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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Apple's Black Friday Sale Items Revealed

OK, I'll admit upfront, we don't know how much you could save on Apple products Friday, but we do have a good idea of what will be on sale. Go ahead and take a closer look at that Apple promo graphic ahead. Having worked at Apple, and also having observed these sales pics before, the answers are right there:

Items Expected To Be Discounted:
all iPods (except perhaps the shuffle)
iPhone Bluetooth Headset
Apple iPod Accessories
MobileMe (while not pictured, it's perpetually $30 off)

What You Should You Not Expect To Get a Deal On?
MacPro towers
MacBook Pro (chance of a discount)
Third-party products, with a few exceptions
The new Apple monitor

So while not written in stone, there's your quick guide to whether you need to brave the Apple store Friday morning. Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and don't forget we're back Monday with TDL Live at 9PM ET.

Also, if you plan on shopping Apple's sale from home, please consider using this link to help support TDL!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Apple Price Matching Not News

Considering we're the only major Apple blog created by former Apple retail employees, I figured we should set the record straight on reports of price matching at the Apple Retail stores.

1. Price Matching is Not New
Managers have always had some flexibility with judgement calls on price matches. Truth be told, you were far more likely to get a price match four or five years ago, when there was a slower pace to the stores, and CPUs made up a larger portion of the business. That said, generally price matching only applied to the system/Apple products. I remember a gentleman wanted to purchase $700 in iPod accessories once upon a time, and was shocked he couldn't get a discount. Let's face it, even though he had a high item count, $700 is small potatoes in Apple retail. Which brings me to:

2. Price Matching is Not The Same as Cutting a Deal
You should not expect now to get any more of a deal for being a frequent customer than ever before. Don't confuse someone else selling an item for less, with wishing Apple would sell you something for less.

3. Price Matching isn't the Same As Rebate Matching
Macmall, and other online businesses do a good job of offering Apple bundles: Perhaps a free printer, mouse, software, and case, all AFTER rebates. Don't expect Apple to match the after-rebate price.

4. Apple Can't Break The Law
I wouldn't expect Apple to do anything to the price to get it to equal a sales tax-free purchase. It might seem trivial, but I recall many times when people threatened to go to a tax-free store (in tax free Delaware) rather than buy from us due to tax. Apple is not the tax man, and they won't be cutting into their profits to even out the tax burden of buying in-store.

So while it's great to get a better deal, don't read too much into this retail "change." It's a bit of a non-story as price matching as always existed to some extent.

Hey Apple, The Netbook Train is Leaving the Station

On a trip to the local Costco earlier today, I saw quite a clamor. No, it wasn't just the checkout lines stretching back half the store (didn't anyone get the recession memo?) It was people of all ages checking out the HP 1000 Netbook. After waiting a bit to play with it, I've got to say, it's a solid computer - for what it is. I think 75% of the people playing with it may have thought they were using a full-blown laptop miniaturized, and for many of them, it may have been just that. If you intend to simply surf the internet, check email, and write some word documents, (which is still all many people need to do) then you may never notice the underpowered Atom processor.

Personally, it struck me as the ultimate blogging tool. The ability to throw something under 3 pounds into a bag and go, is impressive. If it had 3G wireless connectivity built-in, I may have even pulled the trigger. Are you listening, Apple? This is a product, actually a whole category of products, that are starting to gain mainstream traction, and there isn't an Apple-branded option to be found. The HP Netbook had a solid, but not MacBook Pro solid, feel. The fit and finish, again, not up to what you would expect from Apple, was still significant.

The days of selling an $1100 laptop as an entry level computer are over. Having 80% of the functionality in something at 40% of the cost, and 50% of the weight will appeal to many.

Apple's reluctance/delay in making a splash in this market category could be the biggest under-reported story to the company's future.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Attention Lost Fans: iTunes is Offering You a Time Machine

These are crazy times we're living in. You can now get someone a gift that doesn't even exist yet for the holidays. No doubt hoping to capitalize on the holiday season, iTunes is offering a Season Pass to Season Five of Lost, now, a full two months before the show begins to air. No, you won't get to see the episodes before everyone else. But you do get a free song ("You Found Me" by The Fray. Clever!). Who knows, by January, maybe you can purchase the inevitable spin-off!

Decibel for iPhone App Review

Sure games are great, but it's the other apps for the iPhone that show the range of the device. Decibel makes clever use of the iPhone microphone to transform it into a portable sound meter, with a cool retro look to boot. The major limitation isn't in the software, but rather the peak level (about 100dB) of the microphone. That cap limits the usefulness of Decibel, but for casually monitoring sounds in everyday situations, it works great:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Root Access Visits The Video Game Expo (VGExpo)

Saturday Jamie and I checked out the VGExpo, or Video Game Expo in Philadelphia. Try as we might, we just couldn't find the Mac gaming section. We did get to see people dressed in some cool (and some not so cool) costumes, and we met some super-young Call of Duty players. Here's our take on the event, the state of gaming, etc.:

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

A Quick Shout-Out

I just wanted to take a minute to thank the Marketing Club at Susquehanna Universityfor inviting me to speak at their meeting last Thursday night. It's always nice to visit my alma mater, and to share (and learn) the secrets of being successful with an online venture. I'm always happy to talk about TDL.

Friday, November 21, 2008

iPhone Software Update 2.2 Is Out

In case we're the first Apple blog stop for you today (and why not?), just a quick note that Apple has released iPhone software update 2.2. Most of the notable features involve improvements to the Maps application, including walking and pubic transit directions. Other changes include the ability to turn auto-correction on or off, and improved voicemail quality, although I don't notice any difference , although this portion of the update would probably apply to new voicemails only. Duh!

Apple has set up a page here with all the new info.

WooHoo for the iPhone and iPod Touch

It's Friday, so let's wrap up the week with a quick review of Woohoo. Love hearing something that kinda sorta sounds like the Pillbury Doughboy, along with a graphic that's clearly the Pillsbury Doughboy with the trademarks covered up? Well then, Woohoo is for you:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Flick Sports Fishing iPhone and iPod Touch Review

It was only a matter of time before fishing made its way to the iPhone/iPod Touch. After all, the accelerometer and vibration/feedback from the phone lend themselves to simulating the casting and hooking of traditional fishing. Flick Sports Fishing uses both well, but it still feels like something's missing.

Players of Flick Fishing are limited by the game as to the direction and distance of their casts. However, the environments presented are each realistic, and sound great. Beyond the restrictions in casting, the game also tends to make hooking a fish too easy, as far more emphasis is placed on your ability to reel the fish in without breaking the line. Most of these issues could be addressed in a future update, so stay tuned:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Today Microsoft officially launched their New XBox Experience or NXE for short. This FREE update (are you paying attention Apple?) includes not only a reinvented GUI and a host of new community and game features, but also the much hyped addition of Netflix streaming. We have yet to try it out on our box, but from what we've seen so far it looks to be full of WIN. So for $300 you can now have a multimedia appliance that will play all the music, photos and videos stored on your PC or Mac as well as stream thousands of Netflix titles instantly, oh and it plays a few games too. We can't help but wonder if Apple TV will survive another year.

iTunes Offers $10 TV Seasons

Through iTunes, you can now get select (very select) TV seasons for less than $10. And you could even question how many full seasons are offered. Highlights include Tina Fey's Favorite Five 30 Rock Episodes, Fawlty Towers, Seasons 1 and 2 You can also get Matt & Trey's Top 10 South Park Episodes. Unfortunately, the pickings are slim, but hopefully we'll start to see more TV at this more reasonable price point soon. Click here for the rest of the $10 and under offerings.

Trace for iPhone and iPod Touch Review

The App Store games have started an arms war of sorts between developers looking to get the best graphics out of the new platform. Trace takes a different route. Similar in concept to Linerider online, Trace uses sparse graphics to add to the game, along with some fun sound, and addicting, but frustrating challenges. The object of the game is to move your player from a platform on one part of the screen to a goal in another part, avoiding obstacles along the way. You do this, by drawing lines on the screen with your finger. Some levels are quite easy, while others, I am completely convinced, are impossible:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

iTunes Content Viewers Hit By DRM on VGA Displays

A report at Ars Technica details the story of a man trying to watch purchased content on a projector connected to a new MacBook via a DisplayPort to VGA adapter. Rather than seeing the movie, he was greeted by an error message stating the content could not be played back because the display was not authorized to play protected content.

This is simply inexcusable. It doesn't matter if it's Apple's doing, or the studio's. Back when Apple announced the DisplayPort connector, you may recall, we pointed out on TDL Live that the DisplayPort standard included HDCP (copyright protection) support.

At the time, no one knew how/if this would be implemented with iTunes content. Now it looks like we know.

I squarely blame Apple for this. Why? Because Apple is the only company big enough to stand up to the studios. There are plenty of ways, legal and illegal, to watch/acquire this content online without this hassle. Putting these types of restrictions on legally obtained content is beyond stupid, and can only serve to send people further into the dark torrent corners to look for content. The iTunes store was built on the belief that if you made paid content adequately easy to obtain, it would be a more attractive option than stealing. The worst part is, DVDs still represent the quickest, easiest way for people to rip movies and share them with others. People are not sitting around, grabbing the feed from their computer on its way to the TV to make illegal copies.

It is an unfair burden on the consumer, and a disappointment that Apple has not only played along, but aided this burden by incoporating and activating the DisplayPort HDCP. Ridiculous.

Math Tricks for iPhone and iPod Touch

There are a few things that are always handy to break the ice with new people. The value of a few magic tricks can't be overstated. It doesn't hurt to have a few tricks that make you look smart too. Enter Math Tricks. Math Tricks gives you the ability to amaze and astound others with some easy to remember math quirks. Presented in a fun, straightforward chalkboard theme Math Tricks is worth checking out:

TDL Live This week: (11/17-11/24)

We understand not everyone can watch TDL Live Monday nights at 9PM ET. So from time to time, we like to get you caught up on what you missed:

Also, straight from our secret vault, here are the show notes and links that made the show possible:

Apple to launch ‘aggressive’ Black Friday sale?
As Black Friday sales begin to leak on the Web, experts at Barclays Capital say they expect Apple to counter rival PC vendors’ promotions with a one-day sale more aggressive than usual, offering deep discounts on a number of Mac models.

Low cost notebooks top the list of the most heavily-discounted electronics items poised to dominate this year’s sales, with Dell planning to offer a $299 Linux model via its website


USB 3.0 full specs promise 10X speed boost

The USB 3.0 Promoter Group today revealed the full specifications for its namesake interface standard and so greenlit development of computer platforms and devices using the technology. The new peripheral format will now officially peak at 5Gbps, or about ten times faster than the 2.0 protocol. In actual tests, 25GB of data transfers in nearly 14 minutes over USB 2.0 but just 70 seconds over USB 3.0, significantly outpacing FireWire 800 as well as many hard drives.

FireWire isn't remaining static and should be upgraded to the S3200 standard ahead of USB 3.0 to provide about 3.2Gbps of bandwidth and similar power managementfeatures.


LEGO Indiana Jones for Mac slated for November 28th
The Mac edition ofLEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures should be released on November 28th, conversion companyFeral Interactive has announced. The game is a port of a title already available for Windows and console systems,


Eric Wilfrid is the new MacBU GM at Microsoft

Eric is a 14-year veteran of Microsoft's Mac team, having most recently worked as Product Unit Manager of the MacBU Silicon Valley team, based in Mountain View, CA. In that role I managed a team of engineers in developing Office for Mac and other MacBU products.

Apple quietly discontinues the 23" Cinema Display
The discontinued status means that Apple is out of stock of the remaining new 23" Cinema Displays, and those waiting patiently to get their hands on the 24" LED Cinema Display have good reason to believe it should be coming any day now.


Apple set to release Mac OS X 10.5.6 soon
The release of Mac OS X 10.5.6 could be just around the corner. The update is slated to deliver wide-ranging fixes to Apple's operating system," Stephen Withers reports for iTWire.

"Developer notes accompanying various seed versions of Mac OS X 10.5.6 have been leaked by Portuguese-language web site hmbt.org. Those purportedly accompanying build 9G38 say there are no known issues with the update," Withers reports. "While that does not guarantee that 10.5.6 will arrive in the next few days, it is a sign that the project is not far from completion unless some significant problems are found in the latest changes."

iPhone: Has Google lost its voice?
John Markoff’s story in the New York Timesabout Google (GOOG) bringing voice activation to the iPhone, letting you search for everything from pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge to the length of a giant squid just by talking into your phone.
Google was under the impression that the application would be live on the App Store on Friday (obviously, since they pushed all significant press attention to it). Sometime Friday they found out Apple wouldn’t be pushing it, despite the fact that Google submitted it for review earlier in the week and got a thumbs up for Friday. One source says they’ve had little direct contact with Apple during the review, instead getting their updates via the standard iPhone developer tool, which has said “in review” for the last few days.


Obama faces BlackBerry and Apple laptop ban


His campaign embraced Web 2.0 technologies. He’s promised to appoint a ‘chief technical officer’ for the USA and will broadcast his weekly Address to the Nation via YouTube.

But from the date of his inauguration on January 20th 2008, if not beforehand, President-elect Barrack Obama will have to part with his beloved BlackBerry smartphone and maybe Apple laptop.

Concerns over email security and the need for all presidential correspondence to be entered into an official record, and eventually be open to public perusal, are expected to trump Obama’s own enthusiasm for technology.

It’s a tough break for the Geek-in-Chief, who according to The Telegraph’s list of ‘50 things you might not know about Barack Obama’ admits his ‘worst habit is constantly checking his BlackBerry’. ).


Apple flirting with another record quarter for Mac sales


fter spending 25 hours counting sales of iPhones and Macs at Apple's US-based retail chain, investment bank Piper Jaffray said it believes the company this quarter could meet or beat last quarter's record 2.6 million Mac sales total while again selling more than 6 million iPhones.

The firm's checks reveal the Cupertino-based company is selling an average of 28 iPhone 3Gs per day through each of its retail stores, down from 95 units per day in July, immediately following the handset's launch.

While those results would suggest a stark decline in quarterly sales, analyst Gene Munster said expanded international availability, the upcoming holiday shopping season, and the addition of Best Buy as an authorized iPhone reseller in US should combined to offset any slowdown in sales at the company's stores.


Flash and AIR coming to ARM, but not necessarily iPhone


At the Adobe 2008 MAX conference today, Adobe announced a partnership to bring Flash 10 and AIR to ARM processors that power, among many other devices, Apple's iPhones. While this marks some progress on answering complaints about poor Flash performance on the device, we don't think it's a good idea to start holding your breath for Flash (or especially AIR) on the iPhone. Yet, anyway.

As you probably remember, Flash hasn't had much luck in its quest for the iTunes App Store. While Adobe has practically begged Apple to allow one of its most profitable products onto the best-selling phone in the US, Steve Jobs ain't havin' it, publicly stating that Flash is too slow on the iPhone and Flash Lite is "not capable of being used with the web.

If you look at Adobe's news, it's really just an announcement of a forthcoming announcement, as Flash 10 and AIR won't arrive until the second half of 2009.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Apple and Google On A Collision Course

It wasn't that long ago that Google and Apple looked like a dream team. We even considered a fantasy merger of the two back in July. How quickly times have changed.

Now it's iPhone vs. Android, Chrome vs. Safari, and perhaps, Apple mobile search vs. Google search. There are some interesting parallels between this situation and the early days of the Microsoft/Apple rivalry. Microsoft was a key software provider for Apple, while also ramping up its own competing OS for IBM PCs and compatibles.

So where will this end? Can Google and Apple work together against Microsoft as a common enemy, or are we seeing the rivalry of the next decade? Will the next generation of Apple users look back on Google vs. Apple in the same way many of us remember Microsoft vs. Apple? It's not entirely unbelievable to see a path in which Microsoft's influence (continues to) declines to a point of an also-ran. Look at the market gains of Firefox, and to a lesser extent, Safari. Look at the move to online applications, and the increasing marginalization of the desktop OS. Yes, these trends could affect Apple as well, but Apple has a booming hardware business Microsoft can't rely on.

With the recent delay/rejection of Apple's voice search app for the iPhone, we might be seeing this new clash of titans coming far sooner than we thought.

What do you think? Is the ultimate showdown of "Do No Evil," and "Think Different" right around the corner?

Wings For the iPhone and iPod Touch Review

Imagine soaring over acres and acres of pristine mountains all on your iPhone or iPod Touch. That's the concept behind Wings for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Unfortunately, it doesn't necessarily live up to the promise. The soaring motion is fine, the graphics, while nice for a mobile device, don't live up to the stills that precede each flight. Wings works better as a proof of concept than a pleasing visual experience:

Friday, November 14, 2008

L.E.D. Football for the iPhone and iPod Touch Review

You have to be from a certain era in video games to really appreciate this one. LED Football is a faithful reproduction of the original mid-70's handheld Mattel Classic Football game. I didn't get to enjoy that game when it was released, but I did get to play it for many years after my older brother's toys were handed down to me.

The creators have done an incredible job of recreating the look, sound, and feel of the game. However, there's one weakness that was out of their hands... The iPhone/iPod itself is just a little too small to comfortably play the game for a long period of time. Maybe that crazy Marware Game Grip isn't so crazy anymore.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What's Wrong With This Picture

As I was drifting off to sleep last night, I figured I would get up to date on the non-tech world with some CNN video. But before I could see the dramatic footage of a child who almost tumbled down the cliff, I had to watch a Brink's Security pre-roll. I managed to get a screen capture before it was over. Do you see what's wrong with the picture?

It looks like Brinks ad agency, or the person at CNN responsible for encoding, decided to give Flip4Mac a try. Literally. Using the trial version of software for the most popular cable news website might be dicey, but when the software adds a watermark... Oops...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Star Trigon for iPod Game Review

While it may seem that the kids with the shiny new iPhones and iPod Touch(es) are having all the fun, let's not forget about the good old click wheel iPod. Macgirl has a quick video review of Star Trigon for the iPod. The short summary of the already short review: Fun, but repetitive:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

November Apple Fantasy Merger of the Month: Netflix

(Each month we weigh the pros and cons of a particular potential merger for Apple. Please note the "fantasy" part of this speculation: Many times the mergers mentioned couldn't or wouldn't be realistically possible. But put all that aside and enjoy this month's edition of Fantasy Merger.)

Earlier this month Netflix brought its movie streaming service to the Mac, with the help of Microsoft's Silverlight Technology. This service allows mac(and pc)users to instantly stream thousands of movies, making Netflix more of a direct competitor to Apple's iTunes than in the past. But that alone doesn't make Netflix the subject of this month's fantasy merger. With Netflix, Apple would gain an instant subscriber base. Rather than trying to build a base on top of their current rental and purchase options, Apple would have a sandbox in which to experiment with the subscriber model.

Apple could also vastly increase it's movie library overnight. Movie studios have made thousands of movies available via Netflix's streaming service that are not available on iTunes (at least not for rental).

Of course, it would also mean the quick demise of the physical dvd portion of the Netflix business. Apple would move quickly to get Netflix users to switch to digital distribution, while selling off the customer base who couldn't or didn't want to switch, to someone like Blockbuster.

What do you think? Should Apple pickup Netflix, for what amounts to a few coins in their cash-laden sofa?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Zen Pinball Inferno For The iPhone Review

Are you a pinball wizard? (sorry) Well if you are, and you happen to own an iPhone, you can now enjoy pinball on the go. Zen Pinball brings pinball (minus "tilt" hijinks, somewhat surprisingly) to the iPhone with a realistic playing field, and few nitpicky issues:

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Knots for the iPhone Review

Imagine taking all the fun of Twister, shrink it to the size of the iPhone screen, remove the awkward physical proximity to others, and add some on-screen ads, and you have Knots.

Knots consists of twisting your fingers to place each finger on a colored circle on the screen, then Knots adds another circle, or removes one of the existing circles, forcing you to lift a finger (it makes more sense when you see it in the video below). In theory it should be addictive and give you a lot of gameplay. However, it's tough, even in the early stages to react quickly enough. If you like a challenge, this could be the game for you. One person's challenge is someone else's frustration however:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

ESPN Arcade: Cameraman for the iPhone review

If you've ever played the MegaTouch game at the local watering hole, trying to find the differences between two pictures, you'll be right at home with ESPN Arcade: Cameraman.

Cameraman includes over 70 images, and you must race against a timer to find the five differences between two different versions of the same photo. You can then compare your score to top scores online. The game play is straightforward, and surprisingly addictive, given the small size of each image. The short constantly looping music will drive you batty though. Turn it off, and enjoy:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Will Election Day Ever Be Online?

As we lineup across the U.S. to cast our votes (you are voting, aren't you?) the archaic nature of it all starts to sink in. In an age in which we can order pizza online, or pay taxes, we have to (for the most part) stand in line to wait to cast our ballots through a variety of methods. Why not cut out the middle man? Could we see voting from home anytime soon? There's several issues to consider: there would be no way to know whether the person was casting their vote under pressure, or with a watchful eye in the room. But given the perceived or real fraud/hack possibilities with today's methods, would internet voting really be any worse?
There are a few hundred people who will actually be voting via the internet this year. But this method utilizes "hardened" PCs on military bases, and isn't a practical way for millions to cast their votes. (As an aside, here's an interesting article on how astronauts in orbit will vote this year.)

Maybe this isn't a problem that requires technology. We could simply go to a mail-in ballot as Oregon has done. In theory, the same issues of intimidation are possible, but overall, Oregonians seem happy with the painless, line-free voting method. Technology, as much as we love it here at TDL, isn't always the answer.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Brenthaven Fusion MB III MacBook Pro Bag Review

The old saying "too much of a good thing" can often be applied to the world of laptop bags. There's an all-out war (okay, overly dramatic there) to create a bag with the most pockets and zippers and sleeves in which to forget where you placed things. Less really can be more in a laptop bag. So it's refreshing to see the Brenthaven Fusion MB III for the MacBook Pro has kept pocket inflation in check.

Granted the Brenthaven site says this bag has "pockets galore" most of those pockets are on a single organizational flap for items like an iPod/iPhone, pens, business cards, etc. In addition to a sensible and useful amount of pockets, the Fusion features an extra-padded bottom to protect the laptop, and the bag allows for fast access to your computer. Check present costs here:
Brenthaven Fusion MB III

At $79.95, it's a solid, no-nonsense bag for everyday use:

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