Archive for December, 2008

Ouch! The Zune 30 “Y2k” bugs hits hard

sadZune So…it seems that Zune 30s around the world decided upon a collective “strike” starting today.  Something about Dec. 31st, 2008 makes the old Zune 30s just freeze at the bootup screen.  Shortly after reading this I called home to have my wife check hers.  What do you know?  It’s frozen.  No worky. 😦

On a positive note, the newer-gen Zunes (4, 8, 80, 120) appear to be thus far unaffected by this, so we still have two functioning Zunes in the house!  I feel bad for our friends across the street, though, who only have Zune 30s.  Need to borrow mine, Eric?

What’s really sad about this – aside from the “freezing” issue itself, which is very lame – is the very negative press that will come out of this.  Zune has been making some great strides over this past year, and this is definitely something that will most certainly set them back a bit – if only in the eyes of the average consumer.  Also, I’m *very* curious to find out what the “fix” is going to be!  Evidently, Microsoft is “working on it”…


UPDATE: The Zune Team has posted a “fix”, if you will, which pretty much states that you’ll need to wait until tomorrow (1/1/2009), run the battery down, and all will be well.

Evidently the issue is related to a part found *only* in the Zune30 devices that improperly handles the last day of a leap year.  Since the Zune30 devices are essentially rebranded Toshiba Gigabeat players, I’m guessing that those players have suffered the same fate.  I don’t really know, though.

Anyhow, watch our for 2012 when the next leap year rolls around! 🙂


UPDATE #2:  Tested our Zune30 shortly after midnight (1/1/09), charged it for about 10 minutes, and voila! – back in action.  I guess the Zune30s around the world just needed a 24 hour siesta.


UPDATE #3:  As expected (in my first “update”), the Toshiba Gigabeat products, of which the Zune30 is based upon,  had the *exact* same issue, though there was n’ery a mention of those players.  Still, the Zune is Microsoft’s baby and the buck stops with them. 

Personally, I applaud Microsoft for owning up to it and responding quickly.


Pet peeve: Co-workers who clip their fingernails @ work

Perhaps I’m a shallow human-being, but listening to someone clip their fingernails while at work drives me absolutely nuts

Anyone else think that’s kinda nasty and inappropriate?  The first person to say “just put your headphones on” gets a swift kick to the teeth!




More thoughts on the G1 phone: hardware

Having had a few weeks to play around with my new T-Mobile G1 (Android) phone, I feel like I can give a better “review” of this product – both from a software and hardware perspective.

As you ought to know by now, Google has released an open-source OS called “Android”.  Although the first iterations are aimed squarely at the mobile handset market, there is little doubt that Google is attempting to push Android even further.  While still in the ‘infant stages’ as far as operating systems are concerned, Android is surprisingly polished and well-made.  It’s not perfect, mind you, but they never are. 

The very first Android-based phone on the market was released by T-Mobile, which is unusual for a company that tends to have a very not-cutting-edge selection of devices.  With that said, I’m going to focus on the hardware of this device – made by HTC –  for this particular write-up.

Here are my thoughts (thus far) on the T-Mobile G1…

Although I found the G1 to be somewhat ugly initially, it’s grown on me quite a bit these past few weeks.  I really like the matte black finish — which does *not* smudge particularly easily — and the phone feels solid in your hand.  The sliding mechanism, which reveals the physical keyboard, feels sturdy and moves easily.  On the down side, however, I have noticed some very slight movement of the screen while I’m on a call.  Slightly annoying, is probably the best description of it, and life continues without issue. 

The lower call / menu buttons feel good, if a bit too flush.  The camera button (on the right) and the volume up/down buttons (on the left) feel fine.  On the negative side, however, I’m not a fan of the “roller ball” that is nestled between the back and home buttons.  It feels cheap to me, seems overly sensitive, and I really avoid using it as much as possible..  Perhaps the Blackberry Pearl users out there will feel right at home, though.

Accessing the battery/SIM card by removing the rear cover was a bit cumbersome, in my opinion, though I’ve not needed to access either of them since.  The cover for the MicroSD card is located near the ‘call’ button when you slide the screen away.  Adding/removing a MicroSD card can be accomplished “on-the-fly”.

At this point, the Android software does not feature any sort of “virtual” keyboard, so all text entry comes from the physical keyboard that is revealed as you slide the screen to the right (if held vertically; upward, if held horizontally). 

Like the call / menu buttons on the lower portion of the phone, the keyboard keys feel a bit “too flush” for my taste, which make accurate typing a bit of a chore thus far.  I was, of course, expecting a bit of a learning curve with the keyboard as I migrated from my T-Mobile Dash, but it’s taken longer than I had expected.  Also, the lower portion of the phone (call button area) ends up separating your right hand from the right-side of the keyboard ever so slightly.  That has taken some getting used to.

My biggest “peeve” with the keyboard?  My T-Mobile Dash (also made by HTC) allowed you to type the ALT characters via two methods: 1) hit ALT + the key you need, or 2) hold the key for a moment, which would trigger the ALT character automatically.  Strange as it sounds, the second method became second-nature for me!  I was honestly quite surprised to not have this feature on the G1, since it seems so simple to do.  Both my brother and I are really hoping that this might change with a future software update.

I should also note that the keyboard makes a slight “swoosh” sound when you open and close it.  It reminds me a bit of a door from Star Trek 🙂

What can be said about the G1 screen?  It’s big, beautiful, and nice to look at.  The resolution is nice, and the touch interface is fun-to-use… most of the time.  The truth is, the touch doesn’t always register on the device, which can be slightly aggravating.  At this point, though, I’m going to have to chalk this up to a software issue, and not hardware.  Here’s hoping that a fix is coming down the pike.

Although using a touch interface is nice and very natural, having a screen with fingerprints all over it quickly becomes annoying.  Like many iPhone users that I know, I’m constantly wiping my display off on my pants or t-shirt just to remove the smudges.  A “screen protector” of some sort would probably help with this, but they also typically affect the look of the screen negatively too, at least in my experience.

All in all, the screen looks good – for the OS, pictures, web browser, and so on.  It also seems sturdy and somewhat scratch-resistant.  I carry my phone in either my jacket or pants pocket, and I don’t see any scratches thus far.

I’ll keep this short.  The G1 camera looks quite good, and is very easy to use – two areas where the Dash really fell flat.  There is no flash, and the camera suffers from a bit of shutter lag as the auto-focus does its job.  Still, the pictures look decent and it’s a reasonable “always with me” type of camera.

As a bit of a help to others, you can also click the roller-ball to ‘snap’ pictures, which helps reduce moving/blurring while the photo is taken.

The call quality has been very good, in my experience, though I find the phone to be slightly on the quiet side.  I’ve found little reason to use anything but the ‘max’ volume level for either the earpiece or the speakerphone.  Strangely enough, the Dash (again, another HTC device) had the same issue: just a bit too quiet for my taste.  I’ve also noticed that the ringer is much quieter when the phone is set face-up on a desk – certainly because the speaker is on the back of the device.  Whereas my Dash could be heard across the house, I often don’t hear my G1 very well.  Both phones had the ringer turned up, of course.

I can’t speak for the quality of my voice for those receiving a phone call from me, of course, but I’ve had no complaints.  Also, I’ve talked with my brother G1-to-G1, and he sounds fine.  No real discernable difference from the Dash, in this case.

I have NOT used the USB-to-headphone adapter, unfortunately, though I do with they’d stuck with a simple headphone jack.  The necessity of the adapter likely means that I’ll never use headphones with my G1.  Just being honest here.  The including stereo headphones appear painful, and I will NOT be using them.

Pairing the G1 phone with my Motorola H375 Bluetooth headset was very straightforward and has (thus far) worked just fine.  As an aside, the H375 has been a great headset!  Well-priced, comfortable, easy-to-use, good quality, and nice to look at!

On the bottom of the G1 is a (now fairly standard) mini-USB port underneath a flexible door.  I could do without the cheap cover – which I might just remove – but I am ever-thankful for mini-USB ports that are frequently featured with newer devices.  The ability to use a single cord to connect/charge my cell phone, Bluetooth headset, and other devices is really great.

Connecting the G1 to my computer was pretty straight-forward as well.  Plug the USB cord into my computer and then the mini-USB connector to my phone.  The phone notifies you that you’re connected, and then you have the option to “Mount” or “Don’t Mount” the phone on your computer.  Essentially, the default behavior when you connect your phone to your computer is to simply charge the phone *only*, which is nice.  To connect to your phone as a storage device, just hit the “Mount” option and it will show up as a connected drive.  You can access any files, photos, or whatever else you might have on the MicroSD card.  The phone memory itself cannot be accessed, I believe.

Strictly from a hardware perspective, the G1 is a good phone.  It’s really quite sturdy, and the weight – while not slight – feels good in the hands.  I would change a few things, if I could, there’s even more that I wouldn’t change.  HTC did a very good job in designing this phone, and I imagine that it will serve me well long into the future.  In “cell phone speak”, that means 12 – 18 months! 🙂


Coming soon…my G1 “software” thoughts!

The “racket” continues…

This past summer I wrote a quick blurb about something that I referred to as the “emissions test” racket.  Essentially, the state vehicle emissions tests are all about making certain that our automobiles aren’t putting out higher-than-acceptable emissions from the tail pipe.  If the levels are too high, then your vehicle fails.  At that point you have to pay to get a tune-up (or some sort of adjustment) until the vehicle passes.  Good times!

Now, I’ve never had a vehicle “fail” the emissions test until this past July when the gas cap on my Saab “failed”, for whatever reason.  You don’t really ever find out why.  I immediately purchased a new ($25) gas cap, trotted back to the testing facility, showed them my receipt, and then received a “pass” on my emissions test.  Did you catch what was missing there?  They never, ever looked at my new gas cap, nor did they test it.

The whole thing is a “racket”, I tell you.  A money-grubbing racket.

Imagine my surprise, then, when my fellow Saab-owning co-worker reports that his gas cap failed at his recent emissions test!  The problem?  Well… his gap cap is brand-new, Saab-branded, and totally legit.  The second problem?  Upon providing his receipt, they gave him a passing grade anyhow – despite that fact that it “fails” their testing.

So…here’s a big “thanks, fellas” to all those folks at the emissions testing facilities who obviously care greatly about our environment…

…and a few bucks in their pockets.

Audio find! Daniel Amos ‘Darn Floor, Big Bite’ Remastered

Was cruising the Zune Marketplace today and found a very interesting new release!  One of my favorite bands, Daniel Amos, has (evidently) remastered and re-released their 1987 album, ‘Darn Floor, Big Bite’.


Other than the fact that it’s been about 20-years since this album was released, I’m not exactly sure why this particular disc was chosen for a remaster and re-release, but I’m glad it was!  In some ways, ‘Darn Floor’ is perhaps one of their more accessible albums, and a good option to draw fans back in again.  Here’s hoping that some of their other great albums (Alarma, Doppelganger, Vox Humana) follow suit! 🙂

Get über fit with the Wü-Fit Balance Board

Looking for the hot-selling Wii Fit Balance Board to slap under the Christmas tree this season?  Look no further!  Here it is.

Actually, you should probably look a bit closer, since this clever Chinese company is looking to dupe a lot of unsuspecting buyers into thinking that their product is the real thing. 

I’ll give them kudos for a well-done logo, though, and “kudos” is all they’re going to get from me.  Besides, I don’t even own a Wii 🙂

Useless article alert!

“The 10 Movies You Shouldn’t Watch Online” could’ve been a useful article, if it gave legitimate specifics as per the article title, but it doesn’t.  Instead it gives commentary like “You’ve Got Mail”: It’s just a little too cutesy to watch this romantic comedy on your computer, don’t you think?

Honestly.  It’s about as useful as this post.

The *amazing* 100 LED flashlight!

So, we had a family Christmas party last night, which is always a good time.  A few years back, however, we migrated to a “drawing someone’s name” method for gift buying, primarily so that the spending could be somewhat contained.  Rather than purchasing small, lame presents for everyone, we purchase nicer gifts for one specific person.  It’s cheaper for everyone, and you actually get some stuff that you want!

Anyhow, one of the items on my list was the “100 LED Flashlight” from  I have a thing about flashlights, and I’m not entirely sure why.  There’s just something about a flashlight that looks like a portable showerhead, but has the brightness rating of a small star!  I had to have it, and thusly it fell into my possession.  Thankfully, my Dad was clever enough to purchase the (required) 4AA batteries, so I was able to fire it up right then and there, much to the amazement of everyone present.  Honestly, it is blindingly bright!

One of the best parts about getting these “straight outta China”-type items has to be the packaging.  You see, although many of the items we purchase here in America are “Made In China”, they are typically still filtered through an American company that handles the design (in some cases), the marketing, the packaging, and so forth.  Heck!  Half the fun is the ‘engrish’ on the packaging for these items!  Case in point, the “100 LED Flashlight”.



I just love that stuff!  What you don’t see is the mention of the “Real Rubble Handle” that they point out on the other side of the box!  (Worth noting: the “rubber” handle smells really, really bad.  Here’s hoping that remedies itself in the very near future!)

Oh, man.  Good stuff!

In all fairness, their ‘engrish’ is a whole lot better than my Chinese, so I’ll give them some credit there.  I just hope that they don’t get too good at their English, or else these products won’t be nearly as much fun! 🙂

Now Playing: December 2008

I’ve been rockin’ out to some new stuff these past few weeks.  For example…

  • The Last Shadow Puppets, “The Age of the Understatement”
    • A very 60s “spy movie” feel that starts with the album art, and continues through the entire album.  “My Mistakes Were Made For You” is a real stand-out track!  Thanks, Andy!!
  • The Posies, “Every Kind Of Light”
    • I’ve been a fan of The Posies since the early 1990s, but this album is honestly some of their best work!  Two tracks also ship with Windows Vista.
  • Darker My Love, “2”
    • Really great alt-rock stuff recommended by a co-worker of mine.  Love it!
  • Starflyer 59, “Dial M”
    • A decent album so far, though I prefer their last effort, “My Island”.

Now…go check ‘em out! 🙂

Windows Vista *does not* equal Office 2007

Say it with me, folks: Windows Vista *does not* equal Office 2007.  Repeat it again (and again).  Everyone got it?  Please pass along the news.  This is important.


Why the rant on this, you ask?  Because the “uninformed” have officially driven me nuts with this.  Yet another co-worker of mine was stating that “he really thought Vista was fine, except that the new Word was hard to get his arms around.”.  It was clear during the conversation that to him Windows Vista and Office 2007 were one-and-the-same.  They are not, folks.  They are not.  You can use Vista with Office 2003, if you like, and you can use Office 2007 with Windows XP.  They are not mutually inclusive.  I promise you.

The bigger issue here, perhaps, is that Microsoft unveiled two major upgrades at the same time, and that might not have been the wisest idea.  When your OS (Windows) and your Productivity Suite (Office) both have 90%+ of the market share, even small changes are noticed by a whole lotta people.  Big changes, such as in the case of the Vista and Office 2007 releases, are felt that much more.  In my opinion, the pill may have gone down easier if the releases had been staggered a bit better.  As it is, many folks upgraded to Vista and Office 2007 at the same time.  The UI changes rocked their world a bit too much, and confusion set in.

Just my $.02 here, and I personally really enjoy both products.  That said, the average consumer can only handle so much change at one time.