Monthly Archives: June 2007

iPhones STILL IN STOCK: Saturday, June 30

Stores open at 9 AM so if you missed it – every Apple store is still reporting that they are stocked.

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According to Apple’s iPhone in-store inventory page, a quick check to every state shows ALL IN STOCK – ALL GREEN for tomorrow June 30, 2007 so while you missed a chance to mingle with Steve or Woz – you can still get an iPhone – well at least at 9:00 AM later today.

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iPhone Online Ordering UP: 6 PM PDT

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Just placed my order. Took me only 5 seconds to place the order. Took 8 minutes to get a confirmation back.

If you have an Apple/iTunes account, they’ll take your credit card info from there.

You can also try the 1-800-MY-APPLE number.

They are listing ship times as 2-4 weeks. I’ve ordered other items online with similiar ship times and gotten then in days so it’s hard to tell, Apple likes to under promise & over deliver. If you’re the type who cannot wait, you can check their online page to see if it’s still in-stock tomorrow morning.

Surprise, the front page is loading slower.

Here are some of the accessories they are peddling:

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Good luck!

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iPod & the Balance of Trade Deficit

The Personal Computing Industry Center (Research Group) decided to take a look inside an iPod to determine where its 451 internal parts are from … according to them 85% of the most valuable parts are from Asia or the U.S. No real big shocker there but it does raise an interesting issue about how the balance of trade as totaled by the government. Since the iPod’s final assembly is from China, does the government actually measure the value only added by China or is China attributed the entire wholesale cost of @$144 USD? And then of course, is the measure of the cost of living and labored factored in? Going by a straight conversion, $144 USD is approximately 1150 Yuan which is just above the “average” GNP per person in China today – well, all 1 billion+ but how granular is our government measuring the trade balance and flow?

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The most expensive component according to the study is @$73 for the Toshiba HDD – except that the HDD is manufactured in China – so again, who is credited with the $73 in value? While I’m not an expert in hard drives, I think it’s safe to presume there are patents and further components from the US in there so unlike the early days of trading fruit for lumber, it’s not to easy to measure the real trade deficit or the balance of trade these days. Perhaps we need to be a little more careful in jumping to conclusions when numbers are announced.

It’s also difficult to really measure cost of living – some items like cars are pretty much priced at the world market price, a typical Toyota pretty much converts to $18-$25k USD or about 200,000 Yuan but eating food in most parts of China is incredibly cheap – even in Beijing, I was at a banquet that was overflowing with every kind of meats and seafood for about 17 people that came to about 1,200 Yuan (and no tipping in China!) – there’s no way you can even feed 17 people in the US for about $130 dollars, not even at McDonald’s so how do you really measure the real cost of goods?

Study available as a PDF here.

The NY Times take on the matter.

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iPhone Buying Tips: AT&T In-Store Credit Check & Apple’s Online – iPhone Still In Stock?

What’s the difference between buying it at an AT&T store and at an Apple store?

AT&T STORES

The AT&T stores will only sell you one and they will run a credit check before selling you the phone – mainly because that way they can track who gets commission on the sale – especially if they load you up on accessories and iTunes cards. Apparently (according to BOY GENIUS REPORT), AT&T will give you a special code to enter to speed up your activation process in iTunes. If you do not pass the credit check, they will tack on a $250 deposit.

I’m not currently an AT&T customer but I’ve heard how the deposit process works is if after a year with no late payments, they return your deposit – however, if you are late a month, that 12-month cycle starts over again. If this might apply to you,you might want to double check.

But presumably, if you have an AT&T account, they won’t need to do the credit check.

APPLE STORES

No credit check. Buy and go – perhaps you’d like to add a 30″ monitor with your iPhone? (though no hard sell, of course).

Apple stores will allow you to buy two (eBay better fire up some more servers tonight).

And as part of their best-in-class customer service, at the end of every night, they will update their in-store stock checker web page so you can decide if you want to head in. Nice.

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The iPhone: What We Know Now That We Didn’t Last Week

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Here is a summary of an avalanche of info from the last few days:

COSTS:

Surprise, the monthly plans are either pretty much what most people are paying for talk + advanced services with other carriers or in some cases even slightly less. This are the basic rate plan choices:

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If you need more minutes – there are other plans with all else the same except for daytime minutes: 2000 minutes ($120), 4,000 minutes ($170) & 6,000 minutes ($220).

Family plan pricing is as follows: 700 minutes ($80), 1,400 ($100), 2,100 ($120), 3,000 ($160), 4,000 ($210) & 6,000 ($310).

If you don’t want to be tied in a contract, it looks like you go go with their pre-paid “Go” Plan – see if the math works out for you at their GoPhone page.

You can add more SMS texting because if you reply ‘What Up,’ that’s a message.

Pretty straightforward. If you already are an AT&T customer, it’s $20 to add to your iPhone to whatever plan you have now.

Buy it in the stores (AT&T or Apple) or online (Apple) and take it home, launch iTunes and activation looks like a 10-minute process. Pick a plan, transfer a number, etc, etc … all in this straightforward Apple video.

STORE HOURS – FRIDAY

It seems to be that AT&T stores are closing at 4:00 or 4:30 and re-opening at 6 PM and then closing at 10 PM. Apple stores seem to be closing at 2 PM and re-opening at 6 PM but staying open until midnight. There are some reports some AT&T stores will stay open until midnight also. Okay, we knew this last week but if you want the office store locations for AT&T and of course, where the Apple stores are.

REVIEWS

The reviews are in from Walt Mossberg, David Pogue (of the NYT), the USA TODAY & Newsweek.. Another shocker, the phone works pretty much as the original keynote promised and what many “haters” seem to miss about people interested in the iPhone – that we have tried the Treos, Palm’s, Handspring’s, Moto’s, Nokia’s, Samsung’s, RIM’s and MS phones and found them wanting – we want to try something different and this Apple company from Cupertino seems to be able to deliver a better user experience usually – and surprise (well to the haters), the iPhone pretty much delivers on that promise. No one is saying the iPhone is perfect but then, hardly anything is … all the iPhone promises is that it’s better to much better than what we have now … with more & better to follow. And yes, hopefully, this will incite others to get up off their puny screens with idiotic OSes to do much better. Edward Biag of the USA probably has the most apt headline, “Apple’s iPhone isn’t perfect, but it’s worthy of the hype,” or a good quote from Steven Levy of Newsweek for geeks, “The iPhone is the rare convergence device where things actually converge.” (again, not much of a surprise for most Apple product users).

THE SCREEN

The five reviewers (WSJ had two users) and they all said they carried the iPhone around unprotected for two weeks, no scratches and only DAvid Pogue there were hand-print smudges.

TYPING ON THE SCREEN

All seem to think it was fine and you get used to it pretty quickly.

INTERNET

On WiFi, they all raved about it. On AT&T’s EDGE, no so much – again, no surprise. Of course, it would be nice to have a DSL-like 3G internet access 24/7 but we also know that would’ve have added to the cost, battery life and monthly plan cost … I’m sure the same people who are complaining about no 3G would then in a parallel universe be whining that Apple should offer an EDGE version that’s cheaper with better battery life as most people can find a WiFi hotspot for free (Panera Bread), WiFi FreeSpot, or GoogleMap Free WiFi.

MAIL

AOL, Gmail, Yahoo & .Mac (all POP or IMAP) fine – including rich HTML.

(From Walt Mossberg’s review)
“It can also handle corporate email using Microsoft’s Exchange system, if your IT department cooperates by enabling a setting on the server.”

“It can also receive and open Microsoft Word and Excel documents and Adobe PDF files. But it doesn’t allow you to edit or save these files.”

The USA Today IT department wouldn’t flip a switch for their writer – no surprise as noted in our previous blog post 😦

BATTERY LIFE

(from USA TODAY review)

“Battery life didn’t prove to be a big problem in my unscientific tests — a mix of calling, surfing, listening and watching. Still, it’s a good idea to charge it overnight. You receive warnings when you have just 20%, 15%, 10% and 5% of power remaining. You can charge the phone in its dock, through the supplied plug or through an iPod accessory.”

CAMERA

David Pogue complains about the quality but I have a 2 megapixel camera currently but I’ve yet to take any photo that is not a smear unlike his top notch photos.

IPOD ACCESSORIES

(from USA TODAY review)

“… standard iPod dock connector, but because of possible interference from its wireless radios, it won’t work with all existing iPod accessories. I was able to play music through my Bose SoundDock speaker system. To combat interference, iPhone offered to switch to “airplane mode.” That turns off all radios, meaning you won’t receive any calls.”

SYNC

In addition to the obvious sync of address book, music, calendars, video, podcasts and photos – you can also sync your Safari bookmarks.

SIZE

What exactly is the size of the thing? Has ya got a graham cracker? 🙂

WHAT’S IN THE BOX

(According to APPLEINSIDER.com)

“Also inside the retail box … a stereo headset, dock connector to USB cable, USB power adapter, documentation and cleaning/polishing cloth.”

ALSO …

“second iPhone dock — reportedly dubbed “Dual Dock” — will feature built-in charging stations for both the iPhone and Apple’s $129 Bluetooth headset accessory. People familiar with current pricing data for the iPhone accessories claim the latter dock will fetch $49.”

NOT ON THE IPHONE

No voice speed dial, no iPod games and no ringtones (other than the 25 pre-loaded).

MY NEIGHBOR JOHN D. THREATENS TO STAND ON MY LAWN, NAKED AND RANT ABOUT WHY I SHOULD NOT HAVE PURCHASED AN IPHONE …

(FROM AT&T)

“Apple branded equipment is covered by a 14-day return policy and must be returned to the original point of purchase. If the Apple branded equipment is returned unopened and in the original shrink wrapping, it will be refunded back to the original payment method. Opened Apple branded equipment that is returned within 14 days will be subject to a 10% open box restocking fee. All products must be packed in their original, unmarked packaging including any accessories and manuals that shipped with the product.”

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Online Video: Grabbing & Free Converting With Your Mac

With a few exceptions, most online video sites allow you to download the videos to your desktop. Google Video is the easiest. On the right side, you can choose to download MP4’s by selecting PSP/iPod. YouTube is relatively easy, in Safari, just look for the GET VIDEO/FLV line in WINDOW>ACTIVITY and just double click.* But if you’d rather not have to bother, there are several places online that allow you to type in an url and it will do most of the hard work for including:

DOWNLOAD VIDEOS

Tech Crunch’s YouTube Download

Only works with YouTube but fast and straightforward.

Video Downloader

Just as easy to use but possibly NSFW. While there are no images shown, it does list adult sites that you can also download from so proceed with HR-like caution.

KeepVid

Does list the most sites – did not test them all but many did not work for me. Not sure if it’s a Mac reason but it promises a lot but doesn’t deliver all that much – but it might work better for you.

VIEWING

Now that you have the file, most are in Flash (FLV) format. If you just want it on your desktop, you can download a Flash player, you can add Perian to Quicktime and view them using Quicktime, or use VLC.

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This is the video I downloaded from METACAFE.

It’s a typical Flash/FLV video. I tested the download via Safari and via the other services, all worked fine. The video is about :15 seconds long and as a Flash/FLV file – about 565 KB.

CONVERTING

There are also several conversion sites online you can use.

Zamzar

Works very fast & offers a dazzling number of formats to convert to – everything from mp4 to even VOB. (they also offer an equally amazing number of text and image file conversions). Then enter an email address. Click okay and they will send you an email when it’s ready. In this case, since the file is pretty tiny to begin, it was already by the time I logged into email.

The resulting file was an mp4 file was not much larger – 688 KB – and very nice in quality.

You can convert directly from an url or as a file from your computer.

Media-Convert

And of course, this being the internet, if Zamzar can offer 25 conversions, we can offer 100! And in one way, it’s easier than Zamzar is that you don’t have to wait for an email and your file link, in a few seconds/minutes, Media Convert offers you their DOWNLOAD link on the page. Now, their default setting for mp4 resulted in a fairly low res file (much worse than Zamzar) however, there are some optional settings you can key in – and ultimately, it’s the same quality but you have to do a little more work.

If your goal is to convert video (or audio) for your handheld or phone, I think that is Media Convert’s strength or if you don’t mind having to test out some optional settings before hitting upon an optimal one – Media Convert offers a staggering choices of conversion. For the 4 people in this world who wants to convert a PALM format to REAL AUDIO, your feeble dreams have finally come true 🙂

You can convert directly from an url or as a file from your computer.

Movavi

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Doesn’t offer as many choices as the other two but they are all high res/high quality choices – from Mpeg-2 to Mp4. Again, very simple to use – browse on your desktop for the file (no url grabbing portion – you have to download it yourself), enter your final output choice, enter your email and be notified when it’s ready. They also offer a cool embed “widget” into your site to add value to your site and of course, branding for them.

Vixy.net

Enter the YouTube url of file and select a format (about 6 output choices but only YouTube as your web video url input). Very nice looking sparse site – though not exactly a blazing fast conversion – it takes a few minutes to get cranking and then a few times, it just freezes at around the 70% mark. Since it’s free, you can hardly complain and to get out of it, all you need to do is close the window. Files that do work offer quality as good as the original file from YouTube.

Cruxy Mux (an Amazon affiliate)

Is the latest to offer a conversion. It will only convert from an url and only from YouTube or Google Video. It’s pretty fast but the one I tested had audio problems so you can decide if it’s worth your while. It offers to let you enter an url and they will email you when it’s ready and it will post your file as a direct download or as a torrent – interesting.

There are a couple others but if I could not get them to work in Firefox or Safari on my Mac, I did not bother to include them.

DESKTOP?

While it’s certainly nice to have online access if you need some conversion in a jam and for some reason, you are not at YOUR laptop but why not just convert a FLV file using an app?

QUICKTIME PRO

Any file you can open with QUICKTIME can be converted using the PRO version but the quality is just not there. I only tested the FLV file listed above but the QT H.264 version was low, low res that was blocky and frankly REAL PLAYER quality – ugh, who needs that.

MPEG STREAMCLIP

Once again, it was hard to beat the quality of MPEG Streamclip – keep in mind, it was a typical FLV file on YouTube – a bit murky and blocky to begin with, the converted files from Zamzar & Media Convert were actually nicer than the viewing version at YouTube (but that’s usually true of all YouTube videos) – the MPEG Streamclip was slightly nicer than the online files converted by Zamzar or Media Convert but probably mainly due to my higher-than-average settings in MPEG Streamclip. The MPEG Streamclip file size was larger but when you can buy a 300 GB hard disc drive for $60 dollars now, a few KB here and there is not going to matter much. (If you need a tutorial on MPEG Streamclip, an earlier post).

SUMMARY

So, once you have the file in hand, you really can’t go wrong with the ALL FREE online Zamzar, Media Convert or desktop app MPEG Streamclip to convert your FLV file to a couple dozen other formats.

* Safari direct download via ACTIVITY. You do have to look through a jumble of text to decipher the FLV file. In YouTube, GET VIDEO is invariable the name of the video file – the clue is usually that it is the largest file, usually a MB versus the KB of most of the rest of the page. It’s imposing the first time but afterwards, it’s all easy. Double click on the GET VIDEO FLV file, a new blank SAFARI page will open and so will DOWNLOADS – it will start to auto download – the file in question will usually just be GET_VIDEO. When it’s completely downloaded, add .flv as the file suffix and if you loaded PERIAN, open in Quicktime.

Sometimes, when you double click on GET_VIDEO or something something FLV, you will get a SAFARI window that is blank for a few seconds followed by several minutes of “raw code” loading as plain text on your page. Wait for it to complete – might take minutes. Then SAVE AS>PAGE SOURCE. Delete the .txt suffix (a warning box will pop up, yes, I do want to save without .txt) so save it as VideoName.flv and then you have a file to view in QT (with Perian loaded).

If this sounds like too much work, then just navigate to the three sites I listed under DOWNLOAD. Good luck!

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iphone call plans announced by AT&T

So, you wanna juice up dat phat new iphone?  She’s gonna hoover yer wallet for at least $60 bones per month people.

The plan includes voice, unlimited ‘data’ (I’d like to know what they classify as ‘data’), and some new feature which allows users to scroll through their email just like ye olde regular inbox email!

From the venerable WSJ today:  “AT&T is offering new plans specifically for the iPhone, such as $60 for 450 minutes of cellular talk time a month, $80 for 900 minutes a month, and $100 for 1,350 minutes a month. All those plans include access to email and mobile Web services, the visual voicemail service, and the ability to send 200 text messages.”

Want unlimited texting their boychik?  Gonna cost ya another $20 clams a month.

Ready to stand in line this Friday?  Well, here’s a little ditty to keep you company.  Sung to the tune of Roll Out the Barrel (aka the Beer Barrel Polka):

“Roll out the iphones.  We’ll have a barrel of cash.

Roll out the iphones, we’ve got Nokia on the run.

Zing Boom Wifi-ya

Join in a cell plan right here

Now its time to roll out the iphones

For the horde’s all here! (Spoken: Take my wallet away boys)”

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