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MWSF Keynote 2005

24 comments (closed), posted on january 11, 2005, tags: tech

Mac mini

Well, it's here. The Mac mini: a tiny G4 Mac for $499 USD. I was terrified at the idea of Apple releasing a cheap, headless Mac. My biggest fear was that it would be cheap or that it wouldn't match the quality of their other hardware. I was afraid Apple was trying to capitalize on the iPod buzz and turn it into marketshare, hoping to grab people who were cheap or couldn't afford the eMac. But the Mac mini feels aimed less at those people and more at people like me. I have two Macs, but the mini was an instant wish-list item. Tiny, silent machine with an optical drive and an ethernet card. The Mac mini would be a great photo/video/music/file/print server. It's basically an entire Mac in your pocket, and that's fantastic. I should never doubt Apple. Ever. Ever, ever, ever.

iLife '05 LogoAnother interesting thing from Apple today is iLife '05, an upgrade from iLife '04, which contains new versions of all of the iApps (save iTunes, which remains at 4.7). Strangely, Apple created a new logo for the suite which is very different from all other Apple icons. It's very organic looking and seems almost like a David Lanham design. iWork, a new suite containing Keynote 2 and Pages (a new word processing app), also has an organic icon. I like them both very much and I hope to see more like this in the future.

Be sure to check out the new OS X Tiger tour they've put up. You can see the new UI for Mail and some other great stuff.

Then, of course, there's the new iPod shuffle, a flash-based iPod at only $99 USD. This little guy is going to finalize Apple's ownership of digital music. They needed a small, inexpensive player for people who only need 512MB of space and they've just done it. Final nail in the coffin.

What are you most excited about?

The All-New iMac G5

13 comments (closed), posted on august 31, 2004, tags: tech

The all-new iMac G5

So, after months of speculation and waiting and timelines miscalculated and more speculation and rumors of speculation about speculating, it's finally here: The all-new iMac G5. Some notes about the new machine follow, as well as some thoughts on the "From the creators of iPod" advertising tie-in.

The good news about the new iMac? It's a Single-processor 1.6 or 1.8GHz G5 and 17- or 20-inch display all in once piece, only 2 inches thick. The machine is extremely simple in its design—hell, even the ports are all in a simple line on one side of the back of the display)—and it features a mount similar (if not identical) to the new Cinema Displays. It's also get serial ATA drives now, which should increase disk performance compared to the old iMac model.

The bad news? The front-side bus is just over half that of the Power Mac G5 and the memory is only expandable up to 2GB (the Power Mac G5 accepts either 4GB or 8GB depending on configuration). Only two FireWire ports, and they're both 400. It's made of white plastic that's shiny (like the old iBook), and it looks a lot like the eMac from the front.

Extremely good news, though, is that Apple has priced the entry-level, 17-inch model at $1299 USD. This means that the iMac is still very affordable as a consumer desktop machine, and means that more and more people can make the move to the significantly faster G5 processor. Bluetooth is still not built-in by default (Apple, read this: Want people to buy your wireless mouse and keyboard? Then build Bluetooth in! Do it on every machine, always, no exceptions!), which I think is a mistake. Apple should be capitalizing on all the little things that make a Mac so great to use on a daily basis, and being able to sync all your contacts and date book items from your phone to your computer and vice-versa with little-to-no setup is something Apple should definitely be promoting.

The iPod Tie-in

Saying "From the creators of iPod" bothers me for three reasons:

  1. "The creators of iPod" are Apple and designer Jonathan Ive. Ive is also responsible for the original iMac design, the previous iMac design, the iBook, the PowerBook and the Power Mac. To say this new design is from "the creators of iPod" is like saying "From the people who made every other Apple product." I would assume the connection is supposed to make people think, "Hey, I like the iPod. If this new iMac was made by the same team, it is probably as good as my iPod. I'll buy two!" I dunno, I think it's a stretch.
  2. Removing the article from that statement bothers the hell out of me. "From the creators of iPod" sounds absolutely incorrect to me, and I had to read it a few times before I realized the "the" was missing. Then I started to look around Apple's site and I noticed they aren't using articles at all. "Though ease of use has always been the hallmark of iPod..." No, you bastards. It's been the hallmark of the iPod. You bastards, you're driving me nuts! "And you can shuffle your way through a lot of songs now that iPod lets you..." apparently iPod is a person who lets you do things. Next time you pick up iPod, ask iPod if it will play you some music. Ridiculous!
  3. It really has nothing to do with the iPod save the fact that it's a white square with a screen.
A Few Miscellaneous Thoughts

This new iMac looks almost exactly how a tablet-pc would look. In fact, if you could remove the mount, you'd have a tablet (albeit a corded and probably hot and heavy one). It feels like this is the beginning of the path to an Apple tablet PC. I'm excited about the idea, but only because I'm a gadget freak—I don't think an Apple tablet PC would really be a good idea. How many people have tablet PCs right now? I've never seen a single one outside of movies and shipping companies.

Two inches thick screams "getting close to a G5 PowerBook." I hope so. I don't need a new laptop (I have a 15-inch PowerBook), but there are plenty of people waiting, money in hand, to buy a new PowerBook the moment it includes a G5 processor. Frankly, the sooner Apple has a G5 in all of its machines, the better.

It's sad to admit it, but it's true—I want to see an Apple Sidekick-like PDA/phone. I really love mobile phones, and I have still yet to find the right one for me. I'm extremely interested in the new Sidekick II, but I can't get the device on ATT wireless (and I'm under contract). Still, I feel like Apple could make a fantastic device, even though it will probably never happen (although I have received confirmation that it is happening—I just don't believe it).

The Great FireWire Adventure

11 comments (closed), posted on august 10, 2004, tags: tech

My primary computer is a Dual 2GHz Power Mac G5. When I bought it almost a year ago, it was the top of the line machine—it has only recently been ousted by the Dual 2.5GHz model—and it's packed with great features and technology. One of the surprising things, however, is its lack of FireWire ports.

Apple developed FireWire and has been one of its biggest proponents. Since the Blue & White Power Mac G3 (released in 1999), Apple has included FireWire ports in most of its computers. My PC has two ports and I've never used them. Each of my Macs has had at least two ports and they've always been full.

I currently have my iPod dock, my iSight and two LaCie FW hard drives. The two HDDs have an extra pass-through port to allow daisy chaining, but even if I were to utilize both ports (which I'm not) I would still be left with two devices to plug in (one hard drive plugged into the other, the iPod dock plugged into that, leaving the iSight and the first drive). The problem? The G5 only has two FireWire 400 ports, and one is in the front. Could someone please explain this to me? This was a $3,000 machine. Top of the line. Fast, fully featured, et cetera. And yet, it has only two FW ports. I don't understand this at all.

None the less, I decided to purchase a PCI expansion card to add some ports to my machine. I picked up a Belkin 3-port card and tossed it into the machine. Perfect, now I have room for all of my devices. Well, time to go to work, better sleep my machine. Hey... what the hell? Why won't you go to sleep? Man, your fans are spinning even faster than before! What are you doing? Oh, you're not sleeping because OS X doesn't support deep sleep with any 3rd party FW PCI card installed. Fantastic! I rely on deep sleep during the summer because my office doesn't have an air conditioner in it and when I am at work during the day it gets very hot and my G5 doesn't need to be on. But I also don't want to shutdown and turn on my machine every morning and evening. A Mac which cannot deep sleep is a broken Mac.

After trying a few different cards (I learned "no cards work" fact after all this trial and error), I finally gave up and bought a Belkin 6-port FireWire hub* at the lovely high price of $70. That's right. $3,000 machine, iPod, iSight, et cetera, and I had to spend an additional $70 just to be able to use the devices with my "top of the line" machine. Kind of silly if you ask me.

But now it's working. The machine deep sleeps and all is well in the world once again. That's why, for the love of everything that is good and holy, I will not install the recent 10.3.5 system update on my G5 until these reported sleep issues are fixed. After all that nonsense getting my machine in working order, I'm not going to ruin it all with an update that breaks what I've just fixed.

Update: It seems the problem I linked to above only affects single processor 1.8GHz G5s. I'm still going to give it a little bit of time, though.

* It's worth noting that calling this hub a 6-port hub is false advertising. While it's true that the hub has 6 ports, Belkin claims you can "connect six FireWire devices," but fails to mention that one of those devices is your computer. You can actually only attach 5 devices. They should really call it a 5-port hub.

Broken Video Card

6 comments (closed), posted on april 13, 2004, tags: tech

Update: So they didn't ship the card until today (04/14). I will have it tomorrow.

Unfortunately, the video card in my G5 has died. It started as the 'BSOD' problem (Black screen of death in this case), where the machine wouldn't send the display a video signal after starting up cold. But yesterday, it wouldn't come on at all, even after a few hours of warming up. I remoted into the machine to find that the video card wasn't even in the system profiler. I took the card out and re-seated it, but no luck. It's definitely dead.

I called Apple and after a little convincing (they didn't want to send me hardware, they wanted me to bring my G5 in—no way), they've overnighted me a replacement card which should arrive tomorrow.

Between this and work and Easter and getting my driver's license issue fixed (which it is—yay) and working on other projects, I haven't had much time to catch up here. Expect more tomorrow.

Region 2 DVDs, Questions

10 comments (closed), posted on january 28, 2004, tags: tech

Can someone explain to me why multi-region DVD players can't be sold in the United States, but can be elsewhere? I thought region encodings had something to do with copyright, but after some research today I found that to be untrue.

It seems region encoding is just a way for countries to control how their products are sold and to which group of people. The past few years I've been thinking that importing region 2 DVDs (UK, etc) was at least borderline illegal, but that's not so. It's perfectly legal... it's just difficult because US DVD manufacturers make it so damned difficult to play anything but region 1 discs.

After looking endlessly for a multi-region DVD player that I could buy without having to deal with a "black market" or "Russia," I found some interesting information today—my DVD player can be hacked to remove region encoding requirements. As far as I can tell, hacking your DVD player to remove this restriction is not illegal, as the encoding has nothing to do with copyright. So long as you're not going to use this hack to play stolen DVDs, copied DVDs, etc, it's legit to do it.

It also seems like most DVD players have a hack to do this (which makes sense, since I'm sure manufacturers test the DVD players for all regions before locking them down based on their sales location), and therefore most people can turn their current region 1 (or 2) DVD player into a multi-region player. Then it's all about buying DVDs from Amazon.co.uk.

Does anyone have any experience in this regard? I would like to hear from anyone who is currently living in the US and playing Region 2 discs. I don't want to feel like I'm losing quality or working crazy hard to view discs from the UK, and I don't want to damage my DVD player. What I do want, however, is to be able to buy BBC and other UK DVDs when they are released, rather than waiting a year to get them in the States. If I change my region to 0, that means I'll be able to play any encoded (or non-encoded) disc, right?

Your input is appreciated.

On the Scale of Pointlessness...

6 comments (closed), posted on december 14, 2003, tags: tech

...this ranks 10. Just above ordering salad at a steakhouse and just below waiting for crosswalk signs to say "walk" in New York. In an effort to escape xPad for at least a little while today, I spent just over an hour creating a "Maniacal Rage" theme for my cell phone.

Call me a loser
Click the image for a larger version.

And, of course, what kind of person would I be if I didn't allow you to download the theme (28k) and use it yourself if you'd like to (this will only apply to crazy people who also happen to have a cell phone like mine). It requires a Sony Ericsson T610/616 phone (won't work on the older T68/i phones, sorry).

I Need a New Mouse

15 comments (closed), posted on december 8, 2003, tags: tech

I'm having a problem. I can't find a mouse that I like. I've owned at least seven mice in the past few years, and I can't find the right one. I've had two MS IntelliMouse Explorers (one wired, one wireless), an Apple Pro Mouse, a Logitech Dual Optical, an MS Optical Mouse Blue, a Kensington StudioMouse and most recently (what I'm using on my G5 now) a Kensington PilotMouse Optical. A rough total of how much I've spent: $294.

» Continue reading I Need a New Mouse

Inaccurate Canadians

4 comments (closed), posted on december 5, 2003, tags: tech

I came across an article, Gifts for Geeks, over at the Toronto Star's website. It's written by their resident "Technology Reporter," Rachel Ross who, in addition to being quite scary looking, has written a plethora of articles which, like a majority of newspaper tech-writers' articles, offer nothing new or original 99% of the time. The article in question contains a list of five gifts you could buy for "a geek," one of which being the new Dell DJ MP3 player. She compares the Dell DJ to the Apple iPod, of course, and it's one of the worst comparisons I've ever read. It goes wrong right from the get-go, with her opening sentence:

The Dell DJ 20 Digital Jukebox is the MP3 player for music aficionados who aren't fans of the big Apple.

The big Apple? What in the hell does this mean? From the last reported count, Apple Computer, Inc. had 10,211 (source) employees. Dell, Inc. had 39,100 (source). That's almost four times as many employees. Apple's world-wide market share is below 3%, Dell's worldwide market share is 15.3%. In the United States, Apple's market share finally hit 3% this year, while Dell's market share hit 27.4% (source). Dell is, in fact, the largest computer seller in the US. Apple is, in fact, one of the smallest (that actually "competes"). So who, in this case, is "the big" company? Apple? Not a chance.

Like some of the new Apple iPods, the Dell DJ 20 holds 20 gigabytes of music: that's about 4,900 songs.

The implication here is that the Dell DJ 20 holds 20 GB of music, and that only some of the iPod models compete with that. While that's true, technically, it's not really accurate. It would be more accurate to say, "Like the mid-range Apple iPod, the Dell DJ holds 20 gigabytes of music: that's about 4,900 songs. Dell also carries a 15 gigabyte model, while Apple carries both a 10 gigabyte model and an iPod which holds 40 gigabytes of music, or about 10,000 songs." Ross attempts to play on the fact that there's a 10GB iPod as a negative thing, which is ridiculous. And not mentioning that the 40GB iPod is twice the storage space of the Dell DJ 20 was clever.

But Dell's simple user interface makes the iPod seem silly, if not altogether cryptic. Instead of the iPod's oversized, rotating circle, the Dell DJ has a small, clickable scroll wheel (much like the one found on computer mice). The Dell DJ is sleek and stylish but doesn't sacrifice usability for the sake of aesthetics.

While I understand usability can be mostly subjective, I still have to disagree with this. The iPod interface is not cryptic. She compares the DJ's "small, clickable scroll wheel" to the iPod's "oversized, rotating circle," in favor of the former. What she doesn't mention is that the small, clickable scroll wheel, like a mouse's, requires you to scroll by moving your finger from the top to the bottom, then lifting your finger, and placing it back at the top then moving again (or reverse if you're scrolling up). Or that the clickable wheel requires you to actually push it in, which could cause unwanted scrolling. The iPod's circle (which has not rotated since the second generation iPod, since then all iPods have been touch sensitive) allow you to scroll without ever removing your finger from the circle. You just move clockwise or counter-clockwise continuously. And a separate button in the middle of the circle means you won't accidentally scroll when you mean to select something. And I know "sleek" and "stylish" and "aesthetics" are subjective, but I would never compare the looks of the Dell DJ to the iPod—it's no contest. The iPod is smaller and lighter to boot. She says the circle is a usability sacrifice, I say it's quite the opposite.

Various repeat and shuffle features are available on the Dell DJ, as well as equalization settings for different kinds of music. Sort your tunes by album, artist or genre.

Sort of like on the iPod. But does the Dell DJ count how many times you play a song? Does it allow you to rate music? Does it have a contacts feature, a calendar feature, a notes feature, games, an on-the-go playlist feature? Does the Dell DJ have a dock? No. The strange thing is, in Ross' article she fails to mention all but one of the things the Dell DJ features that the iPod doesn't (the one she mentioned was the built-in microphone, which you need to buy separately from a 3rd-party for the iPod). This includes the Dell DJ's reported 16-hour battery life (twice the iPod's), the fact that the price is significantly less than comparably-sized iPods, and that the DJ plays WMA files.

I understand the iPod is expensive, and therefore when something cheaper-but-comparable comes out, everyone jumps on the chance to knock the iPod from its throne. The only problem is, nothing has come out that actually compares to the iPod. Yes, the Dell DJ can hold 20 gigabytes of music and has a similar form-factor and theme, but it's bigger, clunkier, less intuitive and, well, cheaper. It's backed by an impersonal, unrelenting corporation that makes 300 products that all look the same, year in and year out. When I look at the Dell DJ, I think of Windows and Dell and beige and unfriendly things. When I look at the iPod I think of OS X and Apple and smooth corners and shiny metal and form and function.

I understand Ross' goal was not to make you not want the Apple iPod, or convince you Apple is doing wrong, or anything. I honestly think it was just an ignorantly written piece by a poor writer with minimal unique thought. Unfortunately, she's not the only person to have written this very same article. They're popping up everywhere, and many of them are nearly identical. I chose Ross' because it just struck that chord with me, and because it was the most recent one I've read.

Further Reading:
John Gruber's two articles on the Dell DJ, Dell's Dud and Dudley More.
My exhaustingly long entry, The [New 15GB] iPod Review.
A TechTV review by James Kim in which he compares the Dell DJ to (and prefers) the iPod, with some good comparison information.

Why I Bought a G5 (Saturday)

5 comments (closed), posted on october 27, 2003, tags: tech

Okay, let me start off by acknowledging the irony of writing a post entitled "Why I Can't Buy a G5 (Yet)" and then buying a G5 a day later. I know. It will be hard to convince you of this now, I'm sure, but I am not some out-of-control crazy person who cannot stop spending money. I promise. Yes, I know, I bought three Apple computers in a year. There are good reasons, which I'll share with you now.

The Cycle

Like anything technology related, when you buy a computer, you always assume the risk of future innovation. By that I mean buying a computer today for $1,500.00, which is near top-of-the-line (hereafter referred to as TOTL), could easily be rendered outdated and old (and expensive) in a short period of time. Nearly everyone knows this. I call this "the cycle."

The cycle is as such: technology moves in a never-ending path toward Back to the Future, Part II, Minority Report and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Along that path is your computer. In front of it are countless more, each one faster and (probably) cheaper than yours. Behind it lies 20 years of computers, each one slower and more expensive. But don't think of the line as a simple row of computers, think of it as groups of computers, organized by technology milestone. For instance, Pentium II computers would be grouped together. Power Mac G4 machines as well.

When you think of computers that way, a pattern emerges. Learning from that pattern, you can devise two coping strategies:

1. Continue buying non-TOTL machines every time the speed increase is "noticeable" (meaning day-to-day use is noticeably faster).

This will keep your computer up-to-date technology-wise, but will cost you quite a bit of money (trust me, I know). This strategy is like moving forward on the technology line, but only within each major group. An example would be buying a 733MHz G4, then a 1GHz G4. While the speed difference is great, the jump is not very large, so to stay up to date, other small jumps will have to be made in the future. And, at the rate technology evolves, you might have to start jumping every few months.

2. Purchase a "leaps-and-bounds" machine.

This is where you beat the cycle, at least for an extended period of time. Instead of moving up the line inter-group, you completely skip to the front of the line and purchase the latest technology and speed. This is especially effective when said machine is a leap-and-bound ahead of its predecessor (enter the Power Mac G5). While this isn't a permanent end to the cycle (there is no end, obviously), this will put you in a pretty great position for a comfortable amount of time (comfortable being, at this point, about 3 years).

So, why did I buy three Apple computers in one year? Because I started my cycle with Apple products using the first strategy.

» Continue reading Why I Bought a G5 (Saturday)

Why I Can't Buy a G5 (Yet)

3 comments (closed), posted on october 24, 2003, tags: tech

Ah, the Power Mac G5. After years and years of the Mac community crying and whispering false rumors and begging and praying, the gigantic metal box is unleashed to the world and I, as always, want one. I want everything new that comes out. Hell, I bought the 12" PowerBook I'm typing this on two weeks after it came out, and that only 5 months after having bought a 12" iBook (which was my first Mac computer save the Macintosh "Fat Mac" 512k that we got from a family friend back in 1994).

The problem with loving a company like Apple is that you're bound to be disappointed or mad at them when they release something new, and you're always going to want something more. When I bought my iBook, the next week they released new iBooks that were a little faster and a little cheaper. When I bought my PowerBook, it wasn't quite as bad—two months later they dropped the price by $200—but last month they released a faster, better version. But still, you can't buy anything from Apple these days without feeling remorse shortly after. I know that sounds horrible, but it's not—it's a good thing.

Imagine if the iBook I bought a year ago was still top-of-the-line today. Wouldn't that be depressing? Constant releases, upgrades and new technologies are exactly what you want in a computer company. Apple has been steadily releasing new machines and new technology in the past year and a half. And, on top of that, they've also been steadily releasing new versions of their operating system, OS X. Everyone knows Apple is a hardware company (if you didn't know—they are), but imagine how difficult it would be to sell new 17" PowerBooks or G5s if we were still using OS 9 and there was no movement in OS development.

So yes, I want the G5. I love my PowerBook, and I've been using it as a primary machine since I bought it, but I crave the raw power of two 2GHz G5 processors. Why not just buy it, you ask? Because, for the first time in my life I have the money to do so but I'm pacing myself. That's right—I'm forcing myself to wait. I always jump the gun, I always want to buy, buy, buy. But come on, three new machines in a year? That's ridiculous. The way I figure it, I can wait until next March (then it will have been one year after buying my PowerBook), and I'm gonna.

The downside? I'm going to have to wait another 5 or 6 months to get my hands on the machine. 5 to 6 months before I can replace my PowerBook as the primary machine. The upside? In 5 to 6 months, there will probably be at least a slightly faster G5 for the same price. Another upside? Waiting 5 to 6 months means only putting $500 a month aside for the machine, which is far less daunting than spending $3,000 all at once.

And so I wait. Sure, it's hard to wait to spend money. But at least in the meantime I can buy an Apple 20" Cinema Display, completely justified. I've needed a new monitor for a very long time, and since the ACD plays perfectly with my PowerBook and works with my P4 (and in the future, the G5), there's no reason to stay CRT from this point on. Oh, and there's Panther. I get to buy Panther. See, I've got plenty of things to buy before the G5. And then, in a few months, I'll get the G5. If you're waiting to buy one too, I think you should probably wait to buy it until after I do—with my history Apple will release both a faster and cheaper machine directly after I buy.

You are James Bond

4 comments (closed), posted on september 4, 2003, tags: tech

In what can only be described simultaneously as "the most ridiculous" and "best idea ever," a company in the UK called Gibbs has designed and is now selling a new car called the Aquada—the world's first "High Speed Amphibian (HSA).

Gibbs Aquada

For the uninformed (everyone on the fucking planet except the insane and/or people obsessed with Transformers), an HSA is a car and a boat. When on land, the Aquada is capable of speeds of up to 100 miles per hour, when on water up to 30 mph (Strange that they write that on their website, which is located in the UK, where they use kilometers per hour... maybe they know the only people stupid enough to buy this car would be Americans?).

I guess this would be a great car for people who live, say, on a river and never built a bridge. "Well, I've lost 5 cars in that damned river, but now I won't have to worry about that." Or, maybe, people who just want to scare the shit out of their friends by buying the car and not telling people it becomes a boat: "Frank, you're going a little bit fast, especially when we're right next to the river. Hey, watch it! What the hell are you doing?! You're heading right for the water! Ahhh! Ahhhhhh! [Shits pants] I'm going to die! Help me Jesu—oh. It turns into a boat. Funny." And, of course, there's rich people who just need to buy everything ("I must have a car that can also be a boat."). But regular people... well, it's a fucking fat chance anyone will buy one.

Still, you've got to admit that whoever started the project had balls—"I'm going to build a car boat!"—and it is neat. If only it had a submarine function, a remote control, missiles, people chasing it shooting at it and guaranteed vaginal penetration with hot women, you would be—for all intents and purposes—James Bond.

Take that, Turtle Beach!

3 comments (closed), posted on august 20, 2003, tags: tech

I finally managed to fix my soundcard problems yesterday. About four months ago, when our building's power went out due to a screwed up powerline under the street, my soundcard blew out. Or at least it seemed to.

Once we had power the next day I restarted my P4 tower only to find Winamp erring on playback. No wave output device. That's funny, I thought. I tried to reinstall the drivers, which ended up taking about two hours since I couldn't find the CD and had to download them from the Turtle Beach website. They were 25 MB, and it took a long time over dial-up. Once I finally downloaded them and installed, the sound still didn't work.

I wasn't really that eager to deal with the problem, so I gave up after a few uninstall/reinstalls, and enabled the built-in audio device on my motherboard. It stinks, though, and so my PC has been silent for the past 4 months.

Yesterday, I really wanted to play a game. I bought a really great video card a few months before moving, and I suddenly had the urge—now that I have a cable modem again—to play Counter-Strike. But you can't play games without sound, so I decided I would fix it, no matter what.

I'd forgotten how fixing things on a PC can be. It's rough. But, here's a rule of thumb that I always remember and that almost always works (unless your device is actually broken):

Uninstall the device completely—drivers, card (from the device manager), software associated—and shutdown (don't restart... shutdown all the way). Remove the card from the PCI slot. Reboot. Now your computer should behave as if it never had the device (this does not work for video cards, obviously, unless you have a built-in video card on your mobo). Shut the computer down again.

Reinsert the PCI card into a different slot if possible, and start the machine back up. Now reinstall drivers and software. Try to install the same drivers you had when the device was working, if possible—don't always opt for the newest drivers available online. If it was working once, chances are (unless it's broken), it will work again with those same drivers.

After you install the drivers, it's a good idea to restart again, although it might not be necessary. If your device isn't broken, chances are, it's working again.

I know that advice is probably well-known to a lot of you, but even if one person benefits from it, it's worth posting. Using that method has helped me out a lot in the past 8 years.

Now I can finally put my P4 to use again.

WiFi Finder Finds Itself Returned

3 comments (closed), posted on august 11, 2003, tags: tech

Just before I got Cable Internet access at the apartment two weeks ago, I was at the end of my rope. I was, daily, "about to call" the satellite Internet company and sign my life away to a one-year contract at $99/month for spotty, badly-reviewed service.

Two days before I got that lovely phone call from TWC telling me I finally had high-speed access, I was pulling hairs trying to figure out some way to get a fast connection in my apartment. One idea, prompted by a new gadget, was to try to find out if someone else in the area—with a high-speed connection—had a wireless network set up. Then, shamelessly, I planned to see if it was open (ie: not encrypted) so that I might latch onto it and steal some speed. Obviously this plan is flawed... there is no way it would work long-term. But, at the time, I was willing to try anything. (Note that I also had plans to find a WiFi network and approach the owner, willing to pay to share the service... I'm not all bad).

Enter the Kensington WiFi Finder (should absolutely be renamed WiFinder), the gadget that would help me execute my plan (in theory). It's a great idea: a small device that will detect both 802.11b and g WiFi "hot-spots" with the push of a button—no computer required. It has three LEDs on its small silvery plastic face, and depending on signal strength they light up (red equals no signal, two green lights for strength).

I made a stop at the Circuit City on Union Square and picked up the last one of three they had (it's a new product). Before buying it, I pushed the button through the plastic, and the device showed I was in a WiFi hot-spot of one-light strength. I asked the cashier if they had WiFi, and he said no. Then he reminded me that Starbucks does have a network—and it's a few hundred feet away. Not bad, I thought. But the signal then turned red. I tried it again, and could not manage to get the signal to pick up, even when I walked to the window facing the Square. But it was only $30, so I bought it.

On the walk home from the subway station (about 4 blocks), I constantly pushed the button, looking for signal. I found two places where the green lights were lit, but only in one of two would the lights come back after searching again. I realized this meant nothing to me, unless I was planning on living in the street 3 blocks from my apartment. In my apartment, though, is where it really got interesting.

I have an Apple Airport Extreme Base Station, running in 802.11b/g compatibility mode (I'm using my iBook for some xPad testing in Panther), and it would only detect the network, while standing next to the Base Station, and even then, only every few times. When detected, the signal would only be one green light, unless I was utilizing the network (then it was two). I guess the WiFi Finder has an easier time finding active networks than inactive networks (which is stupid, since most of the time it would seem like you're looking for either, not just a network that's pumping bytes).

In the end, the WiFi Finder was absolutely useless to me. Not just because it found no other networks around me, but because when it did find a network, it was too anonymous. I knew nothing about it. One green light could mean 10% signal strength for all I know, or the network could be locked, and why would I want to find those networks? This device would be useful for walking around NYC making a map of hot-spots, but not as useful as, say, a laptop. I know the point here is to find a hot-spot without having to take your laptop out, and for that it will at least work partially (assuming people are actively using the network), but it's not worth carrying around unless you're a die-hard war-driver (in which case you probably prefer using a laptop anyway).

High-Speed Access Soon

2 comments (closed), posted on july 29, 2003, tags: tech

Third Update: I got digital cable and cable Internet! Screw you, satellite!

Second Update: Screw it, what do we have to lose? Anything would be better than dial-up. We're going for it. Satellite crappy expensive Internet service, here I come!

Update: I finally managed to find some real reviews of this service (100s, actually), and it seems to stink. So, once again, I've gotten my hopes up for nothing. Dial-up it shall remain.

Well, it's finally gonna happen. But no thanks to Big Red (Verizon Sucks!). That's right—high-speed Internet access. Finally. How? Satellite.

It has been suggested many times in the past to me that I should attempt to find satellite access, since DSL and cable have not been an option since I moved to Brooklyn. In my defense, I did check into this, but at the time (four months ago now), it was too expensive. That's because at the time DirecTV had closed down their former satellite Internet service (then called DirecPC). The only other options were 3rd party companies that were quite expensive and offered only one-way satellite service (you would download using the dish, but upload over a modem—yuck!).

That all changed recently when DirecTV started their service one more, only this time calling it DirecWay. DW uses two-way satellites, and is a little less expensive than competitors. On top of that, for a small fee, you can use the dish to access both the Internet and satellite television (which is actually cheaper than cable TV).

Download speeds on the dish are impressive, with a non-guaranteed 500 kilobits per second (kpbs). Talking to sales people and reading reviews, it seems some people actually average around 1.5-2 megabits per second (mbps (a megabit is 10,000 kilobits)), which is great. The only downside is that the two-way dish is not asynchronous, so upload speeds are significantly slower (around a 50k minimum non-guarantee). Luckily for me, this is not too much of an issue, as I don't really ever upload anything terribly large, and when I do it's not more than a megabyte or two. Two megabytes in that scenario would take about a minute to upload, which is great compared to now—average of 4k upload via dial-up—when it takes 9 minutes.

This system isn't great for some things—you can't play online games because of "micro-lag" that comes from connecting with the satellite, etcetera—but after being on dial-up for 6 months, it's going to be super. Hopefully this will all happen within the next two weeks. Wish me luck.

More On WiFi

3 comments (closed), posted on july 3, 2003, tags: tech

I need to clarify a few things [in this entry] because I posted hastily. First of all, I am not whining. I don't know why this keeps coming up. People keep making some random assumption that I'm crying about how things I want aren't free. That's not it at all. I'm more upset that I don't have any way to make something like this happen (since I don't have broadband at home yet!), and that others who do don't match my mindset on the matter. Second, let me answer some questions I've received about this whole thing:

Who is paying for it? I am. You are. Anyone who participates is. The idea is not that everything will be free. That couldn't work. The idea is that I help contribute to the free WiFi, and you do too. That way, when I'm in my apartment or on my street, I have a WiFi connection. At this point, I'm paying for it. When you come to my house or my street you can use my connection. Then, when I go to your house or your street or your neighborhood, you're paying for it and I can use your connection. Now imagine many other people in-between our streets each sharing their WiFi and you have a connection all over. I'm willing to pay for/share my connection if it means I will be able to use my PowerBook all over the place.

Can it be non-metered and sustainable as a business? I'm not quite sure what this means, but I think I'm being asked if free WiFi could provide its own self-sustaining value. In that case, no, absolutely not. But that's not the point at all. This is a community powered—more so individually powered—idea that does not have anything to do with creating/maintaining/running a company. The idea here is not to incorporate or create a formal group of individuals, but rather the opposite. To get a group of people together who are all willing to donate something to creating a free WiFi network. Whether it's bandwidth, money, time, etcetera—that's what this is about. Of course it's not sustainable as a business. If you had 20 people keeping up this network and 10 of them left, it would probably fall apart. I'm not interested in creating a business, though.

As far as making your connection public being a violation of your cable/dsl company's Terms of Service—this is true. And an issue. Although I think this was brought up less for a point of "illegality" than it was for a point of "someone's paying for it," meaning that by violating your cable TOS, you are, in essence, making your cable company pay for the free WiFi you're creating. I don't really think this is true, however. While you would be violating the TOS in a very technical way, you wouldn't be creating a significant amount of overage in your daily use. For instance—having an Airport Extreme Base Station at home allows me to broadcast my Internet bandwidth to up to 50 computers in my house. This is already not how ISPs had intended their services to be used, but they have ratified their TOS over the years to allow for homes to use wireless connections for multiple computers.

I think that I could create just as much use by myself with three machines on my home network (by downloading big files constantly, or something like that) than I could if I just didn't set a password on my APE base station and let people in the area connect to it. The point of this whole thing is not to create a network for extreme usage (this is not all an idea for MP3 downloading and porn searching), but a network that allows for normal Internet connectivity in lots of places.

I keep hammering at this topic because I think it's a good idea. I don't think I'm out of line here, and I don't think what I'm saying is impossible to do or anything of the sort. I feel like I need to find some people who actually agree with me and would be willing to try starting something like this. I dunno, maybe I'm also just crazy. It seems like most people who comment just don't want to hear about it and wish I would stop talking. That's fine—I don't think you're the right audience then, for this kind of conversation. I'll keep this to myself in the future.

Free WiFi Not Crazy After All

4 comments (closed), posted on july 2, 2003, tags: tech

The other day I wrote an entry about Starbucks not having free WiFi Internet service. In response, Shawn wrote an entry about how crazy I was, basically stating that wishing for free WiFi is not only stupid, but not at all reasonable. My reaction to this, and to anyone who believes that, is still the same: free WiFi is not crazy, is not unreasonable, and is worth it. But I also conceded that maybe my views on this matter are not in the same tone as people from this area (New York). Other places, however, have similar ideas.

For instance, there's WiFi Charlottetown (via aov), a group of individuals in Charlottetown, PEI (Canada) who are trying to create a free WiFi network in their entire town. This is something I think could be a really positive and fantastic idea if it works out (and it seems to be). The basic idea is that a bunch of people donate time or bandwidth or money, and eventually the whole town has free and open WiFi access.

Ellie also sent me a Seattle Times article about WiFi becoming wide-spread in small coffee shops and stores in Seattle. The article describes how small business owners are finding that offering this service is attracting more customers and helping out with word-of-mouth advertising. From the article:

The typical proprietor or chief executive of these venues says "free" can have a way of paying for itself by bringing in more repeat customers and encouraging people to linger in the shop and spend a little more money.

Perhaps I'm being too positive, but I believe free WiFi is a cause worth supporting. I'm actually quite surprised that more areas in NYC aren't doing this (maybe I just don't know about them). In areas like Williamsburg, I wish more people thought like they have been in Charlottetown. I think that creating a free WiFi network would be a great thing—not only for the current residents of the area, but for future residents too. I'm sure there are plenty of people interested in this sort of thing—maybe they just don't know where to start.

In a place like New York City, a place where everything is fast and on the cutting edge, I expect a technological idea like this to be supported and nurtured. Instead, I'm apparently in the minority of this opinion. I think that's crummy.

Update: Please see the entry entitled More On WiFi for more on this subject.

Panther, G5, Etcetera

6 comments (closed), posted on june 23, 2003, tags: tech

It's a good time to be Apple. I just got back from watching Jobs' WWDC Keynote speech, in which some really fantastic things were announced. The most important to me is Panther, the next version of OS X (10.3), and the second most important is the new G5. (I'm not going to go into details, because most people already know—but this is a remarkable machine. It's also priced quite nicely.)

Panther looks quite good, although I am a bit disappointed that it will be another $129 to upgrade. I feel that buying two Apple computers in the last 8 months entitles me to save $129 on upgrading to another point-release of OS X, but oh well. I think in the long run it will be worth it, especially since it has some really cool new features (fast user-switching, better Mail.app, and (oh dear lord this looks cool—)Expose) and will hopefully be even faster than the current build.

The only unfortunate thing is waiting until (possibly) December. I hope it comes faster...

Bucket Full of Holes

1 comment (closed), posted on june 20, 2003, tags: tech

Or at least that's what Apple seems to be. I've been part of the ever growing community of Apple users for almost a year now, and in that time I have become just as excited by rumor sites and possible new software and hardware releases as the next geek. Hell, I went and saw the iPod keynote a month ago, and I plan to go to the SoHo store next week* to see the WWDC keynote in which Steve Jobs will most likely reveal the new G5.

How do I know? Well, Apple told everyone. It seems to be a problem the last few months... Apple, an inherently secrets-based company that thrives on anticipation and major releases, has been 'accidentally' leaking things like crazy. There were the countless builds of Safari, the drawing of the new iPod, and then yesterday they actually posted the specs of this new secret machine on their website [see image]. Don't get me wrong—it sounds fantastic—but can't Apple keep anything secret these days?

I guess the problem is just that keeping secrets in this kind of business is like begging for someone to break into your house. How can you make sure the people who work for you—who are as excited by the new developments as the community is—don't slip news out early? You can't. It's fun to watch from the sidelines, but I'm actually sort of disappointed by this G5 slip-up. I would have rather heard about it for the first time in the keynote.

* Most Apple stores will be showing the WWDC keynote. In NYC, the SoHo store will be playing it in the theatre at 1:00PM (10:00AM PST). Also, if you're nowhere near an Apple store, you can watch the keynote after it is complete on Apple's website by clicking here.

The [New 15GB] iPod Review

16 comments (closed), posted on may 10, 2003, tags: tech

Note: This review references the first release of the 3rd generation 15GB iPod. When this review was written, the 15GB iPod was the mid-range model in the 10/15/20GB line-up. Currently, the 15GB model is the base model, and therefore no longer comes with a wired remote and dock like it did back when I bought it.

Well, it's been 8 days since I bought my new iPod, and I've been using it like crazy. What follows is my extensive review and thoughts about this wonderful little device.

» Continue reading The [New 15GB] iPod Review

The Summer of Music

3 comments (closed), posted on april 29, 2003, tags: tech

Yesterday on my lunch break I went up to the Apple Store in SoHo to watch Steve Jobs' presentation of Apple's new music ventures. I know, I know—geeky. I'm fine with that. I embrace it. I was actually excited to go. The whole day at work I was counting down the minutes. And it was worth going.

I think it goes without saying, if you've ever seen Jobs speak, that he's a charismatic guy. He's also a hell of a salesman. The presentation was great, and the new products even better. I think if they had had new iPods in the store right that moment, they would have sold one to almost every person in the crowd watching the broadcast (myself included).

I've been waiting to buy an iPod for months now. The new iPod design, new sizes, new prices... all perfect. And even better, they're right in time for my birthday (May 15, of course). Now I'm counting down until Friday when the iPods will be in stores so I can go and get a hands-on impression of them before buying one in a few weeks.

And, of course, there's iTunes 4. With the new iTunes Music Store (applemusic.com) built right in, AAC encoding and the addition of cover art, iTunes 4 is exactly where this program should be (see image). I must say, this makes not having a high-speed connection at home even more depressing. The music store is a fantastic idea, and actually works the way it should, too (see image 1, image 2). My only fear is that having one-click buying is dangerous for people like me (I've purchased several things from Amazon just because I could one-click them). I could potentially end up one-click buying myself into bankruptcy. So far I have resisted buying random crap, but I'm sure I will.

Currently the store has 200,000 tracks, and Jobs claims they're adding more daily. I think once this number gets higher, this store will become intensely useful and popular. And, Apple claims, it will be coming to PCs by the end of the year (as well as iTunes!).

Yesterday was an exciting one for digital music (and me).

A Bit of Switch

4 comments (closed), posted on april 12, 2003, tags: tech

In the last three months I have used my PC three times. Once to listen to music, once to make changes to one of the source PSDs for this site, and once today to upload a file to bring the forums back online. Granted, I haven't had an Internet connection on the PC until today, but still—a year ago I was using my PC 8 hours a day (at least), and had never touched a Mac running OS X. That changed last November when I bought an iBook.

Until last month, I had been using the 12" iBook as my primary machine at home. Because we still don't have high-speed Internet access here I hadn't been using my LinkSys Wireless Router, so instead I strung a phone cord along the wall in the living room (allowing me to take the 'Book into that room and watch television whilst using it). It wasn't terrible. I started to notice, however, that the iBook wasn't quite fast enough to be a primary machine for me. A 700MHz G3, the 'Book lacked a little oomph when using Photoshop (especially documents with many layers), and the speed was noticeable when I was working with more than five applications at once. I needed more. I needed desktop-machine strength at laptop size.

Enter the PowerBook G4. Same screen size as my iBook, but a smaller, more compact size in total. Made of aluminum alloy and roughly half a pound lighter, better keyboard, and best of all: an 867MHz G4 processor. Exactly what I wanted. I decided to sell my iBook (which I still haven't done—damn it) and model up to the PowerBook.

After a bad start (the screen had a ripple in the upper-left corner), and a quick repair (took 3 days total), the PowerBook has been fantastic. I have gripes (it gets so fucking hot), but most are being caused by the current build of OS X. A new build released two days ago fixed a few problems, and future builds will continue to do the same. The PowerBook is fast (like with my iBook, I maxed out the RAM (640MB), but the pBook's RAM is DDR 2100—much faster), and fantastic in design. The new keyboard is much better to type on (the iBook's keyboard was spongy because it was removable to add RAM and an AirPort card, the pBook has panels underneath for those items) and the screen is noticeably brighter and more colourful.

As part of the upgrade process I also bought an AirPort Extreme Base Station (with modem) [see picture], since my PowerBook came with a pre-installed AP Extreme card. The nice thing is, even though Extreme uses 802.11g (52 megabit speed), it is still backwards compatible with 802.11b (old AirPort speed as well as the most common wireless standard) so I was able to have both the iBook and PowerBook connected wirelessly (made moving all my files over very easy and quick).

Because the PowerBook is the same general size as the iBook, I can still use my Griffin Technology iCurve stand that I got in January. The original reason for this purchase was to allow my iBook to function like a desktop, but with the PowerBook now the iCurve serves an even better purpose: dual displays. The iBook had the ability to hook up to an external monitor and mirror the image. But mirroring is rather useless for normal use. The PowerBook, however, can span displays. Not only can it, but it does it perfectly and fantastically. Now I can use twice the screen space when I'm in my office [see picture], and then simply unplug and move into the living room. You don't have to readjust anything—OS X automatically moves items back to one screen when necessary, and spans them to two when possible as well. I gotta tell you, I fucking love it.

I gotta say, the outlook for my PC doesn't look good. Hell, when (if) I get high speed access here I will definitely use my PC again... for Counter-Strike. And maybe to work on a new version of CurrentlyHearing. Other than that, well, it's gathering dust until further notice.

Another Reason

posted on february 5, 2003, tags: tech

It's not like I used to take my iBook around the apartment in New Jersey all that much. Every now and then I would bring it into the living room and watch television whilst browsing the Internet, and occasionally I would sit on my bed, 'Book on my lap, writing at night.

But now that I'm using dial-up, I have to wait to use my wireless router again. And the fact that now I can't take the iBook out of this room, even if I didn't want to, bothers the hell out of me. I think I actually hear the AirPort card crying out from under the keyboard, "Please! Use me! I will allow you to browse the Internet from anywhere in the house!" Something about the router sitting on my desk waiting to be used feels very trapping. It feels like this laptop is nailed to this desk, and I'll never free it from its place.

Granted, the minute I get wireless back up and running next week, the iBook will still be sitting on its stand on the desk. But at least I could take it with me into the bathroom if I felt like it.

Mouse and PowerMate Try to Kill P4

1 comment (closed), posted on february 5, 2003, tags: tech

Last night I turned my P4 desktop on for the first time in the new apartment, because I wanted to grab some stuff I had been working on before the move and burn it to a CDRW. My plan was to put that CDRW into my iBook and work on that, since I've only got the dial-up working there (no modem in the PC).

The machine started fine, and after I logged into WindowsXP, I moved my mouse (Logitech MouseMan® Dual Optical), nothing happened. I knew what was wrong instantly, because it happened the first time I installed my PowerMate. The PowerMate has this nasty habit (I've heard only on PCs) of acting like it's your mouse when installed, before you install the PM software. I knew why it happened, too—I had plugged the PM into a different slot on my USB hub than it had been in before the move. My mistake. I unplugged the PM, unplugged and plugged the mouse back in. I saw an hourglass for a split second, and then the mouse lit up underneath. Good. I moved it. Fine. I moved it again.

And then the screen turned that familiar blue (not nearly as familiar in XP) for a split second, then the computer shut off. What the fuck, I thought. It restarted automatically. XP said it needed to check the disks—Fine, whatever—and then loaded properly. I logged in, moved the mouse, and it did the same thing. Fuck.

On the next startup, the disk-check found a bunch of corrupted system files (which it fixed) and then I was back to logging in again. I logged in, moved the mouse, it shut down. This happened again and again and again. I started to get nervous, because the list of corrupted system files got longer upon each startup. Finally, I unplugged the mouse and started once more. Logged in, waited... everything was fine. Messed around a bit via the keyboard, opened applications, and decided it must have been a glitch. Plugged the mouse back in, moved it, and it shut down again. At this point I'm getting mad. I can't figure out what is wrong. It was late, so I went to sleep.

Tonight when I got home I unplugged the mouse, booted into safe mode, uninstalled every USB item, the Logitech MouseWare software and the PowerMate software. I rebooted into normal mode and plugged the mouse in. It started asking me for DLL and SYS files, which I found strewn in tons of different folders on my system. Finally, after 10 minutes of searching and using only my keyboard, I had the mouse working again. I restarted and moved it and everything was fine.

Thank god I know my way around DOS, safe mode and Windows. I have a feeling if I were just some regular schmuck, I would have been to the point of taking my computer somewhere for repair (at which point, most likely, I would have received an answer like, "It needs to be reformatted"). I feel bad for people out there who don't know how to deal with these kinds of problems.

On a side note: I have never had a problem like this with my iBook. I'm not saying Macs are better, or so simple that it's not possible, I'm just saying that sometimes I feel OS X was built with a little more care than WindowsXP. I could be wrong. Anyway, I just thought I would share this useless story for anyone out there who can relate (I'm sure there are plenty).

Remember When This Was Normal?

7 comments (closed), posted on february 4, 2003, tags: tech

Well, the first thing I forgot about was how long it actually takes to connect. It was at least 25 seconds before I finally saw the timer begin. Then I forgot how slow dial-up actually is. That hit me the moment I opened Mail and Proteus. I had 28 unread email messages—none bigger than 4k—and it took about 1 full minute to get them all. Proteus (an OS X AIM Client) took about 15 seconds of adding chunks of people to my buddy list before it was ready to go.

And then there was the real test: I opened Chimera and loaded my "weblogs" bookmark—which opens 10 sites I read at least twice daily—and waited as the tabs slowly loaded. The nice thing is, a majority of the sites I visit use really simple designs, light on graphics and heavy on CSS, so it wasn't too bad. I actually had them all loaded in about 20 seconds. Still, normally it's only about 2 (on a cable modem).

I don't know how anyone can live like this. I know I wouldn't be able to. Here in our area of Brooklyn, we can't get cable Internet service (boo), but we can get DSL. It's just annoying that Verizon takes over a week and a half to set it up. So, until the end of next week, I'll be using good ol' Earthlink dial-up on my iBook. It's not the end of the world, but it's definitely not great.

New Machine

posted on july 30, 2002, tags: tech

Lots of down-time lately. I finally purchased new computer parts (no, not Apple), and upgraded my crappy old PII 350. Now I'm cruising with a P4 2.26GHz machine with lots of DDR RAM. Yay! It's nice and fast, but the road to building my new box was one full of little problems. Now, a fresh install of XP and plenty of removing and replacing hardware later, I'm all done. My only problem now is that my sound card seems to be getting interference from something in my case (seems to by my hard drive), and is giving me some static when anything is playing (ie: music, games, etc).

Anyway, Flash stuff is actually smooth and flashy, games like Warcraft III actually work, and 115-layer Photoshop documents open instantly. Thank god.

Saw Austin Powers in Goldmember over the weekend, and liked it a lot more than I thought I would. I read tons of bad reviews, but was pleasantly surprised. If you liked the second film, I would recommend seeing it. Then again, I think most people will anyway. It's sorta one of those things.


See Also

View the archive

Original iPod Introduction
How far we've come in just a few short years. Here's where it all started.

Front Row on Non-iMacs
Going to try this tonight!

WriAShorStorWe!
DY starts a one-week short story writing event for people to lazy to enty NaNoWriMo. VerCooIdea.

Lost Rhapsody
Funny Flash movie using Weird Al music and Lost stuff. Lyrics make a surprising amount of sense!

Jed's Other Poem
Unsolicited music video made on an Apple ][. Fantastic!

Printers Output Secret Barcode
The government is keeping tabs on what you print, with the help of major printer companies.

Dreamhost Promo Codes
DH already has very cheap, very good hosting—this just sweetens the deal.

Photos of the new iPod
Just received my new iPod and I put a few photos up.

PEZ MP3 Player
Funny idea that actually looks kind of neat. I like that it comes pre-loaded with "indie" music.

HD Easter Egg
"My Name is Earl" on NBC gives viewers with HD TVs a little easter egg. Cute, but weird.