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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

TDL Live This week: (9/29-10/6)

In case you missed it last night, here's our weekly roundup of Apple news and rumors:

The Real Reason For Bandwidth Caps?

Each time a new technology comes along, the old guard tries to stay entrenched, and keep the new technology from taking over. Almost always, the new, better technology usually wins out in some form. Look at the resistance to FM radio by AM broadcasters, and the resistance to cable by over the air broadcasters, etc. Well, we might be at the edge of another change, and Apple could be right in the middle of this one.

Comcast will begin implementing a 250GB monthly data cap. Ostensibly this cap is intended to curb rampant file sharing, and ensure network capacity for everyone. Maybe though, this is really intended to curb the rise of devices like Apple TV, and other competing boxes.

Cable companies are first and foremost TV providers. They do a healthy business, especially in OnDemand content. Devices like the Apple TV threaten to take away that cash cow, and to make the cable company little more than a utility provider.

At today's data rates, 250GB seems like enough, even for the most intensive Apple TV user. Look a few years down the road, though. Imagine an Apple TV that's streaming HD television and live events all day long. Now imagine two or three boxes in the house, along with increased wifi use from devices like the iPhone.

What will happen when technology reaches this cap not just for the rampant content pirate, but for the average TV viewer?
Is internet congestion a reality that will require caps, or are caps being used to suppress the expansion of services that cut into the bottom line of service providers?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Cannon Challenger Game for iPhone Review

The Discovery Channel has gotten into the iPhone gaming business. The result might not be quite what you would expect though. Here's a look at Cannon Challenger:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Apple and Microsoft Workers: Not That Different Politically

Microsoft and Apple. Diametrically opposed forces, right? Each camp has haters and believers. You know, come to think of it, it's not all that different from the presidential campaign; for many people, if you're not on their side, then clearly you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.

Interestingly enough though, when it comes to individual campaigns donations, they aren't all that far apart. (And, there's an even bigger surprise) According to data gathered from fundrace, opensecrets.org, and the fec, roughly 68% of individual campaign contributions from Microsoft employees went to Democratic candidates, with 32% going to Republican candidates. Over at Apple, 83% went to Democrats, and 17% to Republicans. Depending on where you stand, those may or may not be surprising numbers.

Here's the interesting fact though: Both Microsoft and Apple make the list of the top 20 corporations with the highest number of individual contributions to... Ron Paul.

Microsoft comes in at #5, just below google, and Apple is at #19, just above Intel. Besides Microsoft, Apple, and Google, the list is essentially a who's who of defense contractors, and government/military agencies.

Now the disclaimers: bear in mind these are self-identified employees of these companies. As a result, compiling data on Apple in particular, is difficult because some people list the employer as Apple, others as Apple, Inc., Apple Computer, etc. Exploring these numbers creates a rabbit hole from which you could literally spend a month. Getting an exact count is tricky, as are the options in parsing the data: total amount of money vs. total # of contributors, etc split by candidate, pre- convention/post-convention. We will leave that to the more savvy number runners among us.

Still, its interesting to see that despite how different their philosophies are in design and programming, most politically active employees at both companies could sit down and talk about politics in agreement.

Song Summoner for iPod Click Wheel Review

With the continued focus (including by us) on the iPhone/iPod Touch app store, let's not forget the games being released for the click wheel iPods as well. Here's a look at Song Summoner. If you're into the kinds of role playing games in which you select from among multiple characters to do battle with each other. (And battle consisting of choosing the character, then having the game tell you what happened) then Song Summoner is for you. Otherwise, you might want to pass.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

aBalls Lite iPhone Game Review

aBalls, is a strategy game in which you are trying to remove like-colored balls from the playing field by getting them in a row to clear them from the board. Part Bejeweled, part Zuma (well...) Here's a look:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

TDL Live This week: (9/22-9/29)

From the new, new Microsoft ads, to iTunes movies in Germany, we've got you covered in our weekly look at Apple news and rumors: TDL Live

Toy Bot Diaries Game Review

Toy Bot Diaries brings some innovative controls to the iPhone and iPod Touch gaming scene, but is that enough to make it a worthwhile game?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Review of the Chumby

Oh Chumby... We boxed you up early today, and already you're missed... You were like a My Buddy for the technorati. You sat there quietly offering all the info that was asked of you... We shed an e-tear with your departure.

If you're not familiar with The Chumby, well you're about to be.. While it's a squishy wishy piece of technology, we decided to make the case for it as a productivity tool. Check it out:

Archiving To Hard Drive? Be Very Careful

There were a few exciting projects around here at R Cubed Networks before The Digital Lifestyle. Sadly, their time has passed, and they only exist on a few hard drives living in the closet. However, final cut pro guru Larry Jordan has sounded the warning bells about archiving to hard drive.

In his September newsletter, Jordan said he has talked to hard drive engineers, indicating the lifespan of data sitting on an unplugged drive may be much shorter than we thought:

According to what I've been told, the life-span of a magnetic signal on a hard disk is between a year and a year and a half. The issue is complex, as you'll see, but this is a MUCH shorter shelf-life than I was expecting.

The way to keep the files on your hard disks safe is to connect the hard drive to your computer every six months or so and, ideally, copy all the files from one drive to another. Failing that, use a program like Micromat's TechTool Pro, or ProSoft's Drive Genius, to do a complete scan of your hard drive. Doing so will replenish any magnetic signals that are starting to fade.

If you'll excuse us, we have some data moving to do...

Chopper iPhone Game Review

First, a disclosure: the video review for Chopper below is a few weeks old. And while I still stand by everything said in the review, I just can't stop playing the game. Consider yourself warned!

Remote App Tip: Remotely Control Radio Streams

While the Remote App for the iPhone and iPod is a great way to listen to and control your iTunes around the house, there is one omission to point out. You cannot remotely control, or change to streaming stations, under the "Radio" tab in iTunes: There's no radio option in the remote app.

Fear not; there's a workaround. Simply create a playlist, and drag and drop your favorite internet radio stations into that playlist. Now you can bring up that playlist on the Remote App and switch from one stream to another.

Here's a video for the visual learners:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The great HD scam

I'm in the market for a new backup hard drive. It's been years since I've purchased a hard drive and prices has plummeted significantly while storage capacity is on the rise. The thought of a 1TB drive was merely a pipedream when I last purchased.

I went over to my local Best Buy and picked up a 750GB drive (for the purpose of this post the brand is not important - we'll assume its a major well known brand). It's a plug and play USB 2.o drive. I'm not here to review the drive but to call out the giant HD scam that companies are pulling on society.

If you were to buy a 750GB and the drive was blank when you started how many usable GB would you expect to get? This seems like a simple and stupid question . . . you would expect to get 750GB, it says it right on the box. Unfortunately you'll only get a certain percentage of that capacity. For example I got roughly 698 GB. It all has to do with math but the bottom line is that the consumer is getting less than advertised, approximately 70.3M / GB less.

Manufacturers think we can't think in actual numbers so they advertise in base 10 numbers. I would feel less cheated if the box said 700GB on it. It would be more accurate to the actual space I'm getting and should I put some crazy file system on it I may even get more out of it (then I'd feel like a super genius . . . MORE THAN ADVERTISED!!).

My message here is really Buyer Be Ware . . . your 750GB drive doesn't get you 750GB

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Apple Offers Risk-Free Speaker Trials

As we wade through all of the good, bad, and ugly products we get to review here, it becomes clear that buying iPod accessories can be daunting. And perhaps the most difficult thing to buy sight (or sound) unseen is speakers. Let's face it - and we've said it in our own reviews - you really have to hear them to see if they're right for you.

Well, Apple gives you the chance to try speakers "risk-free," even if you're buying online. According to this page, Apple will pay for return shipping and give a full refund if you try speakers, and find they're not for you.

(Thanks to JimH for the heads up.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Should've Hired Newman

Well that didn't take long. According to a post over at Valleywag, Microsoft is pulling the plug on those awful Seinfeld/Gates commercials. You'd have thought old, rich and out of touch white dudes, pitching a company everyone hates was a can't miss.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Coolest Phone OS Ever. (Assuming You've Never Seen An iPhone)

Below behold the wonder of Google's Android operating system in action. It's as if the google engineers have been working on this in a cave for three years, and then are amazed with what they've created: Move your finger to switch screens! There's an accelerometer! Google Maps! You can check your mail! Sorry guys and gals, we've seen all this before.

If You Own Apple Stock, Look Away

(First the usual disclaimer that we are not licensed brokers, and our commentary on Apple stock is provided for entertainment only.)

Now then, Run for the Hills! Apple is starting the trading day 134.76. It hasn't been that low, since, since, has it ever been that low? Oh wait, it was in the 130's back in March...

So after the toughest day for the market overall in seven years, for Apple to not even fall to its one-year low... I think AAPL investors might be getting off easy. And if you're not an investor, that looks like a pretty attractive price to become one.

Of course, the trading day is young, and by the end of the day, we may see some ugly numbers, not seen in quite some time.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pop Quiz: When's the Best Time to Remove a Feature?

When's the best time to remove a feature? Answer: When no one notices. Below just about every radar, Apple removed the "help" button from the update/change to the iMac keyboard last year. (Hey, did we mention it was hardly noticed) If you have the new keyboard, and you're curious as to what you're missing, well, essentially in OS X, pressing the help button turns your icon into a question mark, then clicking on objects on screen makes - no, not helpful tips appear - a buzz sound.

Since the help button didn't do anything, we can't say we, or anyone else is sad to see it go...

The iPhone is the Best Gaming Platform. Period. Potentially.

Yes, it's sure to ruffle some feathers, but I'm ready to say it: The iPhone/iPod Touch is the best gaming platform, period. Potentially...

Let's get that potentially out of the way first. Looking at the current offerings in the app store, one could be forgiven for thinking the iPhone / iPod Touch is nothing more than a novelty gaming system. After all, what platform can be taken seriously with such engaging titles as "See How Long You can Keep Your Finger On The Dot."

But don't be fooled. This new platform is the best for three key reasons:

1. Accessibility. A great gaming platform means nothing if no one plays it. With the iPhone, you have a device people will have with them at nearly all times. Whenever there's time to kill, they can whip out the iPhone and start playing. No one's lugging their xBox or PS3 around. And even PSP owners don't have the device with them all the time.

2. Fusion of console and computer. The iPhones brings together the coding simplicity of a console, by having only the iPhone and iPod Touch to code for. A longtime gripe of PC gaming has been the need for different video cards, input devices, etc to completely enjoy the game. Now programmers have the same baseline hardware specs as if they were coding for a console. Of course, the iPhone isn't a console though. Which means its robust OS can be used to open new features, and innovative ways to intergrate, music, contacts, GPS, etc into gaming. It's the best of both worlds.

3. Marketing muscle. Ask any fans of the Atari Jaguar, Sega Dreamcast, or even, ironically, the Apple Pippin, and they'll tell you you've got to have marketing muscle behind a gaming system for it to catch on. Obviously with Apple's interest in music/movie/TV show sales, they'll be promoting the iPhone and iPod touch far more than any other handheld gaming system.

It's ironic, but whether they intend to or not, Apple, once regarded as loathing gaming, may just end up on top the gaming wars.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Review: Netgear SPH200W Wi Fi Phone with Skype

For a few weeks now I've been using the Skype with the Netgear SPH200W Wi Fi phone and my experience has been mixed. The phone retails for $150 and my purchase from Amazon was flawless (as usual).

My goal was to get a land line replacement (please note the phone does not support 911 dialing so it's not for emergency use) for use when my iPhone doesn't get reception (which is frequent in my home). I'm a previous Vonage customer so my quality expectation was the same as Vonage. Unfortunately quality is closer to poor cell phone reception. Seeing that I already have poor cell phone reception, this doesn't really add much value. In case your worndering I'm on Comcast high speed internet with an Airport Extreme Basestation. I also used the phone on Verizon FiOs with the same result.

The phone itself is pretty cool. Form factor is nice, menus are for the most part easy to navigate, and joining multiple wireless networks was easy. That's one of the best features of this system. The phone doesn't require a computer, only a wi fi network and a Skype account so if you travel you can take this phone with you, hop on a hot spot and make calls like you were at home.

With a Skype subscription you can make unlimited calls (fair use defines this as 10,000 minutes per month . . . if you're taking more than that you need a hobby) for $2.95 per month and for about another $5.00 per month you can get a phone number to associate with the account so everyone can give you a call. From a monthly charge perspective $10 / month is very competitive. The subscription to Skype also comes with voice mail.

I found it odd that the backlight on the phone stays dimmed when the phone is in the cradle. I would have thought the backlight would timeout to save on power (the phone is energy star compliant) and not look odd. When the phone is out of the charging base the backlight does time out.

All in all it's a cool concept, but quality of call is the show stopper. If call quality is important to you, look elsewhere.

Friday, September 12, 2008

iPhone 2.1 Software, and a Quick Word of Warning

iPhone 2.1 software is now officially available, but just a quick tip: don't try to install it just before heading to work: although 2.1 promises fasters syncs and backups right around the corner, the initially backup to load the software is proving to be slow. Dog slow. Like into hour two slow.

So don't start it, if you plan on going anywhere with your phone in the next few hour(s).

Very Clever, Microsoft

Yes, it was just last week we were with the other tech sites, laughing at the new Microsoft ads with Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld. Ad #2 has come out (well, technically, it's 4 1/2 minutes on youtube) and we have to say, Microsoft, you're little scheme is working perfectly...

Imagine Microsoft had just put out a ho-hum ad to start the campaign. No one would've mentioned it. Instead, they start with a cryptic ad, leaving us all baffled at what, exactly was the point. The result? Plenty of buzz, albeit most of it was bad about the ad.

Now, with number two, again blogs (including this one) are commenting on the nuances and randomness of the ads. While the ads themselves seem to be based on the basic premise of Bill Gates doing things you wouldn't expect him to do - isn't that zany! - there really isn't anything here to sell computers. Yet. Breaking news: Microsoft has deep pockets, and surely there will be many, many ads in this campaign, but they are working in there initial objective: getting people to talk about the ads. They may very well be the Bartles & Jaymes ads of this decade. Of course, not many people are drinking Bartles & Jaymes these days. Hmm..

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Koi Pond for iPhone Review

The calming, tranquil water of a koi pond. Could anything be further removed from the beeps, buzzes, and blips of modern life? Well, fortunately for us, we can have the best of both worlds with Koi Pond for the iPhone and iPod Touch. While it's not perfect (although perfection in a digital pond could certainly be subjective) it is a soothing - at least briefly -way to escape your own digital lifestyle. And if nothing else, you can look at the settings screen, and try to decipher the drawings. You'll see what we mean:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

AT&T Launches My Communities: Shows Value of iPhone

What if I told you owning an iPhone could save you $60 a year? What's that? All we ever hear is how expensive the iphone is! Well compared to plain vanilla cell phones, you might be saving a bundle depending on what you want a phone to do.

AT&T is launching MyCommunities, a service allowing you to check in on your myspace and facebook accounts from, wait for it, your phone! And the price of this integration is a mere $2.99 a month.

And AT&T also offers phone number backup for $1.99 This service allows you to backup your contacts on AT&T servers. Again, you can already do this on your iPhone, through iTunes/iCal.

So there you go... If you're trying to justify an iPhone purchase, just tell yourself, or whoever controls the finances in your family, that you'll.. SAVE MONEY!

Brain Tuner Lite for iPhone Review

Looking to brush up on basic math skills, and want to do it on the cheap? Brain Tuner gives you basic math training in a simple, (perhaps too simple for repeat play) game.

Check it out:

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Apple Music Special Event: The Good, The Bad, The Missing

Let's break out the Sept. 9 Apple Music into three parts: The Good, The Bad, and The Missing:

The Good:

Steve Jobs Appeared: While people are sure to continue to speculate on his health, the bottomline is, he was there, and he is actively involved with the company.

iPod Nano: A decent update, staying a step ahead of the competition, at least in terms of "bang for the buck." New shape means new cases, which means even more revenue for Apple, and accessory manufacturers. As a former Apple retail worker though, I feel bad for those who will be dealing with customers looking for specific colors. It sounds harmless enough, but look for another post shortly on why it can be hell.

iPod Touch: A curved shape is nice, and a price drop is swell, but the speaker is probably the biggest feature to propel the touch forward, and sells a lot more apps.

HD TV shows: Great for those who want HD on their computer/Apple TV

NBC Shows Return: More content is always better.

The Bad:
$79 Earphones: Let's hope Apple learned its lesson with the HiFi speaker. If these earphones don't stand up to the other $79 options, then don't put them out there.

The New Nano Look: When the 3rd gen "fatty" Nano came out, some people hated it, some loved it, and some were won over. It looks like the new Zune-esque screen will garner equal love and disdain.

Audio DRM Still Kicking: More the labels fault than Apple at this point, but let's let the music go free. Are there any statistics to indicate the iTunes Plus tracks have been pirated in any great numbers?

The Missing:

Music Subscription Service: Two major advertisers during MTV's VMA's were Rhapsody and Verizon, both peddling subscription music plans. No iPod/iTunes ads at all. Apple needs to get in on subscriptions before it's too late.

Apple TV: No news on company's biggest "hobby." No sales figures either.

CPU Updates: While not expected at a music event, the fact remains several Macs are due for updates on the surface, and under the hood.

New iPods Announced and We Fall Asleep

Ok maybe that headline is a bit harsh. Certainly today's event was better than the infamous HiFi and leather case debacle of a few years back, but we can't help but wonder why these annual iPod announcements can't be handled via a press release and update to the website. If we take off our cynical hat for a second there are a few things we did learn today.

1) Steve is apparently still alive (and very thin). His first keynote slide jokingly referenced this.

2) Clearly the "fatty" Nano of last year was a mistake. Can an all touch iPod lineup be that far off?

3) Apple has so much power in the industry they can even force NBC's hand.

4) The iPod Classic is on its last leg. 160GB model discontinued.

5) Apple ear buds are now more over priced than ever. $79....ouch

6) iPod Touch owners continue to get screwed with paid software updates.

7) Apple has Nintendo and Sony in their crosshairs. Steve announces "It's the best portable device for playing games." Need for Speed looks hot!

All in all we'll grade this event a B- and focus our attention on early 2009 for some real surprises.

Live video analysis of today's announcements

Just a quick reminder that after the dust settles on whatever Apple may release today, we'll have live video analysis and video walkthroughs of any new software/hardware at 5PM ET /2PM PT.

Moto Chaser for the iPhone and iPod Touch

Freeverse Software has changed the title of their iTunes App Store launch title from Moto Racer to Moto Chaser, and they've made some key changes along the way. First, a $4 drop in price. Second, the layout of the controls is better, and finally the steering is now tolerable.

Here's a look:

Monday, September 8, 2008

First Look Hands-On With Esquire E-Ink Cover

If you head to your favorite magazine/book store today, you might notice something out of the ordinary: Did that cover just change?

The Esquire 75th Anniversary special edition magazine with e-ink embedded in the cover has just hit newsstands. At $5.99, hackers are sure to scoop these up.

A couple of notes for those looking to buy the magazine: At my neighborhood Barnes and Noble, I looked, and looked, and could only find last month's issue. Sulking, I was walking around the rest of the store, when I heard one employee say to the other, "Hey, is it a hologram?" "Yeah, I think so," the co-worker replied. I rushed over just in time to see the one co-worker disappear through a door, clutching a magazine.

I went back to the magazine section, and found the special edition in its own promotional stand. So keep a keen eye, shoppers!

It really is fascinating. It's hard to balance thinking "oh it's just flashing lights," with the fact that this could very well be a preview of the future of publishing. Give it a bit of a brain, and a wifi connection, and the possibilities are endless.

Audi A4 Challenge iPhone Game Review

You would think a major car manufacturer taking advantage of the iPhone as a promotional gaming platform would have the potential to create something fun and innovative. The Audi A4 Challenge for iPhone and iPod Touch is neither.

As a matter of fact, the poor quality of gameplay could actually reflect poorly on the cars. The handling of the tiny Audi on your screen is horrible. Maybe it needs traction control.

Take a look:

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Google Chrome First Impressions

If you have a PC you're probably using FireFox because Internet Explorer is garbage.  Google asks if there is room for another browser . . . enter Chrome.  The name is questionable, but the product is great.  Chrome is based on both the Webkit platform (same as Safari) and the Gecko platform (same as FireFox).  I'm not entirely sure what they've taken from each of those browsers, but the speed is astonishing.  It loads pages noticeably faster than the aforementioned browsers.

I think that's really the best way to benchmark a browser . . . does it load pages noticeably faster.  I don't really care if a browser loads a page faster if it's not noticeable, and Chrome is noticeable when loading almost all pages and for this reason it wins the default browser award on my day job PC (I know, I'm not proud of it, but they didn't really give me a choice).

Google Chrome is a tab based browser with a one search and URL box for all things web approach.  The browser supports multiple tabs and a crash proof architecture.  A tab might crash, but Chrome isolates that problem closes the tab, but your browsing session isn't totally destroyed.

For those of you who look at source code, I think you'll find the view source option quite well done.

When will Chrome come to the Mac, I don't know but I did sign up to be notified of it's release. If it's as fast as the PC version I can't wait for it's introduction.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Microsoft, That's All You Got?

Remember all the talk about the Microsoft ads intended to combat the "Mac vs PC" ads? Well, the first one has shown up. And, well, here:

Thursday, September 4, 2008

At least the commercial is clever.


The Phone? Not so much.

Pardon our dust...

You may have noticed a lack of updates on the blog the last few days, and now, what's this!? An integrated design? Well, we're experiencing some serious backend blog issues, but hopefully they'll be cleared up soon. Those of you who subscribe to our RSS feed may not see new posts until we switch back from this temporary arrangement.

Hang in there!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Update to Mobile Me Still NOT Fixed

I posted a little while ago about Mobile Me still not being fixed and I provide you an update here:

Mobile Me is Still not fixed.

Mobile Me made it's debut on July 9th, 2008. Here we are, approaching the 2 month threshold and I am still getting email messages hours after they were sent. Granted, this is an improvement over the days delayed emails I was experiencing (see previous post), but it's far from a reliable service.

The phone also seems to be inconsistent with it's "push" features. Sometimes mail is delivered instantly, but other times the iPhone seems to forget about my MobileMe account leaving it up to me to manually fetch new messages.

With just about everything linked to your email address, it's concerning to think that messages won't be delivered. Until Apple hammers out this service (and I think they will . . . it might take giving away a free year to current customers) I've transferred over important email notifications to my gmail service.

Perhaps it's perception, but gmail seems to have a greater uptime and reliability than the new MobileMe service. To further research I went out looking for the gmail and MobileMe SLA's (Service Level Agreements). Google makes it clear that for a free service they're not going to lock into any SLA. For their pay service at $50 / user / year you get a 99.9% up time guarantee. Apple's $99 / year service comes with no SLA, so Apple really isn't obligated to a particular uptime. That being said I think it's great that Apple posts it's service issues for all to see, Google could take some notes here.

I'm certain that Apple will clean up the service, but for now you might want to use a different email address . . . it has me feeling more confident even if I'm not truly getting better uptime.

TDL Live This week: (9/1-9/8)

No, we weren't going to let a holiday stop us from bringing you the latest Apple news and rumors. If you missed the live show last night, here's your chance to get caught up:

Monday, September 1, 2008

Marble Mash Lite for iPhone Video Review

The challenge of the old wooden Labyrinth game meets the world of accelerometers in Marble Mash Lite for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

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