Tuesday, January 11, 2005

iPod Shuffle versus iRiver 799

Apple announced today the iPod shuffle. It's a slick-looking, flash-based mp3 player that is smaller than a pack of gum. And the list price is only $149 for a shuffle with 1 GB of memory.

The other mp3 player I've considered getting is the iRiver 799. Its list price is $249, but you can find it for sale for under $200.

But the iPod shuffle has me thinking... would I rather go with an iPod?

As slick as the shuffle is, there are a couple of issues that concern me. The most obvious one is a lack of a display. I think I could get used to that in no time - because all you can do is play audio files, and I'll generally want to either play them in order or shuffle. The real issue is the internal battery. I know it is going to be good for several hundred recharge cycles, but then what? I have to replace the stupid thing? That is rather annoying - and it's the main thing that bothers me about the iPod in general. Especially if I don't use it for a month or two and the battery starts to go to hell.

Now the iRiver is a little bigger (well, 3 times as thick, but still tiny) - due in large part to the fact is uses a AA battery. I really like the idea of being able to swap in a new battery at will. Using a AA also gives this player 40 hours of playback time, as opposed to the shuffle's 12 hours. And I'd just use a researchable battery anyway. The iRiver also has a display - which I could do without in the case of the shuffle, but since the iRiver also has an FM tuner, you really need the display. I think the tuner might be real handy. The other features like voice recording, radio recording, and displaying of text files are less uninteresting, but could still be useful.

I also like the iRiver's firmware upgrade option - where you can get updates to the software that runs it to get fixes. The iRiver also supports the OGG file format which I find interesting (in principle at least - I don't have anything that plays them).

I expect Apple's introduction of a 1GB flash player at the price of only $149 to make some waves, and expect the other players to come down in price to match. In which case I'll happily gobble up an iRiver, well, assuming I find enough quarters in the couch cushions.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

BLOCKBUSTER's end of late fees

What a crock of poo.

Just go ahead and read the fine print. Go ahead, read it. If you don't return the movie by the end of the 8th day, they sell it to you.


What's with that? No more late fees, but you get to buy the movie.

Sure, if you return it before 30 days, you get charged a "restocking fee".

Ha. No late fees my ass.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Heart Rate Monitor

As mentioned before, I got a heart rate monitor for Christmas. Nice gift, exactly what I asked for. It does about everything a HRM could do except keep a plot of my heart rate over time (it just provides peak, average, low heart rates). But really, do I need to see a graph of my heart rate? No.

I now realize that when I'm jogging at 5.5 miles per hour (aka dog slow), my heart rate really is at about 70% of my max. So, while I may be going slow, I can at least comfort myself that I'm at the working my body hard enough. What's that? You want me to run faster? No, no thanks, I'm in my "zone".

I read the manual front to back, figured out how to use all the features (stop watch, count down timer, recovery time, target zone, alarm, calorie counter, scan function, etc. etc.). I got real excited when I read that it was water proof (well, resistant down to 30m - as long as you don't use the buttons under water). Cool! I can use it while swimming.

I jumped in the pool, turned on the heart rate, and .... nothing.

Sure, it's waterproof, so it isn't ruined when you get it wet, but they didn't actually say it works in water. Not only that, but when I push off the wall (launch really, like the speedboat on Miami Vice), the strap around my chest slides down a couple of inches.

At least now I've got a waterproof stopwatch.

Side note: The packaging for the HRM mentions two web pages to check out. I diligently try both of them, and they're both horrible. The first is just an advertisement for some company's "virtual training services" - and it complains if you try to view the web page in anything other than IE. The second doesn't have my HRM. I know that my "NordicTrack" HRM is just a branded device, but come on, if you're savvy enough to put TWO URLs in your packaging, you'd think that you might at least have one blurb about the product you're selling. And the NordicTrack web page is useless, they don't mention their HRMs at all (just the band you can wear on your chest).

I like my HRM, but their web presence is horrible.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Unicycle Club

Mary and I went to our first unicycle club on Monday. Mary was a bit nervous about not doing so well or just not having fun. I was excited about getting on the unicycle, but figured I'd be all intimidated. We had to drive around a little bit to find the gym, but we knew we'd hit pay dirt when a kid hopped out of a minivan wearing a helmet. Sure enough, he rode down the sidewalk, up the ramp, and into the gym.

My first impression was, damn, there are a lot of little kids here. A good 8-10 kids, most of whom were no older than 8 years, all zipping around - barely wobbling. That was a tad intimidating. They were racing, playing catch, picking balls off the ground w/out stopping, and two even looked like they were playing roller-derby on unicycles.

Of course the first non-kid I see is a 20-something guy wearing shin guards, riding on a fat-tired, Kris Holm unicycle with the optional hydraulic brake. He'd casually jump on the bike (yup, no one-footed mount, he hopped on with both feet at the same time), pedal around, stop, hop a few times, and ride on.

But we mustered up the courage and walked in - glad we brought our helmets b/c everyone was wearing one (turns out, safety is a requirement). Angela, the lady who runs the club, came up to us nice as could be, and told us she'd help us in a min, right after she helped some beginner kids. So she gave us the basic tips, and held one of Mary's hands (I held the other) and we helped Mary down the length of the gym and back. Wow, on the first try, Mary rode 200' w/out falling off the unicycle. I did almost as well on my first try w/Angela's and Mary's help.

Angela went and mingled with other unicyclists and jugglers, occasionally helping out the lone cyclist. Mary and I tentatively kept at it - even getting a lending hand from a father whose kid was somewhere in the gym with other kids. By the end of the night, our legs were tired, but we were both excited about the possibilities of cycling on our own. Mary gained a huge amount of confidence, and I rode 50 feet and then 100 feet w/out assistance, I was stoked.

The club is very informal, people of all sorts of abilities (except for the kids, they're all good) just come to hang out and try to get better at cycling. A number of the guys there do muni, so I hope to begin to pick their brains when I get up the courage to try it. I know Mary is going to roll her eyes when she hears me ask for another bike (is a unicycle 1/2 a bike?). But the one I'm riding is not rated for drops of any height, let alone by someone who weighs 250#. We'll see.

Oh, plus, I got one of the best xmas gifts ever, the unicycle video Into the Thunder Dragon, starring the best mountain unicyclist ever: Kris Holm. Wow, awesome video. I could watch that again right now.

Needless to say, I am totally hooked, it's all I could do to get any work done today. All I thought about was unicycling.

Monday, January 03, 2005

College Girl Shoes

Mary and I took a walk downtown on this beautiful, sunny Monday. The excuse was to go to the library to drop off a couple of overdue books, and to pick up a book I had put on hold a while back, Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief. I just read the prologue and it was very exciting, I'm looking forward to finishing the book in a couple of days (it's only a 14-day loaner, guess it's popular).

Anyway, we walked through the OSU campus both ways and I couldn't help but notice what the girls were wearing. They were either wearing flip-flops or really pointy elf-shoes with stiletto heels. Neither really make sense to me. First of all, flip-flops are to be worn to and from the pool, not outside in 40 degree weather. And the pointy elf shoes:

are just painful looking. Sure, go ahead and wear whatever you want, I'm certainly not one who has ever followed fashion. But these shoes just look silly. Put a little bell on the end of the shoe and you look like an elf.

And yes, they're 'girls' when they wear flip-flops and elf shoes. Women have more sense than that.