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Mac in the sciences; The mini and iPod to help Apple’s marketshare?

Two news from Macworld on how the Mac is being used in science, particularly in bioinformatics and chemistry.

A Perfect X: The rise of Macs in life sciences

Chemists welcome Apple at California trade show

In another article (“Apple desktop market share on the rise; will the Mac mini, iPod help?“), Macworld surmises whether the Mac mini and iPod line will help Apple in getting a bigger piece of the pie. It may be the case in North America and maybe in Europe but it’s a different picture here in the Philippines. The iPod may have become more popular but I doubt people will be interested in making the switch once they find out how much the Mac mini will cost. Indeed, the Mac mini is Apple’s most affordable desktop PC but the price being offered in the Philippines is too high that it won’t be too enticing.

The basic Mac mini is supposed to cost 499USD or 27,000PHP. However, units to be sold here will be bundled with the AppleCare Protection Plan which jacks the price up to 38,000PHP or about 700USD. That’s $200 more.

Some would argue that the extra $200 ($150 for the APP and $50 for the reseller’s profit) is a good price to pay for piece of mind for three years. There’s no problem with regards to the APP or the small profit margin for the reseller. The problem lies in the fact consumers in the Philippines have no choice in the matter. They do not have the option of not getting the Mac mini without the APP.

The $200 difference may not be such a big deal for those living in some parts of the world since, as I have said, it does get you three years of peace of mind. But the problem lies in the fact that people here can get a complete PC running either Windows or Linux for just under 370USD. Now, why would anyone buy a computer without a keyboard, display, and mouse for twice the amount?

No matter how much Mac fans here in the Philippines blow their trumpets for Apple and the Mac OS the price to become a Mac consumer here is just too high.

Blame it on Apple Singapore. In a reply to an email I sent them, MSI Digiland said Apple Singapore dictates on how Mac desktops and portabes are to be sold here in Philippines since they are the regional office for Southeast Asia. It is Apple Singapore, MSI Digiland said, that forcibly bundles APP in all Apple computers and they can’t do anything about it.

If MSI Digiland is serious in its statement that the Mac mini will pose a strong competition in the PC market then they better do something about the pricing.

Some Mac fans, feeling that they are being scalped, have opted to buy their portables in the grey market; buying from a nearby Asian neighbor is considerably cheaper even with the APP and shipping cost included in the total bill. Since APP for portables are honored internationally there are no worries about warranty issues. It is a different matter when it comes to desktops. Though the cost of huge savings are enticing some Mac users still think about the the chances of the hardware breaking down and the warranty is not cover locally. Still, some brave souls do grab a Mac from the grey, feeling a little risk is part of the excitement of owning a Mac.

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Boston Herald’s take on the Mac mini

Boston Herald‘s Tom Rose talks about the Mac mini; its strengths and shortcomings. He also makes a few suggestions for those who are thinking of getting the Mac mini.

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Miscellaneous

Apple’s Give and Take

Troubleshooting Your iPod

Two-way Street: Moving Music Off the iPod

Enlightenment Through Eavessharing

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Of iPods and rivals

<a name="”> I got four stories to share today. The first three are about the iPod line of MP3 players and the last is about the other MP3 players out there that will try to wrest away from Apple the title King of MP3 Players.

Looks good. Sounds even better
Bill Machrone of PC Magazine has written an article that quantifies the audio performance of several MP3 players. These are

iPod Shuffle
Zen Micro
Dell DJ 20GB
15GB iPod (3rd Generation)
iPod Mini

The article has terms that only an audiophile can understand. Terms like “pink noise” and “unloaded square wave” are way over my head though it would be fun to learn about these things.

From what I’ve gathered from what Bill Machrone says in this article is that he is pretty much impressed with how the iPod shuffle peforms. He seems to say that it comparable if not better than some MP3 players he tested.

The title of the article is Quantifying Digital Audio Player Performance and is a companion to his story, “Shuffle’s Got a Secret” in PC Magazine. I’m trying to lok for the link to that article and will post it if I can find it.

Not for the faint-hearted
I posted a blog about somebody taking apart his iPod shuffle to see what’s inside. It was a pretty gruesome way of opening the shuffle. It involved pliers and prying off the navigation wheel which turned out to be unnecessary.

A new guide for dissecting the iPod shuffle just came out. This time it’s more clean and surgeon-like. The instruments used were: a knife and a ballpen. The X-acto knife was used to remove the USB plug from the main body and in prying off the on-off switch. No navigation wheel was avulsed in any of the pictures. The ballpoint pen was used to poke into the headphone jack to slide out the innards of the shuffle.

What’s so important about learning how to dissect the iPod shuffle? It’s for the eventuality that one day your shuffle’s battery might die on you and your warranty has ran out. You can replace the battery yourself by following the guide in dissecting the iPod shuffle.

The juice on juice
Apple makes wonderful products, in my opinion. My first Apple purchase was a second hand 12 inch 800MHz iBook. At that time it was the most affordable 12 inch laptop or portable that I could find. It had fun using that iBook but sold it to upgrade. I now own four Apple products now: a 12 inch 1GHz Powerbook; a first-generation iPod mini; an iPod shuffle and; an Airport Express. The products are well made and well designed. The only real problem I encountered in using these products was the battery of the second hand Powerbook that I bought. It was dismal. It wouldn’t last more than 2 hours in watching DVD or surfing. Since the Powerbook had Applecare Protection Plan i had the battery replaced. I sent an email to PowerMac in San juan, Metro Manila and a certain Ms. Mymy Tan graciously helped me. She was very helpful and I sent the battery to San Juan so they can forward it to Singapore. Within a week of sending the battery I recieved a new one. I can now use my Powerbook for up to 5 hours on battery power alone and all it cost me was 240 pesos (less than $5).

This is the one of the common if not the most common complaint of some people with regards to Apple products: the battery. An article by Lance Ulanoff talks about the batteries and how it affected users and Apple in general.

The Truth About iPod Batteries talked about the frustration of some iPod users regarding their batteries especially the first and second generation of iPods. It also talked about how Apple pushed for their warranty package so that if they encoutered any problems with the battery Apple can have it replaced. Actually, replacing the unit is closer to the truth. Apple doesn’t really give the owner a new battery in his iPod but instead sends back a refurbished or repaired iPod. This didn’t sit in too well with some users. They expected Apple to just replace their battery and send their old unit back. Some say it was deceitful for Apple to send its consumers refurbished iPods. But Apple said it is standard practice in the industry to send people refurbished or repaired products when it comes to units having problems that are returned to them. Apple isn’t the only one doing this.

One of the most memorable moments in the iPod’s or even Apple’s history was when an angry iPod consumer was denied a battery replacement. He complained that his iPod wouldn’t hold a charge for more than an hour and brought it to an Apple store but was told Apple doesn’t have a battery replacement program. The consumer took matter into his own hands. This consumer was a half of the duo Neistat Brothers. The brothers are artists, film makers to be more precise. They did a short movie entitled “iPod’s Dirty Secret“, in which one of the brother’s spray painted a sign that said, “Apple’s unreplaceable iPod battery lasts only 18 months.”

This was bad publicity and after a couple of weeks the movie was all around the internet. It was even featured in Fox News and CBS News. The brother’s were also interviewed about their little project. After another couple of weeks Apple introduced the iPod Replacement Program. They denied that the program’s timely release was due to the Neistat brother’s video.

Aside from paying Apple to have your battery replaced, you can have the option of changing your iPod’s battery yourself. Several disassembly guide for the iPod are available on the internet as some tech heads just wanted to find out what the iPods’ innards are. Relating to this, some enteprising companies have begun selling a do-it-yourself battery replacement kit with the tools and instructions on how to change the battery of your iPod.

Ulanoff explains that batteries, no matter how ‘advanced’ or ‘better’ they are, will tend to lose its ability to retain a charge over time. All rechargable batteries have cycles of which amounts to the life span of a battery, He expressed skepticism on some people’s claim on the 18 month lifespan of batteries since there was little evidence to support it.

In the end, Larry Ulanoff defends Apple saying it is not the only one in the rechargable battery business and conspiracy theories should just be hanged. The only mistake Apple made, he said, was to make the battery not easy to replace by their consumers. As parting words he said iPod’s a good player, Apple is not pulling a fast one and people should learn to how to take care of their rechargable batteries.

And on the red corner…
With Apple’s iPod line getting more popular, other companies cannot very well sit it out and watch from the sidelines. They had to do something to get a bigger chunk of the market which Apple took bite at. A very big bite at that.

Different comanies are trying to gain lost ground. Creative lowered its prices and released hard disk drive based MP3 players. Sony released new MP3 players and started supporting the MP3 format instead of the ATRAC format only. A Taiwanese company, Luxpro, even shamelessly copied the iPod shuffle calling it Super shuffle. Apple has sued Luxpro and it is not clear whether Super shuffle will ever be released.

PC Magazine’s Martyn Williams names, in his article, a few competitors of the iPod line for the hearts and ears of the multitude. Noted is Sony’s frenzied attempt to wrest away from Apple the MP3 player market by releasing a lot of products. iRiver, Panasonic, and even Samsung, are mentioned.

That’s it for now. I’ll dig up more news bits and pieces about Apple and others next time.<a href="” title=”permanent link”>#

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My iPod shuffle review

This is the review I did for the Mindanao Daily Mirror. I will be making another review since this one is kind of short.

Life is random

On January 11, 2005 at the Macworld San Francisco, in his keynote address, Steve Jobs introduced Apple’s products for 2005. Jobs introduced the iLife ’05 multimedia suite, the iWork ’05 productivity suite, the new Mac OS version 10.4, codenamed “Tiger,” and the entry level, affordable Mac mini priced at $499 or roughly 27,500 pesos. In the same keynote address, after weeks of rumors and speculations, Steve Jobs introduced Apple’s own flashed based MP3 player. Since Apple has dominated the hard disk drive based MP3 player market, it was just natural, according to Jobs, that Apple will now try take a bite out of the flash based MP3 players, which so far, has been dominated by the likes of Samsung and Creative.

The iPod shuffle was an instant hit. A nearby Apple Store ran out of stocks at the end of the day. One guy bought ten iPod shuffles, charging it to his credit card without even batting an eye. It became such a hit that after a week it was released Time magazine named it as their Gadget of the Week, and one review after another raved about the shuffle. I wanted it, and after 53 days of waiting, I finally managed to get my hands on one. Without much further ado, here’s my review.

The Box and what’s inside
Just like any other Apple product, the iPod shuffle’s box is elegantly designed. The package is a two tone green box, with the length and width that’s just a bit larger than a CD case and the thickness of about an inch. On both sides are the words “iPod shuffle” and on the front are Apple’s logo, the shuffle logo and a plastic window where you can clearly see the iPod shuffle.

The shuffle comes with a lanyard attachment, earbud headphones, and a green colored carton pack the size of a CD case. Written on the carton pack is Apple’s reminder: Don’t steal music, written in English and in other languages. Inside the carton pack are: the user’s guide booklet, an installation CD, booklet explaining the warranty, 2 pairs of soft covers for the earbuds, and two Apple logo stickers. There’s also a laminated quick guide card that summarizes the button functions and what the lights indicate.

Technical specs
The iPod shuffle is small. It measures 3.3 x 0.98 x 0.33 inches (or 8.4 x 2.5 x 0.84 centimeters) and weighs 0.78 ounces (or 22 grams). It’s just slightly bigger than a pack of Juicy Fruit gum and weigh less than four 1 peso coins. It comes in two capacities: 512MB or 1GB. Apple has advertised that up to 120 songs can be loaded in the 512MB and twice that on the 1GB. However, I managed to upload up to 140 songs in my 512MB iPod shuffle. Some users even managed to put in 180 songs. It depends on the average file size of your songs and the bit rate of your music collection.

It is made out of white plastic with a smooth and glossy exterior. The surface might easily attract grime and be prone to scratches. It is better to avoid putting the shuffle in a pocket together with coins or keys. There are cases available for the iPod shuffle that will offer protection.

The iPod shuffle doesn’t have a screen. The front of the shuffle just features a navigation wheel and above it are two LEDs, colored green and orange hidden behind the plastic. At the back is a slider and a battery status button. On the top is the headphone jack and the bottom is the cap covering the USB 2.0 plug. The cap can be replaced with the included lanyard accessory. You can see either ‘512MB’ or ‘1GB’ etched on the USB plug, depending on which capacity you bought. The earbud headphones has a small plastic sizer that allows you to move it up or down the earbud wires to minimize cord tangling.

The front and back
The navigation wheel has the play/pause logo in the center, plus sign on the top and minus sign on the bottom, and forward and backward logo on the right and left, respectively. When the play/pause button is pressed while the iPod shuffle is playing, the music is paused, indicated by a flashing green LED. Press again to continue playing. Music will automatically pause when the headphones are removed. To continue playing the audio, press the play/pause button.

When the play/pause button is pressed for a few seconds the orange LED will start flashing, indicating that the buttons are “locked” and the shuffle is in hold mode. Pressing down the play/pause button again for a few seconds deactivates the hold mode.

At the back of the shuffle is a slider and a button. The slider has three positions: off, sequential playing and shuffle mode. From the off position, sliding down to one level will play your music in sequence or in order. Sliding down another notch will put the iPod in shuffle mode. A piece of bright green sticker behind the slider help indicate whether the unit is off or on.

When the slider is in the sequential mode, press the play/pause button three times quickly to return to the beginning of the play order. When in random or shuffle mode, pressing the play/pause button three times quickly will re-shuffle the songs.

Below the slider is the battery status indicator button. Press the button and a LED will light up and the color will indicate the battery status. Green for good charge, yellow for low charge, red for very low charge (time to recharge you iPod shuffle) and no light means no charge.

Battery and charging, and sound quality
The iPod shuffle has an internal lithium ion battery. The shuffle is charged by plugging it into a USB port. Charging is by trickle charge and happens only when the computer that is it plugged into is on. Putting the computer to sleep or hibernate mode will not charge the unit. The shuffle achieves 80% charge after two hours and full charge after four hours. The orange LED lights up while charging and turns green when fully charged. According to Apple’s website, the shuffle’s battery will last 12 hours but some users have managed 13 to 15 hours of play.

With the diminutive size of the iPod shuffle, I didn’t expect the sound quality to be really good. But after listening to the some songs played in the shuffle I was pleasantly surprised. I am not an audiophile, but the sound quality of the iPod shuffle is much the same to that of the iPod mini.

Extras and reminders
The iPod shuffle is not only a digital music player but can double as a mobile storage device. After plugging the shuffle into a USB port and is seen by iTunes, go to Preferences and click on the iPod tab. Check “Enable disk use” and move the slider to the left or right to adjust the size allocated for data.

It is advisable that the shuffle must not be unplugged while data is being transferred and while it is mounted. The orange LED in front of the shuffle will blink indicating files are being moved. Always eject or unmount the iPod shuffle before unplugging it from the USB port.

The iPod shuffle is compatible for both Windows and Mac. Always remember to install the software first before plugging in the iPod shuffle.

It might be a good idea to buy a USB extension cable for the iPod shuffle. This solves the problem of having to reach at the back the computer when charging or transferring files. Even if there are USB ports in front of the PC the shuffle might not fit because of its width. The width also poses problems when using a laptop; it will tend to cover the ports beside the USB port that the shuffle is plugged into.

Several accessories are available for the shuffle from Apple. There’s a Sport Case, a battery pack that uses AAA battery, extending playing time by another 20 hours, and an Armband. Several companies have taken advantage of the shuffle’s quick rise in popularity. There are now a myriad of cases to choose from; from plastic to rubber, from silicone to aluminum. One company has started selling an FM transmitter made especially for the iPod shuffle. Some companies have designed replacement caps that allows the user to attach the shuffle anywhere by using a carabineer, a belt clip or a push pin. The iPod accessory business is a multimillion dollar industry, when combined, earns more revenue than the iPods themselves.

The iPod shuffle comes from a family that has been regarded as an icon. It is well designed and well made. Some would complain about the shuffle’s lack of a screen. To those who have used the shuffle, however, it really doesn’t matter. With the shuffle mode on, they let the iPod pick what music to play next. Randomness is the name of the game and it is made more evident by pressing the Autofill function in iTunes. This lets iTunes decide what music to put into your shuffle. Enjoy uncertainty.

The iPod shuffle, as well as the rest of the iPod family, is exclusively distributed by Microwarehouse, Inc. The iPod shuffle and other iPods are available from dealers all over Davao City.

Don’t steal music.

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The Cost of Piracy

A story by Daniel Engber from Slate talked about how much pirated songs or movies actually cost. A University of Arizona student was fined $5,400 for having $50,000,000 worth of pirated materials in his computer and distributing them on the net.

Fifty million dollars worth of songs or movies in a hard drive? It sound ludricous but Daniel Engber explains how investigators reached this number.

As he explains, if a song cost $0.99 in iTunes or movies cost $20 in Amazon.com then the total number of songs and movies in the computer would be 50.5 million or 2.5 million, respectively. This means hundreds of terabytes worth of data which by itself would be impossible since the perpetuator was just a kid in university.

But the law in the United States concerning piracy and its rules and implementations calculate the worth of pirated songs differently. Damages for each song, movie or album can be as high as $150,000. So, in this case, the $50 million amounts to 30 to 40 pirated albums.

The final sentence of the University of College student was according to state laws which convicted the student for the number of songs not the value. According to the state law he was convicted of a felony engaging in “unlawful copying” of between 10 to 1,000 songs or 10 to 100 movies.

I wonder if any case like this would ever prosper in here. I doubt it.

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Mini and shuffle


shuffle04
Originally uploaded by jimhaw.

My iPod mini and iPod shuffle side by side

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Shuffle me this. Shuffle me that.

By now most of you are sick and tired of reading about the shuffle in my blog.

Well, guess what? I’m going to be more insufferable.

I just got my shuffle. Where’s yours?

As of now, I’m charging the shuffle and registering it on Apple.com. I just finished taking photos while removing it from the package.

Going to post pics and my own review soon.

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300,000,000th download, Creative lowers prices, Mac mini UK review, iPod shuffle knockoff

You get a four-in-one deal today.

First on the list is the announcement that iTunes Music Store has surpassed 300 million downloads. People might say that Apple is cheating by counting in the downloads from their free songs of the week and such. But the number excludes the free downloads and only counts the paid downloads. People can get music from iTMS by paying thru credit card, prepaid card or a gift certificate in paper or electronic form.

Creative blinks

Next is Creative’s decision to lower the prices for its MP3 players. The Korean company said thru its chairman and CEO, Sim Wong Hoo, that they are putting their competitors on the defensive (and this is why they had to lower prices).

The new pricing involves the new Zen Micro (4GB) priced at US$179.99; the Zen Micro 5GB at $229.99 and the Zen Micro 6GB at $249.99.

The price slash comes 6 days after Apple released new iPod Minis and new iPod photos.

It’s funny to note that someone commented to the story and likened Mr. Hoo to Saddam Hussein’s Information Minister Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf because of his statement, “We have gained huge momentum and are putting our competitors on the defensive.”

Another Mac mini review
Here‘s another Mac mini review this time from the UK website, TrustedReviews.

What’s their conclusion?

They recommend it! As their verdict says:

If you’re cool on Macs, the mini will start to warm you to them, but for those already tempted, we heartily recommend it. If the PC user is a Neanderthal and the Mac user the evolved sophisticate, the Switcher Man, hovering between them, is the missing link – and the Mac mini will be his weapon of choice.

It was bound to happen
Yup and happen it did. After the release of the iPod shuffle, I thought to myself, “Some Chinese or Taiwanese company’s going to make or ‘design’ something like the this pretty soon.” And so they did.

Luxpro is a company located in Taipei and just like a any other chinese company they like to copy other people’s stuff and design.

Their iPod shuffle knockout, the Super shuffle, is almost an exact copy of the iPod shuffle. The navigation wheel is the same. The shape looks the same. Heck, even the earbud headphones are the same. The differences are the Super shuffle is slightly bigger, has a voice recorder and FM tuner built in, and the back has two switches rather than just one.

I wonder how Apple’s going to react to this.

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"Shopping for an inexpensive PC? Make it a Mac Mini. You won’t regret it."

Or so Mr. Tom Gromak says.

Mr. Gromak gets asked often on what he can recommend for an inexpensive PC and he would answer: go to Dell’s website and look at the Inspiron series.

Well not anymore.

Not since he got a Mac mini.

Mr. Gromak isn’t a stranger to Mac. He used one of the pre-OS X machines that ran under Mac OS 9. He said it was slow and applications for it was difficult to find.

When he removed the Mac mini from its box though, he knew things would be different. He was enamored by the size and design. He was delighted on how easy it was to set it up. He just plugged in his display, keyboard and trackball to their respective ports and in no time at all the mini was up and running.

He was also impressed by the software the mini came with and how his old devices, such as a scanner, a printer and a digital camera, was easily recognize once he found drivers for them.

For three weeks on running the mini he didn’t even once reboot his computer. The mini would just go to sleep when he left it alone and wakes up when he needs it. He also didn’t notice any slowdown that plagues Windows machine.

It is also as quiet as a mouse. He couldn’t even tell whether his mini is running or not.

In the end, he says whenever someone would ask him what inexpensive PC he can recommend, it’s going to be the Mac mini. His parting words are: “I realized that I could be a switcher. And I’d like it. It’s safe to say you will, too.”

Link to his article.

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PLEASE READ

On July 21, I moved my blog to its own server.

So www.davaomacuser.com no longer points to davaomacuser.wordpress.com.

I've already got a few new posts over there so please join me at www.davaomacuser.com.

See you there. Thanks!

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