Technology. Dissected, discredited.

Vodamoan - new connection pains

, posted: 2-Nov-2010 10:38

I've recently moved house and with a new house comes a new connection. Once again I found Vodafone offering the best value with its new naked broadband ($55 p.month for 30gb).

Of course it wouldn't be a Vodafone experience without a lot of pain, time wasted and weeks without service, so once again here is my publicly posted experiences and inevitable epic failings from the 2nd (?) largest ISP in New Zealand.

The first thing to go wrong was trying to sign up via their online form. No matter how I did it at the end of the 5 page signup process I would always get a 500 error from their server. 15 minutes on the line to the call centre later I was told, by someone who I think is a web tech, they he too was having issues with Firefox also. I switched to Safari and the form finally submitted.

Although the form finally worked it did manage to lose my street number and use my apartment number instead - so although the internet was connected 2 days later - it was at the wrong address.

Thankfully as we hadn't moved yet this was only a small issue, I called to have this fixed. I foolishly thought it would be a speedy fix. 2+ weeks later we still have no internet, despite being given 2 different dates for a Chorus tech from Vodafone. The most recent date was yesterday, which has now passed and I'm now waiting for the mysterious callback.

For those who haven't read my previous posts, I'm well versed in being offered the mysterious service named "a callback". Don't let the name fool you. Like the mighty Sasquatch, some say no such thing exists and indeed from my experiences it rarely does occur. Only those lucky enough to be escalated have truly experienced it.
I will be interested to see if today is my lucky day.

With all the problems Vodafone seem to have with sign ups and the fact I keep continuing to use them I'm starting to think I might be suffering from Stockholm syndrome.

Fine Tuning Mac Mini, Logitech Harmony, Plex Nine & EyeTV

, posted: 18-Oct-2010 20:56

EyeTV, Plex & Harmony Remote

In my first post I covered how to get your Logitech Harmony remote to work via a standard Mac IR port and map the buttons accordingly. In this post I show how to take those steps and use them to seamlessly let you control 2 programs from the couch.
If you're setting up something similar you might be interested in the follow steps as it took me weeks of reading and joining the dots across many forum and blog posts.

Remote Buddy
First, I don't want Remote Buddy to do too much, as currently the RB OSD menu isn't as customisable as I'd hope particularly the default menu. One thing it is good for though is as an App switcher and just show things like 'Run Plex' or 'Watch TV'.

To disable hierarchical menus go to Menu in RemoteBuddy preferences and untick 'Descend into the respective context menu when choosing a behaviour in the menu'. Also untick 'Display a button mapping chart for each behaviour' if its selected, this shows a picture of an Apple remote on the menus and is irrelevant if you're using a Harmony as its sending lots of remotes' codes.

Now to create a custom RemoteBuddy Menu that shows only what I want.
Still in the Menu section of the RB preferences, click the + drop down in the bottom left to add a new menu, in my case I setup 'MacMini'

Now click on the new Menu Profile you made and a bunch of options should popup (or click on the forth icon on the bottom left menu bar). Go to Behaviours and drag which ever apps you want to be able to open via RB's OSD. In this case I've added Plex, EyeTV and DVD Player along with some basic system commands. You can rename them to more human titles as you need.

Now when you press the menu button on your harmony remote, the menu you have just designed will appear and open/switch to the app you want along with setting up RB to pass through you mappings.

Custom Menu in Remote Buddy

Plex Remote LayoutEyeTV & Remote Buddy Remote LayoutPLEX
In Plex, go to Preferences, System, Input Devices and select 'Harmony' as the remote option and enable 'all ways on'
You can now customise a harmony.xml keymap as you need, mainly to set you F1-F14 keys to open specific menus. In my case I setup keys to Enable Subtitles, Change Aspect ratio, show New Movies, Show New TV and quick access to both TV & Movie sections  via the softkeys on my remote.

There is a default harmony.xml located in /Applications/ which if copied into /~/Library/Application\ Support/Plex/userdata/keymaps will override the default. Theres more info on how to get to specific menus in the Plex forums.

EyeTV has functional setup for your default Apple Remote but now you have the ability to use all the buttons of your harmonies buttons is obvious. The main buttons can be set but some just don't have calls, the most notable is the ability to popup the OSD Guide. I think this will come in time but for now I've setup my EyeTV as it is below.

The most complex part of this setup is making the setup fool proof and cover any chance something happening and needing a keyboard to fix it. So far these are the two situations I need something unique mapped.

EyeTV uses almost no resources when there is now Video window displayed, so if I'm in Plex watching a movie I don't want EyeTV to be decoding TV in the background, but still want it open if theres a scheduled show or if someone is streaming TV to the household iPad.
To solve this I set a 'Close All Video windows' button on the remote.
The other issue would be if I switch to EyeTV and theres no video windows open. I'll also need a button to open a TV window and full screen it. This unfortunately needs two commands - CMD-O to open a new window and then CMD-0 to full screen it.
To set this up find the remote ID & specific key you want to map via the Mapping Button and choose Custom Actions from the list. Name the action something like 'New Fullscreen TV Window' set the 2 commands to run in the correct order and you're done.

Using a MacMini with a Logitech Harmony remote control

, posted: 18-Oct-2010 20:45

EyeTV, Plex & Harmony Remote Retiring my XBOX1 and XBMC setup was inevitable. It had long since shown its 733mhz CPU was able to output HD but just didn't have the muscle to actually decode anything over SD resolution. So when Apple announced the new Unibody Mac Mini just days before my birthday I saw it as a perfect own-gift. The Core2Duo CPU was more than adequate to decode all codecs and resolutions and its new super thin and sexy casing was just the sugar on top. As far as I can tell its the best HTPC chassis out there - if only it had BluRay (stay tuned). The Mini could finally give me a media centre, Freeview PVR and a rock solid *nix based NAS with the ability to run various background servers (UPnP, AirVideo, iTunes etc). Unfortunately controlling all this from the couch was always going to require some work. OS-X's default HTPC app, Frontrow, is extremely basic to say the least. Thankfully there are two great applications that do almost everything, the XBMC fork, Plex and Elgatos EyeTV. Both have support for the standard Apple remote, but with only 6 buttons a lot of things were inaccessible or required weird combos to get to. As I already owned the fantastic Logitech Harmony 725 remote I was pretty keen to get it working on my new HTPC but unfortunately Apples infrared remote implementation is very limited and only supports Apple remote controls few commands via 6 buttons. The following steps are from my fair share of reading blogs, wikis and forums on this subject and what I've finally managed to figure out to get this working as I want. The Solution By default your Mac listens for any Apple remotes telling it do do something, by default it will listen to any remote and do as it commands. I'm sure you could have no end of fun with a single remote in a busy room with a bunch of macs. Thankfully OS-X does support the ability disable the sensor but also allows you to 'pair' a specific remote to a specific machine. Technically, the way Apple allows pairing is that each remote has a randomly ID assigned between 000-255 on manufacturing. This ID is then broadcast before each button press. If your computer gets an ID different to the remote its paired with it will just ignore the command. Its thanks to this feature we can actually differentiate between many Apple remotes despite them seemingly sending the same command. Now we know this we can then set every key on your harmony to send unique IR codes to you computer. Sweetness. I first discovered this process here, but it was a quite lengthy process and involved learning each remote individually. I've now discovered a much simpler process which gives teaches your Harmony multiple preset remotes instantly. Setting Up Your Harmony First thing you'll need to do is setup your Harmony remote to send Apple remote codes. Thankfully thanks to the crowdsourcing nature of the Harmony Remote system people have already submitted a remote setup with all the necessary codes saved. EyeTV, Plex & Harmony RemoteTo set this up open Harmony Remote Software on your mac. Add a new device and choose Computer, Media Centre PC, Plex and use the name Plex Player. This sets up your remote to send the commands of 10 Apple remotes with differend ID's from the various buttons on your harmony. Now you've done this, you could setup an activity on remote, for now though I would say just use the Device button to access the Plex layout and to test the setup. Running Plex Only? Enable in PlexIf you want to use your Harmony with ONLY Plex 8 / 9 you don't need to go through any more steps - just go to Plex's Preferences and then under System \ Control turn on Harmony as the remote setup and enable 'always running'. This will give you access to all the buttons on the remote including starting up Plex via the Menu button when its not open. All the labeled buttons will do just as you would expect them to. Unfortunately what I found was when I ran other apps along with Plex, they would start competing for the remote commands and I found Frontrow or iTunes popping up when I don't want them. The setup below shows how to get them all playing nicely together. Mapping You'll need an application called RemoteBuddy. It lets you assign remote commands to specific actions, whether they be system wide or application specific. They offer a 30 day trial to get you started start and registration is relatively cheap (€19.99/$NZ35). 1. Install, and if necessary Open RemoteBuddy. You will get a new taskbar icon by your clock. 2. Access the RemoteBuddy icon select preferences from there. Remote Buddy Pic 13. Click Hardware. Tick 'Enable support for multiple remote controls' and then 'Automatically authorise newly found remotes….' Leave this window open. 4. Now on your Harmony Remote, choose Devices and Plex Player. 5. Click most/all the buttons on your harmony. You should start seeing the right panel of the RemoteBuddy screen start populating with remote controls. You should end up with 10 controls (ID's 150-160). Note that there is no remote for ID 156 so don't worry when it doesn't appear. Now we need to assign these remotes to 'Logical Remotes' so that RemoteBuddy can assign commands to the buttons. Remote Buddy Pic 16. Press the + on the left panel to add a Logical Remote, for ease I would recommend a name like Remote 150 so you can keep track of whats what through this process. Note you can't rename the first, default remote (ID150) but can all others you make. 7. Now on the right side, assign each remote ID to a logical remotes name - if you followed the last step this should mean Remote 152 is set to Logical remote with the ID 152 etc… It should look like the picture below once you've done that. 8. Now for the most boring part, working out which key on your Harmony is sending which remote ID and key to RemoteBuddy. it would be near impossible to work this out but thanks to ShavenYak on the RemoteBuddy forums here are the remote ID's and buttons. Harmony button - Remote ID Button OK - 150 Select Up - 150 Up Down - 150 Down Left - 150 Left Right - 150 Right VolUp - 152 Up VolDn - 152 Down Mute - 152 Select ChUp - 158 Up ChDown - 158 Down Prev - 153 Down Menu - 150 Menu Exit - 155 Up Guide - 157 Play Info - 153 Up Stop - 151 Play Replay - 160 Up Skip - 160 Down Play - 151 Menu Rec - 155 Down Rew - 154 Up Fwd -154 Down Pause - 152 Menu 1 - 151 Up 2 - 151 Down 3 - 151 Left 4 - 151 Right 5 - 152 Left 6 - 152 Right 7 - 153 Left 8 - 153 Right 9 - 154 Left 0 - 154 Right Clear - 154 Play Enter - 153 Menu Blue - 159 Menu Red - 159 Left Green - 159 Right Yellow - 159 Play Aspect - 157 Up LargeUp - 159 Up LargeDown - 159 Down PwrToggle - 157 Menu Queue - 157 Down Sleep - 154 Menu F1 - 155 Left F2 - 155 Right F3 - 155 Play F4 - 155 Menu F5 - 160 Left F6 - 160 Right F7 - 160 Play F8 - 160 Menu F9 - 158 Left F10 - 158 Right F11 - 158 Play F12 - 158 Menu F13 - 157 Left F14 - 157 Right There you have it, 62 mappable remote buttons to any application in OS-X. You can go through the depths of RemoteBuddy mapping section and assign commands globally or application specific setups. FYI in my setup I have a both EyeTV & Plex mapped separately and only use Global settings for the RB default OSD via the menu button. As this post is long enough, I've written another post showing how to turn this into a working setup based around Plex Nine and EyeTV 3.4.

Always look on the bright side.....

, posted: 19-Jul-2010 22:14

I finally got 5 minutes of consistent internet connectivity on Vodafone and just watched the funniest thing I've seen in a long time.
If only NZ could have such high end CG animations of stories on the news.

For those wondering - I think the whole iPhone4 antenna thing is being blown way out of proportion.

Vodamoan - Fault Relodged - UPDATED

, posted: 17-Jul-2010 18:40

Some of you may have seen the post on my experiences switching from Orcon to Vodafone.

Vodamoan - Over It.A brief summary - A couple of months ago I switched from Orcon to Vodafone to save money. It should have been a simple process, yet Vodafone managed to screw up almost every part. First was a week with no ADSL, then it went from working, then slow, then not at all. A quick blog post later and find myself 'escalated' and receiving daily telephone updates. I did feel there was finally a person genuinely making sure things were being actioned. These calls were always pleasant and generally ending with a big apology from the other end.
Of course I still had to wait over 4 weeks to finally have my line setup as I originally signed up for - or so I thought.

Last week, my mother started claiming that she tried to call me at home but could get through - I just accused her of being crazy and proved her wrong by calling the line via my mobile while I skyped her - no problem.

Now fast forward  to last week, I get a call from my flatmate -
"Is there any reason the home phone would be disconnected?" he asked.
Nope. Bill was good. Conveniently I was at my parents at the time so I tried the line. Weird tones.
We did indeed have no incoming line as my mother thought but also no outgoing either. Super.
By the time I got back our ADSL connection started constantly going up and down. Sometimes it would stay up for hours but more often it would just reconnected every 15mins or so.

A quick call to Vodafone Monday morning and thanks to it being a fault in the landline along with the ADSL, I wasn't forced to jump through the usual morons check list.
Fault Lodged.
Chorus would be in touch within 24hrs - and Indeed they were.
By 4pm Chorus had been in touch, the man asked a few questions and then said he'd call me right back, which he did.
"It seems theres no problem with your line. The problem is caused by something wrong at Vodafones end. Although calls from their network will go through, people calling from Telecoms network can't connect properly. Your line has some porting issues."

I have now leant that from the day Vodafone started supplying my phone services chances are no one with a Telecom based service, and I suspect any provider using their wholesale network, have never been able to call my land line.

It makes it all the more annoying that when Chorus were proactive and called me back, Vodafone couldn't muster up a similar level of customer service. The Chorus person worked on it on the Monday - yet by Friday I still hadn't heard anything back from Vodafone.
This was last night - as usual they stuck me on hold for 5 minutes and came back claiming they would need to re-lodge the fault again.
"Why?" I ask "It hasn't been fixed the first time."
For some reason my last fault, although and being actioned, went nowhere.

This whole process makes me wonder once again if there is some big issues with the processes inside Vodafone. I understand they are a big corporation and you will always get anomalies and get weird customer setups but I've found that almost every step of this switch looks to have been done incorrectly or done in a half arsed or short-cut way.

I find it quite impressive that a telecommunications company don't use it's own services and actively call someone back. It's quite infuriating to have the Chorus guy call me back and then pass it to Vodafone to fix but then never have them call me. Why is there not a process to instigate a callback to tell the client what's going on? It doesn't have to be the specific person techie but at least someone from customer support.

UPDATE (Saturday 17)
I just received the following txt from Vodafone - apparently there's nothing wrong.
Yet my ADSL connection just reset, only minutes after I received the txt.
Of course this is Vodafone we're talking about  - I'll have to call them.

UPDATE 2 (Monday 19)
Heres a few screen caps of my modems ADSL connection speeds for random points over the weekend and this morning..... No fault was found...... crap.

UPDATE 3 (Monday 19)
So I just called the help line to find out where we were at and am told that 'Only July 16 a technician looked into it and there is no fault." Strange that I only was sent the txt on the 17th. Why didn't they txt straight away? Did they even check?
The next logical step for Vodafones phone person was to just start the hoop jumping game fresh - "Can I ask you to disconnect any phones in the house...."
I'm over it. I finished that call and then call straight back.
"Put me through to Escalations."

UPDATE 4 (Monday 19)
Conveniently the out of country call centre just couldn't handle my request to be connected with escalations and instead put me through to the person who looked at my fault - against the guidelines.
The funny thing was it was exactly the person I needed to talk to, and a after a civil and actually productive conversation he saw that although things looked fine - there was a much bigger problem. 140 disconnects in a 24 hour period is apparently not normal.... no shit. He did everything he could and has organised another Chorus tech (again) to come look at the line today (Tuesday)

It's so incredibly frustrating that the internet has been broken for 2 weeks, the landline for 2+ months and that I've had to lodge 3+ faults until I finally talk to someone who can actually fix it.

Seagate 500GB XT Hybrid Laptop Drive - Quick test

, posted: 1-Jul-2010 20:34

With Seagate announced their new 'Hybrid' 500gb 2.5inch Drives they claimed it could offer SSD speeds but with only a small premium on top of a normal magnetic hard drive. The drives use inline 4GB flash memory and use what Seagate calls Adaptive Memory. The firmware automatically relocates frequently accessed data and stores it on the flash memory while keeping most stuff on the the drive.
Their marketing pitches substantial improvements to most general usage situations.

I was certainly intrigued. I have wanted a solid state drive for some time but its so hard to justify the cost of a decent model and the bite in storage space does make them a far off dream.
What I find interesting with this technology is that Seagate may have now found a middle ground that could become the bridging technology we all use before SSDs reach a price per gb we can accept.

Suffice to say I splashed out and ordered a couple of XT's for the 2 MacBook Pros in our office and although I've only had one of them installed for mere minutes I thought people might be interested in a benchmark.

I ran AJA's free drive speed test program on my original 320GB Seagate 7200.3 and then 500gb XT immediately after the first boot. To be clear - I have about 250gb of data on both drives which works out to be 78% of the 320gb 7200.3 and only 50% of the 500gb XT. This alone should make some speed differences.

Seagate XT Hybrid HDD vs 7200.3 HDD

I will update this with a few more impressions once I've given it a good going through.

The drives are available in NZ now, I got mine via Aquilatech for $232 inc GST.

Youtube - it's broke, but I don't expect them to fix it.

, posted: 21-Jun-2010 22:58

Youtube is hard to avoid. Since its inception (and subsequent absorption Google) it's very much become the default online video site. Even with competitors that offer a much better experience it seems to be nigh impossible to to get any sort of traction against Youtubes dominance.

I've edited and published more than my fair share of video to both Youtube and it's next biggest rival - Vimeo. There have been some good features added to Youtube, something like automatic closed captioning is one, but in my mind most of the new features Google add seem to be more focused at monetising Youtube and keeping it out of legal troubles and rarely improve it for us - the users. Of course anyone who has used Vimeo knows it offers a more complete experience and more tailored to the end user be them uploader or viewer.

But even with posting a clip on Vimeo its pretty much impossible not to have to stick the same one on youtube to guarantee complete exposure.

And to that end (and the motivation for this post) why does Youtube still not offer the ability to replace a clip without deleting the old one and reposting it fresh. If you do 'reupload' its considered a whole new clip - which of course resets views, deletes comments and forces a new link to be made - and making for a huge pain in the ass if you spot an issue in the clip after posting it.

There are of course other issues, such as Youtubes constant desire to re-compress even perfectly encoded MP4 files and the time limit of 10 mins for any single clip but that can wait until I get annoyed by them (again) in the future.

I suppose in some ways it confirms what I think most monopolies general rule - "If it's broke, and the users still come, then why fix anything. We win either way."

Does anyone at Vodafone actually call anyone back?

, posted: 26-May-2010 11:05

Foolishly in an attempt to save some money, I decided to switch from my perfectly good iSP (Orcon) to the slightly cheaper one, Vodafone. Big Mistake. Below is a quick run through the month and a half long process of switching to Vodafone - so far.

This is the second time in 12 months I've signed up to a service at Vodafone and the second time the processes the company uses have had major failings and caused me to waste hours of my own time, just trying to get the services I signed up for.

For some background - my partner does a 2nd job hosting a couple of TV shows and relies on the internet in the evenings to do the necessary research. Having no internet is a big issue any time but on top of this we had a couple of friends visiting before permanently moving to Austria - both needed internet access to sort the last bits and pieces before flying out.


The signup actually felt pretty good, a quick online form and the process was started. Within hours later I received an automated email saying that my account number was wrong but not to worry, all I needed to do was reply with the correct information. Done.

Then 3 weeks of nothing. No install date. No call back to say there's a problem.

I call Vodafone.
Why is my internet not switched to them yet?
"Sorry sir, it would seem someone had set the account number with Orcon as my home phone number."
Fixed. Over the next week a flurry of automated emails welcomed me to the wonders of Vodafone. My switch date was set. No services would be disrupted.

Then on the day of switching, a Friday and in the late morning, the phone rang a couple of times and stopped. My inner nerd told me it was them probably switch the lines in the cabinet. Great, just as I had been told.

Then the internet went off. No DSL link my modem reported. I gave it an hour or so and then called Vodafone to see how long it would take before we'd be back online.
"Yes we have indeed taken over your phone line, but your internet won't switch til next week. It will still be on and if you are having any issues call Orcon as they are still your provider."
Are you sure I asked.
I commented I hope like hell Vodafone hadn't just cut my internet for a week as there had been zero warning that might happen.
"No Sir, please call Orcon for help."

The call with Orcon took another 40mins as I was forced to run through the dreaded idiot proof checklist before a fault could be lodged.
"I've lodged the fault sir, our provisioning team will look into it in the next 24-72 hours."
Keep in mind this is Friday afternoon - so that meant Monday. No Internet all weekend.

Monday comes and you know what - Orcon called me back (take note here Vodafone).
"Unfortunately sir we don't have control of that line any more, Vodafone does."
Just as I thought when I first called Vodafone on Friday but was promised the opposite.

Back on the line to Vodafone I was told there was an unexplained hold on the install. They lifted the hold but said that I was now on the list and the internet would be on 'soon'.
I had thought this was meant to be a seamless process and to all happen almost instantly -
"I usually does sir"
Another 2 days without the internet.

Wednesday finally came and our DSL was activated and the internet back. Problems solved - now the easy bit for Vodafone - sit back and profit from my passive income that is my monthly bill.

The next day I did receive a random email saying my cap had been blown but as I signed up for 40gb of data I assumed it was just a hiccup in the system. Our internet was working normally and I was well and truly over Vodafones hold music.

Of course, I should have known better - just after 9pm Friday night comes and midway through some tragic MTV reality show - the internet stops. What better way to spend ones Friday night than a 40 minute tech support call.
So it seemed my account had two issues - the plan was set to the EasyPack plan (1GB, Full down, 128k up) but far more importantly - it had been canceled.
"I don't know, there seems to be two accounts, I'll stop the current cancelation and get that account working again"
I asked that if I had blown the 1gb cap in their system, will I get a 64k speed limited internet when the account works again?
"No Sir, it should all be running at normal speed, you will need to call back tomorrow (Saturday) though and talk to sales to get you moved back to the unlimited upload speed though."
After the phone call and a modem restart, the internet was not running at normal speeds and clearly the limit was still in place but by now it was late and I was well over Vodafone.

Saturday morning and another call to Vodafone (also funnily enough just as I get a physical letter confirming apparently I had requested canceling my account).
"I'm very sorry about this sir, it would seem you have been put on the EasyPack plan, and you clearly signed up for the 'Ultimate Pack' - unfortunately I can't physically change the plan here as provisioning need to make a change."
"I will upgrade you to the ideal pack (5gb, Unlimited down, 128k up) and add another 5gb so you can use your internet without issues until I can sort it out on Monday morning."
"I will call you back on Monday once we've sorted it out."

Suffice to say its now Wednesday, I've blown my temporary 10gb cap and am yet to hear back from Vodafone.

Well posting experiences on bad service does seem to get things fixed. And Vodafone eventually made everything right although it still took 3 weeks of atrocious service and support. And now, a few months on from my experience our service has worked flawlessly since - it's a shame the signup and setup process at Vodafone is so terrible.

New Tablets - Slate & JooJoo thoughts

, posted: 7-Apr-2010 15:03

HP  Slate

Having managed to survive the apocalyptic release of the 'magical' iPad, there have been a few other tablet related products coming into the fray I've been thinking about. One being the HP Slate and the other the JooJoo. I think both are both good to see launching but both are lesser tablets than Apples first release.

First the JooJoo, which if you're not familiar, is a 16x9 720P Tablet appliance with basically a netbooks internals - 1.6 Atom, ION Chipset, 1gb Ram, 4gb SSD, running a custom Linux install. It looks good in build the department but from the very get go it did seem to be like vapourware was written all over it. Low and behold though - 90 Pre-orders shipped to their unsuspecting buyers.

Early reviews don't rate it too favourably, the hardware is all theree but the software is buggy and proving to be a major let down. Also it's 16x9 screen offer netback grade screen quality despite just screaming widescreen video.
A big problem is the JooJoo is basically only a portable web browser unit - no file support, no media playback, no email - basically theres short cuts for websites on your front page and thats it. It supports flash (badly) and if you do play a flash video - expect your battery life to be halved.
Add to that the fact with a 16x9 aspect ratio websites actually look worse - large white edges on sites in landscape and the sides of sites cut off in portrait. Keep in mind this is a device designed only to view websites, you have to wonder why they didn't plan the screen shape accordingly.

I will give it to them that this is a first release product and for a brand new company getting to even this point is quite the accomplishment. I do think this will fail to be be an option in 6 months time when theres another 20 netback internal'ed tablets on the market - of which we're starting too see with the HP Slate.

Shown off in January at CES by non other than Steve Balmer, only a week before Apple announced the iPad, it reeked of 'quick, announce it before Apple gets ALL the press and makes everyone forget there are other companies thinking similar things' (which for the record is exactly what happened). Of course the announcement came with no information other than coming soon.
Well, as of yesterday, we have some specs and a price.
My first thought are this - why is it taking so long to get to market - its basically the same as HP's current Mini line of Netbooks - minus keyboard and the addition of multitouch. I imagine it might be the software, which is said to be developed from the HP Touch-smart desktop machines.

2010 Tablet Screen Resolution comparisonThere are two issues I think the Slate and alll similar tablets will have - screen resolution and OS.

On the right is a little image I made up showing the three tablets I'm talking abouts screen resolutions in respect to the nytimes site - click on the pic for a 1:1 pixel version. With a native resolution of 1024x600 it still has the same issues of every other netback on the market - hiding as much as possible so to fit as much content on the screen - and generally failing. Either viewed vertically or horizontally, sites just won't have enough room to display their content and in the end will mean users will be scroll every page you view no matter the amount of content.

The resolution also limits other applications being used bad as you're running a desktop operating system, you'll be running desktop applications which from my experiences will have been designed to run on higher res screens. A good example would be MS Office - half your screen real-estate will be taken up by the 'Ribbon' where as the Pages for the iPad is a complete original interface. Don't think for a second Microsoft are going to re-engineer Word for a notebooks screen? Office was already one of the main reasons Microsofts previous tablet attempts came off so half assed.
Another example is IE's horribly large Address, links and tool bars, I've jumped on numerous computer newbies IE installs to find HALF of their IE window to have Google, Yahoo, Digg bars - despite the user never using any of them, This is will of course lead to more scrolling and people just wishing they had more pixels.

The Slate will be the Tablet of scrolling - everything you do on it will need more scrolling down or scrolling to the side.

HTC HD2 - Windows Mobile skinning at its  bestThis issue comes from basing a portable product on the foundations of a desktop OS - whereas Apple has upscaled a portable, albeit more simple, OS, the Slate (and all other Win7 based tablets) will be forcing something much bigger on to a smaller screen.

It's not like HP has much choice, they are one of Microsofts big customers (if not the biggest), and MS just can't offer a reasonable mobile alternative - Windows mobile 6.5 is on its way out to pasture and Windows Mobile Phone 7 Series is not yet available for mobile devices - let alone other device concepts. A funny/depressing way to look at this whole thing is how Microsoft's slowness on creating a major mobile platform is that they're going to be following in the step of history - namely Windows Mobile and OEMs, such as HTC, having to do the actually end UI themselves.
I wonder how long will it take after starting to use a Slate until you're thrown a dialogue box that will be just asking for a mouse interaction or for a complex keyboard shortcut - welcome back to desktop computing hell.

Apple may seem, and in ways are, offering an upsized iPhone or touch but I think its one of the iPads best features. The iPhoneOS will have only ever been designed to be held in your hand and it only expects a user interface via fingers.

Now - what will the iPhone OS 4.0 release entail? It should be interesting.

Apple Refurb Pricing Weirdness

, posted: 24-Mar-2010 12:09

Those of you who read my blogs may have seen I'm a big advocate of Apple refurbs as a good way of getting a cheap Mac.
I check the refurb page of the Apple NZ Store most weeks, always looking for a good deal for myself or for others who are trying to get an Apple as cheaply as they can. I would love to see some other Apple products turn up - check the US Refurb page - almost every product is available with a solid discount.

Now for the randomness. Today I spotted thisa refurbished MacPro for only $6199, which is only $400 above list price of $5799. I'm not sure how this price is worked out, you have to wonder sometimes......

Apple Refurb Page
Apple MacPro Refurb pricing weirdness

Apple Store Page
Apple MacPro Refurb pricing weirdness

UPDATE And then the listing magically dissappears after only a few hours.

UPDATE2 Spotted this one - the best deal ever? I think not.

lotech's profile

New Zealand

I run a post production company specialising mainly in TV & Commercials. I also do graphic and motion design when it's there to be done. I've used Windows my whole life, but am now run Macs exclusively in our office and at home. Few issues. It just works.

My current setup is a Early 2008 17" Macbook Pro (C2D 2.5Ghz, 4gb, 320Gb, UWXGA Screen).