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     Overkill
    Filed under: — David @ 12:20 pm

    Overkill is what I named my new (refurbished) 30GB iPod “with video capability”, following the Transformers theme I established with my previous 3G iPod, Squawkbox. It’s also inspired by the fact that I don’t expect to use the video capability very much.

    Surprisingly, it’s both better and worse than the older model, considering the whole package.

    I like the click wheel; I’ve been wishing for that for a while. The 3G’s touch-sensitive buttons were too easy to hit accidentally. The screen is nice, and the picture quality is surprisingly good. It’s handy to have it actually know what a podcast is and show which episodes have been played, like iTunes does. The only downside here is that, being a color screen, it’s harder to see unless the backlight is on.

    Although I don’t plan to watch many videos on the iPod, I still of course had to play with the feature. I downloaded Handbrake and used it to copy some Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain from the recently released boxed sets. There are lots of settings there that I will probably never bother trying to master. I just wish it were easier to figure out which tracks I want. Currently I open up DVD Player, navigate the disk’s menus, and see which track number is displayed. The only annoyance is that even though I used Parsley is Atomically Delicious (I’m still figuring out that name) to get iTunes to recognize them as TV Shows, the iPod still puts them in the movies list.

    The first major disappointment is the switch to USB. My G4 doesn’t have USB 2, so syncing is really slow until my Mac Pro arrives (still due to ship Sept. 19). But aside from that, like all USB devices, connecting or disconnecting the iPod always wakes the computer from sleep, which is really annoying.

    But really the biggest problem is with the accessories. When I got the old 40GB iPod, I think that was the biggest one at the time, and it came with all the extras - dock, carry case, power adapter, and remote attachment.

    The dock seems to work, though it’s a bit of a loose fit and it’s not “universal” so the adapter that came with the new iPod doesn’t help.

    The remote doesn’t work because the new iPod lacks the extra connector next to the headphone jack. All the Apple Store had was a remote with a radio tuner for $50, and I don’t want a radio tuner.

    The carry case of course is too big. I actually don’t like the cases that try to make the iPod useable inside the case. That’s what the remote is for… or was. I just want a simple thing to slip it into and clip onto my belt. In the end I went for the Crystal Film Cover Set, a set of clear plastic overlays that protect it from scratches. A coworker had recommended it. It’s great if you can get it on cleanly, which is really hard. I think I’ll just live with a couple of dust specs and minor bubbles. There’s no belt clip, but I can just put it in my pocket.

    I was actually a little tempted by a box at the Apple Store with a universal dock, power adapter, video cable, remote, and USB cable all for $99. It would be even more tempting if I were actually thinking about hooking my iPod up to my TV very often. Add that to the list of cool things I wish I needed.

    Overall, sadly, this upgrade was a wash. The video feature is nice but not very useful for me, the user interface is improved, the USB is a pain, and the accessories are severely lacking. The hard disk is smaller, but I’m still only filling it halfway so that doesn’t matter. If my old iPod hadn’t died, I would have been quite happy with it for at least another year or two.

     Cheap shot
    Filed under: — David @ 7:28 am

    When I saw the CNN headline saying that “Microsoft may discount Vista“, I couldn’t help thinking… I’m sure lots of other people will too! Especially Apple.

    Zing! ;)

     Han morphs the Falcon into mech mode
    Filed under: — David @ 5:16 pm

    Yep, that’s a line from the box - the Star Wars Transformers Millennium Falcon. The front half turns into Han, and the back half into Chewbacca. It’s pretty cool, considering the Falcon mode is pretty faithful to the original. It’s always easier to make a Transformer look good if you can take some liberties with the vehicle mode.

    I’d say Chewie looks better than Han, especially in their heads. How do you make a robot Wookiee head look good? You replace the hair with flowing ribbed cables. Han’s hair, on the other hand, is his weak point. It’s parted. A robot doesn’t have parted hair. Plus he looks like he’s sad. But all in all he looks better than some of the other figures in the line, like Boba/Jango Fett with their skinny legs.

    I think this is the only toy in this line with electronic sounds. Han has some lines from the movies, and they actually sound like clips from the movies rather than an immitation. Chewie has a couple of roars.

    The only real annoyance is the side missile launcher. I don’t think it corresponds to any weapon on the original Falcon, and the missile gets in the way during transformation so that you have to take it out and put it back in afterwards.

    My favorite little detail is that Chewbacca, like Vector Prime and Unicron, has hinged flaps on his waist so that you can bend his legs forward. It’s one of those little details that suggests that there was some real thought put into these toys.

    On the flip side, the Cybertron line now has a new Unicron (bottom right of the picture) which transforms into a vehicle, and not even a big one - it isn’t even big enough to merit a box, just a blister pack. What’s up with that?

    I’ve also given up on the comics. Dreamwave was doing great until they imploded, and I just can’t keep the new stuff straight, between the new titles and the reprints from the 80s. Here’s hoping the movie gets us out of this slump… or at least brings some better toys.

     When computers disagree
    Filed under: — David @ 10:15 pm

    I’ve got an odd situation at the moment - unit tests that work on one computer, but fail on the other. I’ve run comparisons on the project folders on both machines, re-downloaded source files, cleaned and rebuilt the projects, and they still don’t agree.

    The tests are what I was working on last week while I was at WWDC - hit testing of shapes when the object or a parent group has a transformation applied (e.g. scaling, rotation). On my PowerBook, where I did the work, the tests pass, and manual testing works too. On my soon-to-be-replaced G4, it behaves just like it did before last week’s fix, so the tests fail. Same graphic, same mouse point, same transformation. Grrr…

    Maybe if I had a third data point… but my Mac Pro isn’t even due to ship for a month. This is where it would be good to have a project team size bigger than one.

     And then my iPod died
    Filed under: — David @ 9:51 pm

    It started with iTunes getting stuck trying to transfer some new podcasts… the kind of disk problem where eventually everything is stuck and you have to restart. Sometimes ripping the iPod out of its dock would wake the computer up, but of course then the computer complained about the improper disconnect.

    Resetting it didn’t help. I tried updating it, and then restoring it to Factory Settings. That didn’t work because “an error occurred”. Yeah, that’s good to know. Then after disconnecting the iPod, it got stuck on the “OK to disconnect” screen. Resetting it put into a reboot cycle: the Apple logo, then the folder icon with the exclamation point, then the Apple logo again. You have to hold the play button for a couple of seconds to turn it off, but it was rebooting too fast.

    In that state, I was surprised the battery survived the hour it took to drive to the Apple Store and wait for my turn at the Genius Bar (which came half an hour late). The Genius held it up to his ear like a cell phone, then ran it through Disk Utility (oops, I should have thought of that). He gave it back to me, saying it might work for a while more, but it sounded like the disk was dying. That opinion was confirmed as soon as I got home and tried to sync again.

    So now I’m waiting 5 business days for my new 30GB white iPod with “video capability”. Well, not actually new; it’s refurbished. Hey, it’s $100 off. Just no free engraving, so I’ll have to get creative.

    Actually, I’ve been secretly hoping for an excuse to replace my pre-clickwheel model anyway. Those touch-sensitive buttons were just too sensitive.

     WWDC 2006 day 4
    Filed under: — David @ 6:43 pm

    It’s a little depressing to think that it’s Thursday evening and the conference is practically over, since there are no Friday afternoon sessions. I’m not sure if they’re trying to satisfy the people that like to go back home on Friday, or what. During one feedback session today there was a vote-by-applause for how many people would have preferred having Friday afternoon sessions, and the response was pretty positive. So we’ll see what happens next year.

    I would very much like to be at the traditional Apple campus bash tonight, but I’ve decided the travel time just isn’t worth it for me. I’m staying with my family in Marin (that’s on the north side of the Golden Gate, for those not from around here), which is about a 45-minute drive since San Francisco is mostly impervious to freeways. Add the hour between SF and Cupertino and that comes to a long drive home.

    It tends to be the little things that people love or hate about these conferences. One thing that impressed me this year was the laptop facilities. The wireless Internet service has been excellent for me, and power strips are everywhere. I believe there are more Ethernet cables available too.

    Another “it’s nice to be noticed for my bugs” moment was when I discovered that among the Leopard release notes there was listed a change that referred to one of my own Radar ticket numbers. I filed a bug, and they fixed it. It’s a rather minor one, but still good for the ego.

     WWDC 2006 day 3
    Filed under: — David @ 10:21 pm

    Yesterday I got into the elevator, and there was a woman from Apple. She looked closely at my badge, and said “I know that name. You file Radar bugs!” (Radar being the name of Apple’s bug reporting system.) It’s good to know I’ve been noticed.

    Core Animation, the new UI animation technology used in Time Machine (as well as other more subtle places) has a lot of people bracing themselves for an onslaught of applications that use this to become ugly in spectacular new ways. Every time it comes up in a session, someone around me mutters “that’s going to get abused…” Yes, if you give people too much power, bad things can happen. Personally I think there will be some initial crazyness, and after a while most people will get it out of their system. Most people.

     WWDC 2006 day 2
    Filed under: — David @ 7:30 am

    First, some additionaly comments from yesterday:

    There was of course the banner on the first floor of the Moscone Center that made the rounds on the rumor sites over the weekend. The most interesting thing there was the 64-bit logo. Now, this could have been referring to the G5, but if so why make it so big on the banner? It’s old news. So I figured it was more likely the Mac Pro was going to be announced, and it would look the same as the G5, at least from the side. Ta-daa, I was right.

    There were also three banners hanging from the ceiling, which were covered until after the keynote. Two of them turned out to mention the Mac Pro. The third just has vague Leopard slogans. I guess they covered that one for consistency and maybe to artificially boost the sense of mystery a bit.

    Another little prediction I was right about was the release date of 10.5. Some people were thinking it might be in the next few weeks, or even by the end of the year. But I thought it just wouldn’t be fair to developers to release it any sooner than next Spring, since we’re just finding out about the new features now. Plus all those new bells and whistles don’t make as much noise if Apple is the only one ringing and blowing them when release day comes.

    Best phrase used during a session: “obligatory dancing baloney”. There’s three words you don’t string together very often.

    It just occurred to me that, based on what has been demonstrated so far, there doesn’t seem to be anything about the appearance of Leopard that immediately distinguishes it from Tiger, unless the Dock is showing and you can see the Time Machine icon. Tiger added the Spotlight icon to the menu bar, and Panther abandoned transparent title bars for inactive windows, among other changes.

    Of course, I haven’t installed the preview yet so I could be wrong. In particular, their preparations for resolution-independent UI could result in at least some subtle changes.

    More to come.


    This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

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