Category Archives: Apple

CES 2009 Las Vegas

According to the Consumer Electronics Association, attendance at this year’s CES 2009 was down 10%. Feedback from people visiting the show and manning the booths was that it was down more than that. In previous years you could barely walk down the aisles. This year they were wide open. The following is a quick summary of the week.

Biggest Let Down: MacWorld. In previous years, ironically, the buzz at CES was MacWorld and new product announcements. With Steve Jobs a no show and barely any new announcements, it was almost a non-event.

Biggest Surprise: Palm Pre phone. Most people had written Palm off as a phone supplier since the introduction of the iPod. When Palm announced the Pre, their stock went up 35% in one day. Some comments in the blogosphere are that this could actually be competitor to the iPhone. We will have to wait and see.

Everyone has a Netbook. If you make hardware, you probably launched a Netbook at CES. The most talked about was probably the Sony Vaio P. But there were many others. There were new introductions from the market leader, ASUS and Dell, but even Viewsonic, a monitor maker, launched a Netbook.

Most over used phrase Normal People. This phrase refers to all the non-techies out there who have a tough time getting their photos on their TV, or configuring a home network, or connecting their media to all of the above. I must have heard this definition at almost every demo. It is a great focus because we all know how hard it is to do all the above, but they have been trying to get there for a long time.

Home Theatre. In previous years it was who had the biggest flat panel. Given the economic times, it seemed appropriate that this was not the focus of HDTV launches this year. It was more about the thinnest, or the technology such as LCD screens moving to 120 and 240 kHz. Also there was more focus on connecting HDTVs to the internet. The other development in this space is Sound Bars. These are replacing the 5 speaker surround sound Home Theatre In a Box (HTIB) with one bar that can be mounted below the TV. It still gives you surround sound, but without the hassle of running cables around the room.

Connected Media. All the network vendors launched storage and media streaming devices for normal people. Cisco (Linksys), Netgear, Seagate and others all have some kind of devise for home network storage and media sharing. The device that caught my eye and follows the KISS principle was PogoPlug. You simply take a hard drive, put it in the enclosure, plug it into an outlet then plug it into your router. It configures itself and makes the hard drive available to anyone on the network. With the price of hard drivers now below $100 for 1 terabyte of storage this is a great way to increase network storage.

Economy. Lastly, everyone was talking about the economy. Forecasts were showing declines in the single digits for 2009. This doesn’t really fit with the fact that Circuit City will be liquidating 500+ stores and Best Buy had a 70% decline in earnings for the last quarter.

Is ASUS the Next Apple?

ASUS Eee PCOver the past couple of years there has been a lot of talk about UMPC or Ultra Mobile PC’s. There were lots of prototypes from companies like Intel, but everything was in the future. Then a company called ASUS, or ASUSTek, released their Eee PC in 2007. This was a very small notebook that make the bold step of having Linux as the operating system. At first no one was quite sure what to thinks about it, but over the last year, the Eee PC has taken off. Probably the biggest reason is the retail price is in the $400 range.

The other bold steps made by ASUS was that the Eee PC had no hard disk. You can get one in 4GB, 8GB and now 16GB flash memory. This means no moving parts in the notebook, which leads to more reliability. Lastly, the screen is 7 inches.

In terms of functionality you have all the basics. Wifi, internet browsing, web cam and audio. Accoding to their web site there are over 40 applications pre-installed.

Now why do I ask if ASUS is the next Apple? Over the years I have attended my share of tech. events and became aware of the number of Apple Mac Books vs. other laptops being used by the audience. Recently when I attended the Northern Voice event in Vancouver, another group of notebooks was popping up. This was the Eee PC. It was funny to watch as people pulled out their Eee PC, slowly small crowds began to form. The owners were checking their email, writing blog postings and recording video of speakers. The biggest draw, was the small footprint.

The popularity of these notebooks was further confirmed by third party accessory companies who are now coming out with products for the Eee PC. A-Data has released Eee PC branded flash memory and USB memory stick.

Due to the success of the Eee PC, there are competitors who have their notebooks being released over the next couple of months. Acer, HP and MSI as well as many other lesser known manufacturers are all fighting for their piece of the pie. ASUS is not laying down and letting these others take market share. They are releasing a 9 inch screen version, will now go up to 32 GB of RAM and…will come installed with Microsoft Windows XP.

The market for ultra portables will heat up further in June when Intel releases their Atom processor. This small footprint, high performance processor will be perfect for the ultra portables. ASUS has decided to push out their 9 inch screen in May rather than wait for the Atom processor. Others are a mixed bag. Whether or not this will be a mis-step for ASUS, only time will tell. Right now it is their market share to grow or not.

Listening to your iPod at home

This post is a follow up to my Listening to your iPod in your car post.

Once you load up you iPod there really isn’t any reason to have your CD player. There really isn’t any reason to move your CD’s from stereo to stereo in your house. You can have your cable1.jpgwhole collection play where you are. You can spend as little as $10 for a cable, or as much a $1000 for a high end system complete with a built in iPod dock. Starting with the least expensive. The iPod has a 3.5mm headphone jack. You can get cables that has a 3.5mm jack at one end and splits into 2 RCA jacks at the other. This is the easiest way to connect your iPod to your home stereo. This will run you about $10-$15dock.jpg

 One step up from this is the iPod Dock. The advantage of this is that while is connects with virtually the same cable, it also allows for a power cable to be attached so you will not run down the battery. It also make it very easy to simply drop the iPod into the dock and listen to the tunes! This will cost about $40

  Both the solutions above will require you do connect to a speaker system. This could be a jbl.jpgboom box or a full surround sound system. The next step up is one of devices that I use. It is the JBL Onstage II. The sound that comes out of this small unit is amazing. The unit also comes with a radio frequency remote. An RF remote allows you to be anywhere within about 20 ft. of the system and control the iPod. This also makes a great set for travelling. No more CD’s to carry along with you. At the same time, there is an iPod jack in the back that allows you to connect to your computer to sychronize with iTunes. This costs about $150

homedoc_dx_hero_lrg.jpg The JBL unit allows you to control the iPod, it is difficult to see the Playlist or the Artist name etc. Until DLO came out with Homedock Deluxe. This system will require a speaker system to hear the sound. But the best part is that it allows you to see the iPod screen on your TV! It also comes with a remote, but the difference is now, you can scroll through the menus, choose your playlists, or the artists, because you can see it all on your TV. This will run you about $150. This system will require a speaker system to hear the sound.Â

 From there, it is a bit of a leap to the next systems. There sonance_iport_2.jpgare a lot of stereo manufacturers coming out with either iPod docks built in, or iPod cable connectors. One of the neatest devices I have seen is for the home automation specialist. It provides a dock in your wall that would connect to your home stereo system. Each dock is $200

Listening to your iPod in your Car

I have been asked by a few people to share on how to listen to their iPod through their car stereo system. There are a few methods of doing this. The most common is connecting your iPod to an FM transmitter and listening to your iPod via the radio. There are 2 products that I am familiar with that do this. The iTrip by Griffin Technology was one of the first. They have since come out with several versions, including one that supports the Nano. The iTrip sells for about $30 US.

The unit that I use is the Sonnet PodFreq. I was told it had a stronger transmitter. I like 2 things about this unit. First, the signal strenght is excellent. I have never had to search for multiple channels to get this to work. Even if you get into an area, where there is a lot of signal cross over, you can extend the antenna and get a stronger connection. The second reason that I chose this unit was because of their partership with Proclip USA, an auto specific bracket company. I ordered the bracket for my vehicle and now I have a permanent place to sit my iPod when I am in the car. It also comes with a charger for the iPod while it is in the car. They have a unit for the Nano. The PodFreq sells for about $100 US. Both the above units are FM transmitters. The next way of connecting your iPod is to hard wire it to your car stereo. There are 2 ways of doing this. Some car stereos today have an 3.5 mm stereo jack for aux. input. You can simply buy a cable with the 3.5 mm jack at both ends and plug one end into your iPod and the other into the jack on your stereo. The sound quality is a little better, and you don’t have to worry about FM signal reception.

The other way to hard wire your sytem into the car stereo is to buy and adapter that plugs into the CD changer plug in the back of the car stereo and connects to the iPod via the iPod dock. For sound quality, this is by far the best solution. However, you get what you pay for as this is also close to $200. The most available product I have seen is the iPod2Car from Peripheral Electronics. This system is available from BestBuy or Futureshop. Note, this installation is not for the general population.

Could this beat the iPod?

Samsung has realeased their new YP-Z5 MP3 player. Several reviews have stated “this could be the one” to take a bite out of the iPod market share. The unit comes in 1, 2 or 4-GB versions similar to the Nano. But it has a bigger screen of 1.82 inches. It has 35 hours of battery life which is about 2X the Nano. It supports the Microsoft DRM so that means you have numerous music sites to download from.

Logitech Wireless, Bluetooth iPod headphones

I recently had a chance to try out the Logitech wireless, bluetooth, iPod headphones. They are the perfect match for the iPod. They have a small tranceiver that plugs into the top of your iPod. (note 5th generation and Video iPods will not work if they have the output plug at the bottom). The reception works up to about 30 feet. On the headphones you can control volume, song track forward or back, play and pause…and all without any wires to get in your way. Our daughter gave them a try and now I may never see them again. She wandered all over the house and kept yelling out…”I can still hear the song!”

Apple Boot Camp

About a month ago PCMag journalist John C. Dvorak said that Apple would replace their OS with Windows. It created quite a commotion in the blogsphere. When reporters asked Apple store employees if Macs would ever run Windows. The usual reply was when pigs can fly and when Hell freezes over.

Well as of a few days ago we have airborne swine and it’s pretty frosty in Hades. Apple released Boot Camp. This software allows Intel based Macs to run Windows XP. Lot’s of speculation about why Apple would do this. The fact that Apples stock went up almost 10% over the proceeding 2 days would indicate that this is a good thing for Apple.

Now John wasn’t completely right as they are not throwing away OS X. But the fact that you can now run Windows on Macs raises some interesting questions. For example, say someone really liked the Mac user interface, but just had to run some Windows application for work. Now they don’t have to use a PC any longer. There is also talk about the soon to be released Intel Conrow dual core chips that will allow true dual processing. Think of it like using the alt-tab to switch between OS X and Windows XP on a Mac. Each having their own dedicated processor. A company called Parallels allows this to happen right now. There is even word that Microsoft is going to revamp their virtual Windows software to take advantage of the new x86 based Intel processors.

It’s going to be a very interesting year for Apple.

Which came first, the iPod or the PodCast

Being the Gadget person that I am, I own an iPod. I was late to the party though as I only got one about 4 months ago. I have to tell you, this thing is obsessive. I have the 4th generation 40GB model. When you first get the iPod it is great to carry your complete music library with you. You can never get bored.

Then it starts…first I had to listen to it at work. So I bought the JBL Sound Stage. Of course, who wants to plug and unplug speakers every day. So I bought a JBL unit for home. Let’s not forget the car! So I bought a Sonnet Podfreq. Then I heard about the new Shure ear buds. The sound is amazing.

Somewhere out there is a 12 step program for iPod accessories.

But seriously, the iPod is a cultural and marketing phenomena. Recently I discovered Podcasts. These are basically radio like broadcasts, that you can download and listen to on your iPod. They have everything from Technology to business to how to make bar drinks. Whatever your interest, someone out there has a Podcast on it.