The Computer Blog

Thursday, September 15, 2005

iPhone, iPod Nano, and My Market

Apple has finally admitted that it had been working with Motorola to develop and “iPhone”. Called the “ROKR”, the Cingular Wireless phone is capable of downloading a 100 songs from the iTunes music store for playback. But, who cares? I have no interest in a phone that plays music or in using Cingular Wireless. My next cell phone will probably be along the line of a Treo 600 or 650 (or whatever comes next). I want something that will help me pull down weather charts when I’m sitting in my airplane in the middle of nowhere, if it’s possible for a cell phone to help me at all.

The iPod Nano is Apple’s upgrade from the iPod Mini, which it has discontinued. The Nano has a color screen and will pull down digital photos as well as music, so it’s more capable than the mini. However, unlike the mini whose life finished with a 6GB option, the Nano only comes in 2 GB and 4GB flavors. Overall, though, the Nano seems like an improvement and a slightly better value.

Still, I’d be a bit surprised if the Nano sells as well as the mini simply because the music player market has been around for a while. Apple has covered all its price points, but how much market is still there for them to get? The Nano is an evolutionary not a revolutionary improvement over the mini. The only reason I can see for upgrading to the Nano if you’re a mini owner is to carry some photos, too. That is enough of a reason; my own “next purchase” will follow that line and I plan to buy an iPod Photo for someone close soon. But after that, the only reason we’d have to buy another player is if one fails; and I have yet to see one quit.

USB Drive GHOSTS - A Spreading Mystery

I received an e-mail note from a friend describing a problem she was having with some USB drives she was using with Windows XP. After she inserted the drives, she loaded them up with both files and folders. But then she found she couldn’t access her data, and on the drive itself there were multiple folders named “00000000.000”. She wrote asking for help recovering use of the drives. Unfortunately, I was not able to provide her with a solution.

A little sleuthing on the Internet proved this problem is not an isolated one. While it is affecting various brands of USB drives, I saw Sony mentioned more than once, if not most often. As of now, there doesn’t seem to be a found solution to the problem which often and ultimately results in computers not recognizing the drives at all. There is at least a hint that the problem may be that a number of fake USB drives have hit the market, and this is a manifestation of that scam.

The most interesting clue to me is the file folder naming convention. The folder names contain 8 characters, a period (or dot), and then 3 characters. This corresponds to old DOS naming conventions when file and folder names were limited. That almost makes me suspicious of something within Windows, though I realize it’s easy to blame the OS. Admittedly, the true cause remains to be found. If anyone has any clues, I’d appreciate it if you would drop me a line.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Problems with Epson R200 - Windows Gets a Win!

I bought my Epson R200 inkjet printer from MicroCenter for one reason, i.e., its ability to print directly on DVD’s and CD’s. But I haven’t needed it for any projects until last night, almost nine months after I bought it. I used the Epson Print CD application on my G5 PowerMac to build up the DVD template and then tried to print it to DVD. Despite the fact I was following the instructions in my owner’s manual to the letter, whenever I tried to print, the printer would push out the DVD tray a little, move the print cartridges like it was going to print something, pull back, pull the tray in and push it back out, start flashing the ink and paper lights, and then issue an error message that said my “CD/DVD GUIDE IS OPEN”. Several times I tried recycling the guide and pushing in the tray when the red lights would start flashing but nothing helped. I uninstalled the printer drivers and reinstalled all my Epson software from the CD, downloaded new drivers from the Epson website, installed them, and tried again. Nothing worked. I switched to my G5 iMac and tried it all again but got the same result. In desperation, I cranked up my XP powered PC, launch the Windows version of Epson Print CD, rebuilt the DVD template, and commanded it to print. Worked like a champ! For once, my Windows PC pulled through.

Needless to say, I’m a bit distressed. I haven’t troubleshot the Mac setup yet; but from comments I’ve seen on the web, I suspect the problem has something to with Tiger. I’ve seen some reports from folks running Panther who have had no problems using the R200 to print to CD or DVD. Once I finish the project I’m on (and I’ll finish it using Windows), I’ll try using the GIMP printer drivers in Tiger vice the Epson drivers from the CD or the web. I may also try printing directly from one or both of the Macs to see if my problems might be caused by the Mac’s (or Tiger’s) interface with my USB network. But, for now, suffice it to say I’m once again having to think about whether I can ever really move away from keeping a Windows machine around.

At times like that, I’ll momentarily question whether moving to the Mac was really the right thing. I back off and look at it again; and, every time I do, the advantages and what I really like about Macs and OS X come back to me. I remind myself that the real culprit here really isn’t Apple but the minimal support it often receives from third party manufacturers. Not that Epson doesn’t support the Mac; it does. But the support often seems slow and limited. Hopefully, that will change as Macs grab more market share; but, in the meantime, I’m going to encounter this kind of a thing from time to time. Still, it’s better than the day-to-day travails of living with Windows, something I’m reminded of every time I go to fix a friend’s or organization’s PC.