SETI@home, new iPhones and other bits for a quick post-vacation reading list

Back from vacation and waiting for a meeting to start (whilst hungry attendees grab lunch 😉 I find that I have a couple of minutes to post – normally I wait until after work’s done for the day, but here’s an exception to the rule.  Last night I made a quick spin by Engadget to catch up on what I missed, as well as a few other sites and mail items from the news this week.  Much of my reading over the family getaway was keeping up with the daily news in a sleepy little area on the Oregon coast (thanks, Amanda and Edgar).

I noticed that on my first day soaking up the sun of an active effort to “Save the Arecibo Telescope.” Just before Independence Day (pardon the allegory 😉 in the States, SETI@home put out a call on the future of Arecibo Observatory (where SETI@home collects its data). Turns out that the funding may be cut for Arecibo, and replacement is due to be operational until at least 2020 at best… so some people are upset… 

“If you are a U.S. citizen, please write your representatives to support the Senate bill and House resolution to continue Arecibo’s funding.” 

The link takes you to a web-based form letter where you can voice your support for Senate Bill S. 2862 and House Resolution H.R. 3737. You can use the form to automatically look up and generate letters to print and mail to your representatives.

iPhoneOf course, the big news today is Apple’s new iPhone: we made it back home just in time to witness the first day of the new iPhone going on sale, with a few problems as noted by Suzanne Choney on MSNBC…

“iPhone 3G launch day was supposed to be about long lines for the popular devices, not about problems getting them activated. But across the country, new 3G iPhones failed to activate after purchase…”

I’ve seen a number of reports today about the new iPhone retail launch, and the news is not all doom and gloom, as I’m sure that the kinks will get worked out.  With new features, there is some tremendous appeal in this shiny, new device: the Apple Remote software, to turn your new iPhone into a WiFi remote control that Engadget says…

“the new freebie from Apple which turns your iPhone or iPod touch into a remote control. It works with Apple TV and iTunes over the WiFi network to play, pause, skip and shuffle your songs stored in your iTunes library…”

An interesting view is Walt Mossberg’s video review of the iPhone 3G: Walt is generally thumbs up on the new version of the device, with a few downsides.  And in Canada, I read that Rogers “caved on iPhone 3G plans” with new offers of 6GB for $30 a month: “Rogers is launching a promotional offer along with the iPhone of 6GB of data for $30 a month — not quite unlimited data, but close enough — which can be added on top of any regular voice plan.”

David Ewalt of Forbes reported today that…

“At precisely 9 a.m. this morning, I plugged in my first-generation iPhone… The update started as expected, began to sync with my phone and proceeded normally for about half an hour. Then I got a pop-up warning… Repeated attempts to disconnect and reconnect the phone resulted in the same warning. And worst of all, the upgrade is not completed, so my phone has been bricked–it’s stuck in emergency mode and won’t start up. I can’t make or receive calls or access any of my data.

“I’m not alone. Since the update became available, Apple’s support boards have been flooded with complaints from users having the exact same problem. So far, Apple hasn’t responded to tell them why it’s happening.”


It appears that Apple saw all these new iPhone owners (as well as old iPhone owners in search of the new software) crowding the web which resulted in overloaded servers. For the most part, customers seem pleased with their new device and software with the reviews of Apple’s iPhone 2.0 software pretty positive across the board.  It was nice to see in Sascha Segan’s iPhone 2.0 review in PC Magazine that…

“Microsoft’s Windows Mobile remains our Editors’ Choice because it’s available on a much wider range of devices, and has an even wider range of software and capabilities than iPhone 2.0 does.”

imageI’d certainly like to see a positive experience for Windows Mobile users similar to the one-stop-shopping (so to speak) that users get with the Apple’s App Store, included in the iPhone 2.0 firmware (or an iPhone 3G) where iPhone owners can download new programs on to their iPhone. 

The Windows Mobile site offers a link to the Windows Mobile Catalog where you can view information on popular applications, offering everything from entertainment and productivity software to dev tools and utilities, with links to MobiHand, Poketland and Handango to purchase.

But where are the links to free software on the site?  Handango offers downloads to some free and trial versions of software on their site, and their “Handango InHand” site offers access to apps and content directly from the phone.

Sorry, WM: this isn’t as slick as App Center.

Apple's App StoreApple’s App Center also offers a service to keep you on the latest version of the apps you purchase. (“Buy an application from the App Store and you always have access to the latest version. iPhone tells you whenever an application update is available.)  As David Pogue of the Times posted on his blog

“Well, the iPhone Apps Store went live last night, and it’s just crazy, insane fun. I’ve just downloaded about 30 programs to play with on the iPhone 3G. As I predicted, it’s just a blast…

“It looks like the App Store’s army of programmers are making quick work of the iPhone’s missing standard features. So far, you can install apps that restore video recording, voice dialing, radio and instant messaging to the iPhone. No word yet on an app that adds copy/paste, MMS sending or a removable battery.”

Now on to the news, and have a good weekend.

Customer Service – Firms Seek Out Disgruntled Customers on the Web — By Carolyn Y. Johnson, July 9, 2008 — “At Southwest Airlines, the social media team includes a Twitter officer who tracks comments and monitors a Facebook group, an online rep who interacts with bloggers.  Also see Comcast Wins With Twitter – C.C. Chapman’s “an amazing experience in customer service from Comcast…”

Social Media: Get Productive with Social Media (and Stay Sane) — “lifehacker asked self-described social media junkie Steve Rubel for his tips on how to participate in online social sites like Twitter and FriendFeed without losing your entire workday. Here’s what he said.”

Video: Ira Glass on Getting Creative Work Done — “Ira Glass [of NPR] features some great advice about working through those first few attempts—or even years—where your product doesn’t quite meet your standards, as well as Glass pulling out some honestly awkward examples from his own portfolio.”… saved by 72 other people

Stuff We Like: Multi-Use Car Charger with Dual USB Ports — “This $20 Multi-Use Car Charger sports two built-in USB ports to power your iPod, cell phone, GPS, and whatever else you’ve got that charges via USB. And since USB cords are generally smaller and less clunky than a regular wall plug…”

Self-help: Shame Yourself Into Spending Less With A Hello Kitty Debit Card — Reader Mervin Gleasner has Hello Kitty to thank for his unique method of curbing personal spending.

Xbox 360: Do More Than Just Game on Your Xbox 360 — “With some free tools and a little elbow grease, that compact, networked PC sitting under your television can offer a whole lot of useful media functionality. The fact is, your 360 is capable of so much more than just gaming. Let’s take a look at a few…” saved by 369 other people

Apple Ups The Ante With 3G iPhone – But RIM’s Almost Ready to Counter – Seeking Alpha – We asked consumers who currently own a smart phone or who plan to buy one in the next 90 days to tell us the manufacturer.

Book Excerpt: How Priorities Make Things Happen — “Project manager and writer Scott Berkun knows how to get things done when you’ve got a team of people, a to-do list, and a deadline. Today he offers an excerpt from the updated edition of his best-selling book The Art of Project Management (our review)… saved by 175 other people

New report says SSDs are, in fact, more efficient – Engadget notes that “LAPTOP magazine published a report confirming what most people already believe to be true about SSDs: they use less power than traditional drives. Apparently they got up to 20 minutes more battery life when testing an SSD against a platter-based drive…”  Also see SSD-maker responds to nasty report, says it’ll do better next time – Engadget — “Tom’s Hardware article which benchmarked (and gave failing grades) to power-consumption of the non-mechanical drives was flawed because, “They are using legacy drives, none of which will be used by any major PC OEM.”

Study says more than 10,000 laptops go missing at US airports each week – Engadget reports that “A new study has now found one not entirely surprising place where your laptop is particularly unsafe: the airport… more than 10,000 laptops are reported lost at the 36 largest airports in the US each week and, of those, 65 percent are not reclaimed.”

Turtle Beach intros Ear Force X3 Xbox 360 headset – Engadget notes that there is a new way for me to look silly in front of my kids as I play team games via Xbox Live, with the new Ear Force X3: “Turtle Beach has just expanded the headset options for Xbox 360 gamers even further, with it today introducing its Ear Force X3 unit, apparently the first wireless headset to boast independent volume control of amplified chat and game audio.”

Project Grizzly guy forced to auction Trojan ‘Halo suit’ – Engadget reports on some silly stuff up for auction: “Normally we’d start off a post about the sale of Canadian Troy Hurtubise’s Trojan fully-armored exoskeleton with a few amusing Robocop quips, but the reason Troy has to let his crazy, high-tech creation go makes such frivolity seem a little inappropriate…”

Yamaha Tenori-on: everything you wanted to know (with video) – Engadget reports that Tenori-on is “an 8 x 8-inch magnesium square brimming with 256 tiny, pressable, blinking LEDs and even gestural controls that make it easy to sequence electronic music on the fly.” $1,200 from Yamaha.

Keeping on the audio gear news, see this article on the Aurora open source hardware mixer ( It is a dual channel USB-powered mixer with two linear faders, one crossfader, eight backlit buttons and 24 potentiometers, all built around a PIC 18LF4525 microcontroller.

Acer rolls out the Aspire X1200 home theater-friendly mini PC for $450 – Engadget’s view of the new Acer Aspire X1200, which for $450 includes on-board NVIDIA GeForce 8200 graphics, an AMD Athlon X2 2850e processor, and HDMI port. Acer promises full 7.1-channel audio support as well as the guts to work with H.264, VC1, and MPEG2…

And just what is going on at Kodak?  New cameras, wireless digital picture frames and HD video players? 

D-Link DSM-210 unboxing, hands-on, and mini-review – Engadget’s look at the D-Link DSM-210 Internet Photo Frame, “a 10-inch, 800 x 480 LCD display with built-in WiFi and ethernet connectivity — promises to upgrade the familiar static nature of its ilk with a handful of networking enhancements…”

Tags: iphone, misc, articles, what I read, Microsoft, Windows Vista, Xbox 360.

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