2007-07-24

The Mac Mini Discontinued?

There are rumors that the Mac Mini is going to be discontinued. I disagree. Instead, I think it will evolve by being merged in with the Apple TV product. Of course, I don't work for Apple, so I have no idea if my plan is workable. But I do think that it is a possibility, as it considers:
  1. Leveraging current engineering projects
  2. Reducing manufacturing costs
  3. Simplifying the product line
  4. Staying reasonable in terms of product costs
Here's my thought of how I would converge the Apple TV and Mac Mini concept into one compelling product:
  1. Stick the guts of a MacBook into an Apple TV sized case
  2. Drop out the LCD, the battery, the keyboard, the DVD
  3. Drop in a (cheaper, bigger) 3.5 inch HDD drive, in lieu of a 2.5" notebook drive.
  4. Add various Video Out options
  5. Provide a standard MacBook power brick
Now you've got a fully capable computer - a computer as powerful as a MacBook - that basically cost nothing to engineer (other than reboxing the thing). You still have a computer that is essentially a MacBook, but it just doesn't have all the expensive components of a notebook computer.

Of course, this computer has USB, Firewire, Bluetooth and 802.11. So there are no limitations in terms of adding peripherals or storage. Need a DVD? USB or Firewire is there. Plus, this device would have two video-outs. With suitable dongles, you can send video over HDMI, DVI, Component, VGA, and even S-Video and Composite.

Conclusion

I agree that both the Apple TV and the Mac Mini aren't going to be around for much longer - in their current form. But I think its because they are evolving back into a more capable computer that could leverage Apple's pre-existing efforts.

2007-07-14

A tip of my hat for the new Roomba

I really hate vacuuming, and so I vacuum as little as possible. However, in contrast to my hate of vacuuming, I love a clean house. And so I either find myself vacuuming (yuk), or living in a not-so-clean house (yuk).

So to reduce my emotional distress related to vacuuming, I recently bought a Roomba. Here are my impressions and some tips:

Efficacy of the Roomba

The Roomba certainly keeps my floors clean. I'll still have to get out the traditional vacuum to clean the moldings, window sills, and some tricky spots (like behind my desk), but the bulk of my vacuuming effort has gone away.

The Roomba is not nearly as fast as the local cleaning service - but it does do a good job of covering all accessible floor surfaces. My routine: I get up in the morning, and just before I leave for work, I ask the Roomba to vacuum a particular room in my house. By the time I get home, the room's floor has been cleaned and Roomba has recharged itself.

The Roomba can miss some pockets of dirt. But since I have the Roomba working just about every day, it eventually gets just about everything.

You and your dirty, dirty dustbin

If you have a dirty floor, the Roomba's dustbin can fill up quite rapidly. I recommend that you empty the dustbin after each run until you understand how quickly it fills.

Roomba Power Consumption and Considerations

My Roomba has the very neat-and-cool "Home Base" dock. When the Roomba is tired (low on battery power), it searches for the dock and plugs itself in.

I hooked my watt meter up to the Home Base. When the Roomba is charging (amber light pulsing), Roomba-in-dock consumes about 30 watts. Once the Roomba is fully charged (green light), Roomba-in-dock consumes about 5 watts. When the Roomba is out of the dock, and presumably vacuuming, the home base consumes about 3 watts.

My Roomba came with a metal nickel hydride battery - a battery type that is much more environmentally sound than the nickel cadmium batteries used in many other consumer electronics. It should still be properly recycled after it's exhausted (many years from now, I hope), but at least it has less toxic chemicals inside.

Roomba the Martyr

One of my sofas has just enough clearance for the Roomba to scoot under, which is nice because Roomba can vacuum under it. But, sadly, this sofa is quite old and not so plumb... and so Roomba can get wedged under it. Further compounding the situation, the sofa has very sharp staples sticking out of the bottom, resulting in a scarred up Roomba.

Roomba senses objects (like tables and walls) by bouncing into them. And so my Roomba quickly developed "bump marks" on it's front bumper - mostly white paint from my mouldings. I haven't noticed any Roomba-generated damage, but Roomba itself is quickly looking marred up.

Roomba has sacrificed its beauty for me. In return, I feed it dirt and electricity, and shovel out its dust bin.

2007-07-08

Prius owners and Biofuel users beware!

I'm sorry to say that driving a Prius or making your own biofuel doesn't make you "green". These things might make you feel good, and they might reduce the world's energy consumption by a few BTUs.

But you can be very "green" by spending NO money at all.

I'm not anti-Prius, and I'm not against biofuel. In fact, I think they're both cool. And I'm certainly not an environmental wacko. I'm just a pragmatist.

In the end, reducing your purchases, investing money wisely (say, in a new fridge or in CFL bulbs), and recouping money on your prior expenditures is, in the end, a very green strategy that can help minimize your negative impact on the environment.

And now, the six most important environmental tips you've been waiting for!...
  1. Buy less new stuff. The stuff you buy requires substantial energy and materials to produce, package, and ship. The less crap you buy, the better for the environment. Remember that factories require a lot of energy and materials, and produce a lot of waste. Almost everything you buy comes from some sort of a factory.
  2. Need something? Then buy used stuff on eBay or Craigslist or at the neighborhood tag sale. In a sense, used stuff costs nothing to produce. Sell or give away all of the stuff you don't use any more - the reuse of your old stuff slows down the amount of new stuff other people have to buy. Sell that old iPod that's in the drawer, make a kid happy, and make some money.
  3. Share your stuff. Share gardening tools with neighbors. Give your magazines to your friends at work. Use the public library. Minimize the amount of idle stuff in "storage". Airlines are experts at making the most efficient use of the airplanes they have so that they can minimize the number of airplanes they need to buy. Imagine doing that with your stuff within your neighborhood.
  4. Fix "broken" stuff. Fix it yourself, or give it to someone who can.
  5. Live in a smaller building. Or, live in a multi-family building. If you have extra room in your house, think about renting it out for storage or whatever. If you have a spare garage bay, rent it to the neighbor for his MG (or whatever) - it's money in your pocket, and it means that your neighbor won't have to build a new garage bay that requires a lot of energy and materials to make.
  6. Try not to throw out stuff. Donate away things you don't need. Everything that goes in the trash or down the drain is basically environmental waste. The easiest way to reduce your waste is to not buy junk, or to give the stuff you don't want to those who can use it. Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and other places that accept your used stuff.
Of course, I still consume energy and throw stuff out. But my goal is to minimize.

In the end, being green isn't always easy to see. A good kitchen dishwasher can be more green than washing dishes by hand. The purchase of a brand new fridge is more green than keeping a 15 year old fridge. 50 households hiring a lawn service can be more green than 50 households with 50 lawn mowers.

To the Prius owners and Biofuel fiends - you've made an investment in a great technology. Just remember that there is much more to being green than driving an efficient car or burning waste oil.

Share