Thinkback - Slices and Goofy Plastic Boxes

So Slashdot has Slashback. That's where they revisit a previously posted subject. I'll copy that theme and present Thinkback.

Today's Thinkback takes a look at some recently released Mac mini slices, and a USB hub that is not a goofy plastic box.

So, I still don't completely have what I want, but MicroNet and Macpower have brought forth some nice offerings. The Macpower slice appears to be slightly vaporware. The Micronet slice is at least orderable. I like that I can put my own drive in the Macpower slice, but I like even more that the MicroNet slice will come with a drive that it *knows* will not require an extra fan. Neither of them have front mounted ports or card readers though, so I'll hold off a little longer.

Belkin brings us a 4 port hub that is different than the regular lot. It's claim to fame is a top load USB slot that apparently is meant for iPod shuffles, but I'll get one and use it for generic flash drives and frequently attached/disconnected test tools. I can't help but notice that with the right object sticking up, this will look like an Atari joystick. Hey, there's an idea. Give me a USB hub that looks like an Atari joystick with a matching cylindrical flash drive!


Free Hip Hop

Today is just a few links to some music that you might enjoy. These links all came from my search for the setlist from DJ Z-Trip's Live at Uprock in Austin TX show. I haven't found the setlist yet, but I did find some fun stuff along the way.

What do you get when you combine DJ Shadow and Boyz II Men? Well, you get DJ Erb - Goodbye, of course.
[Edit: This was cool the first time. It was interesting the second time. I'm over it now.]
I'm going to have to explore DJ Erb some more. He has quite a few rock influenced hip hop sets for purchase. I downloaded his remix of Lyrics Born as well. Don't forget, Lyrics Born has a new CD coming out on Tuesday.

Over at Solesides, there is a page for Nostalgia Progression. You can grab their track Stepping Stone. I'm digging it. I'll bring Lyrics Born in one more time and recommend that you grab RL Burnside feat. Lyrics Born - Going Down South off of the Solesides main page.

All that and you didn't have to spend a dime.


Do You Crokinole?

Last weekend I visited my buddy who lives in Milwaukee. He introduced me to a 1800s Canadian game called Crokinole. It is played on a wooden board using pieces that look like checkers. You flick the discs at scoring areas and each other, much like shuffleboard, which I also enjoy.

I had a lot of fun playing and started looking more in to the game when I returned home. I checked out the site that my buddy bought his board from and even took a spin through eBay. At eBay, I saw a combo Carrom/Crokinole board that awakened my memories. I thought to myself "That looks just like a board my parents had when I was a kid." I called my parents up and arranged to take a look at the board the next day. I tried explaining what a Crokinole board looked like, but they didn't much care. "Just come look at it" was the response I got :)

Well, I went and looked, and sure enough, it was a Crokinole board. This thing has to be nearly 30 years old. Amazing how things come full circle huh? Boy, the game probably would have been more fun as a kid if we knew how to play it. My parents let me have the board, which was quite nice of them, especially since I probably would have shelled out the cash to buy one over the web. There was one peg broken off, but I spent some time in the garage and came up with something that seems to do the trick.
I still need some decent pieces though. We've been playing with Othello discs, which aren't quite regulation :)

I'm hoping the Crokinole board will be a big hit at our next Poker party. It should be a fun side game for the people that get knocked out.

Take a Trip - Cheap, New, Music

Best Buy's $6.99 CD this week is Shifting Gears by DJ Z-Trip. This should be a great album. The album includes collaborations with Jurassic 5, Chester Bennington from Linkin Park, and even Public Enemy. You can hear some samples here and over at Amazon.

I was first exposed to Z-Trip from reading the Denon boards. He does some incredible live sets. I'll have to dig up a link to one of those. Some of his tracks sound a bit like my favorite artist, DJ Shadow. Z-Trip even did some remixing for Shadow on the Mashin' ON the Motorway single.

I'll be at Best Buy on Tuesday, how about you?


Shack Up Your Mac

Hey, one of my predictions came true. I'm not Nostradamus, I just put in writing what I'm sure many people were thinking. A couple of weeks ago, I said "The Mac mini is begging for a USB hub and card reader that matches it." Well, The Plasticsmith made it happen. They now have the Mac mini shack.

The shack is a little ol' place where your USB peripherals can get together. There's no card reader (yet), but there are 7 USB ports. These guys are progressing from the silly Mac mini skirt, but I hope they don't quit with this hub. 7 USB ports is cool, but where's the FireWire? Where are the card readers? Surely they can cram some more good stuff in there.

You know I can't pass up a good 'shop opportunity, so I did a quick mock up for what I think the Mac mini Shack should be. First, it needs ports on the front and back. The front ones are for connecting your friend's camera, an iPod shuffle, or maybe a portable hard drive. The back ones are for your permanent Mac mini peripherals. I also added two flash card readers. The scale in the drawing is bad, but the idea is one SD slot and one CF slot. You get the idea. Plasticsmith is selling a do-it-yourself shack, so I just might have to see what "guts" I could buy to make this happen. If this thing did exist, I'd buy two. One for the mini and one for work, to use with my Dell. This would not be a goofy plastic box because it has some design to it, it would have some weight, and it would give me the front and back ports and cable management like I want.

Keep at it Plasticsmith. You are real close to getting some of my money.


Live, Location Enhanced, Data

It is amazing how the value of information increases by orders of magnitude when presented in a familiar context.

Google Maps + Craig's List = Home Buyer's Dream


Polish the Apple

Just some Apple linkage today. While we wait for Tiger to ship, you might be interested to look at Apple's latest facts and figures. I wonder if we realize the history that is being made here. All signs seem to point to "grow" for Apple right now. I bet we'll see 1st gen iPods in museums in 100 years.


Death to goofy plastic boxes

At work, I have to use quite a few USB devices and I also use CF and SD flash cards. Currently, I use some silly card readers from SanDisk that have cords that are way too long and they take up way too much space. I also have a USB hub that doesn't space the ports apart far enough to actually use them all and it is poorly designed for me since all of the ports are on the back. I got tired of my setup at work and decided to find something better.

All I found was a wasteland of flimsy, ugly, me-too plastic boxes. It seems that most USB hubs these days all include the following design criteria:
* Plastic, the more the better
* Rectangular, don't forget to round the corners
* Silver, LEDs are spiffy too, but silver is required

I don't think I'm all that demanding. I just want a nice USB hub with built-in flash card readers. I define nice as:
* Good build quality - give it some heft so it doesn't slide all over
* Thoughtful design - let me get at the ports and space them far enough apart that I can use all of them. Make the hub power supply stay in. Barrel jacks suck.
* Tasteful design - Metal is good. Wood would be fine. I have no need for see-thru plasic windows and the LEDs are usually more annoying than useful.

Let's take a quick spin around the web and see the junk that is available.

Adaptec - Goofy little plastic boxes

D-Link - Goofy little plastic boxes

Linksys - Goofy little plastic boxes

Belkin - Gggggggggggoofy plastic boxes

Targus - At least they have the best looking Goofy little plastic boxes

Keyspan - Goofy!


Now, I did find a few devices with potential, but even these didn't wow me.

Macally - Attractive hub plus card reader. It figures that this would look halfway decent. It's marketed to Apple owners.

Iogear - I like the vertical design and styling. Unfortunately, I read a lot of reviews that say the thing plain doesn't work most of the time and plugged in cables tend to topple the thing over.

Fellowes - This one has an interesting swivel design which would be useful. Too bad it doesn't read flash cards.

Kensington - I like the dome design of this one. Unfortunately, no flash card readers and I read bad things about plugs not fitting in to it well.

Maybe something will come out of all of the Mac mini accessories. The Mac mini is begging for a USB hub and card reader that matches it. Given a decent weight, I might look at something like that for work.

How about you guys? Anyone have any products that they like that they can share? Have you seen any devices out there that fit what I'm looking for? Links please!

All Day I Dream About Soccer

If you didn't know, I'm the freak behind sadida.com. Sadida.com is the original adidas fan blog. It was a blog before they invented the term blog. I started it very humbly in 1996. I started the site more to learn about HTML than anything else. For a good laugh, you should head over there and check out the way-back link to the original 1996 site.

I sort of gave up on sadida.com in the last few years, but recently I've gotten the itch and have decided to try keeping it updated again. If you have any adidas related info for me, send me an email at ryan@sadida.com. If you write me a review to post, I'll give you a cookie!


Do One Thing and Do It Well

Throughout this blog, you'll see me complain (err, suggest) how products could be designed better. Last week I came across another perfect example of poorly designed products. Clocks, specifically, alarm clocks.

My Grandma got a new alarm clock. I can't recall the brand right now, but if I could, trust me, I would publicly shame them. Her alarm clock has two alarm settings. Nothing wrong with that. The problem is, she couldn't figure out how to set them. One of the alarms was set for 11:52 at night and it would wake her up every single night. If I were her, I would have unplugged the damn thing until I figured out how to turn the alarm off, but I guess she needed to know what time it was. I was called in to save the day and I too was initially perplexed at how to set the silly alarm. A quick consult of the instructions solved the problem, but why did I have to resort to that?

An alarm clock isn't a complex beast. It shows the time and makes noise once a day. How is it possible to design a product that makes it difficult to do those tasks? Apparently the Hilton Family thinks they have this problem licked. They are putting their easy-to-set alarm clock in all of their hotel properties. You can get a better idea of how to set the alarm clock by looking at this picture. Honestly, it looks pretty good. There is a clear indication of whether the alarm is on or off and it seems simple enough to tell the clock when you are setting the alarm time.

Finally, to balance out today's negativity, I'll tell you about a positive clock experience. Daylight savings required us to change our clocks this past weekend. I always hate that task, but at least Nissan makes it a little nicer. The clock on the CD player in my truck is cool. There is one button, and it says "Clock". If you push it, it turns the clock on. If you push it again, it turns the clock off. If you hold it, the stereo beeps and you can use either set of up/down buttons to set the time. I like this, it JFWs! I've had plenty of finger cramping combos to set stereo times before, so this is welcomed simplicity.


Your Laziness Astounds Me

Lazy American? Yes, I've seen quite a few. Let me share with you my latest encounter. In my neighborhood, we have shared mailbox areas. The mailboxes from about 10 houses are clumped together. I'm always amazed that folks drive to these mailboxes, when they are 3 driveways away at the most. On Friday, I witnessed the following... My neighbor that lives no more than 40 yards away from the mailbox came home from work, she drove past her house and proceeded to park in the middle of the frickin' street, turn off her van and get out. She walks over to the mailbox and gets her mail. Remember, she is still blocking the street. She then walks back to the van, gets in, starts it up, and then drives down one more house. She pulls in to their driveway, the WHOLE way (wtf?), and then backs out, drives up the three houses, waits for her garage door to open, and drives in.

She's not disabled. She didn't have heavy things to carry. It wasn't raining. There are nice sidewalks the whole way. I don't see any excuse to not get two minutes of fresh air. Maybe she is on one of those no exercise diets.