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Archive for December, 2008

31
Dec

Zune Fail? No Surprise.

bglogowhite-1When I woke up this morning, I was greeted by the news that every single 1st-gen 30gb Zune had completely and utterly frozen up. I personally do not own a Zune (or an iPod for that matter) nor do I know anyone who does (makes me wonder who all of these angry Zune users are) but it definitely seems that the Web is aglow about this.

It’s a case of global schadenfreude, not so much at the Zune users, who have a legitimate reason for being very upset, but at Microsoft. After all, they made the player and it appears that it was a software issue that caused it to fail. Considering all Microsoft does is write software, the fact that they shipped a product with such a lethal bug speaks very lowly to the company.

But what did anyone expect? From day one the Zune was an iPod rip off released by a software company with an inferior record of security and stability than Apple. This is highlighted by the fact that Apple charges 2 times more for their computers than a similar Windows machine, but people are still snatching them up.

One has to wonder what those who bought the Zune were thinking at the time. It’s price and functionality were almost identical to the iPod, the latter being battle-tested and generally well-regarded. There were no new features that really made worth buying, no serious cost cuts and nothing to be gained (unless you got a great deal).

The Zune was, and pretty much still is, an attempt to compete with the iPod without doing anything better than it. The problem is that, when you’re entering a cornered market, it isn’t good enough to be equal to your competitor, you need to be better, faster and cheaper.

Sadly, Microsoft couldn’t do any of those things. In fact, it couldn’t even make the blasted thing work for four years. Read moreRead more

30
Dec

5 Ways to Improve Twitter

twitter-logoTwitter (my account) is pretty useful. Though I was skeptical at first, I have to admit that, after having used the service for some time, I see the merit in it. Though you have to be careful to not let Tweeting consume your entire work day (unless you’re on someone else’s dime and never get caught) it can be a great place to ask questions, join conversations, meet new people and generally have a new means of opt-in contact.

But this isn’t to say that Twitter is perfect. Even if we forgive the outages and other technical issues, there are more than a few flaws on this service, issues that sites such as Pownce attempted to exploit, although unsuccessfully.

The truth is that Twitter, by itself, is almost useless. Without the API and applications such as Tweetdeck, I doubt anyone would gain much from it. Even when it is at its best, it is merely an alternative means of socializing and communicating, a steep second place to IM, Email and social networking.

Its advantages are its immediacy and breadth, being something you can use when a blog entry is too slow or an IM too personal. But how can Twitter keep its niche while adding features that its users might actually want. Well, here are my five best suggestions… Read moreRead more

26
Dec

Camino Beta 2: First Thoughts

camino-mozilla-power-mac-styleAbout a year ago, I was prepared to write off Camino. With Firefox updating its interface to make it more Mac-friendly and improving its performance across all OSes every day, I was wondering aloud why there was a market for another Mac Firefox, specifically one without plugins or themes.

Sure, being built on Cocoa gives Camino a natural speed and memory advantage over its brother, but the difference, over all, has been barely noticeable and certainly not enough to propose switching to a browser with fewer features.

Personally, I was thinking that it was time to take the project behind the shed and put it out of its misery. It filled a nice niche when Firefox was being a jerk to Mac users but now that we’ve kissed and made up Camino seemed to be a third wheel in a very sordid love triangle.

So imagine my surprise when I found out not only that Camino had released a new version, but that it was a beta of 2.0. I was skeptical, to put it modestly, but decided to give it a try. I felt that I owed it to the old girl since she had comforted me when Firefox had me wanting to hang myself.

I have to say though that the surprise is indeed a pleasant one and this version of Camino just might become a real challenger for Firefox, at least until Chrome is release for the Mac in a meaningful way. Read moreRead more

24
Dec

The Ghost of Christmas Fail

Red Christmas
Creative Commons License photo credit: krisdecurtis

Like most modern-day grinches, my loathing of the holiday is a purely adult affair. It most likely started when I was seventeen and first forced to drive in holiday traffic (unarmed no less) and hasn’t really gone away sense. Though I like certain parts of the holiday, I could easily do without most of what it has become.

That being said though, looking at Christmas through a child’s eye is a truly magical thing. I was never big on Santa Claus but I was definitely very excited about seeing family, friends and, of course, the presents.

However, even as a child, Christmas didn’t always go as planned. Though our blunders and mistakes were significantly more comedy than tragedy, they still shatter the image of the “Perfect Christmas”. But in a strange way the memories of Christmas gone wrong are some of the best, not just because they are funny, but they were the some of the best shared experiences my family had.

So what are some of my favorite cases of Christmas fail? Well, here are a few… Read moreRead more

19
Dec

5 Apps That Need a Mac Port Now

mac-logoI love my Mac, don’t get me wrong. I gripe about it from time to time, but I gripe about all of the things I love. It’s part of my nature.

That being said, the most frustrating thing about using a Mac is not anything Apple does, but rather, the imaginative ways that developers screw you over. Not only is the library of freeware a lot less robust on Macs, but developers seem to treat their Mac versions like red-headed stepchildren, waiting unbearably long to release their apps on non-Windows platforms.

The problem is that Macs are insanely popular with the risk-taking geeks that like to try out new software, so releasing an app for the Mac is not long longer an option, it’s a requirement. Still, many developers, including some I respect, are dragging their feet in getting their applications into our hands.

So here is my top five list of applications that need a Mac port, but seem to be sitting on it as their Windows counterparts move forward. Read moreRead more

17
Dec

Pizza Hut: Coupon Fail

pizza-hut-logoOne of these days I’m going to sit down and hammer out all of the reasons that I prefer online ordering of pizza to ordering over the phone. Shockingly enough, it doesn’t come down to laziness (I actually get carryout anyway) but rather order accuracy, speed and paper trail.

That being said, until recently, Dominos is the only pizza place that has had a decent online ordering system. The problem with that being that my local Dominos sucks, being run by the reject cast members of a bad stoner comedy and managed by the evil father from the Twisted Sister music videos (YAY for obscure references), I would almost rather shove pins under my fingernails than set foot inside of there.

When Pizza Hut finally decided to entire the 1990′s and add an online store to their site, I was thrilled. Though my local Pizza Hut is not run much better, at least it gave me a choice and some competition, especially for price.

Though it has been up for a while, I don’t order pizza that often and finally got the chance to give it a try last night. Off the bat, Pizza Hut did everything right. They enticed me with a good deal, lured me to register for the site and even got my information.

The only thing they botched was actually giving me the deal I had clicked on, causing me to leave the site in a huff of anger and a strange hunger for McDonalds.

What happened? Well, let me explain. Read moreRead more

15
Dec

Derek Flint: The Ultimate “Bond”

51x6qnfy5dlIn the mid 60s, the Bond movies were starting to gain traction. With Sean Connery playing the role, the entire world was becoming enamored with 007, his gadgets, his witty remarks and his way with the ladies.

But while James Bond himself might have always been a borderline case of self parody, especially with his one-liners, it was a pair of movies that took that sense of humor to a natural new height. “Our Man Flint” and “In Like Flint”, also known as the “Flint” movies, lampooned Bond not through silly gags or fart jokes, but by simply being more “Bond” than 007 could ever hope to be.

If Bond has a “Bond Babe” then Flint has a dozen. If Bond is a black belt then Flint is a master of a dozen martial arts. If Bond speaks four languages, Flint speaks every single one and can talk to dolphins to boot (thus making him part Aquaman too, I suppose).

Flints movies were not action movies nor were they outright parodies, they were a strange hybrid of the two, meant to be both funny and totally awesome at the same time. Though self-aware and self-depreciating, it was still almost suave enough to pass as an actual comic book spy romp.

The Flint movies, much like their title character, is hard to nail down and define, but simply too cool to turn away from. Read moreRead more

12
Dec

The Best Anti-Christmas Tracks 2008

ray-stevensIt is that time of year again. The holiday season has been in full swing for about two weeks and, with another two to go, most mortals are already feeling the pinch of holiday burn out.

A well-known Grinch, the same people who shun me the weekend after Black Friday suddenly line up at my non-existent door. My anti-Christmas CD, an annual tradition in my house, becomes a source of solace. My expertise in the music that lampoons the holidays comes into high(er) demand. Whether one genuinely hate the holidays or simply needs to vent some frustration, it seems I’m the person they turn to.

But what are the best songs for feeding your holiday angst? Well… it all depends on what you’re looking for. Here are some of my current pics in way I break them down. Read moreRead more

10
Dec

Fixing Gmail: How the Best Can Be Better

Gmail is the best Webmail client in the World. I get that. However, winning that contest is a bit like being named the “Most Talented Baldwin”. The competition is thin, to put it generously.

Sure, some people swear by Yahoo!’s mail offering. It is pretty and it does deal with some of the issues I address below, but it also doesn’t load on slower connections, has a terrible search function and can’t import email (seriously, are you THAT stupid Yahoo?). Compound that with no IMAP access and a paid account that doesn’t equal Gmail’s free offering, you have a rather distant second at best.

Outside of a few startups that are doing promising things with Web-based email, such as Zenbe, Gmail stands alone. There is no one out there that really competes with Gmail in this area. They were the first to introduce the super-sized mailbox for free, they were the first to use tags not folders on Webmail (Opera did it first in their mail client), they were the first to give free IMAP access and they were the first to actually put one iota of thought into usability.

But can it be better? Damn right. Nothing in the world is immune from improvement, except perhaps Joan Jett, so what can one do to make Gmail just a little more awesome? Here’s my pick of five things that can push it to eleven. Read moreRead more

8
Dec

Smart Clip: A Smart Review of a Stupid Invention

If you’re something of a night owl, you’ve probably already seen the commercials for the Smart Clip. It’s an adhesive hook that fits sticks to the back of your phone and lets you hang it from your belt loop, bag or whatever might work./p>p style=”clear: both”>When we first saw the commercials, my better half and I debated the merits of such an invention. However, it was one of those strange arguments where we both took each side, going back and forth playing devil’s advocate with one another.

Still, we had all but forgotten about the invention until we were walking down the aisles of our local Target and saw one on the shelf. A bit stunned and confused, we engaged in something of a dare match to buy one until, lo and behold, I found myself walking out the store with my very own Smart Clip.

So, here I am, a “proud” Smart Clip owner wondering how I got in this position and trying to defend a product that I have no idea why I bought.

Still, since it is American to occasionally give in to useless crap, I’ve decided to review this product and find out just how useless it is. Read moreRead more