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Showing posts from 2008

The new face of TV - DTV, that is.

If cable TV customers experienced over-the-air digital TV, the cable industry might lose a good chunk of their customers.

Here's the story:

A few weeks ago I decided that I was going to convert some old home VHS videos to DVD, and so I went shopping for a simple DVD recorder. I figure a DVD recorder would be more useful, less frustrating, and more fun that some video gadget for my PC.

SoI logged onto Amazon and I bought myself a DVD recorder. And just for fun, I bought a model with a modern digital TV tuner inside. I've never played with over-the-air digital TV, so this was my chance.

Well, the DVD burner works pretty well (more on that in a subsequent post). But I really want to talk about the Digital TV tuner.

In short, over-the-air digital TV is something that the cable TV companies must have a lot of fear of. When I was a kid, we watched all 7 local channels - Channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 25, 38 and 56. Yeah, there were other channels, but they were totally unwatchable. And even …

Saks Fifth Avenue - Spam City

I'm really quite tired of the Spam that looks a lot like advertisements from Saks Fifth Avenue.

Here's the story:

I have an email address that I only use with my friends. I don't hand it out to retailers, and I don't reply to anyone I don't know very well with my email address.

However, somehow I got on a mailing list that is sending out "Saks Fifth Avenue" related advertisements on an almost DAILY basis. I've never shopped or purchased anything from a Sak's store of any kind, yet someone has decided that I deserve an inordinate amount of information about stuff I'm not interested in.

Did someone steal my email address off of one of my friend's address book? Was my address published on-line and scraped from somewhere? Did someone somehow get ahold of my email address and sell it to some "bulk email" agency? I certainly don't know, and these spams don't even make a claim on where they got their list.

All I know is that I…

Let's Rock! The New iPod GPS.

Yes, you read the headline. Apple's next big event, to be held on September 9th, is called
"Let's Rock". And the image included within their invite seems to show a silhouette of an iPod listener jumping off of a rock.

So what's this all about?

Clearly it is about an iPod with new GPS capabilities. Take an iPod, add a GPS receiver chip (like the iPhone), and install a few hundred megabytes of map data (like most handheld GPS units have) and you have a fully capable Apple-branded handheld GPS.

The GPS market has quickly turned into a HUGE market, and it would be silly for Apple to ignore this market. And there is no doubt that Jobs thinks that he can do a much better job than Garmin, Magellan, and TomTom.

Couple that with the fact that virtually all of the GPS devices out there leave much to be desired in terms of usability, extensibility, and update-ability. An iPod-style device will address all these issues, and can undoubtably be priced to radically change the…

Crazy Mac story.

I was overhearing a conversion on the train today, and it was so crazy that I feel the need to repeat it here.

The context: A middle-aged guy was advising a friend on buying a Mac:
They're working on creating an Office for the Mac, but its very hard because a program can't use files. The Mac doesn't have a file system - that's why it doesn't have a C: drive. A program can't store files.

Oh, it does have a file system, but its locked down, so each application has to use a special API to store files. They lock it down in order to protect the system from viruses - that's why it doesn't get them - but without a real C: drive, it's extremely difficult for programmers to write software for it.

I mean, hackers have found a way to get to the file system, but as soon as they access the file system it voids the warranty, because viruses could then multiply. Plus they want to protect the iTunes files from being stolen.

I found it odd that the advisor knew some …

Belkin Router Dropping Internet Connection

My trusty Belkin 802.11g router started having problems the other day.

When surfing through Google Maps, the router would stop communicating with the Internet. Restarting the router was the only way to correct the problem. It would lock up, and no other computer would be able to reach the Internet. Internal LAN connectivity continued just fine.

I have the latest firmware updates, so that wasn't the problem.

So then I turned off the Router's "enerprise-class" Firewall, and that fixed it! The firewall was described to me to be a "stateful packet inspection" type of firewall. Turning it off address the reliability problems - now - no more crashes so far!

Getting out of your cell phone plan

A friend recently told me that he wanted to buy an iPhone, but he was stuck in a wireless contract already. I provided him with some tips to help him get out of his contract. These may or may not work for you:

Transfer your account to someone who needs something like your contract. Perhaps someone in your family could use a cell phone. Talk to your provider and tell them that you'd like the billing to go to the new customer. Of course, your friend will have to agree. Doing so could release you from the financial obligations of the contract.Cancel the contract. Yes, this can cost you $175 to $250 in many cases. But you also got a nice phone for a low price. So do you know what you can do? You could SELL that phone. Even a "free" seemingly low-end phone can be worth several HUNDRED dollars. Sell it on CL or eBay and recover the fees! Wait it out! Come on, do you really need mobile internet in a phone?

Clean and Repair your Mac keyboard: How-To Guide

Today I'll show you how I go about to repair and clean Mac keyboards. This procedure is particular to the Apple white USB and Bluetooth keyboards, but a similar procedure should work on most other standard PC keyboards.

My yukky keyboard being dismantled

Keyboards are generally highly reliable devices, but they do have the nasty habit of collecting gunk that can make keys stick, or worse, completely non-functional. This guide shows you how to fully clean your keyboard so that it can be as good as it can be.

My recently cleaned Apple Keyboard - like new again!

Remember, some great keyboards can be found for under $30, so if you don't want to risk surgery, consider buying something like the Macally Keyboard and give your crusty console to someone who is willing to clean it up and give it a new life.

What you will need:
A clean, uncluttered work surfaceA one quart or one liter-sized plastic or glass container with a lid.
A ball point pen, for levering off keys
A small towel, for air-dr…

Canon SD890 Review

My Canon PowerShot SD890IS Review

Wahoo! I just received my new Canon PowerShot SD890IS. Here's my review of the new SD890IS.

Updated! (20-April-2008)!

I like taking good photos. And I hate lugging around big cameras and equipment. And so I concluded that I needed to buy myself an awesome point-n-shoot camera.

I often take pictures in difficult conditions, such as a museum where a flash camera is prohibited. Or a concert, where I can't use a flash, the lighting is low, and the people on stage are in motion. Or with the zoom cranked up and focused on a distant subject. Taking good photos in these conditions, with a small lens camera and without a tripod is a challenge at best.

In comes the SD890. I was particularly excited about the SD890 because it is pocketable, yet it has awesome specifications: Image stabilization; a 5x zoom lens, and 10 megapixel resolution. When I bought the camera, I imagined that these features would help me take much better pictures in these le…

Verizon FiOS Electricity Use

My house has Verizon FiOS. Part of the FiOS installation included the mounting of a Verizon network backup battery unit in the basement. I asked myself "how much electricity does this box use?"

Verizon FiOS: How much electricity does this cost me?

So I plugged in my awesome Kill-A-Watt electricity usage meter to find out.

My Kill-o-Watt watt meter reported that there was a 16 watt load on the circuit. And since Verizon's box is powered and plugged in 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, 16 watts would quickly add up to roughly 140 kilowatt hours per year:

calculation: 16 watts x 8760 hours per year ÷ 1000 = 140.16 KWH/Year

How much does 140 Kilowatt-hours cost in dollars and cents? Here's a table that shows how much that would cost per year based on recent residential electricity rates (source: DOE. State Electricity Profiles, 2006 Edition):

State¢/KWH )
$/YearAlabama 7.07
$9.91Alaska 12.84
18.00Arizona 8.24
11.55Arkansas 6.99
9.80California 12.82
17.97Colorado 7.61

The MacBook Air, 3G and the Internet

I've been reading a lot about how Apple "screwed up" the MacBook Air because it didn't include a "3G mobile phone modem".

The idea that Apple should have included a 3G chipset is, of course, stupid.

Just about every modern 3G handset out there can operate as a 3G modem for wireless internet. A handset can be connected to the MacBook Air via either USB or Bluetooth, automatically giving any Mac full wireless internet capabilities - over the cell phone network, without WiFi.

So what are the pundits talking about? They're talking about the purpose built modem plans and cards that are sold by the mobile service providers. Of course, these cards exist just because many older laptops didn't have bluetooth. These purpose-built 3G cards are effectively obsolete. These power-hungry, service-dependent cards are still being sold because they work adequately well with old computers. But given modern handsets and bluetooth, the old cards won't be around m…

MacBook Air features in the MacBook Pro?

Now that the MacBook Air has been revealed, many are curious about what's next.

The MacBook and the Mac Mini continue to be lower-cost winners for Apple and their customers. It isn't costing Apple much to keep these designs around, and they continue to sell well. I don't suspect that Apple will substantially change these machines until Intel releases a compelling alternative to the Core 2 Duo platform.

The MacBook Pro is also a winner, but its basic design has been around since about 2003. I suspect that the MacBook Pro will have a substantial redesign in mid-to-late 2008.

Does the MacBook Air reveal the roadmap for the Pro?

It's time for an update, and Apple's recent products should give us a hint of where its going: Thin and Gorgeous.

Apple's most recent new products, the Nano, Touch, and Air, all follow that attractive theme. Products that don't fit that mold are clearly yesterday's designs. Apple's flagship notebook line no longer fits the futu…

Why the MacBook Air sucks

In the spirit of PC Magazine, here are thirteen reasons why the MacBook Air sucks.

1. $999 SSD option.

Crazy-but-true, the 64 GB solid state "disk drive" option costs $999. I'm sure I could buy a 64+ GB solid state drive for much less. Although I haven't shopped for one, they should cost about $200, right? So Apple, why $999?

2. No Vista

That's right, you buy this thing for $1799 (or more), and it doesn't come with the ultimate Vista - a $600 afterthought? If I want to spend money on a laptop, PLEASE include the Ultimate!

3. No MS-Office

Again, you buy this thing, you can't even edit MS-Word documents - its an extra piece of software that wasn't included!!! This is getting painful!

4. No replaceable battery.

My Olympus digicam used readily-available AA batteries. This thing uses a built-in weirdo battery.... that can't be replaced by normal users! What's the deal??? I want to use AA batteries, so if my battery runs dead on the airplane, I can …

MacBook Air Disassembled

Now what we've all been waiting for is a full disassembly of the MacBook Air. How take-apart -able is the MacBook Air? Is there a good opportunity for Apple to upgrade the RAM to a full 4 GB? Is it possible to swap-out the HDD with a larger capacity model, or with a non-standard SSD? And how easy is it for a user to replace the battery?

Fixing my Bent and Warped PowerBook

My 12" PowerBook G4 developed a little warp or bend so that it didn't sit flat any more. It would wobble on a desk as I typed - annoying! It all happened when I dropped it on the front corner, distorting the case.

A straight edge on the front palm rest clearly showed the bend.

To fix it, I removed the battery and put some slight pressure on the corner, reforming it into its original shape. Then I used a couple small vice grips, covered in cloth, to reform the case, trying to work out the dent "in reverse order in which it was created".

This process is much like how a body shop repairs a dented fender.

The repair looks great - it isn't 100% perfect, but close to it. Now it looks great AND it sits nice and flat on my desktop. And I didn't need to buy a whole new case.