2008-12-02

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 the "local" channels that looked good looked like crap, despite our enormous rooftop aerial antenna . But we were happy.

Now, with my digital TV tuner and simple set-top rabbit ear antenna, I get about 25 picture-perfect channels over the air. And thats with my crappy 15 year old, 20-inch tube TV.

No wonder the cable TV industry tells their customers that people don't need to worry about digital TV tuners - 25 channels of free digital TV is very compelling for me. I wouldn't be surprised if a significant portion of cable TV customers feel the same way.

2008-09-26

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 get a Saks-branded email almost once a DAY. Insane. Retailers don't cold-call people once a day. But that's what they're doing to me, just via email. So I find it incredulous that Saks would be behind this.

I think my best strategy is to mark this garbage as Spam/Junk, protecting me and countless others from this insane misuse of email. Evidently a LOT of other people mark these messages as junk, as they advise users to put their email address within their "address book". Ha! Good thing we're not all so stupid.

2008-09-02

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 GPS marketplace.

But wait. This looks like it is for road or outdoors. So! That seems to imply that Apple will make it a bit less fragile and more waterproof than the existing iPod line. That seems to be a natural extension to the iPod - there are over one hundred aftermarket waterproofing products available for the iPod.

So there you have it. Apple is going after the GPS market. My money is on Apple - the other players in this market are weak at best.

2008-08-30

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 technical terms (API, file system), but then went and described something that was completely, um, insane.

My only guess is that he works for Gartner.


2008-08-20

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!

2008-07-27

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?

2008-04-24

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:
  1. A clean, uncluttered work surface
  2. A one quart or one liter-sized plastic or glass container with a lid.
  3. A ball point pen, for levering off keys
  4. A small towel, for air-drying keys
  5. A strainer, such as one used for draining cooked pasta.
  6. Some dish washer detergent. A spoonful will do.
  7. An old toothbrush
  8. An old kitchen sponge
  9. Warm tap water
  10. Silicone grease

Getting Started


The first thing you want to do is find yourself a nice work surface. Make sure that you don't have any junk around - these keyboards have over 100 hundred parts, and you don't want to lose any.

Take a photograph of your keyboard. You'll want this picture so that you can easily restore the keys to their original location. Without a picture, you'll do a lot of guessing.


Removing the Small Keys

We're going to remove all the keys from the keyboard. This is easier than it sounds - the trick is to start with all the small keys. But for sanity's sake, we'll pop off each small key with a little upward pressure. Don't take off the larger keys, such as Shift, Delete, or the Space Bar! Stick with the smaller square shaped keys. Apply upward pressure to the left or right side of the key and lever it up gently. Don't apply too much pressure or else you'll break the key's stem. I usually start from the right side, as it is easier to get some purchase from that side. If you have trouble popping off the keys with your fingers, use a pen to help pop off the key.


Levering up a key.

As you remove keys, put them into your container.


Pulling off the tricky big keys

Once all the small keys are off, we're going to go after the bigger ones. Many of the large key have a metal bar underneath them. This bar keeps the large key's top surface parallel with the rest of the keyboard. Without the metal support bars, the keys would rock around, resulting in a lousy feel.

Pulling off a large key requires special care. Lever up the key gently from the center-rear of the key. Once the key is released, make sure that the support wire is released from the base of the keyboard. The goal is to remove the key with its support wire. Keep the support wire attached to the key. Do not bend the wire or break the hooks found on the base of the keyboard. Again, put all the large keys with their support wires into your container. Be particularly careful with the space bar.

Repeat this process until all of the keys are removed.

The Delete Key with support wire - a source of keyboard squeaks


The Keys


Cleaning the Keyboard Base

Next we're going to clean the keyboard base. Take a vacuum cleaner with an upholstery attachment and vacuum up all of the dirt, hair, food, and whatever else it there. Use an old tooth brush to knock off any really sticky stuff. Then use a damp (not wet!) kitchen sponge to clean off the rest of the crud on the base. Then set the keyboard base aside.

The yukky keyboard base... ready for cleaning.


My cleaned keyboard base.

Phew! That looks a lot better! Not perfect, but good enough for me!


Proper Washing of the Keys

Now it's time to clean the keys. Put a spoonful of dishwasher detergent into your plastic container and add plenty of warm water. Seal the container and shake as if you were on an entire episode of Soul Train Dance Party.

Keys, Dishwater Detergent, and Water all in a nice sealed container.


Now your keys will be as clean as can be. Drain the container into a strainer and rinse them well with plenty of warm water.

Keys being rinsed off in a colander.


Once rinsed, inspect the keys for cleanliness. If they're still dirty, repeat the washing exercise. If not, set them aside on a towel so that they can fully air dry.
Air drying all of the keys. Make sure they're fully dry before reinstalling them!



Re-Greasing and Reassembly

Now you have a clean keyboard base and clean keys. Now we'll put it all back together again. This time, we'll install the large keys first (the ones with the metal support wires), and secondly we'll install the small square-shaped keys. Orientation is important - I hope you have that photo handy!

Stopping the Squeak of your spacebar

Sometimes you'll find that your keys squeak a bit. This is due to the movement of the metal bars against the plastic of the keys and/or keyboard base. For the large keys, you may want to re-grease the metal bars with a TINY amount of silicone grease where the plastic touches the metal. There are four points on each metal bar to grease - two where the key grabs the bar, and two where the bar slides under the hooks on the keyboard's base. Do NOT over grease your keyboard - it'll just gum up your keyboard later as it collects dirt. If in doubt, forgo the grease.

To install a large key, set the pins of the bar under the the hooks on the keyboard base, and then pivot the keys so that they hover over their receptacle. Then press down on the center of the key until the key clicks in place. Only a little pressure is required - if it seems to hard to press, STOP and make sure that everything is lined up correctly.

Once all the large keys are in place, start installing the small keys. It's easier to start from the corners, but I manage to do it haphazardly. Just get the right keys in the right holes, and make sure the keys are oriented correctly. The hardest part for me was the number pad keys versus the number-row keys, but they are quite different if you look hard enough.

In the end, you should have a solid keyboard with all keys nicely in place. Give it one more physical inspection to make sure that everything looks right and that all the keys move smoothly.

Congratulations! You've refurbished your own keyboard, saving yourself $50 or so!

2008-03-26

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 less-than-ideal conditions.
My SD890, just out of the box - Lookin' great.


I bought my SD890 IS from NewEgg for about $350 (in April, 2008) [I have no affiliation with NewEgg]. If you poke around the web, you may be able to find it for less - but I'm not comfortable with some of the very low cost camera retailers out there - I've heard too many horror stories from my friends. Note that the SD890 IS is known as the IXUS970 IS in Europe and perhaps other places. [I don't know how Canon ended up with two names for many of their camera products - it is confusing and annoying.]

Why I purchased this camera

I recently had the opportunity to try out various compact point & shoot digital cameras in a low-light situation. I was taking snaps for various people who were on stage, and so I had about 12 cameras at my disposal and no ability to use a flash. Most of the cameras were fairly new.

The camera that I had the best experience with was the Canon SD800 IS - which took the best photos of all the point-and-shoots, despite the demanding situation. So I went online to buy one - and I discovered that it (and its predecessors) were mostly out of stock.

One day later, Canon announced the SD890 IS. I decided to buy it based on the specifications, as it seemed like a new and improved version of the SD800 that I loved so much.


The Basics

The SD890 is a comfortable, small point and shoot. It is a little bigger than the SD400 series, but is still conformable in a shirt or jacket pocket. In particular, it is a bit thicker between the LCD and the lens - likely due to the SD890's 5x zoom lens.

The SD890 has that 5x zoom and stabilization - features that I think are now required for a great point-and-shoot.

The SD890 also has a decent-sized LCD on the back panel, along with a small optical viewfinder (that I will almost never use).

The SD890 comes with all the basic components that are included with most digital cameras:
  • A small (32 MB) SD memory card. Out of the gate, my SD890 IS reports that it can store roughly 11 photos on the stock card or 18 seconds of video. Upping the resolution will merely reduce the number of photos you can store on the stock card. You WILL want a bigger memory card. If you shop around, you'll find that 2 GB and larger SD memory cards quite inexpensive these days.
  • A lithium-ion battery pack. This battery is a bit thicker than those of other Canon Elph's that I've owned. It took about two hours to charge the battery for the first time.
  • A battery charger. Of course, it can work with a range of voltages, from 100v to 240v.
  • A USB cable. Happily, of standard design. Replacements are readily available at very low cost.
  • An A/V cable, with (mono) audio and composite video RCA connectors. It is not a standard design - it plugs into the camera's USB port. But I'm unlikely to use the video cable - composite is so old-school. So no big deal to me, it'll stay in the box.
  • Canon's Digital Camera Solutions CD-ROM disk. Man, they're up to version 33.0! I didn't install this software yet - for now, I'm using iPhoto, which works automatically with this camera.
  • A user's guide and a software guide, in various languages.
Some important included stuff: cables, battery, and a dinky SD memory card.

I wish that all camera manufacturers would include some kind of felt sleeve for their new cameras - but the Canon doesn't include one. Nor does any other manufacturer that I know of.

Computer Compatibility

If you have a somewhat modern computer (less than 7 years old or so), you should have no problems. The stock software is compatible with Windows 2000 on forward, and Mac OS X from 10.3 (Panther) and beyond.

The camera is also very usable without using Canon's stock software. iPhoto and Picasa work great with the SD890.

The biggest problem you might run into is related to the picture size.
10 Megapixels is getting up there. I was quite happy with my 5 megapixel camera - a 10 megapixel camera suggests that I'll be using up twice as much disk storage with photos.

Out of the box, the SD890 is set on "Fine" mode, resulting in photos that are typically 2.5 MB in size. Of course, I prefer Superfine mode, which improves a photo's quality at the expense of disk size. In general, it seems like the Superfine mode results in photo that are, on average, 7 MB big.

If you have an older computer, you might want to either manage you photo collection a bit better, or get a larger hard disk. Very high capacity external drives are available for roughly $100. (And don't forget to back up your photo collection!)

Taking pictures

... but how does it do in practice? That's a great question. I have only taken a couple pictures so far, but I've been surprised by the quality of those pictures - they feel great. But I still need to do some side-by-side comparisons before I come to any firm conclusions. I will be updating this page frequently as I experiment with this new camera. Feel free to use the "comment" option (below) if you have any specific questions for me.

It can't sit down straight with the lens fully extended.


Next Steps
Now I'm off to a photo-taking session - I'll report back here in the next day or two to update you with how well the SD890 performs!


Update, 2-April-2008!

So far it's pretty awesome! I've gave the SD890 a 2GB SD card, and put the camera in "super-fine" mode. Resulting photos are roughtly 3-to-6 MB big, meaning that I can get about 454 photos per 2 GB card (that is according to the camera.)

I took some indoor shots (without flash). The camera did particularly well in these conditions. Although it told me that there was a call for the flash, I found that I could take great pictures with only a steady hand. Undoubtably the stabilization helped out. Of all the indoor shots I took, only one was truly bad... and that was because my subject was goofing around - certainly something that the camera cannot compensate around.

I also took some outdoor shots. Again, the camera performed well. I was in bright sun, but my subjects were in motion and I was using the 5x zoom - not always the easiest situation with a small camera. Again, the photos looked great.

Balloons, of course, taken with the SD890.

I also took some marco shots. There was a little distortion around the edges, but it was more than adequate for my basic needs. I could get the lens to focus at about 1.5 inches away from the subject (here, my SD400 rear panel)

Full frame macro shot example.

What I don't like (so far)

I don't like the rear LCD. It performs well, and it is a decent size with good brightness. But it almost stands out from the rear surface of the camera. That means when I lay the camera on a table, flat on it's back, it seems likely that the LCD will get scratched. YUK. I think I'll have to be very careful to avoid scratching up the rear LCD display. Perhaps a vinyl glass protector would work well here.

2008-03-12

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 )
$/Year
Alabama 7.07
$9.91
Alaska 12.84
18.00
Arizona 8.24
11.55
Arkansas 6.99
9.80
California 12.82
17.97
Colorado 7.61
10.67
Connecticut 14.83
20.79
Delaware 10.13
14.20
Wash. DC
11.08
15.53
Florida 10.45
14.65
Georgia 7.63
10.69
Hawaii 20.72
29.04
Idaho 4.92
6.90
Illinois 7.07
9.91
Indiana 6.46
9.05
Iowa 7.01
9.83
Kansas 6.89
9.66
Kentucky 5.43
7.61
Louisiana 8.3
11.63
Maine 11.8
16.54
Maryland 9.95
13.95
Massachusetts 15.45
21.65
Michigan 8.14
11.41
Minnesota 6.98
9.78
Mississippi 8.33
11.68
Missouri 6.3
8.83
Montana 6.91
9.69
Nebraska 6.07
8.51
Nevada 9.63
13.50
New Hampshire 13.84
19.40
New Jersey 11.88
16.65
New Mexico 7.37
10.33
New York 15.27
21.40
North Carolina 7.53
10.55
North Dakota 6.21
8.70
Ohio 7.71
10.81
Oklahoma 7.3
10.23
Oregon 6.53
9.15
Pennsylvania 8.68
12.17
Rhode Island 13.98
19.59
South Carolina 6.98
9.78
South Dakota 6.7
9.39
Tennessee 6.97
9.77
Texas 10.34
14.49
Utah 5.99
8.40
Vermont 11.37
15.94
Virginia 6.86
9.61
Washington 6.14
8.61
West Virginia 5.04
7.06
Wisconsin 8.13
11.40
Wyoming 5.27
7.39


Remember it is possible that the load put on the battery box circuit changes over time, and that your battery box may be different than the one in my house. Also note that this analysis doesn't include a FiOS router or your TV converter boxes. I can imagine that they each consume similar amounts of electricity, but more analysis would be necessary to find out.

2008-01-30

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 much longer.

So, why are the pundits still talking about baking a 3G interface into the MacBook Air? Because they either own one of these cards, or they think these cards are "cool". But what they don't realize is that they're obsolete technology.

2008-01-21

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 future.

The MacBook Pro is a pretty device, but now it's boxy and dated. But it remains quite capable: a recent report concluded that the MacBook Pro runs Vista faster than any other notebook.

How Apple could update the MacBook Pro line is fairly clear: The new Core 2 chipset used in the Air requires less space, less power, and less cooling. Using this class of chipset in the Pro series will permit it to be substantially smaller. I expect a 15" and a 17" Pro that is substantially thinner and lighter than the current series. Being a "Pro", I expect Apple to retain all of the ports and features of the Pro series. Except one....

Internal optical drives: Deprecated, or obsolete?

The big question is: will Apple keep the optical drive in the Pro? An optical drive adds a lot of volume and weight. It reduces battery life. An optical drive reduces the overall reliability of the machine. And with BluRay, optical drive technology is in flux. Given all that, Apple may conclude that the lack of the internal optical drive will make the Pro an even better platform.

Other Air features for the entire Notebook line

The Air also points us to other new features. A new Magsafe connector and micro DVI connector are well suited to thin platforms. I suspect that Apple will commonize these interfaces on their product lines to simplify the customer experience, and to reduce the number of dongles and adapters they need to stock. And for the same space saving reasons, Apple may switch to the small 4-pin FireWire interface, as seen on numerous laptops, as it is both common and small.

Conclusion

The Nano and Air shows us that Apple is being aggressive in terms of design. The MBA is a compete rethink of notebook design. Many of these lessons learned should find their way into the MacBook Pro as Apple redefines the high-end notebook computer market.

2008-01-17

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 just pop in new ones from my camera!

5. Almost zero ports

Sure, it has USB2 port, but it only has one. And I hate hubs! Also, there is no Ethernet - what if I want to plug it into a Hotel network? And no FireWire! Totally lame!

6. Too thin.

It looks too thin. I want a little workout with a laptop. This thing will get lost or broken. Give me my IBM T21 any day.

7. Too expensive and attractive.

A Dell laptop can easily be found for under $1200. This one, the lowest end version, is $1799! Can you say "high profit"? And knowing Apple, they'll likely drop the price like a rock soon, just like they did with the iPhone. And it will be stolen or scratched. That'll really blow.

8. No OS9 support.

Everyone remembers how awesome OS9 was... but it won't run on this Mac! The only reason for a Mac is to run OS9 applications like Hypercard and IE5. Now it is an impossibility.

9. No audio in

This blows. There is no way to get audio into this thing. How am I going to rip LPs with this??? And Bluetooth? That'll never take off.

10. No 3G support

Yep, this one isn't compatible with Verizon. It doesn't even have analogue backup.

11. Not enough RAM

Everyone knows that 2 GB isn't enough these days. This is a huge limitation that will prevent work from being done. That's why business would never go with the Mac - 2 GB just isn't enough - a serious business always goes with at least 4 GB of RAM on desktops.

12. Not upgradeable

My desktop PC has 5 - count them - 5 PCI slots, plus a parallel port, floppy drive, and three DVD burners. This one has just one USB2 port. HA! It has zero memory slots, and no IDE ports. There isn't even a port for a Centronics printer! At least they finally unloaded Firewire.

13. Too big.

A 13-inch "small" notebook? PLEASE! I want a small laptop like the 10 inch Sony Vaio, not a huge ship anchor! Apple, PLEASE make a small laptop, under 2 pounds.

Conclusion
Clearly, as I and other industry experts have shown, the MacBook Air is fatally flawed. I'm sure other trade magazines will agree that the PC industry is going in the exact opposite direction, and for good reason - Vista deserves a Power Platform.

I'll let you know when my MacBook Air comes in.

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.

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