Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Odds and Ends

Latest happenings -

On January 19, I took, and passed, Microsoft's MB2-633 certification exam, focused on Installing and Implementing Microsoft CRM v.4.


Last Tuesday I was fortunate to attend a seminar covering Enterprise Storage Performance Assesment. The speakers were very interesting, especially Richard Lary, CTO of TuteLary, LLC. All attendees were given 8Gb iPod Nanos!

I've spent the last few years unintentionally collecting an assortment of cheap mp3 players. I have a 30Gb Dell DJ, gen 2. It has ample capacity, but the firmware is lousy, and Dell killed the product after about 2 years, so it's unlikely any new firmware will ever see the light of day unless the Rockbox people make something happen.

I have a Coby 512Mb player that I bought a few years ago because it was $9, and I could use it as a USB memory stick.

Five or six years ago I bought a Rio One for about $60. It has 32Mb built-in, and also a 128Mb compact flash card slipped in to attain the max capacity of 160Mb. The firmware on that player wasn't so great either, and by today's standards the player is physically enormous, about the size of a pack of cigarettes.

A few months ago listed a couple of different refurbed Sansa MP3 players for about $13 - a 2Gb Sansa Express, and a 1Gb Sansa Clip. I bought one of each, and I have to admit they are very nice players, without a doubt the best of every player I had up until last week. The Express can be expanded to a max of 4Gb using a MicroSD card.

Finally, I can use my T-Mobile Dash as a media player, with a maximum of about 2Gb of storage.

Then last week I was given the iPod Nano. First, let me get the negatives out of the way:
  • 8Gb Capacity - I've got several hundred CDs, as well as mp3 files I've downloaded, both legitimately and otherwise. I need at least 40Gb to store ALL of my music.
  • Proprietary iPod connector. I don't believe there is any technical reason Apple couldn't have used an industry standard mini-USB connector for the iPod's connector. But instead the iPods use a non-standard connector that requires special iPod-only cables and accessories. If I lose or break the included cable, I've got no way to transfer data to/from the Nano, and also no way to charge the Nano, until buying a likely-overpriced replacement.
  • REQUIRES iTunes. I spent nearly 2 full days trying to make my Nano work properly in a Linux world. I tried various methods, including using OpenSuse 11.1 and Amarok, straight file copies (drag and drop), and even installing VirtualBox and Windows XP SP2 with the intention of installing iTunes there. I finally gave up and swapped my Windows XP hard drive back into my laptop, in order to use the iTunes installed there. Upon attaching the iPod I was informed that I would need to upgrade the installed iTunes in order to use the iPod. I THEN learned that I couldn't install the new iTunes because I was out of hard drive space. The aggravations continued through the third day until I finally managed to free up enough space that I could not only install iTunes, but also successfully sync with the iPod. AAgghhh!!!
  • The iPod Nano is undeniably, unbelievably COOL! I don't mean cool in the sense that it enhances your image or popularity. I mean it is a neat device. It's fun to mess around with. It appeals to my appreciation of fine engineering, electronic gadgetry, etc... The device is great.
  • Cover Flow - I've seen this on TV ads, but didn't really appreciate it until playing around with it in person.
  • Capacity - yes, this is listed in negatives also. 8Gb is not enough for me. BUT, 8Gb is 4 times greater than my 2Gb Sansa, and aside from my unreliable Dell DJ, the largest capacity player I've got.
  • Games - yep - the iPod can play games, and includes 3 impressive games.
  • Photos - the player can display photos and videos. It can tell when the player is turned on its side, and reorients the screen appropriately.
  • Shake to skip - if I want to skip a song, I can shake the player to jump ahead to the next song. I haven't tried this yet, but it sounds pretty neat.
At the ripe old age of 40, I've begun hitting the gym. Since the last week of November I've been going to the West Orange JCC fitness center regularly. Working out isn't as boring as I expected it to be, and I feel pretty good. Sometimes it's a downer when I see other folks in far better shape than I am. One time, while waiting for a turn at the bench press, I noticed the behemoth I was waiting on was using much larger weights than I use. When he finished, I compared what he was lifting to what I lift. I ordinarily bench press 55lbs. This man(?) was lifting 270lbs. Yikes!


SiriusXM -

In late 2003 I subscribed to Sirius satellite radio, and immediately loved it. I evangelized for the service to anybody within earshot. I bought receivers for my car, my wife's car, and my house. I gave a receiver to my Dad, my father-in-law, and my brother. I stopped listening to terrestrial radio entirely, and rarely listened to my CDs.

This continued until this past November, when Sirius and XM began to merge their channels and staff. Since then I've been hugely disappointed with the service and the company. My favorite station was eliminated, and I'm not thrilled with the replacement, but am still trying to give it a chance. My second-favorite channel is still around, but seems blander than it was previously.

I used to be able to email the on-air staff, and they responded. Over the last few weeks, every email I've sent has been answered (sometimes automatically) by 'Customer Care', with no mention that the email was or wasn't delivered to the actual staffer I tried to contact. Given that I've not received any replies from the on-air staff, I think the messages are not being delivered to them.

I recently received an email from Sirius declaring that there will now be additional charges to listen to the internet stream, and the monthly rate is also increasing. I can 'lock in' my current rate, at least temporarily, if and only if I buy a long-term contract now.

Through a roundabout way, I managed to finally reach a handful of the DJs via email outside of the proper channels. The DJs are all very friendly and receptive, still. It's Corporate that is being so awful. I'm torn as to whether or not I want to bag it and cancel the service.


Laptop troubles -

I don't know when this started, but my laptop is no longer capable of charging batteries. I've got an Inspiron 8500; I think it's about 5 years old. For the most part it runs just fine. BUT, Dell designed the unit so that if you connect an AC Adapter other than the official Dell adapter, the laptop runs in a low-performance capacity (i.e., slower), and also does not charge the battery. My laptop now runs in that condition, even with the proper AC Adapter. The BIOS reports 'Unknown AC Adapter'.

I've tried 3 different batteries, and 4 different AC Adapters (all Dells). No luck.

I suspect there is a bad connection between the power jack and the motherboard, but I am nowhere near skilled enough with a soldering iron to repair this. It's a bummer.

Over the weekend I watched the Super Bowl with my father-in-law and Nate, while Jess and Maren stayed at home. The game was, of course, very exciting. Nate, unfortunately, wanted very much for the Cardinals to win, and became pretty frustrated through the course of the game. Oh well. He liked the Bridgestone commercial with the Potato Head couple.


More later.

No comments: