March 18, 2005
iPod photo 40-gig: A deal at Amazon
I was considering an iPod shuffle, which would mean I would manage my music on one computer or another instead of on the iPod. Then Apple introduced the new-generation iPod photos, and the 30-gig for $349 looked like an interesting possibility: only $50 more than the no-color, shorter battery life, 20-gig iPod. The new 60-gig has a drive as big as my laptop, but $450....
Then I noticed that the discontinued 40-gig iPod photo is still available, currently priced about $10 more than the 30-gig "new" model. And it gets better: The 40-gig model still comes with the special AV dock, USB and FireWire cables, and a case.
The new 30-gig model does not include accessories; only a USB 2 cable is included. Neither does the $100 more expensive 60-gig, although the old old 60-gig model is available for essentially the same price as the new, accessory-poor, model.
Don't know how long they'll be available, but if you're considering an iPod photo, and you'll need some of the accessories, this is definitely the way to go.
March 09, 2005
Apple developing PocketBook?
Geez, I hope this rumor is true. PowerPage is reporting that Apple is working on a new "pocketop" machine, that would use Inkwell and a stripped-down Mac OS X.
Target hardware: Sony's UX-50, which offered Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, video record, and low-res camera in something that fit in a shirt pocket, and the OQO, a full Wintel machine (not PocketPC) that's 3.5 x 5 x 1 inch, partly thanks to the hard drive used in the iPod.
Target market: Anybody who has ever thought it would be a good idea to carry their laptop with them all the time. It could quickly become the blogger's equivalent of the Radio Shack Model 100, long beloved by journalists, who could carry it anywhere, and file (through acoustic couplers and the built-in 300 baud modem) anywhere they could find a phone. If Apple is truly working toward an online movie store, this machine could also be the portable player.
Target feature set: There are two key factors to creating a world-beating palmtop: battery life, and bandwidth. Users should never have to worry about either one. Bandwidth is a really interesting concern: out here in flyover country, Wi-Fi still doesn't have penetration to give dependable connections from an arbitrary location. Verizon's high-speed wireless would be awesome, and including support for it in hardware might let Apple offer a branded connection (annual iLife, .Mac, frequent OS updates: Apple is really working to drive recurring revenue). Bluetooth to your phone would be nice, but might impact battery life.
The battery has to last a full day; I would guess that's something like 8 hours of usage.
What makes this idea work is running standard OS X software. If I have to learn a whole other set of programs, I'll stick with the laptop. Resolution should be at least 640 x 480: Apple's Displays preference panel mentions that some applications won't display correctly at less than 800 x 600. The OQO is 800 x 480.
Target price: The OQO costs nearly $2,000. The UX-50 was around $600. It's going to be a tough sell if the machine is much more than an iBook, which officially starts at $999.
March 08, 2005
Windows tech support
So my inlaws called last week with computer problems. I knew that meant either some sort of misconfiguration or corrupted file had hit their Windows box, or a malware, spyware, or virus infection.
The box in question is a Compaq iPaq 733 with a piddling 128 megs of RAM, running Windows 2000, and connecting to the internet through AOL. I suggested they bring it over, so I could download hunter programs and other utilities, and they did.
It was last rebuilt a year or so ago, by a tech support professional that works with Christy's brother. I don't think they were running Windows Update regularly since then (yet another reason broadband trumps dialup; it needs to be dirt simple and quick to download patches).
Fired it up, and it was pretty apparent what's going on. They've got one or more dialer programs, which take over your modem and dial numbers you don't want (including 900 numbers). I downloaded Spybot Search & Destroy, and it quickly found about 60 different strains of malware. Naturally, I chose to delete 'em all, rebooted, and lets see what we've got....
Bring up Explorer, and I'm faced with a nonstandard toolbar, bogus home page and search fields, and more. A legion of InstallShield warnings pops up, asking if I want to install any of a very shady bunch of programs. I choose 'no' on all of them, but I have a feeling some bad things are going on. When I reboot, sure enough, I've got several of the same symptoms I had before upgrading.
I can't even run Windows Update on that version of Windows 2000 Pro, so I decide to upgrade to XP. As soon as I have, I download Microsoft's own Spyware Tool (in beta), and it looks like I'm starting to get the upper hand. It claims to clean registry hacks, programs loaded in memory, and files on the hard drive. So I start updating XP to the latest patches, and while I'm doing so, I start to get redirect pages popping up around the installation. Clearly, it's not clean.
I went so far as to start rooting through the registry with RegEdit, but there are too many roaches, and too few hours. I've found a few people who claim they've cleaned a Windows infection, but they must be smarter than me: I finally copied as much data as I could over to a Mac, and wiped the drive. While I was cleaning their box off, my mother called with similar symptoms.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing is the feeling that the crapware writers have the upper hand: Even with $30 billion in the bank, the year dedicated to improving Windows security, and how high a priority it must be, Microsoft can't produce a tool that can reliably remove all the crapware from their flagship OS.
One useful discovery: Grisoft's AVG, which is available free for individual home users.
On the one hand, what a gigantic pain in the butt. On the other, what better reinforcement for Mac user's smugness?