Small Talk is Cheap

3350076131_44a96ba0bc_oNever have I been so disappointed in an Apple product and I haven’t even had the chance to see it in person. For close to a decade, I have been using Macs and related products, and I’ve been very enthusiastic about them. I have owned a G4 tower and Blueberry monitor (beautiful display, but too heavy), an iBook, a MacBook, two iPods, a first generation Shuffle, a second generation Nano, and an iPhone. This latest version of the Shuffle, however, fails to impress me.

The Shuffle and overall surprise of (the lack of) features was a hot topic of discussion on Twitter, which led to some very funny jokes. My blog friend ThePete ripped the latest incarnation of the Shuffle apart in a post, and he’s also self-styled “Mac Head.” Then MacWorld delivered blow with their review, where they comment on the Apple’s war on buttons. It doesn’t bode well for Apple when a product isn’t well received by their core market. If we’re not into it, then how else can they expect the rest of the buying product to be on board?

Continue reading “Small Talk is Cheap”

I’m wearing my headphones so I don’t have to talk to you…

Yesterday, I was at Twiggs in University Heights to unwind after a day of teaching, around 6’ish pm,  when I saw some people with clipboards hanging around outside by the entrance. I didn’t know what they were up, nor did I find ever find out. I just didn’t care to find out. They may have even been working for some cause I’m for, but the strategic ambush posture didn’t go very well with me.

As I did my Internetting and sipped my coffee, I thought of my exit strategy. I imagined being rude, I contemplated simply running past them, and I thought of running towards the street corner and crossing the street. I just did not want to engage in conversation with them at all, as they would have kept talking so I would buy whatever they wanted to sell, whether it was making a contribution to their cause or consider their product. It reminded me of when I was recently in Washington DC walking around in Chinatown, only to be accosted by someone from Greenpeace. I didn’t mind the initial conversation, but I did not want to get roped into making a donation right there on the spot. I simply made an excuse that I had to meet some friends to get away from her, but the woman wasn’t too happy that I got out of her grip.

I settled on wearing my headphones and listening to my iPod. However, they weren’t deterred as two of them tried to rush me when I was a few feet out the door. I then put my hand up in the classic “talk to the hand” gesture and moved on. I called Twiggs afterwards to voice a complaint about the clipboard people.

A part of me felt rude for quickly dismissing them like that. However, I resent that they placed themselves in a position where they had a captive audience.

The outdoor solicitor problem got so bad at the Trader Joe‘s in Hillcrest/Uptown area that they put up a sign telling customers that they were not obligated to talk to these street hawkers. It’s pretty bad when we need institutional blessings to say “No.”

How Random Is This?

Here’s a list of songs my iPod played on random tonight:

  1. Beastie Boys, “Shadrack
  2. Mos Def, “Champion Requiem
  3. Love and Rockets, “Yin and Yang the Flowerpot Man
  4. Style Council, “Wanted
  5. Alkaline Trio, “Time To Waste
  6. Brand New Heavies, “How Do You Think
  7. Pizzicato Five, “Such A Beautiful Girl Like You
  8. Ryuichi Sakamoto, “Pantonal
  9. The Church, “Russian Autumn Heart”
  10. Roxy Music, “Over You
  11. George Micheal, “Soul Free”
  12. Radiohead, “Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box”
  13. Bjork, “One Day
  14. Hepcat, “Goodbye Street”
  15. David Bowie, “Weeping Wall
  16. David Bowie, “Cactus

To Chris: As much as you love to hate Bjork, I thought you would find it interesting that Bjork’s song was the 13th song my iPod chose at random. I did not make this up, nor did I set it up this way.

Alas! My iPod’s Obsolete!

Some time ago, I did a post on Apple Technology as part of my back to school series, and Chris ribbingly asked me how much Apple was paying me. This afternoon, I find that Brian‘s on fire as far as the blogging goes, and his latest post is about the latest in iPod technology. The Apple Website confirms much of what he says, especially about the iPod Touch, which has all the features of the iPhone without the phone.

So, how much are they paying you, Brian? 😛

Back To School: (Apple) Technology

As you embark on your college journey or are returning to school, you can’t get caught without technology in the 21st century educational environment. Of course, you can go anywhere and buy a PC with the new Vista operating system, but get a Mac. They’re more attractive, better made, and have significantly less headaches than the machines on that Microsoft operating system. Okay, I’m biased, but you get the point.

Apple brings sexy back into computing with the iMac
That’s not completely true, but largely so. Apple has made computers sexy for the 21st century with the G5’s, Macbooks, PowerBooks, and its piece de resistance, the iPod. In time for new college freshmen in need of computers or those returning to school in the fall, the slender incarnation of the iMac enables you to do your homework, research, and e-mailing in style. These new models have plenty of hard drive space (250-500 GB) for those projects and presentations you’ll do for that A. Plan for desk space as the screen and CPU combo comes in 20” and 24” sizes. Good for work and for fun, and the support for any Apple product is excellent.

MS Office For Mac (A Wonderful Oxymoron)
While Mac has its own set of office utilities, Microsoft makes smooth working versions of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel for its rival platform. MS Office saves your work in the same file formats as its Windows counterpart, so you can easily send your files to a PC user (who may very well be one of your professors. Not me – definite Mac user). Best of all, MS office is priced at an academic discount, available at the Apple Store or your local college bookstore.

Dot Mac is where it’s at
.Mac has upgraded to 10 GB of online memory space, which you can use the space for e-mail (and have a super cool e-mail address), back up for all those files you create as homework, or for hosting a website and/or blog.

iPod – Definite Space Saver
Do you really want to lug all your CD’s with you to college? And, aren’t they so 20th century? Save some dorm space, get an dock, and hook your iPod to your stereo. Plus, you can take your tunes wherever you go. You can also download new tunes and your favorite TV shows (and even movies and games) from iTunes. The standard model (30-80 GB) comes in black or white, but you can dress it up with protective sheaths, covers, and socks. If you need something that can take a beating, get a Nano or a wearable Shuffle (in your choice of several fashion colors). They hold fewer tunes, but enough for music on the go, and they’re good for workouts or jogs around campus. Buy a Mac and get a Nano free. Just don’t let me catch you with it during test time.

Can’t endorse the iPhone…
I’m not sure if a phone is worth the hefty price tag, even with some fabulous features. Price aside, the iPhone offers some useful applications for students: e-mail, iCalendar to manage schedules, web browser for research, and a much more sensuous version of the iPod built-in. All that’s missing is a word processing program to write papers on the go. The keyboard function does take some getting use to. Buy at your own discretion or risk, but don’t let me catch you using it during test time.

Update, 9/5/07
Apple has a new fall line of iPods, including the iPod Touch, a phoneless version of the iPhone. Thanks to Brian for the update.

Exploring the iPhone

I stopped by Fashion Valley’s Apple Store to check out the iPhone. Given that it’s been on the market for a few weeks, there’s obviously still much interest in this device that is essentially a prototype for future generations of iPods. I managed to find one that was not being molested by a customer and sampled it (oooooh….. aaaaaahhh!). The touch screen display is definitely more sensuous than the iPod‘s clickwheel (which is quite tactile) and puts Star Trek: TNG‘s idea of the touchscreen into the 21st century. Yes, touchscreens have existed in one form or another for almost twenty years, but the iPhone‘s functions in an absolutely flawless way. Almost, anyway. The screen responds well to touch, but the keyboard function, when brought up, takes some getting use to. I just can’t tap the screen with my fingernail, but must touch a “key,” “button,” or icon with the fleshy part of my fingertip. The landscape, or horizontal, presentation of the QWERTY keyboard is preferable, but still difficult to use.

The iPhone has no difficulty pulling up webpages in their full aspect ratios. Width isn’t compromised, but there is little less of the height in the Safari browser. However, scrolling down isn’t too hard. The odd thing about going down in a website is “pushing” the brower with an upward motion by your finger. The one drawback is that the links are extremely tiny, especially the text ones. There should be an iStylus for the iPhone, made in a texture that approximates the softness and firmness of a fingertip.

I took some photos on the sly to show what a website looks like in iPhone‘s Safari Browser. I have used ShindoTV and a couple of my cyberfriends’ blogs to show how they appear:

ShindoTV as seen on the iPhone
ShindoTV as displayed on iPhone‘s Safari Browser.

Ramblings of a Hopeless Khowaga as seen on iPhone
Ramblings of a Hopeless Khowaga displayed on iPhone‘s Safari Browser.

Urban Bohemian as seen on the iPhone
Urban Bohemian as displayed on iPhone‘s Safari Browser.

Given the small drawback with the keyboard, the iPhone makes a wonderful Internet access device. A laptop with WI-FI feels clunky in comparison. I played around with a few other functions, such as the calculator (the 10 key is digit friendly), iCalendar, and a few other applications. That the screen can detect its orientation and adjust the screen accordingly is one of its amazing features. While Zune introduced the basic idea late last year, iPhone makes Zune look like a neolithic knife in comparison. The iPhone adjusts without prompting, while Zune’s screen position must be changed manually. I have written some things about Zune in the past, and my opinion is reinforced by this experience.

Sometime last year, iTunes introduces a more visual element to browsing the library by going through the Albums’ artworks by scrolling from side to side. This new feature is perfected in the iPhone, and there’s a more visual menu where one can choose music, video or podcasts with the tap of a finger. The icon menu is much more appealing than the click and view text interface of standard iPods. The sound is excellent (but the demo iPhones used Bose headsets).

The iPhone has a camera. Cameras are almost a standard feature mobile phones these days, but the iPhone‘s shutter could also be a logical outcome of the cameras that are now embedded in the iMacs and MacBooks. Like most phones, the iPhone‘s camera has low fidelity, but still can take some decent photos. If you want to take a picture of yourself (as many people are doing), that can be difficult as the “button” is a two dimensional icon on the glass sceen. It’s best to have someone take the picture for you. I managed to get this photo taken.

I e-mailed the picture to myself from the iPhone, thus being able to show you my mug. The only thing I didn’t do in my brief exporation of this brave new device was make a phone call.

Computing grade: 7 out of 10.
Telephone grade: no empirical data available to evaluate mobile phone function.

ShindoTV’s iTunes Download of the Week

Around the same time Style Council’s Confessions of a Pop Group was released on iTunes, the Jam’s Snap! was also made available, this time in its entirety. Paul Weller‘s earliest and perhaps most definitive aspect of his career, The Jam took on a mod identity (much like the Who and Small Faces during the 1960’s) for a new generation of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, and their music shared affinities for power pop, punk rock, sixties rock, and Motown and Stax soul.

While there are many Jam compilations out there, Snap! is the most comprehensive of the collections, offering the hits such as “The Modern Word,” “That’s Entertainment,” and the R&B swansong “Beat Surrender,” and giving the listeners what other anthologies may or may not offer, such as “Man in the Corner Shop” and “Absolute Beginners” (one of my all-time favorites). Here, the listener can follow the Jam’s evolution and see how they went from playing like the Beatles and the Who to the soul style foreshadowing Weller’s work with the Style Council and his solo career. An absolute must for any fan of Paul Weller and/or the Jam, but also a great introduction to anyone discovering this legendary band’s music for the first time.

Also on the iPod
While these albums may have been on my iPod for a while, they deserve some mention.

Lloyd Cole, Antidepressant. The brainy and handsome Lloyd Cole has long toiled in obscurity, whether with his band from the 1980’s, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, or his own solo work. The follow-up to Music in a Foreign Language, Antidepressant shows Cole as literate and artful as ever, ranging from Leonard Cohen-eque ballads (“NYC Sunshine”), witty story songs with some jangle (“Antidepressant”), and the memorable closer “Rolodex Incident,” which highlights the more instrumental aspect of Cole’s music. Antidepressant is a mature album by Cole, definitely one that won’t be dated in years to come.

Wilco, Sky Blue Sky. Putting behind the Radiohead-ish experimentation of Yankee Foxtrot Hotel and A Ghost Is Born, Wilco‘s latest effort is anything but ordinary. However, their dabbling with the sonic palette in those previous releases pays off in Sky Blue Sky. Most of the songs may be slower paced and more conventionally structured, but you can’t ever accuse Wilco of being boring. Sky Blue Sky may be one of their most country albums in a while (as evident in “Impossible Germany”), but definitely not in the same class as the commercial monstrosities that define country music.

Smashing Pumpkins, “Tarantula.” One of the 1990’s most interesting acts, Billy Corgan and company managed to defy genres in an era heavily fixated on them. Synthesizing heavy metal, goth, power pop, and new wave into something uniquely theirs, the Pumpkins were heavily prolific with their dramatic style. After an eight year absence, Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlain, and company teases old fans and a new generation of listeners with “Tarantula,” a song off the upcoming album Zeitgeist (due tomorrow). Reminiscent of “Bullet and Butterfly Wings” off Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, “Tarantula” shows the Smashing Pumpkins can compete with contemporary, but comparable bands such as Muse.

Use for Ex-Roomate’s Socks

I certainly wouldn’t wear an ex-roomate’s socks. However, I would cut the foot off and sew up the end to make a sheath for my iPod. I’ve done it with my old socks and I always get, “You should sell them.” Well, that’s a great idea except my handicrafts are more a reaction to what’s out on the market: I can stitch and I’m too cheap to buy an iPod sock.

Featured on Helium: My article on iPod

I write articles for Helium, which is really cool. This gives writers an opportunity to put their writing out there and contribute to collective knowledge. Wikipedia also affords a similiar opportunity; however, it is an encyclopedia and the writing and the anonymity of the writer reflects that. At Helium, the nature of writing is freelance and the writer has an opportunity to build their portfolio in their name.

Sometime ago, I wrote an article giving a complete guide to the iPod. While I only wrote under a thousand words, I gave all the information a user would need if they wanted to buy an iPod. Plus, my enthusiasm for the product is very evident.

Today, my article is featured on Helium’s main page. Scroll down and look for the category “Consumer Electronics.” My article is rated #1 of nine, which is a good feeling indeed. Check it out.