Archive for September 2007

 
 

iPhone Year In Review

iPod Touch 8 GigSo let’s recap this:

Apple announces that they’re doing an iPhone.

Apple announces that they’re building the phone to exclusively work on the AT&T network.

Apple announces that they’re not allowing third party applications on the phone.

So people force third party apps on the phone and force the phone to work with T-Mobile.

Apple updates the software for their phone that they control entirely, from the network down to the applications. Not surprisingly, this breaks many phones for people who have done stuff to them that Apple doesn’t support.

And that’s Apple’s fault? The logic train has derailed here, people. We’re dealing with spoiled tech enthusiasts who weren’t given it all, tried to take it, and got tripped up in the process.

This isn’t an Apple problem. This is a user error.

For those — like Leo LaPorte — who have fooled themselves into thinking they’ve bought a computer (Newton II?) and are thus being treated unfairly in this cruel cruel world in a way that no other technology or industry could possibly ever treat its customers, I give one counterexample: The TiVo. Locked down box. Toy with it at your own risk. Modified computer. Monthly subscription fee that you’re locked into, lest the thing became a near total brick And an even slower history of adding new features.

They void the warrantee on that if you do so little as add a hard drive or expand the extant one.  If the next service upgrade — which is PUSHED DOWN without your explicit authorization — breaks the machine, then it’s your problem, not theirs.

Where’s all that outrage about personal liberties being violated?

(Pictured above right: iPod Touch 8 Gig. Nobody’s hacked that puppy yet.)

Whoopsie – Golf Edition

ESPN – Scotsman back on course after chandelier mishap – Golf

Marc Warren was back playing in the Seve Trophy tournament on Friday, the morning after he injured himself by accidentally smashing a chandelier with a golf club in his hotel room. The Scotsman said he tried a practice swing with a 5-iron in his room Thursday night and hit a glass chandelier which smashed into pieces over him.

More diabetics treated like drunks

And this was in Canada! They’re nicer up there!

Mountie fined for punching diabetic

An RCMP disciplinary board has fined a Kamloops officer two days’ pay after he punched a diabetic man in the head because he thought, incorrectly, that the man was driving drunk. In a recent decision, the RCMP board found Constable Burke Huschi used “excessive force” without first investigating the circumstances of the situation.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: Low blood sugar is as close to drunk as I’ll ever get.

Diabetes causes Alzheimer’s now

As if diabetics didn’t have a bad enough reputation. . .

Discovery supports theory of Alzheimer’s disease as form of diabetes

Insulin, it turns out, may be as important for the mind as it is for the body. Research in the last few years has raised the possibility that Alzheimer’s memory loss could be due to a novel third form of diabetes.

New way to check blood sugar

Diabetes breath test may be possible | Tech news blog – CNET News.com

A new study shows that children with type-1 diabetes exhale significantly higher levels of methyl nitrate when their blood sugar is high. That might not sound like earth-shattering news, but it could mean that diabetics have a noninvasive way to check their blood-sugar levels down the road.

Yup, it’s time for a diabetic breathalyzer. We’re being treated like drunks now! ;-)

Still, I bet it gets to market faster than the inhalable insulin spray we’ve been promised for 20 years.

End of Week Link Dump

Yahoo gives up on podcasting site

Yahoo! to Close Its Podcasting Site

Two years to the month after launching its large podcast search and listening site, Yahoo! has announced that Yahoo! Podcasts will cease operation on Halloween, October 31st. The site never came out of Beta before the plug was pulled. There’s not much information available beyond an underlined non-link now at the top of the site reading “Yahoo! apologizes deeply, but we will be closing down the Podcasts site on Oct. 31, 2007.”

This will break a bunch of links on the show notes to old Various and Sundry DVD podcasts. I used to carry the “Rate This Podcast” graphic there for Yahoo. No more.

And if Digg doesn’t do something more with their Podcast Beta, then I imagine it might cease to be eventually, too. That’s just wild speculation. They might just let it sit there and rot over time, though. We’ll see.

Here comes the Harmony!

Harmony 880 Universal RemoteYou may remember my desperate plea over the summer to click on the Amazon links on this blog before buying anything, in the hopes that the commissions I’d earn on those sales would eventually add up enough to pay for a new universal remote control for my new HDTV.

At long last, the Amazon Associates gift certificate has come in from that initial flurry of activity. Thanks again to one and all who did their shopping after clicking on one of the ads here. Between that gift certificate and one or two other much smaller ones I’ve been saving up for just this occasion, I was able to order the remote last night at no cost. It also looks like the price dropped since I originally looked at the remote in July.  As a bonus, my free demo Amazon Prime membership didn’t run out until last night at midnight, so I should have it in hand on Monday.

As promised, expect a full review of the puppy late next week or early the next.

It’s just like Mom always tells you – if you save up for a long while, you’ll appreciate it more when it comes.

By the way, the Amazon banners still function the same way for me. Feel free to use them to help support this blog. It even works in the new MP3 music store. But I won’t be bugging you about it again for a while. Feel free to support your other favorite blogger in the same manner, if you wish. On behalf of all bloggers everywhere: Thank you for your support.

Now go drink a Bartles and Jaymes.

Tales of Good Customer Service

Two stories with happy endings this week:

  • A couple of weeks ago, I ordered a wire to connect my old Mustek A3 scanner to my Mac. It converts an RS232 cable into a USB. Honestly, I don’t even know if this is going to do the trick, but if spending $8 revives a $150 scanner, then I’m more than happy to do it. I placed the order at Laikeet.com after a Google search of some sort. They promised delivery in 5 – 10 business days.

15 business days later, nothing. I had an e-mail from them saying they shipped it 3 weeks ago, so I e-mailed their customer service address to confirm.

An actual human being answered my e-mail, not some scripted robot. Not a template. Not a form.

Two e-mails later, she offered to send me a new one and it’s in the mail now. I didn’t have to raise a fuss or a stunk. I didn’t threaten or cajole. I didn’t have to get worked up at all.

I don’t know what happened to the first wire. There’s a chance it got lost in the mail or delivered to the wrong address by a postal employee or hung up in their system or who knows what. But they made good on it as soon as it was called to their attention, and at what will be their own expense.

So I wanted to give them a brief plug here for their customer service. I’ll let you know when the wire arrives in the mail, just to confirm.

Nintendo Wii* Last week, Wii Sports failed on me. I had been playing it in the afternoon without a problem. Shut it down. Came back a few hours later, and I got disc read errors. The disc would load up. I’d get to the main menu. But when I clicked on a specific game, the disc would fail.

I ejected the disc and looked at it. There was a big straight line scratch straight down the disc, from the outside in towards the middle. THIS is why game systems work better with cartridges, people!

I looked at Nintendo.com for information. It wasn’t promising. They only would replace games within 90 days of purchase, perhaps a little more if you registered the game on their site. Since you can’t buy the Wii Sports game on its own, I was worried. eBay copies of the game went for $40 regularly.

But there was an 800 phone number on the website, so I gave it a call.

First, I was pleasantly amused at the menu options, which I’ll paraphrase here: If you have a Wii question, press 2. If you have a DS question, press 3. If you have a GameCube question, press 4.

Seems normal enough.

If you have a Nintendo 64 question, press 5.

If you have a Super Nintendo or 8-Bit original NES question, press 6.

Wow. They are thorough.

In any case, I pressed the Wii button and got an operator ten seconds later. She was pleasant and easy to understand. (I’m guessing there’s a Nintendo call center somewhere in the Nebraska area.) She asked my name, phone number, and address — all stuff I had registered my system on-line with back in the day. She asked when I bought the system. I told her it was right after launch day. She congratulated me for having it for so long.

Then she said that since I had never called them with an issue before, they weren’t going to charge me anything and would put a disc in the mail to me tomorrow. It should be here in 4 to 5 business days.

Oh, happy day!

Again, I’ll update you all when it arrives.

I’m just worried, now, that I’ve used up my good karma with customer relations for the rest of the year.

It’s official today: Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead

Today is the day the penguin killed the rat:

RTTNews – Breaking News, financial breaking News, Positive EPS Surprises, Stock research ….

SCO Group, Inc. (SCOX) on Wednesday revealed that it has received a notice from Nasdaq Stock Market indicating that its securities will be delisted from Nasdaq on September 27, pending an appeal.

Amazon MP3 Update

Amazon Associates pays off on referrals to the MP3 store.  The $8.99 album I bought last night showed up on today’s statement for 53 cents.

I look forward to Amazon adding banners to post on this blog advertising the service, because I’m a greedy capitalistic scum.

Short Link Dump

Amazon Doing Great Things

The Amazon MP3 music store opened yesterday.It’s a brilliant piece of Beta work, with lots of things going for it. It carries two million songs, or about a third of what iTunes does. But it’s at twice the bit rate and completely DRM free. That means you can burn it, copy it to your other computer, and load it up on iTunes and your iPod. It is MP3 instead of AAC, but I’m pretty sure the 2x bit rate will make up for that. I haven’t tested that myself, yet.

The experience is very smooth. Amazon makes searching around fairly easy. It takes more work than the iTunes Music Store, for sure, but it’s easy enough to handle. On certain artists that it doesn’t have yet, there’s this pleasant message:

Amazon MP3 does not yet offer the complete Billy Joel catalog. Not all record labels have approved all of their music for sale as MP3s, but we’re working to expand selection. Shop the complete collection of Billy Joel in our CD store.

Fair enough. Not all artists have that warning — Fastball didn’t when I looked them up — but there’s one simple way to tell when an artist isn’t present in the store: The first dozen songs available for download are karaoke tracks. I wonder if that 2,000,000 number isn’t padded by that.

I tested out downloading with Nellie McKay’s new album, “Obligatory Villagers,” that “dropped” the same day as the music store. Sure enough, Amazon stocked it. With one click, you can order the entire album for $8.91, or individual songs for 99 cents. That’s right — cheaper than iTunes. (We’ll come back to that a little later.)

You download a small unobtrusive program to help automate the download of the files. It looks very Mac-ish to me, and it does the trick. It downloads the files and automatically adds them to your iTunes catalog, complete with cover art. This is impressive work. Saving just that one step from the user is a big plus.

But here’s the thing: While it’s a nice shopping and user experience from Amazon, it shouldn’t be taken as a condemnation for everything Apple is doing wrong. This amazing store is not the result of Amazon hustle, but rather of a music industry wanting to spite Apple. I can’t imagine the RIAA is making more money off cheaper music tracks at Amazon in the long haul. Perhaps Amazon gave them a sweetheart deal to get this thing launched, but the RIAA will be dictating new prices and rights in just a few months. I guarantee it.

I think the lesson Apple needs to learn is one of variable pricing. It’s already there on album prices and for DRM-free music. Now it’s time for Apple to go all the way and differentiate the prices on catalog albums from current songs. It’s not confusing for the consumer to look at the price they’re going to pay before they download something. Apple needs to get over that hang up of theirs. Maybe then they can curry some of that recording industry favor back. Because right now, they need it. This set up at Amazon is a true threat to iTunes. The shopping experience is not that much lesser. The price is right. The interoperability is right. For as long as the RIAA lets Amazon continue on this path, I’ll be shopping as much at Amazon as possible.

But I don’t believe it’ll last forever. Eventually, the bloom will fade and the RIAA will get greedy and start stabbing this cash cow in the back, too. And someone new will fall for the same old charade. I’d just hate to lose the iTunes Store in the process.

The only big strike Amazon has going against it is in the selection of music available. It’s a good chunk of music, but I still had a hard time finding a lot of the music that’s already in my collection, or that I’d be interested in. On the other hand, Dee Cartsensen’s complete catalog is in there, and I’m missing a couple of those albums. . .

Go buy stuff on Amazon. (Click on one of the Amazon banners adorning this blog to get there, of course.) It’s a great deal, an easy deal, and a well-deserved one. For as long as it lasts, we might as well enjoy it.

Whoopsie!

SI.com – MLB – Bradley tears ACL during argument with umpire

[Milton] Bradley will miss the rest of the year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He was injured when his own manager spun him to the ground while trying to keep him from going after umpire Mike Winters during an eighth-inning confrontation in Sunday’s 7-3 loss to Colorado at Petco Park.

Yes, there is a baseball player named “Milton Bradley.”

Yes, his manager injured him on the way to the playoffs.

Yes, he was injured while involved in an umpire argument.

I love this game!

Even AOL Discriminates Against Diabetics

It’s such a lonely world to be in, as a diabetic. Practically a pandemic, but not even AOL cares anymore:

AOL Quietly Cans Weblogs Inc Life Sciences Blogs

AOL quietly canceled the Life Sciences blogs of Weblogs Inc last week, bringing the total number of blogs canceled to 60% higher than the number of blogs still operating.Blogs canceled included the Weblogs Inc titles The Cancer Blog, The Diabetes Blog and The Cardio Blog.

At least we still have LOLdiabetes.