Tuesday, June 27, 2006

No Surprise

This is no surprise - that the company (Foxconn) that runs Apple's iPod City in China lied to cover its ass, and apparently is even in violation of Chinese laws.

Strangely, AppleInsider is reporting that Apple has found no problems with their iPod factories, but this seems to be a quote from the Foxconn boss, not Apple. (Way to botch your headline, AI!)

I'll be surprised if: A) anything is done about this situation, B) if anyone bothers to notice that this is a common practice in all such situations in China.

Thanks to Engadget for the follow up.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Diet Coke + Mentos = Sploosh

One of my students asked me in lab if mixing Diet Coke and Mentos was really dangerous, and I just laughed it off thinking it couldn't be so deadly.

Then I saw this video. Guess I eat crow on this one.

Thanks to Ze Frank and The Show for this one.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Maybe I spoke too soon about Dell laptops. Sure we've heard about MacBook magnetic power cables catching fire, but nothing like a laptop virtually exploding after catching fire.

See this article on such an incident with a Dell at a conference in Japan and the photos taken by an attendee.

I'll have to rethink actually putting these damn things on my lap at all.

Windoze Laptops Continue to Impress

I continue to be surprised at the idiocy some MacFanboys have for Apple products that are mediocre, like the MacBook. This article on TUAW talked about how Dell and HP and other Windows laptop vendors are shaking in their boots because The MacBrick got a good review by a BBC journalists. Although I agree the MacBook is something unique for Mac users, Windoze laptops are still ahead of the game, even in the consumer line.

Don't get me wrong - I think the MacBook is an accomplishment for a consumer laptop for Apple, simply because they don't have any other consumer laptops.

One of the complaints I get about my "MacBook is too heavy" line is that it would cost too much to make a light MacLaptop. This doesn't really seem to fly, when you actually look at what's out there. Check out recent posts on Engadget for consumer core solo/duo laptops. Epson has a 14"
core duo that weighs less than 4lbs and goes for about one thousand bucks. Hell, even Dell has a 12" 3lb laptop that runs a core solo with a 7 hour battery life for about $1300. And even Gateway has a similar offering as Dell.

Yeah, you can complain that the screens of the latter two are smaller, but for those of us who WANT a light-weight portable to replace our aging 12"G4 PowerBooks - their feature sets are superior to the MacBricks in every way but one - they can't run OSX.

So, sorry TUAW and blinded MacFanboys, these vendors don't have much to be worried about at all, other than an inability to run OSX.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Apple's QC Slipping

Lately I'm really starting to worry about the quality of recent Apple products. In the photo here is my pair of Apple's lanyard earbud headphones - or part of them. You can see that the fabric sleeves that normally slide over the headphone wires have come out of the plastic braces that hold them. I've had these headphones for several months, and they've gotten almost daily usage. However, I'm also very careful with them. I'll have to see if I can rectify the problem with SuperGlue.

I also have the 'In-Ear' Apple lanyard headphones and have been unhappy with these since day one. The first thing that happened to them was the cloth sleeve popping out of the clamp that holds them. It was a bitch getting them back in place, and I damaged the clamp. Then there is the sound problem with this pair. Essentially, it sucks. I had assumed they had the same speakers and drivers as the bud style. But the sound is very tinny, and I'm noticing that the left one's volume is lower than the right one.

Maybe I wouldn't give a rat's ass if these were cheap headphones, but they are rather expensive in my opinion - $39 and $49 for the In Ear. I've been happy with the sound of the standard bud style headphones, but this falling apart stuff is ridiculous. And it really makes no sense to me why they charge more for the In Ear when they are clearly inferior (at least mine are).

Unfortunately, you can't get any money back on these as once you open them they are non-returnable and don't have the same warrantee that is found on Macs and iPods (as far as I know).

What about Apple's other products? Well, we all have heard about problems with plastics on iPod nanos and the new MacBricks, err - MacBooks. I know plenty of folks with problematic iPods and PowerBook screns. There were also problems with recent 15"
PowerBook logic boards, but it's not clear to me if these are isolated incidents or serial problems. But what I'm wondering about, is if Apple's increase in manufacturing and use of mass-production opportunities in China are leading to some lapses in quality. There were times in the past where Apple product quality was suspect - but I have to hope they would at least maintain product quality as their profits have risen.

Let's hope this isn't a recurring theme in future products.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


My mini review of HoudahSpot as seen on MacZOT.com

MacZot is having their latest Blogzot for the Spotlight alternative "HoudahSpot". I gave HoudahSpot a quick spin and found that it has some interesting search alternatives absent from Spotlight, and a unique set of tabbed windows (Browser, Inspector, and Preview) you can switch between to view files. I especially like the Browser window, which allows you a quick view of any standard text or graphic file. Give it a try, as the demo version allows you 30 free search queries.

NOTE: If you're seeing this on June 16, 2006 head over to MacZOT, you might be able to get a Free copy of HoudahSpot

Search easily in Tiger, Mac OS X, with HoudahSpot

Thursday, June 15, 2006

"Ultra-Portable" Mac?

AppleInsider is reporting that Apple may be poised to introduce an "ultra-portable" Mac - but in January at MacWorld.



pzizz iPod blog II

I mentioned before that I would be using Pzizz to help me get to sleep. Well, I've done so three nights since, and found it to be useful in calming my head down. I often lecture until 10pm, and work at home late, often past 3am. Before sleeping, I might update this blog or my websites, and sometimes I'll sneak in a game on my PSP in bed before turning in. Unfortunately, I can't always sleep right when I want to and often feel frustrated that I didn't try to sleep earlier. I've created three Sleep naps in Pzizz so far, exported them to iTunes, and put on my iPod nano. I've notice that even when I'm agitated, Pzizz makes me drift off rather quickly. The downer for getting to sleep this way is keeping the headphone wires from tangling up me or my wife. I also can't really credit Pzizz with giving me a better sleep, just getting me to sleep faster.

The variation in 'naps' remixes some of the musical/sound themes as well as the vocal content. It's all the same voice - so I guess I have to hold out for a female voice in future versions.

I've yet to try an Energizer nap, mostly because I don't nap much during the work week. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to try one of these before I jump on the train to work. Or maybe ON the train if I can get a seat.

Missing Sync for PSP

You may be familiar with the Missing Sync line of apps for synching contact and other info between Macs and PDAs (Windows Mobile and PalmOS), as well as SideKick phones. Well, now Mark/Space is offering Missing Sync for PSP.

Now, I've never used Mark/Space's PDA/Phone synch apps, but the PSP app looks very interesting to me. I've been using another such app, PSPware, for quite some time, and have been mostly satisfied with it. Unfortunately, NullRiver hasn't updated PSPware for a long time - their change log suggests several months. Maybe they are focusing too much on their iPod synch app. I've also had some problems getting PSPware to open the right directory on my external drive - where I keep the PSPware folder.

Well, MS PSP has a feature set that encompasses (or nearly so) PSPware, and goes a large step beyond - at least on paper. The "WebSnacks" allows you to download blogs, websites, etc to your PSP and update them whenever you plug in. They also have some sort of notebook feature, web browser themes, as well as detailed contact info and calendars.

The price of MS PSP is US$29.95 - about twice that of PSPware. I'll probably give this a try, as it seems to move the PSP a ways towards having PDA functionality.

Chinese iPod Factories are Sweatshops? No Sh*t Sherlock.

A couple of days ago, a few Mac sites were reporting the 'shocking' revelation that conditions in a factories that make iPods in China are substandard. I had to laugh at the shock and indignation at MacSheep on forums for the blogs reporting this, as well as the reaction from the news sites themselves. How naive ARE these people?

The abuses that go on in such factories are not funny at all, however. But the sad truth is that this crap goes on nearly everywhere in Chinese factories. Westerners have this image of a modern vibrant China with a booming economy that's bringing the masses out of poverty. But the truth is, more than 90% of the population in China are essentially indentured laborers or peasants that aren't enjoying the fruits of the economic boom. Just because they WILL work long hours for peanuts doesn't make it right.

And all the international and US companies doing manufacturing there have similar situations in their factories. Labor isn't the only issue - pollution that's having international implications is also a problem. The fact is that you and I contribute to this, as consumers of tech that are predominantly manufactured there.

MacWorld (UK) is reporting that Apple is looking into this situation, and wants to ensure human rights of factory employees are respected.

From my perspective, I can't see why Apple expects factories to respect human rights of its employees, when China itself does not respect the human rights of its citizens.

And don't give me this crap about respecting "cultural differences" in defining human rights, that Apple legal-beagles can hide under. That's just newspeak for "we ignore abuses of people in totalitarian states".

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Strokin' your Chicken

This isn't for everyone, but fun - a free software app called "The Lonesome Electric Chicken 3.1". This app displays a floating blue chicken that will (at user-defined intervals) make chicken noises and display a different quote. LEC comes with 70 quotes, and you can add more of your choosing somehow.

The developer's website is amusing (see link above) and so is the program. Give it a spin.

"All of MP3" All Over Detractors

You might have heard of (or even used) the music download site "All of mp3.com". This site is hosted in Russia and offers customers downloads of music in several formats and bitrates, charging on a per megabyte rate. The RIAA and others have tried to shut this site down for quite some time. However, All of MP3 is apparently legal in Russia, or at least enough that their government doesn't go after them.

Recently, the US state department has pushed Russia to shut down this "pirate site", further claiming they don't compensate the music makers. The current owners of All of MP3 have responded with a very clear letter. You can read it here.

Personally, I find All of MP3 to be very professionally done. I'm impressed with the selection and service they offer. Perhaps its costs are artficially low, but their sales model is very logical to me. My guess is that more folks in Japan would use this service over the pricey Japanese version of iTunes if they knew about it.

iLounge's Free iPod Book 2.0

iLounge (neƩ iPodLounge... see a pattern here?) has a nice free pdf book on everything iPod. You can download it from their site or get it by clicking on the badge here.

I stopped surfing iLounge, because their site got too complicated and advert-filled. But they are still a good resource for information. Their speaker reviews are priceless or at least were when I was in the market a year or two back.

The iPod Book seems to suffer from a bit of the same problem as the iLounge site - the first 14 pages are mostly promotional material. In their defense, they had to pay for this somehow, I suppose. However, ads seem to be interspersed throughout much of the rest of the book as well. Ratings lists are tucked in the middle (p46-48), with the text discussing a few prominent products only. (Let's hope these are the top-rated, not the top paid advertisers.) The second half of the book seems to be devoted to tips about using iPods. Some of these are very useful - nice to see in one place.

What I like best is also my second biggest gripe about the book - the thoroughness. iLounge covered lots of ground with this - which is very helpful. However, I feel they often went too far, devoting space to too many truly extraneous things like Mac cases, style, and buying an iPod on eBay. C'mon!

Let's give credit where credit is due, however. It's a great resource, that is both free and comprehensive.

Life2Go (ne´e Pod2Go) only $5

Pod2Go has been updated recently, and has even changed the name of their app to 'Life2Go'. I'm unsure if this is because of Apple's lawyers...

This app is used to sync various info to your iPod in excess of iSync, and has lots of nifty features for North Americans and Europeans - like weather forecasts, news, driving directions, & cheapest local gas stations. There are other decent features for the rest of us: transfer of text docs (even pdf) to iPod, back ups for your Mac, contacts/calendar/bookmark download, song lyrics.

The normal price on this app is $12.99, but today (only) you can get it on MacZot for $5.00!

I've never used this application, but this sounds like a very good deal for a well-rated application. I'm going to pick up a license, just for kicks.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Rise of the Dark One?!

I couldn't resist posting this... I noticed last night that today's date is the 6th of June, 2006 - that is: 6-6-6.

I remember years ago thinking that this day would be a long way off. How time flies.

And today is for the Lord of the Flies. :-)

Silly mode off...

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Mac News Shorts

Apple Cuts & Runs from India
I caught this via SlashDot - Apple computer pulled its software development/support team out of Bangalore less than 2 months after starting operations there. The Times of India reports
that Apple has fired all 30 its software dev/support team there, but leaves about 25 people for its India sales/marketing division. Bizarrely, no explanation was given for this move to employees - and Apple released only a brief statement that they would be putting more emphasis on other countries.

I dunno - his Steveness must have seen something that really pissed him off, as India is the crown jewel in the tech industry these days, particularly for software coding and offshore tech support. I would think it would be a good location culturally and language-wise for this kind of thing - certainly much better than China.

A business analyst has proposed that Apple and RIM should (and could) be working together on a future hybrid product. A Canadian paper (Globe and Mail) is reporting that the same analyst who predicted RIM/Intel's tie-up, Peter Misek, is predicting Apple and RIM would reap multiple benefits from such relationship. Both companies have similar development styles, but ego's would have to be blended for it to work. Thanks to the Huffington Post for flagging this one.

A Mac/Tech video blog called CommandN may be of interest to some of you. MacZot promoted them on their website, and I took a bit of time to check it out recently. This is a Mac-centric blog out (or 'oot') of Canada, and they seem to cover a wide range of topics, even business. I found their latest episode (#47) to be interesting, and was surprised how slick it was. Their ads were tastefully done at the end, near the credits (Yo, RocketBoom pay attention to that), and the segways were very professional. My quibbles: a bit long in duration and they should kill the squeaky guy (Mike?), as his voice is super-annoying. I'll probably check 'em out again.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

pzizz iPod blog


One of the apps promoted on MacZot in the last MegaZot was "Pzizz", a nap and sleep aid. Bloggers that promoted Pzizz for MacZot even got free modules for the app, and I was one of these folks. We got Pzizz with two modules: Energizer and Sleep. I tried a 'sleep' nap yesterday, putting it on my iPod, to try and sleep earlier than I usually do. I'm not sure if it worked, but I did fall asleep before the 30 minute recording ended. I felt very tired this morning, but I didn't sleep much. This is usual for me, unfortunately.

Pzizz generates a sound file with soothing sounds and voice designed to help you take really good naps or help you sleep. You open the app, choose your nap type and how many you wish to generate. There is another option to export your nap as a sound file, or even directly to iTunes.

The recording I heard was pleasant, with relaxing sound effects overlaid by a person speaking in low tones. If have to admit, I thought the male voice was a bit too mamby-pamby annoying if I paid attention to what he was saying. I'm hoping that I can hear other voices with other naps. I'm also hoping this isn't a form of hypnotism that will make me email my credit card info to someone while I'm in my sleep.

Anyway, I hope to hear others' experience with Pzizz and will report my own over the next few days.

I'll give Pzizz a spin, and let you know if it improves my sleep.