Archive for the 'Rants' Category

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How to Lose my Business

Compusa (no link provided, you know who they are) has lost my business. Forever. Want to lose my business too? Learn from them.

At Christmas time, my wife asked me for a list of gift ideas, and hinted the Compusa’s web site was offering free shipping. I sent her links to three items on the Compusa website: A firewire harddrive, a firewire DVD burner (from LaCie), and a Griffith Powermate. She got a little carried away and bought all three.

Before I ever opened the DVD burner, I learned that Apple’s iDVD only works with Apple SuperDrives. Since I wanted to use iDVD, I decided to return the LaCie. I’ll get by burning Video CD’s for a while, and by a new Mac sometime in the next year (G5. Mmmmm.) This is good news for Compusa, since they are the closest Apple retailer. By far. The nearest Apple store is an hour away. Also, I live in a tax-free state, and the Apple store is in the next state over… so I’d pay tax there. I bought my 15″ Powerbook from Compusa less than a year ago.

However, Compusa has a 14 day return policy. As in, 14 days from the date on your receipt. Even on web orders, which means you effectively have less than 14 days. Even though the item was a gift. Even though it’s never been opened.

Congratulations, Compusa. The $3000+ I will probably spend in the next year on a G5 Desktop will not be spent with you. Good work.

Power to the People

I hate powerbricks. It used to be that when you bought an electronics device that used an external power supply, it came with a giant block that plugged directly into the outlet. These were not power-strip friendly, and gave way to the powerbrick. The same giant block, only now moved halfway up the cord between the outlet and the device. The are clumsy and unwieldy. There has got to be a better way.

For example, when I visted my parents recently, I took along a few toys… Powerbook, DV Camcorder, Firewire HD. After shooting some video of my son playing with one of his gifts, I decided to whip up a little short with iMovie. Of the three devices, only the Firewire HD requires the powerbrick at all times; the Powerbook and the camcorder have batteries. Of course, these are normally in varying states of discharge, so I usually plugin in everything when using them together. This means three lumpy bundles of brick+wires in my computer bag, and three bricks taking up tablespace or getting under feet. It’s alot of bother.

Around the house it’s worse. Cellphone cradle. Scanner. Wireless Router. Sherri’s Palm Pilot. Everything has bricks. And whatever doesn’t usually has the old oversized plug. For every new gadget, get a new brick. And they’re almost never compatible.

Why have bricks at all? Well, the power in your wall outlet is around 115V AC. About right for lightbulbs and hairdryers, not so great for integrated circuits. For reasons I won’t go into, AC power is much better for transmission over the power lines that bring power to your home. Computers and gadgets of all sorts are designed for DC power… usually between 4.5 and 12V worth. The powerbricks convert the power from your wall outlet into what your device wants. This tends to generate heat, and a bit of space for the transformer. By separating this functionality into the brick, you remove weight and size from the device, and reduce heat dissipation issues. And if the brick dies, it’s much easier to replace.

Of course, everyone seems to use a slightly different voltage, or a different plug configuration, etc. What I’d like to see is a new spec… the Universal Power Bus. For example, any device that can accept a standard voltage and draw no more than a standard wattage could use UPB. It would feature standardized connector, for attaching a UPB-compliant Powerbrick. But here’s the good part… since everything is standard, you could replace the brick. For example, a PC could have a few UPB ports built in to take advantage of the PC’s power supply. Or you could buy a UPB Power Strip… a device the size of a couple of paperbacks that could sit under your desk or on a shelf and supply connections for 5 or 6 UPB devices. Airports and hotel rooms could offer UPB recepticles, allowing any compatible device to be powered or recharged with any UBP cord.

Now, I’m no electronics expert. I’m sure I’ve glossed over or missed some important details. I’m sure device manufacturers have reasons for differing power requirements for simliar devices. But I’m also betting many of things things could be solved. Here’s hoping someone will try. Like the rest of my site, this idea is Some Rights Reserved – released under Creative Commons Licence. Go on, build it!

Rantlets

Random rantage, assorted annoyances, miscellaneous mumblings.

  • Updates to Mail.app in Panther include some new sound effects. There is a new ‘mail sent’ sound, like a swoosh or airplane taking off; there’s also a ‘no new mail’ sound (played only if you asked for mail check manually) that’s a charming mix of fingers on a blackboard and the shower scene from Psycho. In Mail’s preferences dialog, you can change the new mail sound (just as you could in Jaguar), but you can’t change any of the other sounds. You can only turn ‘other sounds’ on or off. That’s just lazy and sloppy.
  • If you’re going to bother inserting ads in a webpage, use a permalink. Ads on Macintouch are tasteful and subtle (one line of text, in a colored box, inline in the articles), but when I saw one today for something I was interested in, the link took me to the advertiser’s home page, not to the product mentioned in the ad. I searched and found the product is still caried and in stock (just out of curiosity as to why the link failed), but they lost a potential sale.
  • Firebird 0.7.1 has been bugging me lately. Granted, it’s beta, but this is just one of those things I keep noticing. I use the status bar, so I can hover a link and see where it goes before deciding to click. I also tend to maximize my Firebird window. At this point, if I click a link from another app (like NetNewsWire) which opens a new window, it’s top-left corner is tiled over and down from my existing window. Since the existing window was maximized, the new window is the same size; but since the new window is tiled down, the status bar is now off the bottome of the screen.
  • Speaking of status bars, Mail.app doesn’t have one. It claims to, but this is the info bar between the mail list and the preview pane. I need a real status bar, at the bottom of the window, so I can hover links and see where they go. Or show me this info as a tooltip. Don’t make me click blind.
  • Football coverage on CBS is just plain painful. Greg Gumble has got to be the worst commentator I have ever heard. Thank goodness the Eagles games are usually covered on Fox. Go Birds.

Those Who Live by the Five Button Mouse…

or, I’ve Buttered My Bread and Now I Have to Lay in it.

I did not intend for my second post to be a rant. I won’t let that stop me.

Although I work primarily on a Mac in my spare time, my work machine is a Windows box. I also several at home, with three currently in service. In both locations I use a Microsoft 5-button optical mouse. I use the comfortable beige one, not that awful grey one with all the ergonomics of a rock. Just as with the scroll wheel before it, the five button has become something I am keenly aware of missing when it’s not present. I don’t even use all five… it’s the thumb button that makes this mouse special to me. It is wired by default to Internet Explorer’s Back button. I can’t express how much I love not having to drag my mouse to the toolbar every time I want to back up. Sheer Genius, as I have extolled to many.

And so it was a cruel twist indeed today, when my beloved thumb button stabbed me in the back. I was entering a post for this blog into a webpage (via wikieditish. I had been at this for a good 10 minutes, and was nearly done. It was then, for reasons I can not quite recall, I casually tried to nudge my mouse away from my keyboard an inch or so. And (you saw this coming) hit the thumb button. Back, Browser!

Oops. Goodbye post. I did try (in vain) to use the Forward button from the menu bar to return, but the form was cleared, the work lost.

Why is it that those we love the most hurt us the most?