Tag Archives: Gadgets

I Turned to the Dark Side

So I totally turned to the dark side and got an iPhone last week. I had been holding out for a decent Android phone on a decent network. Unfortunately, that’s not happening anytime soon. The MyTouch 3G is kinda neat, but not exactly what I wanted in a phone. Nevermind the fact that it’s also on T-Mobile, which isn’t bad here in Providence, but would be horrible once we go skiing. So I broke down and went with an iPhone after playing with one while I was at ResNet (mainly to see if I could deal with the keyboard).

I have to say… I love this thing. I’m a geek through and through and this phone is like a wet dream. I like being connected all the time (though I do enjoy my time away from technology). I mainly love that I always have Twitter at my fingertips. When they say there’s an app for everything, there really is. I have a Peanut Butter Jelly Time app, a farting app, a light saber app, a beer app (that actually gives descriptions of beer), and many many more.

If you weren’t sure about the iPhone for whatever reason, it’s definitely worth it. In addition to the phone, I had to get a case. At the recommendation of one of my Twitter followers, I got the Mophie Juice Pack Air. It’s an extra battery plus case. It does add some weight and size to the phone (mainly to the thickness and height), but it makes the phone easier to hold and type one handed for me. It has a nice indicator on the back to tell you how much life is left (similar to MacBook batteries when they still had removable batteries). It also has a switch to turn it on and off. The only downside for me (I don’t mind the extra weight or size) is that it covers the dock port because it needs to plug into the phone. It nearly doubles the batter life (I’d say it adds an additional 80-85% to the battery). It’s not cheap at around $80 (the Apple store had it for the same price as the website, I thought they might try to rape me), but I feel it’s well worth the money. Considering the most popular case (the InCase Slider) runs about $35, you’re paying only $45 for an extra battery. I will admit that I am considering the purchase of the Slider case as well, mainly to use when I’m at work or know the phone isn’t going to see quite as much usage and I won’t need the extra battery life. I just have to wait and see if it’s really necessary.

I won’t really go on any longer. I don’t really have anything to say about the iPhone that hasn’t already been said about it. I did jailbreak my phone. It allows for some nifty customizations and apps. I won’t go too much into it, but if you want app recommendations, let me know.

Wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!

Since I’ve gotten a couple comments patiently waiting for my post on my Nintendo Wii and the new games I just got, here it goes…

I got a Wii last January on a very cold (about 14 degrees) Sunday morning. I stood in line outside a Target for about 30-45 minutes until a store employee came out and gave us all numbers (in order of our line) so we could wait in our cars until the store opened at 7am (I got there around 6). I got my Wii that day, but couldn’t get another remote as they were all out. For kicks, I drove by the Best Buy next door, which wasn’t opening until 9 or 10 and told the people (about 10 of them) waiting that Target had about 50 Wiis and there were only about 25-30 people in line. They didn’t want to lose their spot, so they continued to wait another 2-3 hours for Best Buy to open.

I love my Wii. It’s the first video game console I’ve owned since my Sega Genesis (2nd Generation, smaller form factor). Before that I had an original Nintendo Entertainment System and an Atari 2600 (that was actually my father’s purchase when I was very very young). Susan loves it and she isn’t big on video games. Obviously, I have Wii Sports, which comes with it. I love it and have gotten quite good at tennis. I need to start playing the other ones more often and increase my level on those.

We purchased Rayman Raving Rabbids shortly after we got the Wii. Susan loved the game at my brother’s and really wanted it. We both just beat it a week or 2 ago. It’s a ton of fun and still fun even after you beat it, playing the minigames. For Christmas, my mother gave Susan Rayman 2. It’s a bit different, but it’s still a ton of fun. I recommend both of them to anyone just getting a Wii.

I was given The Legend of Zelda, Twilight Princess for Christmas before I got my Wii. I played it for a while, but have grown bored with it. It’s a lot of the same thing over and over again. Eventually, I’ll pick it up and beat it, but I have since received Super Mario Galaxy, another adventure game that’s a whole lot more fun and nowhere near as repetitive as Zelda. If you like adventure games, I highly recommend Super Mario Galaxy. It’s a top notch game and a ton of fun without being overly complicated (there were too many secret moves and stuff in Zelda).

I had bought WarioWare Smooth Moves at one point to have a game to play with Susan when she came home for her spring break last year. It’s a great party game and the minigames in it are just completely wacky. This is the one game that uses the remote and nunchuck for everything they can do.

Finally, to purchase a third remote, I decided to buy WiiPlay, which comes with a remote. It’s a collection of minigames that’s kinda fun when you’re bored. I haven’t played a whole lot of them, but they’re neat.

My brother, who got his Wii before Christmas in 2006, has a couple other games that I found really fun. Mario Party 8, a board game, is a pretty fun party game. Some of it’s kind of boring and lame, but I found it enjoyable nonetheless. Excite Truck is a game we rented a while ago that my brother bought. It’s a ton of fun, though I was hoping it’d be like Excite Bike (for NES) which allowed you to build your own course. Regardless, it’s a fun and challenging racing game. Finally, the last time we were there, he had Big Brain Academy, which he rented. While it sounds like it might be boring, it was actually quite fun and very challenging. It’s a bunch of “tests” that you race with someone else (at least in the mode we were playing). It really makes you think, but you have to be able to think on your toes. It’s a great game to keep your brain active.

And I can’t have a post about the Wii without mentioning the one game that I can’t wait to get. Super Smash Bros. Brawl will be released on February 10 (at least that’s what they’re saying right now). I can’t wait for it to be released as it’s supposed to allow for online play. I also want Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, which looks like a lot of fun. And Wii Fit was announced a while back looks really cool and should help with the weight loss.

My New TomTom GO 720

I got a TomTom GO 720 GPS for Christmas.  After using it a few times, I love it, though it does have it’s quirks.  It was the highest rated TomTom on CNet (both editors and readers), and since I trust them (though they seem to like Apple a little too much) I figured I’d ask for that one specifically.  I decided on the TomTom since I couldn’t find anything about Magellan or Garmin products that said whether or not the maps could be updated.  It seemed as if the pre-loaded maps were all you got.  The TomTom can be updated through the TomTom community and perhaps even through updates from TomTom.  The other thing I liked about it is that the price is a lot less than most others for the features it has.  While I haven’t tried everything out (and I can’t try certain features out, like TomTom PLUS, which requires a wireless data plan that I don’t have), so far I really like it.

It sends you what it calculates as the fastest route, but you can easily make changes to routes if you want to avoid certain roads.  It warns you about toll roads, HOV lanes, and unpaved roads (I have a little story about that one) when it calculates the route to give.  It will also send feedback about the actual time certain sections of a route take versus the time they say it’ll take when you connect it to your computer.  It’s very easy to use while on the road and very quick to re-calculate routes when you go off-course (well under a minute, within 10 seconds in most cases).

My little story about unpaved roads… I took it to find Mount Snow in West Dover, VT last week.  The device asked if I wanted to avoid unpaved roads.  Stupidly, I said no.  My thinking was that some ski mountains have dirt roads to their parking lots and I didn’t want it to not get me there, not having been to Mount Snow before.  It ended up taking us down this back road that turned into a dirt road and then told us to turn onto an even smaller back road with a sign that said “Road Closed for Season”.  So we had to turn around and told it to avoid unpaved roads this time.  We eventually got there following major roads and signs for the ski areas, but it still wanted us to take smaller back roads, which, in the snow, just weren’t appealing to us, so we stuck to major roads.  For the most part, we follow it.  It’s interesting to see how it takes us to various places we always go (like home).  It’s not our usual routes, though those don’t take much longer, they’re just easier.

Anyway, unless it really starts screwing up on me, I have to say that I absolutely love it and am really glad with my choice for my first GPS.  If you’re in the market for one, this is a good one.  The hands free feature easily connected to my cell phone via Bluetooth.

2 “Gadgets” I want

I saw 2 things come through today on Boing Boing Gadgets that seemed pretty cool to me.

The first is a very small and inexpensive laptop, the Asus Eee PC.  It’s now available at Newegg.com.  It’s a ultra portable laptop with a 7″ widescreen display.  It has an Intel Centrino processor running at 900 MHz (which may not seem fast, but apparently it’s fast enough).  It has 512 MB of RAM and a 4 GB solid state hard drive.  It doesn’t sound like it’d be a powerhouse, but it runs Linux, which handles older or less powerful hardware better than Windows.  Apparently, the only drawback to it is that the keyboard is smaller, but not too difficult to use.  It would make for a great second computer or portable to take with you on the road to get on the web and do some smaller tasks.  It’s $400.  I also read that they’re going to supply an 8 GB solid state hard drive and a 2 GB version with 256 MB of RAM for those worried about the cost.

The other one is a bag strap that has built-in bungee cords, called Superbungee Strap from Skooba.  The idea is that the strap will take more of the strain off your back than the standard static straps that come with most bags (specifically laptop bags).  I have this issue where I get a sharp pain in my right hip.  I carry my laptop bag on my left shoulder and tend to lean to hold it up.  While I should probably just switch sides, I find it more comfortable on the left.  I think this strap would take some of that strain off of me.  It might also help if I ever decide to start walking to work (or at least to the bus stop/station and take the bus to work).  Unfortunately, the strap is $26.  Hopefully they’ll start including it on some bags (though I do like the bag I use everyday, which I happened to get for free, though it does say “Dell” on it, but it also says ResNet).

Internet Radio to Hit the Road

It looks like Internet radio is going to make a change and hit the road.  Slacker, an Internet radio site, has announced that they have a portable Internet radio player in the works.  It’s not like your standard MP3 play though.  Instead, it connects to Slacker and plays your personalized radio stations for you.  It updates itself via built-in Wi-Fi.

This is something I think I might actually be interested in purchasing.  I have an iPod Mini that was lost and never claimed for almost a year.  I just need a dock for it so I can put my own music on it.  I’m not sure that I’d really use it though.  However, an Internet radio device would be quite nice.  I like listening to the radio because you’re never sure what you’re gonna get and it can introduce you to new music.  This would be great.  I love being introduced to new music, but I don’t actively seek it out and I don’t like to sit at my computer for long periods of time just to listen to music (currently the only way I can listen to Internet radio as I don’t have it hooked up to my stereo at all).  So generally, it’s either music I pick from CDs I own or music that the corporate radio stations pick for me, which is usually repetitive suckiness.  A device like this would be nice as I’d be able to sync it up to get the station from Slacker.com and then hook it up to my car stereo and listen to it in the car.  It’d be an alternative to monthly fees for satellite radio (though I do wish I had Sirius in my car, but I don’t have the money to pay another monthly fee just to listen to the radio).   I really hope this device actually gets released and doesn’t become vaporware.

More iPhone Goodness (or badness, depending on who you ask)

Here’s some more iPhone news, and of course, my opinions on it all.

A class-action lawsuit was filed in California and is currently seeking plaintiffs.  If you live in California and want to get in on this go to the official lawsuit website.  You are a member of the class if you want to transfer your iPhone to a different carrier, if your iPhone bricked when you upgraded it, Apple refused to honor the warranty on your phone because you either unlocked it or installed third party software, you paid an early termination fee with your carrier to switch to AT&T to use the iPhone, you paid for a third party extended warranty to cover your unlocked iPhone, or you incurred roaming charges when you used your iPhone abroad.  If you fit into any of these (and anyone can really fit into the first category), you should really get on board and try to get this class action suit spread nationwide.  Apple needs to know how we feel.

Of course, if our laws were more like France, Belgium, and a bunch of other European countries, there would be no need for this lawsuit.  Apparently Apple fans in those countries won’t be seeing the iPhone anytime soon because they have laws against selling cell phones that are locked to a single carrier.  We need laws like this in our country, of course that’ll never happen because Congress sleeps with the corporations rather than do things to help the people who elect them.  They vote based on who gives them money (and dinners and other fun stuff) rather than the people they actually represent and elect them.  It really is quite annoying.  I love the service Verizon Wireless offers, but I hate their phones (though I do like my new Chocolate, but I wish it had full functionality).

New Firmware Might Turn Your Unlocked iPhone into a Brick

I know I write an awful lot about Apple and how much I dislike them, but they’re really started to turn into a company that they never were before and it does bother me.  I really want to like Apple.  I think they do make some nice products, but the company itself prevents me from really liking them and dropping the money on their products (yes I do run Windows, but I also have to support Windows, it’s easier this way… and I didn’t pay for it as I get a copy from my job).

Anyway, various reports have come in saying that Apple has said that the new firmware might permanently disable any unlocked iPhones because the unlock “hack” broke something.  There are several different unlocking hacks, one of which is a hardware hack.  The hardware hack does have the potential to damage the phone, but purely software hacks are reversible and do not cause this problem.  Apple decided that they would void the warranty on any phones that have this problem because they were unlocked.  Unfortunately for Apple, a decades old law makes it illegal for them to void the warranty unless the third party application (in this case the unlocking hack) damaged the phone or the phone’s native software.

My opinion (and for those that know me, I am very opinionated) is that Apple should embrace the unlocking and third parties as it increases the value of the iPhone.  Believe it or not, not everyone who might buy one wants to use it only on AT&T’s network or use only Apple-approved applications on it.  I am also of the opinion that wireless carriers should not be crippling cell phones and should be allowing all uses of them.  Most cell phones today have Bluetooth, but they “don’t support” the full capabilities (such as file transfer).  This is because the wireless carriers are afraid of losing the income from the sale of overpriced ringtones to people creating their own on their own computers and transferring them to their cell phones.  Lucky for me, both Susan and I have the same cell phones (the LG VX8550 Chocolate, the new Chocolate, I love it by the way) and she bought the music pack that came with a USB cable.  I was able to make my own ringtones editing an mp3 I had with Audacity (an open source audio editor) and send it to my phone using Bitpim (an open source information manager for phones).  However, I do still wish I had the capability to send files to my phone via Bluetooth (since my laptop has Bluetooth).

So the moral of the story is that cell phone carriers suck because they cripple phones (something I think should be outlawed, but won’t) and that Apple sucks because of their premature threats of voiding warranties.  The question I have is with whom the burden of proof falls that the third party software (in this case the unlocking hack) damaged the phone and caused it to turn into a brick.

Upcoming Firmware Will Brick Unlocked iPhones (Slashdot)

The Optimist/Pessimist: Apple’s iPhone Unlock Warning (Boing Boing Gadgets)

Apple May Be Breaking the Law With Policy on iPhone Unlocks (Slashdot)

My Thoughts on Apple Written Much Better than I could Write

Sorry for the long title, but I recently came across a post on Boing Boing Gadgets that discussed exactly how I feel about Apple, and why anyone who read my previous posts about Apple shouldn’t consider me an Apple-hater.

iPhone & iPod: contain or disengage?

That’s the direct link to the blog in question. It’s a long read, but well worth it for anyone who cares about Apple, technology, or portable music and movies. It’s exactly how I feel, but put to much better words that I could have ever written myself. The gist of it is that Apple needs to quit the anti-consumer crap or else they’ll lose their consumers. They can only go so far on the people who blindly follow their every move before those people lose the blinders and realize that Apple is screwing them over big time, which is what Apple has started to do, though it first started with the iPod/iTunes thing when they first released the iPod. I won’t call it anti-competitive behavior, though some of it is. I’ll call it anti-consumer behavior.

The long version of this is the following… Things like locking out third party apps from the iPhone and iPod Touch (though you can write them if you’re close to Apple) are what I’m talking about here. Preventing people from playing DRM’d (but something other than FairPlay, such as PlaysForSure) music and movie files on the iPods. Preventing people from playing FairPlay songs on other portable devices. It sounds like I hate Apple whenever I complain about their products and the tight grasp they hold over all of it, but the fact remains that I want to like their products. I think the iPod is a cool looking device and the iPod Touch is a great device (though I will never buy an iPhone because I wouldn’t be able to dial with one hand while not looking at it because I can’t actually feel the “buttons”). I think MacOS X is a kick ass operating system and their computers have a great design. I don’t like that you can’t replace the battery in the iPods or iPhone yourself, that it has to be done by an authorized technician. I don’t like that MacOS X will not run natively on hardware that was not approved by Apple. I don’t like that Apple hardware is so closed. You buy an Apple computer and it’s a very closed proprietary system even though the operating system was based off one of the most open operating systems in existence. While it’s nice that if something goes wrong with the computer, it’s either really easy to fix or you know it has to go back to Apple. But that’s the problem, it has to go back to Apple. There’s no real customization. For all the proprietary crap in Windows, it’s a more open system. It runs on all sorts of different pieces of hardware (so long as it’s all x86 architecture). It allows all sorts of different drivers and software. With Apple computers, it’s Apple’s hardware and software or nothing.

And the biggest thing that I don’t like about Apple is that they’ve seemed to have left their computer division in the dust. They’re ignoring the people who kept them from folding… the people who religiously bought Apple computers regardless of how bad they sucked. They’ve become a gadget company.

So for all you people who have read my blog and though of me as an Apple Hater, that’s just not true. I want to love them, but I can’t because of the company. Steve Jobs is great at marketing, but he’s arrogant and soon enough that arrogance will catch up with him.   Apple has become just like Microsoft, the company everyone loves to hate.  They’re in it for the money and nothing else.  They just don’t care about their consumers, and why should they when their consumers swoon over everything that comes out of Steve Jobs’s mouth?  So again, it’s not Apple that I hate, it’s the uninformed consumer who thinks Apple is and never will be (or never could be) an evil corporation like Microsoft.

iPod/iTunes Restrictions Broken

As I previously reported on the new iPods being restricted to using iTunes to sync music and movies, there is now word that the hash has been broken for at least the new iPod Classic.

However, while this might be applauded, I would take caution at using these methods for Apple can and likely will invoke the DMCA in the breaking of their code.

Discussion at Boing Boing (links to the fix are in the comments)

Instructions via Slashdot

Apple now requires iTunes for iPods

Apple has decided that the new iPods will not work with any media applications other than iTunes. What does this mean? Ultimately, it means that third party applications that might be better (and are likely better) than iTunes will not work with the new iPods that Apple recently announced. A natural side effect of this is that users of operating systems (such as Linux) other than Windows and MacOS X will not be able to use the new iPods as Apple only makes iTunes for Windows and MacOS X.

This is yet another move by Apple to keep their stuff locked into themselves. They try to be all about open source software, but this move locks Linux users out of using the new iPods. Apple started with their operating system that can only be installed on Apple hardware, even though the hardware is the same as any other PC. While there are projects like OSx86, they certainly are not approved or endorsed by Apple and the legality of them is questionable. Apple then moved onto their Fairplay DRM, forcing songs bought at the iTunes Music Store to be played only in iTunes or on an iPod. Now Apple is forcing iPod owners to only sync their media players with iTunes. Apple is slowly proving that they no longer “Think Different” and are no different than other big corporations (Microsoft, for example, as Apple is always touted as the anti-MS). I really think Apple would do themselves a favor if they were to spin off their gadget divisions into a new company and go back to concentrating on computers. I also think they would be doing themselves a huge favor if they were to release MacOS X for all computers as a competitor to Windows. However, they like their proprietary format. Some say it keeps them from having problems with drivers and the like, but I say it’ll help make their products better if they were more open and there were more eyes on the stuff (they might even be able to better cut into the Windows market share).

It might seem like I am an Apple-hater. That is anything but the truth. I just see them for what they are… a big corporation that doesn’t really care about their consumers as much as their die-hard fans like to think they do. I imagine this will be reverse engineered at some point, but even that will be legally questionable under the DMCA.

Discussion at Slashdot