Tuesday, February 27, 2007

It's all ball bearings nowadays ...

A friend of mine asked me what the new tagline on Daring Fireball means:

It's all ball bearings nowadays

It comes from the movie Fletch with Chevy Chase. It's hard to really describe the scene, but basically Fletch (played by Chase) dresses up undercover for his investigative journalism pieces he's working on. In one particular scene, he's in an aircraft hanger dressed up as an aircraft technician. He's talking to two dolts working on a plane for an important person he's investigating. They ask him a technical question doubting his "technical knowledge" ... he replies:

It's all ball bearings nowadays ... didn't you guys know that?

Fletch is in my Top 100 Movies List.

I Hate Pepsi!

Random Thoughts about Coca Cola:

I'm one of those few people that can always tell whether I'm drinking Pepsi or Coke. I can always tell the difference between Diet Coke and Regular Coke as well.

I can't stand when I (admitted generically) ask for Coke and the server brings out Pepsi. I appreciate it when a waitress says, "Is Pepsi ok?" That way I can turn it down.

What happened to Vanilla Coke? I loved it and thought it was selling well.

The newly redisigned Coke can (above) reminds me of Jupiter fading in the movie 2010.

The new design doesn't shout vibrance like the old design. The bright red represented "energy" to me. The pale red of the new can kinda says "Blue Pepsi" to me.

* Picture of Jupiter fading from the movie 2010

This seems like a bad move.

[UPDATE] On June 1st Vanilla Coke made it's return!!!!

How To Sell/Ship For (Almost) Free on eBay

I've been on eBay almost 10 years now and over the years I've learned a lot of ways to get discounts on the various things I use for my sales on eBay.

Here are a couple of things I do to get discounts:

1) This will all seem complicated but once you understand the system and become a regular customer at Office Stores ... things will move very smoothly.

2) I am a part of all of the major Office Store Rewards Clubs: OfficeMax: MaxPerks / Office Depot: Work Life Rewards / Staples: Reward Card ... these programs regularly send out discounts for using their shipping services. OfficeMax regularly runs discounts 20% to ship one ship one free in the Sunday paper for DHL

3) Office Depot regularly has $3.00 - $5.00 off UPS shipping

4) Each office store offers $3 per printer ink or laser toner cartridge you turn in. The discount varies by store ... but most offer these discounts in addition to any % off you may be able to get. I get at LEAST $15 off every time I go to OfficeMax.

5) I pay with my Paypal card that earns 1.5% back. I keep a low balance in Paypal - make the transaction as a credit card purchase - this gives me 1.5% back from Paypal and debits my checking account at Wachovia that has Visa Extras tied into it. Visa Extras rewards for debit transactions (approximately 1.5%) ... at the same time I earn 1.5% back from the various REWARD programs.

6) * Fact: Shipping is not taxed

7) Each time I am in said office stores I visit the CLEARANCE section. The clearance section usually has tape/labels/boxes/supplies on 50% off or more.

8) DHL offered at OfficeMax is already 30% lower than USPS First Class/Priority (and this is BEFORE the discounts applied above) + you get free tracking and free insurance. Most of my DHL packages get to their destinations in 2 days (even though I ALWAYS ship ground)

9) OfficeMax currently offers $50 gift cards with free 256MB thumb drives. I pay for the gift card with my PayPal card, getting 3% back (as described above), getting $15 off , with 5 printer cartridges. I get the free thumb drive which I sell for $9. I get MaxPerks points on the gift card. I take the gift card over to the DHL shipping center, I pay with the gift card. I use 5 more printer cartridges. I get an additional $15 off. I use MaxPerks AGAIN. Sometimes I have used an additional coupon.

EXAMPLE: 3 days ago I shipped (2) 20"x20"x20" 15 pound each boxes for $1.12 --- yes less than $2 --- and this doesn't include the 4.5% back that I will get from the various cash back and rewards programs.

10) If you know any philatelics (stamp collectors) in your area ... they might have some stamps to sell. Often you can buy stamps for below face value. For instance ... I buy 37 cent stamps for 25 cents each. Stamps are ALWAYS good ... you just have to have the proper amount on the package or letter. Some philatelics sell on eBay for similar discounts, but make sure you are still buying for less after shipping / handling costs.

11) Find a local Health Items Store ( the kind that sells Vitamins ) - these stores receive their merchandise in unmarked boxes with lots of packing materials like bubble wrap and styrofoam peanuts - offer to remove these boxes and packing materials on a weekly basis for free instead of employees having to break them down or throw them away. These stores get the largest variety of sizes for boxes that I know of - both large and small.

12) Surprisingly ... selling packing supplies is a business on eBay in and of itself. If you have enough contacts (such as mentioned above) - you can sell boxes of boxes/peanuts/bubble wrap/static bags on eBay. Keep what you need. Sell what you don't need.

13) Another great packing tip ... buy a 12 sheet cross cut paper shredder. Shred your unwanted mail, the newspaper, trash paper and use it for packing material. Placing the paper in plastic grocery bags makes for less mess inside the package!

You can buy ink cartridges on eBay for less than $1 each in bulk. So $1 = $3 at office stores. I also get all of my local customers and all of my friends to donate their printer cartridges to me.

If you know an employee of Fed Ex they get a 75% discount on their shipping. Perhaps you could work out a deal with one of them! It is especially a great idea if you ship overseas!

Same with UPS employees. I know a UPS employee as well and learned how to get free boxes through her (some times) ... but the DHL deal that I described is still better than any UPS or Fedex deal.

And don't forget that Priority Mail supplies are free from the Post Office. Some of these boxes can be used with other services and some can be wrapped in craft paper to conceal the Priority Mail markings. Note that Priority Mail Boxes are for US Postal mail ONLY - but this is a great way to use recycled or discontinued boxes from the US Postal Service.

DIGG THIS: How To Sell/Ship For (Almost) Free on eBay

eBay Sellers To Pay Taxes?

The Financial Times is reporting that eBay may be forced to cooperate with the IRS to turn over eBay seller information for tax purposes.

1. Paypal fees
2. Ebay Listing Fees
3. Ebay Final Auction Value Fee
4. Insurance/Supplies/Your Time
5. Taxes


So would the average eBay seller be able to claim time spent? I consider most of the items I list to be of a type of service provided. There is no tax on services (in most states).

If I am selling a used item, the tax has already been paid ONCE. In fact, if the item was bought at retail (and is now used) - the item had business profit, business license, transport taxes and more paid on it. One could argue that the value/bid price on eBay could be lower than the amount of taxes that have already been paid on the item through it's lifespan.

Further, I thought yard sales were not considered taxable ... eBay is no different than a giant yard sale.

I do agree that if you generate more than $50,000 in INCOME (read as profit) eBay should be required to send tax notices.

I have been claiming my eBay income for years even though I make less than $20,000 from eBay each year.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Linked by The Consumerist:

Business Week's Customer Service Champs:

No. 18 [on the list] Apple Inc. (AAPL ) into the mix. While Apple's customer service shows its bruises--device problems frequently erupt just after warranties expire--the in-person support offered at the "Genius Bars in the electronics maker's more than 170 stores sets it apart from its peers.

USAA Insurance is rated #1 in the survey.

I have to say that I have dealt with just about all customer service at all of the major computer manufacturers and while I certainly have had my fair share of problems with Apple at a tier 1 level ... I have always been incredibly happy by the time I get off the phone. My biggest love for Apple Customer Care? English speaking and easy to understand.

The "and and" blogger bug

and and

I've notified Google about a very peculiar bug I've noticed. Over the past few months I've noticed that every couple of posts I would get an "and and" somewhere in my article. This morning I noticed it - I've been paying particular attention to this to make sure I wasn't typing the word "and" twice. It only appears after I have edited a blog post more than twice.

Any one else having this issue?

iPod Psychos

ABC News is reporting:

Two students accused of attacking a teacher in a hallway of Germantown High School on Friday morning are now behind bars.

The attack happened after 60-year-old Frank Burd confiscated an iPod from one of the students who was using it in class. The 14-year-old returned later with an 11th grader.

The teens allegedly pushed Burd, who struck his head on a locker. School official Paul Vallas said Burd broke his neck in two places. He was taken to Einstein Medical Center, but showed no sign of paralysis.

The confrontation was caught on videotape. School officials were able to use the tape to immediately identify the students.

Both students have a checkered past. They were both previously expelled, but they were allowed to return to school after a year. School officials say the kids were in the process of being expelled again when they assaulted Burd.

* Video follows with the link to this story.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Awareness of your needs or mine?

The BBC has an interview with Kevin Finisterre - one of the "project leaders" behind The Month Of Apple Bugs.

He said the Month of Apple Bugs (MOAB) project had succeeded in its original aim of raising the level of awareness around Mac security.

Actually I think it made the Mac Community's smugness even worse on the topic. The way the Month Of Apple Bugs was so poorly presented and the way in which the "project heads" made an agenda out of making fun of Mac Users rather than seeming to truly desire to assist them made even the most prominent proponents in the Mac Security Community scoff. Dozens of blog posts and major news aggregators carried the story. Because the project was unable to produce anything of substance or of mild threat - I feel Month Of Apple Bugs had the opposite of the stated affect.

I would compare their "awareness campaign" to a far right agenda group that says, "We want to raise awareness for AIDS research, because there are too many queers spreading AIDS."

The general theme of the Month Of Apple Bugs was:

"We want to raise awareness of security on the Mac .. because Apple users are such queers."

Then there's this line:

He said Apple had opened up dialogue about security issues.

"They have certainly given some extra efforts on the backend to open up lines of communication, at least with me."

So ... was it about Apple User's security awareness or Kevin Finisterre awareness? I say the latter.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Apple has the best price on a lot of things

While reading this article at ArsTechnica about how a lot of stores rip people off for cables - I noticed this interesting tidbit. I have always despised the big box retail stores for what they charge for cables. A good example is that 6ft USB cables that retail for $19.99 - $29.99 cost $1.77 each from Belkin at wholesale in quantities of 10,000 or more. I've always thought that Apple (since the advent of The Apple Retail Store) has had reasonable adapter/cable prices.

  • GameStop brand: $70

  • Monoprice: $18.93

  • Sony brand: $50-$100

  • MonsterCable: $100

  • Nyko brand at Best Buy: $60

  • RCA at Meijer: $50

  • That Nyko cable again: $26

  • Nyko one more time: $25

  • From the Apple Store: $19

  • I'm often reminded of the "Days Of SCSI" - when quality cables were $75.00 if you were lucky.

    Epitaph For Al

    My Beta fish died over the weekend ... I suddenly noticed that the water had turned brown. I think I may have put too much water conditioner in the water. 20 drops instead of 12!

    His name was "Al" ... nickname for "Alpha".

    I wrote a quick poem for him:

    A Poem For Alpha The Beta Fish

    Al, You met the Omega
    We hope you are now Vega

    You may have wet died
    But our tears have not dried

    You were no beta test
    You were a fish above the rest

    We hope to see you swimmin'
    In the fish bowls in heaven

    Like Paul Simon said like a pal,
    We will call you AL!
    We will call you AL!

    Apple CEO Critiques The Receiving End Of The Teacher's Apple

    The past week has really exemplified why I admire Steve Jobs. He speaks his mind and doesn't worry about being PC (pun intended).

    As reported by MacMinute:

    In his speech at an education reform conference, Apple CEO Steve Jobs was critical of teacher unions, reports the Associated Press. Apple compared school principals with company CEOs. "What kind of person could you get to run a small business if you told them that when they came in they couldn't get rid of people that they thought weren't any good?" asked Jobs. "Not really great ones because if you're really smart you go, 'I can't win.'" Jobs appeared in a joint appearance with Dell CEO Michael Dell. "I believe that what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way," Jobs said. "This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy."

    My father has been saying this for years. He has been very outspoken against teacher's unions and the way schools are run in the United States. Another thing that my father regularly addresses with the school board is their ability to raise taxes without taxpayer referendum - by the means of property tax re-assessment.

    My father also challenges the grading system and the notion of the "Bell Curve" - he believes that education should be based on concept rather than grade level. You don't move on until you you have learned a concept with a 90% score. This would also have the added benefit of allowing gifted students to graduate earlier - if they "move along" fast enough - some could graduate at 15 or 16. In fact, I'm sure we would actually see MORE graduates at this age rather than the spotted few we see now.

    Thursday, February 15, 2007

    Regurgitated News

    I'm not one to really regurgitate news without any commentary but these two posts pretty much sum everything up on their own. I think it is interesting news to pass along.

    As reported by Slashdot:

    "On December 23, Amazon advertised a 'buy one get one free' sale on DVD box-sets, but apparently did not test the promotion before going live. When anyone placed two box-sets in their cart, the website gave a double discount — so the 'grand total' shown (before order submission) was $0.00 or some very small amount. Despite terms stating that Amazon checks order prices before shipping, Amazon shipped a large number of these orders. Five days later (December 28), after orders had been received and presumably opened, Amazon emailed customers advising them to return the box-sets unopened or their credit cards would be charged an additional amount (more threads). Starting yesterday, Amazon has been (re)charging credit cards, often without authorization. On Amazon's side, they didn't advertise any double discount, and the free or nearly-free box-sets must have cost them a mint. But with Amazon continually giving unadvertised discounts that seem to be errors, is 'return the merchandise or be charged' the new way that price glitches will be handled?"

    I hate Amazon and all that they stand for. From this to the founder Jeff Bezos being granted outrageously obvious patents for various web interfaces and commerce (like One Click) - I really have always just disliked Amazon. The majority of the links you see on the side of every page to buy "Apple" related items are Amazon affiliate links that make me less than $50 a year. If I could find a better way to get easier money that would be as well known as Amazion I would do so.

    Also on today's Slashdot main page:

    Charter Cable's DNS servers have just started resolving all invalid hostnames and pointing them to their own error page. The About page states: 'This service automatically eliminates many of the error pages you may encounter as you surf the web. No software was installed on your computer for this service to work.' It has an 'opt-out' page, but when you use it Charter simply sets a cookie that makes their page redirect errors to Microsoft Live Search instead!"

    I noticed this about two weeks ago. I also noticed that a few Apple related websites were mentioning problems with their site's secure purchase software and Charter customers.I was going to do a story a while back on Charter. I still intend to. I've had some intervieews with various Charter excectives and my local city officials - I just haven't had the time to put together a good story. Charter is the worst run company in the history of business - their stock price and customer satisfaction rankings match that sentiment.

    Wednesday, February 14, 2007

    The Best Date Ever - The Whole Story

    Last Valentine's Day, I brought you the true story called "The Worst Date Ever For An Apple Tech". This year I bring you the true story of the complete opposite - "The Best Date Ever"

    I'll start off by telling you 4 short back stories to set up the things that came together over the course of a year for * The Best Date Ever *.

    In December of 1991, I was in my local mall with my brother just before Christmas - finishing up our holiday shopping. My brother and I were sitting on a bench that was just in front of a glass retaining wall. (The typical mall setup where you can see the level below.)

    * Click on picture for larger view *

    My brother and I noticed a little girl (4 years old at best) walking in a daring form of circus tight rope walking - balancing the top of the rail on the upper level. No parents present - my brother warned her that she might fall. She got down briefly, but very soon was right back at it. I turned my head over my shoulder (my back was to the girl). Right as my brother said a second time,

    "You're gonna falllllll"

    ... the little girl fell. Reflex made me contort my arm over the rail with lightening fast reaction. Pretty much crushing the little girl's hand - I caught her ... literally dangling her over the guard rail in between the two levels. I was straddling the rail, about to fall myself. My brother grabbed me. I couldn't hold on, the girl had yelled and so many people were screaming that a gentleman was able to be right underneath her to okay a drop.

    I went to this mall today to get a fresh visual. I would estimate the drop for the girl would have been 30 (or more) feet - enough to kill her or at least break a number of bones.

    This incident actually makes me believe the situation when someone falls in the movies and miraculously catches onto a rail and holds on by a few fingers. I suppose it's adrenaline and instinct that combine to give us heightened physical strength and awareness in situations like this.

    The girl was caught safely. The mother and father came over to thank me. The father mentioned that he worked at a local airport & landing strip as a "Hot Air Balloon Enthusiast/Technician/Competition Balloonist". As a thank you, he said he would love to give me a free hot air balloon ride. Smiling, my brother who's in the Air Force said:

    "Gonna actually fly ... aren't you Superman?"

    Being the romantic that I am ... I knew that a hot air balloon ride would be the perfect date. So ... I took a rain check for a future date. (My Senior Prom)


    My high school was located close to two very large hospitals and a prominent university. There were quite a number of specialty doctors and tenured professors .... many of the radiologists, neurologists, and physics professors had very nice cars. A wealthy local business owner in town had a Ferrari 308GT. (The same kind of Ferrari that Magnum P.I. drove) A prominent radiologist in town had a Lamborghini Countach. I asked the business owner if he would be willing to help chauffeur or even let me drive his Ferrari to my Senior prom. He declined. Good thing though, because visually a Lamborghini is more impressive - especially with the swing up doors. The doctor accepted and even offered to help ... all I had to do was, as he said, "Give me the time and place and I'm there". The added advantage to making an arrangement like this instead of renting or having a chauffeur is that you don't have to tip a millionaire.

    * Lamborghini Countach *


    My mother has always seemed to know at least one person that did everything. If she didn't have an answer or couldn't fix something herself ... she knew someone that had a solution. My mother knew of a local UPS delivery guy. I'd always wanted to be delivered ever since I'd heard (possibly urban legends) of people being shipped to save on air fare. I can't recall how I thought of it ... but I came up with an idea where I would be delivered by the "Prom Date Delivery Service Inc". So ... for my Senior Prom I found a wooden crate, filled it with white 3" and 4" diameter styrofoam balls and white rose petals. With a woodburning tool, I burned the words:

    Prom Date Delivery Service Inc

    ... into the front of the box. I arranged (for a date soon) to be delivered by UPS (at least by a UPS guy in a brown UPS truck) ... even making sure that I would have to be signed for.


    My last name is Smith. My heritage is Irish. The name Smith comes from Blacksmith, Silversmith, Goldsmith. My particular heritage is from that of a family of Silversmith's. (As legend goes) 400 or so years ago in a fishing village called Claddagh overlooking Galway Bay, close to the city of the Tribes, lived Richard Joyce; a Master Goldsmith. He supposedly crafted a now famous ring design that has become part of Irish heritage.

    The Claddagh Ring is also called "The Irish Wedding Band" and is often used in modern wedding ceremonies.

    The Claddagh Ring belongs to a widespread group of finger rings called Fede or "Faith rings" which date from Roman times. They are distinguished by having the bezel cut or cast in the form of two clasped hands, symbolising faith, trust or "plighted troth". Fede rings were popular in the Middle Ages throughout Europe.

    The "Claddagh" ring is a particularly distinctive ring with two hands clasping a heart that is surmounted by a crown.

    The ring worn on the right hand, crown turned inward tells others that your heart is yet unoccupied, worn with the crown turned outwards reveals you are seriously involved and considering commitment. Worn on the left hand with the crown turned outward shows that you are married or spoken for - loyal to only one for life.

    So ... that sets up up a few things that had to come together for the Best Date Ever. I'm going to be honest and say that while nothing in the "Worst Date Ever" was embellished ... I'm going to slightly change some facts and circumstances that don't really add or subtract from this story. I realize this may sound a little pathological - but this is the way I want to remember this particular story. There's really only one thing that happened slightly different in reality than in the telling of this story. (Nothing bad that happened though.)

    For weeks before my Senior Prom I had been planning how I could bring everything together for the perfect date. I had been dating a cheerleader from my high school for about 5 months at this point. She was from a very large family that, while not deprived, certainly had it's share of financial strife. I really wanted this night to be for her - a Cinderella transformation - the pumpkin carriage, the prince (me) - a beautiful girl given what she so rightly deserved.

    So ... on the day before my Senior Prom I made all of the arrangements and coordinated all of the schedules. On the day of I got very nervous ... knowing that something somehow would go wrong - there was just too much going to happen.

    I arrived at my girlfriend's house at 5:30PM sharp ... delivered in a wooden crate and handtrucked into the front lawn - I felt like I was in a casket. My date was apparently running just slightly behind with her hairdo. The UPS guy demanded that she be the one to sign. I heard her yell at her mother from the bathroom that she couldn't come. Her mother told her that there was a package out in the yard for her and that it was "time sensitive".

    Waiting on her front lawn in the crate .. I was able to see through a slat ... she walked out in a beautiful teal dress with a few curlers in her hair. She started shaking. In a boisterous manner she said, "Oh God ... knowing Rusty this is a kangaroo or something ... oh God Oh God". She was prompted to pull the string to let the front of the crate to drop down.

    She pulled the string and jumped back very quickly. White rose petals and white styrofoam balls spilled onto her lawn. I saw her mother's eyes light up and then smile wide. Her dad just shook his head in a "no no" motion. My girlfriend looked at him, blushed, and then smiled.

    Right on cue ... with a very loud revving engine roar ... the Lamborghini pulls up to her modest house. I tell her that she is going to be taken for a brief ride and that I will meet back up with her in 30 minutes time at an undisclosed location. She was chauffeured into the Lamborghini.

    I headed quickly to the next rendezvous point - the local university basketball coliseum.

    In my car I had a special table with built in stools ... I had ordered her favorite dinner from her favorite Italian restaurant. I set up the table with candles on the front side of the coliseum. I met a friend of mine at the coliseum to help me.

    On cue ... the Lamborghini drove up to the sidewalk where I had the table for two waiting.

    My girlfriend was raving about the ride in the Lamborghini and interupting herself with questions about what was happening next and why we were at the University.

    She helped sort of set the table while I thanked the doctor that "donated the Lamborghini" . We talked while we ate the meal. Then suddenly we were interupted with a loud explosion. She asked if I knew what the sound was. I said I did and not to worry. The we heard it again. I became concerned myself and said I needed to "check on something". I went around to the back side of the coliseum. The ballonist was having a few issues getting the balloon to fill with hot air because the wind was blowing a little too much on the back side of the coliseum which is right next to lake - giving a little lake effect wind.

    My girlfriend came around to check as well and asked with wide eyes ...

    "What is that?"

    I said ...

    "It's a hot air balloon."

    We packed up the table and dinner while the balloonist finished getting the balloon ready. Perfect and on cue the sun had just started to set over the horizon. We got in the hot air balloon. The balloonist asked if we had ever been in a hot air balloon before ... we both replied, "No!" (in unison) He explained that he didn't really have any control over where the balloon would go and that he was a little worried about the wind. He explained that he had a chase crew that would be following us in a van on the ground by road. And like it was a dream ... the wind changed and we were immediately over the lake with the orange and pink colors from the sunset shimmering in the water.

    A line from the movie American Beauty really sums up this moment in my life:

    " ... there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel I'm seeing it all at once and it's too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst. And then I remember to relax. ... You have no idea what I'm talking about, but don't worry ... you will someday."

    The balloonist lowered the flame on the balloon and we dipped down into the water. We rose back up really high into the air and then we stopped by clipping pine trees in a nearby neighborhood eventually landing in a culdesac in a nearby town.

    We got out of the balloon and the balloonist handed us a bottle of champagne saying,

    "I know you guys are under age and I really shouldn't do this but you'll probably have some any way tonight. It's just customary that you drink champagne on a hot air balloon."

    I don't drink and never have and my girlfriend was the former President of ESUBA (Abuse spelled backwards) which is an alcohol & drug prevention and support progam that was at our high school. But ... it was still cool to get the champagne ... it would make for good conversation.

    The chase crew drove us back in the chase van to the University where I had my car. We drove to the Prom ... had a great time and left to try and find a party.

    We didn't find the party ... but I wasn't really interested in finding it anyway. I had the keys to my father's lakehouse (stolen) and so I had the plan to go their and sleep in front of the fireplace ... wake up in the morning and meet friends at a local Waffle House.

    We got to the lakehouse. I had a blanket in front of the fireplace and a fire ready to light. I had some Godiva chocolate on the coffee table and let her indulge while I started the fire.

    I then pulled a box from my pocket ... I let her open it ... it had the Claddagh ring inside. I had tried to research the story behind the ring. (This was before the internet and Godsend of Google.) The best story that I could gather was kind of lame so I made one up.

    A prince, being constantly confronted on the subject of marriage by his father, The High King Of Ireland - set out to find a wife. Although it would have been easy to just go to any woman to ask (even demand) her hand in marriage ... he wanted someone to love him first and foremost. His father had presented many possible candidates for him to be suitor. When asked what the greatest thing about being the Princess and potentially the Queen each maiden would say something similar, "We would rule together and have the kingdom at our feet, we would eat all we wanted to, and we would have everything we wanted to." The Prince was not pleased with this typical answer. So ... he dressed in peasant's clothes and set out on a frail horse amongst the villages in the countryside. A band of thieves knocked him from his horse and stole the meager amount of bread, water, and money he took with him. They beat him unconscious. When he awoke he was warm and in front of a fire with a hot bowl of soup and covered with thick blankets. As he gained focus ... a soft voice told him to rest, eat, and gain his strength. Coming into focus with this soft voice was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Over the course of the next week, the woman nursed him back to health. He, of course, not revealing that he was the Prince. After two weeks he was healthy enough to do a few chores to repay his debt for the care. Not really wanting to leave, but knowing he would have to return - he set back onto a path for the castle. Before he reached the castle gate he asked the gaurd for a fast horse. He went to the local Silversmith and asked him to make a ring based on the story he told him of the beautiful woman. The Silversmith worked all night and into the next morning ... he crafted this ring:

    The next day he returned to the village with the beautiful woman, knelt and asked for her hand in marriage. She said, "Yes, but only if you promise to love me ... not with riches, not with compliments, but only with all of your heart. I want to be treated like I am your Queen." The Prince smiled and said, "As you wish." <--- yes I stole that line from The Princess Bride

    We quickly fell asleep. We woke up early and went to the Waffle House to meet up with some friends for breakfast. (WINK) We were the topic of the conversation.

    Cost of the "Worst Date Ever": $620
    Cost of the "Best Date Ever": $150
    Having had both experiences: Priceless!

    The End

    Happy Valentine's Day!


    Last year I brought you the story "The Worst Date Ever For An Apple Tech" - a story that remains one of my most hit posts on this website. This year (later today) I'm going to post "The Best Date Ever" - it won't get as much attention but it certainly should inspire the "lover in you". It's just as dramatic - just not as tragic.

    Come back later today for the story.

    One hint ... never give roses when sunflowers can be purchased!

    Tuesday, February 13, 2007

    Thomas Hawk's Digital Connection: Yes! They Took the Bait! Music Industry Grumbles About Job's Vision of a DRM Free Future

    Thomas Hawk's Digital Connection: Yes! They Took the Bait! Music Industry Grumbles About Job's Vision of a DRM Free Future

    What If The Big Four Music Companies Tried "A Day Without DRM"?

    Thomas Hawk clarifies that Steve Jobs "Thoughts On Music" essay was bait that consumers (and Jobs) were feeding to the RIAA sharks.

    It's a great read.

    What I would like to know is why doesn't the music industry allow us to put our money where our mouths are? Why won't ONE of the big four music companies (Sony BMG, EMI, Universal, or Warner) try no DRM ... 3 months ... 1 quarter is all we ask. Open up the entire catalog on all legal download stores ... make [us] the consumer put our money down and PROVE that we would support a system of open DRM. Also make Apple (and Steve Jobs) prove the sincerity of this statement:

    "... abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music."

    Make Jobs write another essay about the full disclosure of the trial deal of 90 Days Without DRM.

    Another way the music industry could "see if DRM inhibits sales" is to have random days each quarter where there is no DRM on the various music stores. Different stores would be given different days at random with only a 72 hour (at best) notification to potential consumers. Word would travel around the blogosphere and the internet very quickly and possibly even the national news. The first couple of times there were "Days Without DRM" - the news would most likely get international attention. Heck ... why couldn't NBC (which is owned by Universal) advertise it?

    The randomness would not inhibit current sales at any store - if you happened to download on a day that has no DRM - it's like a present ... if not and you were going to download your song from a particular Music store anyway then ... well ... you got your song and you are still happy.

    I could say with 100% certainty that the Days Without DRM would be huge ...but more importantly it would make all of us ... the consumer, Steve Jobs, the RIAA all put up or shut about this issue.

    I can say with all certainty that I would download at least $10 worth. I have only purchased 17 songs total for my own listening pleasure from iTunes. Each song I have burned to CD and ripped back to iTunes DRM-free.

    Monday, February 12, 2007

    The conspiracy: Steve Jobs DRM letter

    Ian Hobson, on his Hob's Blog, makes a good point about the criticism that Steve Jobs has recently gotten over his open letter to consumers and the music industry called, "Thoughts On Music":

    Ian Hobson posits on his blog:

    Famous for breaking various encryption and DRM schemes [such as the DRM behind encrypted video on DVDs], DVD-Jon (Jon Lech Johansen) is quite a cult hero for many.

    ... I remembered reading about what DVD-Jon is up to. He now lives in California and is a key employee at Double Twist Ventures. Their mission?

    DoubleTwist would license the ability to apply FairPlay to media companies who wanted their music and videos to play on the iPod.

    In other words, Double Twist's business model is entirely dependent upon the continuation and prevalence of DRM, especially as it relates to Apple's Fairplay. As usual, poor journalism is a contributor here and should have picked this up rather than just referring to his history. I see no hypocrisy in Jobs statement, but a huge wad of it from DVD-Jon.

    In a further note of irony, it should be remembered that DVD-Jon's home country is Norway - perhaps the most aggressive country pushing for changes in Apple's policies.

    I agree ... it is a true lack of journalism from the major media outlets concerning this issue. Another score for blogs getting the story behind the story.

    Looks like the iPod has "a case of the Mondays"

    As reported by Engadget:

    ... "iPod Monday," is a weekly event at The Lift in Des Moines, Iowa where patrons bring brought along their iPods to play 15 minute playlists based around different themes. Unfortunately, the event's host and creator, Clint Curtis, is bringing the event to a close on its second anniversary (tomorrow) after receiving a cease & desist email from Apple. As the dispute is limited to Clint's use of the trademarked word "iPod," Clint could presumably have kept the event running under a different name. However, a quick read of his email correspondance with Apple reveals the reasoning for closing the event. As Clint points out, he sent several emails to Apple before starting the website and specifically asked for permission to use the term "iPod Monday," he's had visits by Apple employees, a mention on Apple.com, and has praise heaped upon him everytime he visits the local Apple Store, and he is also a loyal Apple customer and claims to have generated a lot of publicity for the company despite receiving no compensation. Unfortunately, that means nothing to Apple, who are still requesting that he cease using the name despite his pleadings. This all begs the question: why now? Why, after two years, many emails, and much publicity, is Apple cranking it up a gear? As is often the case with these kind of David and Goliath legal scenarios, Clint has only two possible choices: resign to his fate and accept the demands, or start a lengthly legal battle against a company he likes, for an event that probably isn't worth the financial cost to defend.

    This is where I don't get the stance taken by Apple on the iPod name. ONLY in a case where the "user of the name" is making significantly measurable money (as a direct result of name association) from an event and potentially causing a tarnishing of the image through a malicious or unethical means should Apple be worried about this.

    Wednesday, February 07, 2007

    eBay ... not understanding it's own market?

    As reported by FoxNews:

    News Corp.'s Web network MySpace has been in talks for several months with online auction company eBay Inc. about a partnership, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

    The idea is to let MySpace users buy and sell items from each other using eBay's online-commerce technology and its PayPal payment system, the Journal said, adding that MySpace users would be able to post items for sale on their profiles, and their eBay auctions would be automatically updated, according to a person close to the discussions

    Pop Culture is undeniably what eBay is all about. To me Pop Culture is a meld of past, present, and future (with a heavy dose of nostalgia). I honestly think that MySpace is a fad ... it will certainly make it into Pop Culture history, but only as a "I Love the 2000's" on VH1 in 2011. Therefore I don't see how this partnership between eBay and MySpace is good for anyone. I also don't want eBay to start promoting that irrational emotional teenagers would be good for eBay's "Trading Assistant/Seller" image.

    This "partnership" will most likely mean a revenue share/licensing by eBay to MySpace. I can't understand why eBay raises seller fees then starts promoting itself through meaningless contests and "partnerships". Is this where the raise in seller fees are going? (The answer: Yes!)

    Tuesday, February 06, 2007

    Steve Jobs: Open Letter About DRM ... wow!

    Go quickly to APPLE.COM and read this:

    Steve Jobs: Thoughts On Music

    I'm really impressed!

    MacMinute sums up:

    Jobs wants DRM on downloaded music dropped

    3:27PM Tuesday February 6: In a statement posted to its Web site, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has called on music companies to stop using digital rights management (DRM) on downloaded music. "So if the music companies are selling over 90 percent of their music DRM-free, what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system?" said Jobs. "There appear to be none. If anything, the technical expertise and overhead required to create, operate and update a DRM system has limited the number of participants selling DRM protected music. If such requirements were removed, the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players. This can only be seen as a positive by the music companies."

    Cancel Or Allow ...

    This is my favorite "Get A Mac" advertisement to date. It's exactly how I feel when working with Windows ... meaningless Windows that pop up with no reason or explanation.

    * Go to http://www.apple.com/getamac and click on "Security"

    Monday, February 05, 2007

    Satire: The Unfunny Kind & Mac Users Are Playing Right Into It!

    I've seen several big Mac News sites linking to a story posted on The Gaurdian this morning by Charlie Brooker- a British comedian.

    I really wish I didn't have to contribute to the link and hit total for this article, but I suppose only if you read it can you grasp that it was meant as satire.

    The problem is, it's not funny. Why? Because it's not original. So ... I really think it was meant to bring hits to the Gaurdian website. It's probably ad renewal time and they needed to boost hit totals.

    The article seems to be a regurgitation of everything Dvorak has been saying for the past few years about Macs and Mac Users - saying just to generate flamewars which equal high hit totals and nowadays - lots of Diggs..

    The article even prompted this blogger to get very defensive.

    This doesn't deserve attention ... but it merits pointing out that more Mac News sites need to be placing the bracketed [SATIRE] next to the headline.

    After emailing this to MacMinute the headline was changed to:

    Apple VS Apple: Finally Over!

    As reported by MacMinute:

    Apple & Beatles sign new deal

    Apple Inc and The Beatles' company Apple Corps today announced they have entered into a new agreement concerning the use of the name "Apple" and apple logos which replaces their 1991 Agreement. Under this new agreement, Apple Inc will own all of the trademarks related to "Apple" and will license certain of those trademarks back to Apple Corps for their continued use. In addition, the ongoing trademark lawsuit between the companies will end, with each party bearing its own legal costs, and Apple Inc will continue using its name and logos on iTunes. The terms of settlement were not announced.

    "We love the Beatles, and it has been painful being at odds with them over these trademarks," said Apple CEO Steve Jobs. "It feels great to resolve this in a positive manner, and in a way that should remove the potential of further disagreements in the future."

    The lawsuit was ridiculous to begin with and I doubt The Beatles would have won had the two gone any further. That said, had Apple [Computer] won a suit I doubt that the Beatles would have EVER appeared on the iTunes Music Store.

    About the timing of Vista . . .

    The Macalope quips:
    "... [it's] really interesting that Gates chose to mention the MOAB (as if it were still going — a perpetuity of Apple bugs rather than just a month). Let’s consider again the timing of the MOAB — timed for Macworld or timed for the Vista release? Or both?

    I suspect one day we will actually find that Maynor is a Microsoft evangelist.

    Sunday, February 04, 2007

    Grammar, Gruber, & Grandeur

    Via Daring Fireball:

    David Maynor Supports Gates’s Newsweek Interview

    David Maynor on Bill Gates’s interview with Steven Levy in Newsweek:

    [Maynor] The Mac community is up in arms. Bill Gates gave an interview where his fights back against some Apple’s misleading and deceptive marketing. …

    Take a seat, hold your hats because I am about to make a declaration: Windows Vista is more secure than OSX 10.4.8. Anybody that tells you anything different should immediately be treated with the same disdain as finding a parking ticket on your car.

    [Gruber] This may well be true. The problem is that Gates didn’t merely claim that Vista is more secure than Mac OS X. What Gates claimed is “Every single day, [security guys] come out with a total exploit, your [Mac] can be taken over totally.”

    The outrage over Gates’s Newsweek interview has nothing to do with a knee-jerk reaction to the idea that Vista is more secure than Mac OS X.

    And people criticize me for my grammar? Maynor's blog entry hardly made sense with so much ad hominem ... it becomes completely unintelligible with the bad grammar. I'm glad Gruber roasted this guy [Maynor] ... not only in factual refutation, but with intelligent writing and grammar.

    Saturday, February 03, 2007

    National Consumer Protection Week

    Feb 4 - 10 2007

    Consumer advocacy and protection is the main focus of the news on this site ...

    With that in mind, I make readers aware that next week is National Consumer Protection Week:

    National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) highlights consumer protection and education efforts around the country. NCPW 2007– Read Up and Reach Out: Be an Informed Consumer – encourages people across the nation to take advantage of the wealth of information that can enhance confidence in the marketplace. Consumer information can help people recognize a rip-off, smell a scam, or find a fraud.

    As Apple computer owners, a lot of us take our security online for granted. Many of my customers in my Apple Tech service business seem to think "phishing" is somehow related to "viruses". In a way it is ... but "phishing" is a means to obtain your personal information and use your credit, identity and hard earned money by criminals. Sometimes a virus can be used to harvest this information, but for the most part "information phishing" comes in the form of "official looking" emails from your bank, from PayPal, or from sites like eBay.

    Know that your bank, and ANY site you do business with will have your receipt, order details, and transaction history contained on their SECURE site. NEVER click on an email asking you to verify information unless you specifically requested an email to do so. ALWAYS go to a website you need and usually you will see a note on your account if there is an alert or message that requires your attention.

    Friday, February 02, 2007

    Local Tech TV News Analyst Says It Takes 4 + Hours To Install Windows Vista

    My last install of the Mac OS took 25 minutes tops. It took an additional 20 minutes to run software update and get all the program updates I needed. My install also didn't require an older version of the Mac OS to be on my computer. Windows Vista requires a valid XP installation (otherwise you have to pay $499 for the full version).

    A local (to me) television station tech news analyst took 4+ hours to install Windows Vista and it still seemed like after he was finished it was a nightmare.

    The most ironic thing about the video commentary linked above is that this was termed as "going pretty smoothly".

    If this is true ... then they should be prosecuted

    MacDailyNews reports:

    A page on The Month Of Apple Bugs website causes Safari to hang up

    • The page for bug #29 contains the following HTML:

    [img src="bug-files/heat-up.jp2" alt="" height="1" width="1" /]
    [!-- Never use the macbook at bed again when browsing the MoAB or you will fry your balls, looper --]

    • The referenced .jp2 (JPEG 2000) file hangs up at least one copy of Safari running on Mac OS 10.4.8 (with all security updates installed) and requires a force quit. It's unknown if anything else bad is done. It does not hang at least one other copy of Safari (on a Leopard build) and various copies of Firefox. The jp2 file, at first glance, looks normal (although we've no JPEG expertise here), but is 344KB big.

    Hacking is covered under law Title 18: Crimes and Criminal Procedure: Part 1: Crimes: Chapter 47: Fraud and False Statements: Section 1030: Fraud and related activity in connection with computers. The federal punishment for hacking into computers ranges from a fine or imprisonment for no more than one year to a fine and imprisonment for no more than twenty years. This wide range of punishment depends upon the seriousness of the criminal activity and what damage the hacker has done.

    Helpful reference:

    Computer Ethics Discussion

    Apple's "Exhibit A" In Apple vs Cisco "iPhone" trademark suit

    The Macalope quips:

    ZDNet’s Alan Graham has what will probably be labeled “Exhibit A” if Apple does have to go to court with Linksys.

    I say exhibit "B" will be this:

    With a "Trademark Proof Of Declaration", you are required to file a copy of a label or other packaging showing the trademark in use. Cisco filed a picture of the box for the Linksys iPhone.

    * Photo Courtesy of ZDNET (click for larger view)

    (Notice the word "iPhone" is NOT actually on a shipping product, it was instead a label affixed to the OUTSIDE of a box) It's also worthy to note that Cisco did not own Linksys at the time of the submission or at any point during 90% of it's useable lifespan) Linksys was purchased by Cisco in 2003. (Correction to the ZDNET article above) The registration was actually made by another company that Linksys acquired in 1997 (Infogear) and was renewed again in 1999 by Linksys)

    The Zunicator?

    CrunchGear is reporting that Microsoft may have a "Zune Phone" ready by Christmas 2007:

    Microsoft Zune Phone In the Works

    Some points of interest:

    1) My guess: The Zunicator will be a CDMA phone and we will find out that THIS IS THE REAL REASON Verizon passed because Microsoft might have talked to Verizon about exclusive deals.

    2) The unit will have an actual tactile keyboard to make the Dvorak/Scoble/Ballmer camps happy

    3) The unit will run a Windows Mobile / Zune Hybrid and essentially be like any other high end mobile phone currently on the market except be limited just slightly more by means of DRM.

    4) Phone calls will be limited to 3 minutes. (just as Zune beamed songs are limited to 3 days or 3 listens)

    5) It will be interesting to see if Microsoft would use Windows Mobile for Smartphones or do what they did to all of their MP3 DRM (by not using the same PlaysForSure System) partners and create an entirely new system ... leaving their design partners in the dust.