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) call him "Bob-o." But, when I did unearth that cranial nugget of pointless drivel, I called in and got through. And I won. Woo hoo!

My immediate prize was a copy of Scrubs, season 1, on DVD which I already own, but I'm sure I can make use of somehow. I've got friends... friends who watch Scrubs. Or maybe I can take advantage of this opportunity to convert someone into a "true believer." God, I sound like Stan Lee.

My second prize was a choice between Six Feet Under, season 3, on DVD; Haunting Ground for PS2; or a ream of Boise Cascade printer paper from the Q101 storeroom. I never was a big fan of Six Feet Under, to be honest with you. I keep hearing what a great show it was. But, when Katie and I tried to start tuning in at the beginning of the third season, we were less than thrilled. Granted I also kept hearing what a joke the third season was, much like the third season of Alias which, of course, was when I tried to start watching that show as well. I was less than impressed to say the least and this goes far to explaining why I still don't watch the show. And printer paper is something we don't seem to be lacking on since we have three reams at home. So I went with the game. I've never heard of it. I'm not a huge gamer. But I have a PS2 and I figured, what the heck, it's free.

MiscmaclogoI've been reading on a couple of blogs (Carol's SfS and Dave's Blogography) and several news articles about how Steve Jobs of Apple Computers has announced that, beginning in 2006, Mac computers will all contain Intel processor chips instead of the Motorola processor chips that they have been incorporating thus far. Several reasons have been given for this switch:

  • Intel has great support for their chips.
  • Motorola has completely dropped the ball on their chip design division.
  • Intel chips are far less expensive.
  • Motorola chips overheat too fast and this is not a good thing, especially in laptops.
  • Better integration on cross-platform (Windows and Mac OS) networks.
  • The built-in copy protection in Intel's Pentium-D chips would allow for the security that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is striving for which would push forward the attempts by Apple to create an online movie store (currently being referred to in tech circles as iFlicks although a real name has not been announced) that would prevent illegal copies from floating around but allow the original user to permanently store movies on their harddrives.

I asked the question about what this switch means for the Mac/Motorola plan to create a mobile version of iTunes for use on cellphones over on Blogography and Dave thinks it won't affect it since processor chips and mobile technology are two wholly different divisions of Motorola. Here's hoping.

Do I feel betrayed? No. Mac is still Mac and it's still superior to Windows any day of the week, IMHO. Jobs is just doing the smart thing which is to try to steal a bigger market share by bringing the two platforms as close together as possible while still remaining distinguishable. Finally, IT departments the world over can stop their bitching and realize that it is not that difficult to use a Mac. Plus, if we can make Macs a bit less expensive than they currently are by using Intel chips, run with it.

Lastly, there is a girl named Katie S. who works out at the gym where I work (and work out). I've seen her at the gym pretty regularly lately while I'm working the desk and we make polite small talk every so often. She's a nice kid. But, every time I see her, I wonder if she remembers who I am. She is, after all, the girl that sideswiped my parked truck a couple years ago when she was learning to drive and was practicing her parking at my old apartment complex. She doesn't show any signs of recognition. She doesn't act embarrassed or fidgety. But she just might be a good actress or she might be wondering if I actually remember who she is. I'm not going to intentionally point out that I know. I wouldn't want her to suddenly freak out and then try to avoid the gym as a result. I'd feel bad about that. With regards to the accident, though, I wasn't mad when she hit my truck and I'm still not mad about it. After all, she and her dad did the honest thing and called the cops who found me and let me know what happened. They didn't try to run away from their responsibility in the situation and they paid for the repairs and the rental car I used while my truck was in the shop. For that I was grateful. Hence why I never held a grudge over the matter.

Somehow I doubt she knows who I am. After all, when she did actually look up at me (I think all once or twice) the night the incident happened, it was through profusely tear-stained eyes. I could've been Michael Jordan and she would never have been able to tell due to her crying. But it would just be interesting to know for sure if she does realize it or not.


Wendy or Danica? Danica or Wendy?

Tidbit 1: You might recall a little ways back that Katie and I took a trip to Green Bay, Wis., at the beginning of April for the wedding of her cousin, Mike, to his fiancee, Wendy. I was recently reminded of Wendy when I looked at last week's issue of Sports Illustrated featuring Indy 500 racer Danica Patrick on the cover. And I think you'll see why.

Pictured here are Mike and Wendy (sorry, the photo was pretty dark to begin with)...

Miscmikewendy

This is Danica Patrick, the fourth-place finisher at the 2005 Indy 500 and the first woman to place as a top-ten finisher as she appeared on last week's cover of Sports Illustrated.

Miscdanica

I think it's safe to say that we have a Halloween costume nailed for Wendy for this year, wouldn't you agree? Just a bit uncanny, to say the very least.

Tidbit 2: We got some more work done on the bathroom today. The filler board is now installed as is the toe kick. The light is also installed although we are probably going to move it over an inch or two sometime soon. We just need to cut one more strip of quarter bead for the trim behind the bathroom door and install some moulding for the top of the linen cabinet and the beast should be all done. Thank God.

I would have posted some photos of our progress, but, to be honest, what we did wasn't really all that much to look at. A fixture, an outlet, and some boards and trim. Not exactly Wow!-factor photos here. I'll hold off until it's all done.

Tidbit 3: Lastly, I finally connected the final rear surround speaker to our stereo. The thing has been hanging on the wall for several months now and I just never got around to actually hooking it up to the receiver. Well, it's done and we now have sound behind us when we watch DVDs or play CDs. The only catch is that we don't have the separated sound that most DVDs are capable of because, as I recently discovered, we need to have the DVD player hooked up to the receiver via either optical output or coaxial. The RCA cable I'm currently using doesn't allow for Dolby Digital Surround Sound. We are only able to get Dolby Pro Logic sound as is. I may have to look to see if our DVD player has optical outputs. I don't think it does, though.