end kvetch

Macs, productivity, &c.

My Experience with Chumby

chbablk_side_500x450I’m one of those people who dreams of the days when, upon waking, a pleasant, synthesized voice announces the weather, our schedule for the day and all that business (think Jarvis in Iron Man or S.A.R.A.H. in Eureka).

If I wanted to have my computer talk to me in the morning, I could do something like this. However, there’s no way to have my MacBook rattle off the weather or my agenda (although, if I told it to say “School: 8:15 AM to 3:45 PM. That is all.”, it’d probably be right 90% of the time). Also, if you’ve played with your Mac’s speech settings lately, you’ve probably noticed that none of the voices really fall into the “pleasant” category.

Considering that Pipe Organ is the zenith of our current progress in the synthesized voice field, it might be best to stick with a less chatty morning briefing system for the time being. Short of hiring a personal assistant (I would totally settle for my own Pepper Potts), Chumby seems like a pretty slick system. Basically, you keep the cute little duffer by your bed and it makes a lot of noise when you tell it to (i.e., it’s an alarm clock) and then it plays a stream of information including weather, your email inbox, Facebook updates, Google Calendar agenda, and, of course, Chuck Norris facts. In theory, it sounds pretty swell, but there’s a couple things that make this $200 alarm clock sub-par.

The biggest problem with the Chumby is its internet connection. Since basically everything is stored on the Web (rather than on the device itself), the Chumby can only do four things without an internet connection: 1) display the time, 2) do its whole alarm thing, 3) play music from your iPod or computer and 4) be cuddly. This wouldn’t really be that big of a deal if the internet connection wasn’t so flaky. My Chumby loses its connection much more often than my computer or iTouch and when I try to reconnect, it frequently doesn’t work.

Even when I can get the Chumby connected, another problem presents itself. At 6:00 AM on a weekday in the pitch black and freezing cold of a winter morning, I suddenly find that squinting at my calender or the weather isn’t as fascinating as I thought it was (especially when the latter is easily summarized as “damn cold”). Granted, this isn’t really the Chumby’s fault, but I can’t help but think that a nice big LCD monitor next to my bed would improve on the concept.

The default clock (i.e., the only one which works without a Web connection) isn’t too hot either. It’s low contrast and fairly small, so I can’t see what time it is from across the room (without my contacts, at least).

Of course, Chumby has his good qualities, he can play Pandora (often haltingly due to a poor wireless connection), he can play music from my iPod (although, it doesn’t work with my iTouch, just my old Nano. Oh, and it can’t play anything with DRM). My Chumby’s coolest function (arguably) may also be the creepiest: With the right widget, you can view the feed from random security cams around the world.  While the footage of snow-covered Helsenki streets isn’t exactly exciting, there are some more interesting feeds mixed in.  It’s great preparation for a career as a security guard.

Really though, after seeing just how bad things can get when S.A.R.A.H. malfunctions, maybe I should be counting my lucky stars that the cute little Chumby doesn’t holler at/try to kill me when it malfunctions.

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TUAW: Ten Five Things I Hate (and Love) About You

Dear TUAW,

Here are five things I hate and five things I love about you…

</3 – It seems as if your hyperlinking is done by an senile 80 year-old chimp. I never know if I will find a useless page for the tag “OmniFocus” or an actual link to that demo video you’re touting.

❤ – Unlike your brother Engadget, you only post pertinent Apple news.

</3 – You have that ugly new Leopard-themed background.

❤ – Your writing style is so glib.

</3 – Your homepage is cluttered.

❤ – Your acronym is fun to say.

</3 – You don’t post as often as aforementioned brother.

❤ – Your graphics are so classy (or they’re intentionally overdone).

</3 – You seem to be sponsored by AOL.

❤ – You have lots of pictures.

Filed under: Apple, Kvetching, , , , ,

David Pratt = My (Totally) New Arch-Nemesis


TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog) recently posted something about a review by David Platt that totally chewed out the iPhone. Now, I can accept that maybe Apple has made some mistakes but he was just vicious. Now, even though the ol’ Plattster has a book published and is apparently doing some keynote speeches at events that sound kind of important I still deem him a nobody. Why? Because, 1) he is declaiming the iPhone from his seat atop his blogspot blog and 2) the site promoting his book is ugly and finally, 3) I’ve never heard of the company that published his book. This is probably the point where you decide that I’m a hypocrite, I’m a nobody kvetching about a nobody kvetching about the iPhone. However, I have prepared for your response and I have made a list of things nobodies can do:

1. Say “NOBODY/NOTHING is good.”
2. Say “NOBODY/NOTHING is great!”
3. Say “NOBODY/NOTHING is horrible.”
4. Say “SOMEBODY/SOMETHING is good.”
5. Say “SOMEBODY/SOMETHING is great!”
6. Say things nobody else cares about.

Obviously the iPhone, which is the Paris Hilton of gadgets (except it hasn’t gone to jail…yet), is a something meaning that only major columnists/newspapers can declaim it but anyone can acclaim it. The MS Zune, in contrast, is a total nothing so anyone can say anything they want about it.

What David Platt obviously fails to take into account is the sheer force of marketing behind the iPhone (and to a lesser extent, anything with an Apple logo on it). There is no other product/company in the world that could motivate half the blogosphere to advertise for them (at no cost). I think it’s pretty obvious that the iPhone will sell like crazy.

The only question that remains is “will they also be returned like crazy?”. I’m not expert on contract law but it seems like the AT&T contract would at least make this more difficult (if not impossible). If customers will be allowed to transfer the contract to another phone AT&T will be making a killing, they get to harness the marketing-fueled buying frenzy and reap the profits for two years while Apple may get stuck with a couple million iPhones and a bunch of red zeros on their financial reports (I can’t even think about it).

Filed under: Apple, Kvetching, Oldies, , , ,