iPhone price cut, schmice cut, they getcha with the monthly plan

July 11, 2008

The safety razor is a classic example of business marketing: Sell people the handle cheap, and they’ll keep coming back for the pricey blades. Thanks to a series of posts over at Apple Insider, we can see that’s exactly what AT&T is doing to the iPhone. Sure, the the hotter-then-hot iPhone price has been dropped to a wallet-pleasing $199. But even as they lowered the price of the handset, they raised the price of calling plans. Now an iPhone calling plan with unlimited data costs $70 a month, and they took away the free 200 text messages (I’m not a text messager, but I’m told that they’re all the rage with the whippersnapper set), which costs an extra 5 bucks.

So that’s $15 a month more per month than it was with the first generation iPhone, plus you have to pay a $36 upgrade fee. Given the mandatory 2-year contract, that means the plan costs $396 more then it used to own an iPhone ($276 if you think text messaging is unhealthy). So the savings from the 8GB iPhone price cut from $399 to $199? Poof, they’re gone.


Run, Scruffy, run! The lawnmower will run out of power eventually!

July 7, 2008

Dogs, small children, and outdoor kitties beware: The makers of the Roomba, iRobot, are working on a robot lawnmower. The Roomba, for those lacking in gadgeteer friends, is a robot vacuum cleaner. If R2D2 were squashed into a 6-inch- tall disc, you’d know what a Roomba looks like. Once activated, the Roomba drives itself around a room, vacuuming as it goes. When it hits a wall, or a chair, it will try to change course, or back up and set off in a  new direction. Supposedly, given time, it will vacuum the whole room. I have friends who love theirs, so I’m guess it’s actually pretty successful at sucking dirt. But the real fun is when you get some Roomba-pet interaction going on. As a rule, cats do NOT like vacuum cleaners, and self-propelled vacuum cleaners are simply more than their walnut-sized brains can handle. Oh the hissing I’ve seen! Oh the crazed attempts to chew the Roomba to bits! Good times all around.

Now imagine the same device, but bigger, and armed with blades spinning at high speed. Now you’ve got the iMower, which iRobot just filed a patent for, and you’ll understand why Scruffy had best put on his sprinting shoes. Well, maybe Scruffy better already have those shoes, since it turns out there are already a couple of automated lawn mowers: RoboMower, from an Israeli firm (pictured above) and LawnBott from Kyodo America. Who knew?

Addition: They also come in the solar powered variety. (Thanks Greg)

[Via Engadget and Robotstocknews]


By the way, Firefox 3.0 flies

June 18, 2008

I downloaded the new Firefox last night. Truly, it is the fastest browser since…well, since Firefox 1.0. I timed it against the heaviest sites I use: ESPN, CNN, and Google Reader and it beat Firefox 2 and Safari by a mile. Since both of those beat Internet Explorer, at least on the Mac side, I think by the transitive property Firefox can claim superiority. I haven’t yet run across any of the functional improvements. Mostly seems to work the same, to me.

Oh, and the upgrade is really easy, too. I installed the new Firefox and it kept all my bookmarks, all my settings, and my cache. It’s early yet, but thumbs up so far.


Electric cars don’t pollute where they eat

April 22, 2008

Eric’s Apocalypse Averting Plan No. 1: Use electricity to power as many devices as is reasonably possible. Electricity, once you’ve got it, runs totally cleanly. No carbon output, less noise, fewer moving parts required, and therefore less maintenance needed. And the first machine that should go all electric would have to be our cars, right? Even though the Tesla is technically on the market, the cheapest way to use an electric motor in everyday driving is through the use of conventional hybrids or plug-in hybrids. Conventional hybrids use the gas motor and braking action to recharge, while plug-ins recharge by plugging into the wall at night. Plug-ins also have a small gas motor to extend their range.

But when I start spouting on about electricity and cars, I often get the same response: “But Eric, sure you eliminate tailpipe emissions, but you’re just adding to the pollution at the power plant. We’d have to burn even more nasty, dirty coal to power those snazzy machines.” It’s a major flaw in EAAP1, you know?

Thankfully the Electrical Power Research Institute and the Natural Resources Defense council also got tired of hearing that argument, so they did some research. The study (PDF) compares the CO2-per-mile of normal gas-powered cars, regular hybrids (like Priuses), and plug-in hybrids. The results were most gratifying: the plug-in hybrid produces far less greenhouse gas than conventional cars, even if all the electricity they slurp up at night is produced at a sooty old coal plant. The MIT magazine Technology Review used the study to generate the table I’ve included after the jump. It shows that conventional cars produce 452 grams of CO2/mile, about 28% more than plug-in hybrids, even if the plug-ins get all their electricity from coal-burning power plants.

Read the rest of this entry »


April Fools alive and kicking

April 2, 2008

The cell phone software maker Qualcomm happens to be based in San Diego, so I actually received a press release for Handsolo yesterday, though I failed to open it (I get a lot of press releases). It contained a link to this video, the hands down winner (a pun you’ll soon get) for funniest April Fool joke this year.


A tent for your laptop. Really.

January 17, 2008

This company is concerned that geeks can’t see their laptop screens because when we sit by our pools, the sun is overly bright. Silly company. Everyone knows that geeks never go out in the sun. It might melt our D&D figurines. Anyway, this photo was too wonderful not to post.


Finally, a way to recycle electronics

December 26, 2007

There really has never been a good way to recycle old electronics. They can’t be thrown into the trash, because electronics are built out of all kinds of compounds and heavy metals that seep into the ground and eventually into the ground water. The virtuous among us who bring electronics to recyclers actually aren’t doing any good either, since recyclers often extract the valuable metals – copper wiring, gold from the microchips – and then chuck the rest into the landfill.

So what to do? Sell it to Second Rotation, apparently. This company is trying to make a living buying your old electronics, refurbishing them and reselling them. They apparently can resell 90% of the gear they get. The rest they recycle. Are they giving it to the sleazy recyclers or good ones? I’ve got a call in to them to try and find out the deal. Still, if they can resell 90% of my old electronics, that’s at least two of the three gadgets we have in a drawer at home.

[Via Ars Technica]


Drat, drat, double drat: Wii doesn’t replace real exercise.

December 26, 2007

I was so hoping I’d never have to run again. Unfortunately, although playing Nintendo Wii games does burn 50% more calories than playing regular console games, it doesn’t even approach the calories burnt by normal exercise. It’s not so much that I’m surprised by this result as I have the sense of a million teenage voices hoping to get a Wii suddenly silenced.


Vista tries to catch up

November 12, 2007

Microsoft is issuing a patch for the troubled latest version of the windows operating system, Vista, to “address issues of reliability, performance, and stability.” Really? Is that all?

No doubt they’re worried now that Apple has released their latest OS, Leopard, to rave reviews.


Windows Vista – Crash and burn

September 27, 2007

Nothing makes a Mac person more smug than the woes of a Microsoft product. And man does it sure look like Windows Vista is a turkey. A short summary of the problems: It won’t let you make Firefox your default browser, the pre-installed backup software doesn’t work properly, software makers aren’t jumping to upgrade their software to use Vista functionality, and it will check “the legitimacy” of software on your computer and even delete stuff it doesn’t like. Actually, that last one is a doozy. Here’s what how a reviewer form the Toronto Star described the pre-installed anti-virus software Windows Defender:

Once operational, the agreement warns that Windows Defender will, by default, automatically remove software rated “high” or “severe,” even though that may result in other software ceasing to work or mistakenly result in the removal of software that is not unwanted.

Really? It will just delete stuff? That’s so not OK.  And those are just a few of the myriad reasons not to use Vista that the Internet provided. No wonder a C-Net blogger is calling for Microsoft to just abandon the whole project.


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