Tuesday, November 20, 2007

iPod Touch: Object of Desire, Software of Derision

I have always liked the idea of Apple. I like the way that when IBM's motto was "Think" they made their motto "Think Different". I like the fact that when Microsoft stole all their ideas (e.g. Windows) they didn't just complain like so many of their long gone competition, they came up with some better ideas. I like that they always seem to be a step ahead of the rest. But more than anything else, I like it that Apple don't just make beige boxes that do accounts they make beautiful objects of desire. Having said all that, I have never owned anything by Apple.

Since I have started going to the gym I thought that perhaps this was the time to take my first faltering steps into mobile music. I had been tempted by an iPhone until I discovered how draconian the restrictions were (O2 only, 18 Month Contact, No 3G etc.) so the obvious candidate was the iPod Touch. All that is good about the iPhone, except without the phone.

I have to say that my first impression of the Touch was awesome. Even the box it comes in is a work of art (Except for Macy Gray on the cover - her music sounds like an Alligator gargling). The Touch itself is extremely slim but weighty enough so it doesn't feel dainty. The first disappointment is that I can't do anything with it until I have connected it to iTunes.

The second disappointment is that iTunes is a disgrace. Having downloaded the software it would not allow me to proceeded until I had given it my address and credit card number. I know muggers who make less demands on their customers. I have bought a media player yet it is forcing me to be a record shop customer. Absolutely disgraceful and I now start to see where some of the criticism of Apple comes from. That is not to mention the fact that it crashed my PC several times. And it is also about as intuitive as Latin. In braille.

This myth that Apple software is easy to use really is a myth. It is pathetic. However, if you search on the web you will find loads of good people railing about the evils of iTunes so I won't waste more time ranting about it any more here other than to say that iTunes stands in stark contrast to the excellent software on the Touch.

I have previously commented on the Web browser Safari being a bit rubbish on Windows but on the Touch it is a revelation, helped by the ease by which you can enable wireless networking. Being able to access You Tube is less useful but still quite amusing to show friends.

Getting back to using the Touch as a media player it is very good with the basics. Music played pretty well and it automatically picked up most cover art to make the "Album Flow" interface work well. Likewise I could download a few videos and TV Shows after I had converted them from .mov to .m4v format. I was disappointed that other videos and DVD's didn't want to transfer even though they were all legitimate. The curse of DRM.

The other major suprise was how crap the built in headphones were. I would have replaced them anyway since white earbuds just scream mug me, but the sound quality was awful. A pair of discrete black in ear Sennheisers has cured all that though.

The final addition was a Griffin iTrip. The current jalopy doesn't have an iPod connector so the iTrip allows the Touch to become a radio transmitter which can be picked up by the car radio so I can listen to all my new podcasts as I dive. Neat.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


A build number can be a quite interesting things in software. It represents the number of times that a computer program/suite has been assembled and compiled up to that point. Lotus stopped bothering with build number for Notes and Domino years ago because we normally have several versions that are being built at any one time (currently 6.5.x, 7.0.x, 8.0.x and "Next") and they are often built more than once per day. So we tend to go with build names that are version and dates - so I am currently running Notes V801_11152007. However, Microsoft has continued using build numbers for Windows and they have a sort of iconic status for Softie geeks. Windows NT 3.1 was build 528, NT 4.0 was build 1381, Windows 2000 was build 2195,Windows XP was build 2600 and Windows 2003 was build 3790. You can probably see why geeks make such delightful conversationalists at dinner parties.

Anyway, my mate Marcus is a royal expert on all things Windows and has set up the definitive resource for folks who are trying to find out about Vista and Windows Server 2008 and above. Not only that - but he has gorn and nabbed the domain name Build 6000 because that it the build number of Vista! Clever or what! The site is designed to embrace all the social side of stuff and become a community area so there will be blogs, forums, articles, links and such like as it develops as well. It is brand new though so bear with any teething troubles.

Monday, November 05, 2007


Several of my friends have derided me for not having Sky+ or some such 600 channel televisual extravaganza. Fortunately I have a "life" and so don't require such frivolous rubbish. Or more accurately Mrs Ports has forbidden it. Whilst this did make me feel like a second class citizen in this multi media age, I was able to mitigate it by purchasing a splendid Humax 9200T PVR. Whilst I don't get 600 channels, I do get 40ish and they are all for free.

However, what's been missing is a channel for the gentleman. I don't mean Playboy. I mean a channel about comedy and hovercrafts, cars and survival. But that was before the arrival of the excellent new channel called Dave. It is unbelievably genius. A typical night may involve a couple of classic episodes of Top Gear, then maybe a couple of Clarkson's Extreme Machines followed by QI and Have I got News for You. Perhaps this might be rounded up with Ray Mears explaining how to survive in a Jungle. Quality.

Dave TV is the best channel ever. Mrs Ports thought the Humax had gone wrong when she saw that it had recorded TopGear 12 times. Nope. Just obeying instructions. So if you are a bloke and wish you were still 16 then tune your Freeview box to channel 19.