100 Days of Cycling

You may remember my post from earlier this year where I set a goal to ride my bicycle 100 days this year. I'm pleased to say, I have met this goal. Yesterday was my 100th ride.

I wasn't sure if I'd meet my goal. Late in August, I was barely past the halfway mark. I figured it would be pretty hard to find the days in the fall and winter. Turns out, I was right. It was hard to find days. That made me switch to nights :) I haven't really done much night riding, but I enjoy it quite a bit now. As long as you have a good light and a safe route, it can be a very calming experience. At least 30 of my rides were done at night. The number of cars I would encounter dropped to 1/10th and the number of police cars I saw at least tripled.

I would never have been able to meet this goal without an understanding wife, and some good equipment. These items were key:

  • A durable bike - At least 50% of my rides were done on my Specialized Langster. I love the bike. It's a single speed, so there's less to maintain, less to break, and less to clean. I managed to make it through the year with only one flat on the Langster. Other than that, I just cleaned and lubed it every now and then.

  • A good light - You want to see and be seen when riding at dusk or dark. I've mentioned it before. My Light and Motion Vega is a great light. It stood up to the cold and rain.

  • A skull cap - It has been warmer than normal this year, but I did have a few rides below freezing. Covering your head and ears is essential. I picked mine up for $5 at a bike tradeshow.

  • Cold weather pants - Plenty of bike riders have no need for pants. When it gets too cold for the shorts, they just hang it up for the year. I'd be really fat if I did that. They weren't cheap, but I got a nice pair from Cannondale with Windstopper fronts. These things are glorious. Warmth is never a problem. I use them for biking, skiing, snow shoeing, and hiking.

This year's goal was not miles, it was days. Next year's goal is back to miles, but with a twist. Stay tuned.


Stupid Internet People

A fun clip from Judge Judy. It sounds pretty bad when taken out of context. It's no secret that Judge Judy doesn't much care for computers, but she was actually ranting about the stupid things people do with each other after only knowing them for a short period of Internet contact only.


I don't get WMP

Maybe it's all of that Apple kool-aid that I drink, but I just don't get Windows Media Player. I don't understand the design. I don't understand where I need to click. I don't understand why it has so many different viewing modes. I don't understand why it can't handle it's own invisible border properly when you drag it around. I don't understand the handling of the timers.

I like to see the timer display time left on the track. Most players represent that with a negative sign. -00:09 tells you that the track will be up in 9 seconds. Windows Media Player doesn't use the negative. The difference between counting up and counting down is...well there is no difference. You have to watch the counter long enough to figure out which way it is counting to know what mode you last left it in. Maybe not a problem to you, but I don't use it alot, and it's a problem to me.

While I'm clicking around trying to figure out the counters, I see something quite odd. The timer disappears and relocates to the title-bar, well the fake title-bar anyway. They show the time in a completely different way up there. More choices have to be better, right?

To recap, WMP starts by counting down. Click it and it will count up. Click it again and it will jump to the fake title-bar and count up. It seems you can't get it to count down in the fake title-bar. Less choices have to be better, right?

The real craziness is the poor little shuffle icon that gets sucked up in the mess. When the counters are down low, you get an icon to control the shuffle modes. When the counter jumps up top, the shuffle mode icon goes on break! It doesn't jump to the top. It just diappears completely! Now you have a blank area that could still have the icon, but it doesn't. No choice has to be better, right? (yes, you can still get to it in the menu...if you can figure out how to pop a menu)

Finally, just to make you slap your head one more time...if you "Show Menu Bar", you'll get a real title-bar. If you go do your click dance on the counters now, the counter and shuffle icon will disappear completely. It doesn't pop to the title-bar. It disappears and you can't get it back until you switch to fake title-bar mode and click. I seriously can not find a menu or right click way to get it back. You have to switch modes and click.

Can anyone justify this behavior? What use case am I missing?


5 of The Now

  • Malcolm Middleton - Solemn Thirsty Malcolm Middleton - Into the Woods - Solemn ThirstyEmotional

  • Goodie Mob - Cell Therapy Goodie Mob - Soul Food - Cell Therapy While chatting music with the crew at work, I got some blank stares when I mentioned Goodie Mob. Let's fix that. Before Gnarls Barkley, Cee-Lo spent his time with Goodie Mob. Take a moment and read the Cee-Lo wikipedia. There's a lot of interesting info there. Guests on the Soul Food album include OutKast. It's a good album and often overlooked.

  • Logistics - Haunted by Her Yesterdays Logistics - Now More Than Ever - Haunted By Her Yesterdays Record labels, pay attention. My purchase of this album was entirely due to the
    always quality podcast
    put out by London Elektricity for Hospital Records. I got to hear a lot of the album and I got excited enough to purchase it. Of all the electronic music disciplines, I spent the least amount of time with Drum 'n Bass. This podcast got me back in the mood and translated in to a direct sale. One more time....free music led to purchased music.

  • The Knife - Silent Shout The Knife - Silent Shout - Silent Shout Still getting in to the album, but the title track already has a grip on me.

  • DJ Shadow - 3 Freaks DJ Shadow featuring Keak da Sneak & Turf Talk - The Outsider - 3 Freaks (Featuring Keak Da Sneak & Turf Talk) The hyphy tracks on Shadow's new album are really growing on me. I should know better than to doubt the Shadow.

BTW, wouldn't it be nice if you could embed iTunes links inline like you can YouTube and the like? I know Apple likes to control the experience in iTunes, but man I wish you could just click and play.


Click the X

I took 5 minutes to see how many different close buttons I could find in some pretty standard apps. Luckily it's hard to make an 'X' look like anything other than an 'X'.

Top to bottom

  • Google Talk

  • Microsoft Word

  • Microsoft Command Prompt

  • Microsoft Windows Media Player

  • Apple iTunes

  • Roxio Easy CD Creator

  • Cyberlink PowerDVD

I'm sure you can find more. Part of me hates that there are so many different versions of the same thing. Part of me understands that some apps want to have an identity or use different GUI libraries. The rest of me just puts up with the non-standard standard controls.


Front Row as DVD Library

I like Apple's Front Row, but it is missing key functionality. One function is the ability to playback DVDs from the harddrive. Apple's DVD player allows this (color me amazed), but Front Row does not, which is a shame since lots of other media enablers out there do.

Note: How you get DVDs to your harddrive is not the subject of this post and I want to make it clear that "borrowing" DVDs from the Internet is not something that I think is right and do not participate in.

Coders to the rescue. A smart guy created a solution to allow stored DVD playback. The app is called DVD Assist. It works by monitoring what Front Row is playing and when it sees a particular file get played, it will launch a corresponding VIDEO_TS folder in the DVD player. A hack, yes. A slick hack, you bet.

To make things work, you need to do a few things.

  1. Create a placeholder movie

  2. Put the placeholder movie in the VIDEO_TS folder

  3. Alias the placeholder and put it in a different folder for easy browsing in Front Row

  4. Give all of these files useful names so you know what you are looking at in Front Row

Now, it isn't hard to do those things, but it is time consuming.

Automator to the rescue.

I play DVDs off of my MacBook, sometimes to a TV. I don't have a lot of room on the MacBook, so I keep my DVDs stored on an external hard drive and then copy them over to the MacBook when I want to watch them. Can't I just watch the DVD directly? Not if I don't have a DVD player hooked up to that TV! Plus, maybe I just want to watch the movie on the MacBook while travelling and not mess with the physical DVDs. So, along with the steps to make DVD Assist work, I add in automation for the file copy.

Before I make with the automator, please understand that I'm not an Automator pro. I'm barely a novice. Can you make a better solution? I'm sure you can. Post it on your blog. This is my solution.

If you want to use this Automator script, you'll need a couple of folders. I have everthing off of ~/Movies.

  • Temp - For temp files, derrrrrr

  • Discs - For the complete disc structures, AKA, where the VIDEO_TS folders live

  • DVDs - Where the movie alias files go. This is the folder you navigate in Front Row

  1. Copy the DVD from external drive to MacBook. The movie gets copied to ~/Movies.

  2. Make a copy of the placeholder movie. This is in the Temp folder.

  3. Ask for the name of the movie and rename the placeholder. I mucked with auto-naming, but it is just easier to spend 10 seconds typing it in.

  4. Put the placeholder in the right VIDEO_TS folder. Yes, you have to pick it. The name you put in can't be tied to the directory structure. Add 10 more seconds to the process.

  5. Make the alias in the DVDs folder that you see in Front Row. Automatic - yay!

Automator screenshots included to see what I've done. Including the saved workflow isn't that valuable as you'll need to tie it to your directory structure anyway.

Of course, after I spent the time making this solution work, I heard about Flip4Mac's Drive-in software. I haven't tried it yet, but it seems like it adds stored DVD disc image playback to Front Row, which would make it quite similar.


Rah Rah Rass

Kick 'em in the bass!

I'm finishing up getting my music collection in to Delicious Library. I have the voice announcement of titles turned on and I get a chuckle every now and then. I find it quite interesting that the OS X pronunciation of "bass" is like the fish, not like the thing that bumps from your car or the guitar.

Seems to me that folks using a computer, and especially a Mac, are more likely to be in to music than fish. Maybe that's just me.


USB in the Dash Please

A positive trend in cars as of late is to include an aux input on the stereo. Many sell this as an iPod input, but it will work for a Zune, Dell Ditty, whatever. Here you see the dash of a Chevy SSR.

Now that the ball is rolling, how about we ditch the cigarette lighter power jacks and just go with USB? Tons of phones, music players, and other gadgets are capable of being charged over USB. I know it would put a hurt on the folks selling lighter adapter cables, but this is about the consumer :)

If you're a smoker, you can buy an adapter that plugs in to USB to light your cigs!

I really don't care if the USB is hooked to any data network. I'd imagine it wouldn't be for quite some time. I'm just looking for convenient charging solutions that don't require cable double-ups.

Add some bungees to the top of the dash and your gadget could charge without flying around the car.


Staring at the Start Menu

After reading Joel on Software's post about the Vista shutdown menu, I was moved to stare at the XP start menu for a bit. I wondered what I did and didn't like about it.

For reference, here's a mostly default XP start menu.

You can see that my default browser has been changed to Firefox and I've run a few programs which show up as frequently used.

Overall, it's not too bad. The placement of the All Programs probably makes sense because if I used the program alot, it would be in the recent icons, or perhaps an entry in the Quick Launch bar. One bad thing is the amount of crap that is shown by default. More on that in a sec.

My first WTF comes when you move the Start button to the top or the side. You can see that the menu doesn't change in the slightest. That's really odd to me because your mouse pointer is now approaching the menu from a complete different direction. It seems that the items would be rearranged to reflect this new orientation.

If the orientation doesn't matter, then the menu isn't designed for repetitive use and would lean towards being pretty rather than functional, wouldn't it?

The Start bar down the left of the screen is the orientation that I run on widescreen and dual-screen setups. I find this to be the only way to get reasonable window titles so I know which window to pick when I have dozens of them open. It's interesting that I don't have this problem when I use expose with the Mac.

You can see that you have to mouse past a giant username header on the menu every time you access the menu. That seems like a usability no-no to me, especially on home systems that probably only have one user. You can configure most of the rest of the menu. Why can't you turn the login name banner off?

I put my image editor where my mouth is and mocked up a flipped start menu. It isn't pixel perfect, but you get the idea.

I also configured the menu to a simpler presentation. I'm not sure I've ever accessed Set Program Defaults and Access, so I'm pretty sure I don't need it every time I click Start.

After looking at this for awhile, I find that I prefer the original start menu, but in the drop from the top orientation. If I could get rid of the login banner, I'd be all set. Things that I use least, like Turn Off and All Programs are far from the mouse pointer, which is good. Things like Internet and Mail are within ease reach.

I haven't actually tried out Vista yet, but it looks like things aren't much better there. Perhaps it allows more configuration. I'll let you know :)


5 of The Now

I'm in one of those funk, breaks, gritty brilliance, kind of moods. We have some old, some new, and some old that is being rereleased anew.


What I Love About Safari

I like the Safari web browser. When I'm using a Mac, I prefer it, even when Firefox is close at hand. There are times when I must leave Safari (stupid web devs), but I'd say that 98% of my Mac surfing is in Safari.

In addition to just working, there are a few features in Safari that bring extra delight. These aren't all unique to Safari, but Safari does rock them well.

  1. Save PDF to Web Receipts Folder - This one is brilliant. No need to roll your own method for saving those "Print this page for your records" pages. You can even skip the paper storage because the PDF will let you print one years later if you really need it.

  2. Simple, clean, and minimal UI. From the back button to the integrated Google search, I don't think you could get it any cleaner. I remove the home button. That leaves back, forward, stop/reload, address bar, and Google search. Exactly what I need.

  3. Open in tabs - I use this on a daily basis. It is great for sites that don't have RSS feeds, or even ones that do that you prefer to browse directly.

  4. Fill forms from address book card - I love the tight integration. Other browsers will learn who they think you are. My computer already knows who I am, it doesn't need to guess.

  5. Sync bookmarks using .Mac - Yes, .Mac is probably too expensive for what it is, but I do like having my browsers on multiple machines keep the same set of bookmarks. This involves no mucking, where plenty of the other bookmark sync services do.


Nine of Evil

As you know, Evil Nine is one of my favorite artists. In tribute to them, I put together an Evil Nine based DJ mix. It's 9 tracks (how clever) that are all Evil Nine related in some way, be it their tracks, their remixes, or remixes of their tracks.

I'd hoped for a Halloween release (again, evil, clever, yes, I know), but it took a little longer to find the time.


  1. Evil Nine - Crooked

  2. Timo Maas - Pictures (Evil Nine Remix)

  3. Ursula Rucker and Will Saul - Where Is It? (Evil Nine Remix)

  4. Evil Nine - Restless

  5. Evil Nine - We Have the Energy

  6. Santos - Sabot (Evil Nine Remix)

  7. Stone Lions - Immigrant Heel, Claw, & Toe Lovers - Whoah!

  8. PET - Superpet (Evil Nine Remix)

  9. Evil Nine - Cakehole (Midnight Son Mix)

If you want to give it a listen, let me know.

ChapterTool Error

If you get the following error using ChapterTool, check to see that your image pathnames exist. If they don't, or you have one spelled wrong, ChapterTool will fail. I learned this the hard way.

ChapterTool 2.0b8 (4)
Copyright (C) 2005, Apple Computer, Inc., all rights reserved.
ERROR: Couldn't add chapters to movie (-43)
status: failed
code: -43


5 of The Now


Motorola Chargers For All

Unfortunately, this post will fail to be even mildly interesting to most. I just need to inject some knowledge into the Internet. I believe Jason calls these Googlecaches.

You'll remember that I bought the Motorola DJ Bluetooth Headphones and got stuck with a UK power supply. I took a shot and bought a Moto supply from Amazon that I thought might work.

Sure enough, it arrived and provides 5V/550mA which is exactly what the supply that came with the headphones provides.

The Moto part number is SPN5185A. You can find it for less than $2 at Amazon and other places on da information superhighway. You'll spend more to ship it than buy it.

For reference, this supply is supposed to work with the RAZR V3 and KRZR K1/K1m. Using the transitive property, this supply should also work with the Moto HT820 Bluetooth Headphones.


Swoon for Zune?

Engadget has a fantastic walkthru of the Zune. After watching that (twice), I think the Zune may have some staying power.

Here's what I like:

  • Track flags - Yes, I happen to like this idea. Good job Microsoft.

  • RDS - I don't really care for radio in my portable music player, but if it is in there, it's great that it makes use of identifying data that is available.

  • Progress Bars - Ok, they don't work any better than an iPod, but they look snazzy!

  • Pre-rated music - Just like Amazon and Netflix, items are pre-rated based on what the rest of the world thinks. This might help organize your music, and hopefully the pre-ratings get better as it knows more about you, like Netflix does.

  • Backgrounds - This could look really bad, or it could be a nice way to customize your player. I say thumbs up.

  • Brown - I like the brown color. No one else seems to, but I do.

What I don't like:

  • Search everytime on wireless sends - This is terrible. If we've learned anything from Bluetooth, it's that recently and frequently used devices are good to remember. It is just silly that you have to search for the wireless device to send to every time you choose to send a file. Sending 10 items back to back? Looks like the Zune will make you search 10 times. Yay.

  • No wireless sync - I don't really care that you can't buy music wirelessly. I'm more concerned that a (mainly) infrastructure technology is being used for peer to peer activities, and is not being used for wireless syncing. Unless I'm missing something, I have a Wi-Fi network, but I can't use it to sync with my Wi-Fi enabled Zune? What's up with that? If I want to burn my battery, that's my business. Microsoft must have other plans for the Wi-Fi. If they don't, why didn't they use Bluetooth 2.0? I'm curious to know the techincals of the search procedure that Microsoft is using. How does a Zune make itself discoverable and how do the other Zunes go find it?

  • Cluttered - It isn't too bad, but the heading chains across the top are confusing. I still don't see what they're trying to tell me.


Cold night, calm river

One of the many reasons that I enjoy riding my bike at night.


iTunes thinks I moved

Click the iTunes Store link, page loads, text in Japanese. Well that's odd. I'm not sure how my store preference got changed. I don't remember clicking that box at the bottom. In fact, I can't say I remember there even being a box at the bottom to change the store I wanted to browse.

Changing the store location does seem like an interesting way to explore the music that is popular in other parts of the world. I think I'll give it a try, but for now, I just set it back to United States :)


Moby and the Long Tail

First, a follow-up to my recent 5otn post. Moby also liked the Medersten remix and has posted it to his MySpace site. That is very cool. Artists enjoying the work of other artists and sharing it. Good job Moby.

Continuing with Moby's online presence... I was browsing the iTunes store the other day and came across the very early release from Moby under the alias U.H.F. Unless you are a fan, you don't even know that Moby released music under a handful of names, and still does release as Voodoo Child. This is great. Music that would otherwise be left to collectors collections, MP3s, or record shop basements is legally obtainable. Too bad that legal part doesn't give me access to the downloads. I'm stuck listening to my less than mint vinyl copy :(


I like gadgets. I hate chargers.

Following along with my recent posts about my A2DP audio solution, you can't help but notice I went from charging my iPod to charging my iPod, my headphones, and the iPod dongle. That's out of control and a terrible solution. If you buy a package deal, like from Plantronics or Logitech, you can get a single charger with two connection points, but you still have two chargers and a bunch of wires to manage.

If your house is anything like mine, you have a bunch of wall warts that are semi-permanently installed because the gadgets they charge need frequent charges and it doesn't do any good to put the wall warts away daily. Anthro tried to address the problem with their eNook system. I think it is a good idea, but I'm not too sure about the $400 pricetag for what it is.

What I'd like to see is a combination valet + splashpad system. Splashpower hasn't caught on, but I wish it, or something like it, would. You could build a splashpad in to the bottom of a drawer, or a valet. I already have something like a valet that holds my watches, wallet, and iPod when I come home. I would be delighted if my iPod just charged while it sat in the box overnight. I don't carry a cellphone, but plenty of people do. Combine that with the number of people carrying Bluetooth headsets. Tell me those people wouldn't love to not plug-in their phones and headsets every night. I'd have the problem of my iPod not getting to sync, but that's one of the reasons I want wireless in it :)

People complain that putting wireless in portable media players, like the Zune has done, is a bad idea because of battery life. If the battery lasts longer than you use in a day, and you get automatic, hassle free, charging at night, do you care how long the battery lasts? Yeah, you still probably do for multi-day trips, but still.

If Apple ever does release a phone, there would be more than a few people carrying multiple, portable, Apple products. Perhaps not Splashpower, but Apple could create their own similar standard, perhaps along the lines of the MagSafe connector. I'd buy it....if it didn't cost $400 :)

Headphones From Harald - Part 2

Source and sink. I covered the sink, now let's talk about the source.

The source end of Bluetooth A2DP solutions is even worse than the state of the sinks. Headphones are finally coming out. The problem is, we're stuck with half-crap dongles for most of the A2DP sources. Bluetooth technology has been slow to catch on in portable media players. There are a few players on the market that support it, but if it isn't in the iPod, people really aren't noticing.

To A2DPize your iPod, you must use a dreaded dongle. Dongles suck. They add bulk. They ruin the visual design. They usually require their own charger. They lack features that could be achieved with tight integration. They can break off. These all apply to A2DP adapters.

The adapter I chose for my solution is the Jabra A125s. It connected to the dock connector, which allows for track skipping and volume control (AVRCP). It wasn't too huge. The colors matched. The price was right.

Well, it works, sort of. All of the player controls work just fine. You can play/pause, control the volume, and skip tracks. One delight feature was the fact that you can wake a sleeping iPod with a press of the play button on the headphones. One other nice thing is that when the dongle runs out of battery, it will pause the iPod as its last action before shutting down. Nice. Range is so-so. Line of sight can barely get 10m in a clean environment. This isn't a problem when you have your player in your pocket or backpack, but it doesn't allow you to sit your player on the front steps and mow the lawn listening to wireless music.

The dongle charges via mini-USB cable to a USB port on your computer. This is the best you can get other than not requiring it to be charged at all. I wish it could just suck juice from the iPod. The dongle runs out far before the iPod does. That leaves you switching back to wired mode, which sucks. You can use the dongle while it is charging, but I can't use my headphones while charging, so this has limited use.

The on/off switch is a little hard to use since you can barely see the indicator lights behind it when you are pushing it. The colors of the plastic match the iPod pretty well. They even mirrored the back to match the iPod. The depth is also pretty close to matching my 60GB iPod.

Pairing was simple and effective. I haven't had any problems with that.

Now the worst part. Either my unit is bad, or this thing has poor performance, antenna or error rate. If I'm at home, on the bus, or in open areas at work, things work fine. It will only skip about once an hour, which to me is usable. However, when I'm at my desk, which is awash in a sea of 2.4 GHz transmissions, the solution is unusable. It will work and then enter fits of skipping for up to 20 seconds at a time. I've used dongles from Plantronics and Logitech in the exact same environment and didn't have these problems. At this point, I can't use my Bluetooth audio solution for the reason I bought it (use at work). I'm going to have to try another dongle while I continue to wish for Apple to put it in the iPod.

Stay tuned.


Headphones From Harald

I'd like to start by saying that I love wireless headphones. I need to lay down a little love, because I'm certainly going to lay down a little hate.

Wireless headphones come in many flavors. The flavor I like, for now, tastes like Bluetooth. I choose Bluetooth for the multiuse radio, the interoperability amongst varied vendors, and the reasonable cost.

I've been complaining about the state of Bluetooth audio for quite some time. The headphones on the market sucked, or at least they weren't the style I was after. The support in, or attached to media players was nearly non-existant. Worst of all, the cost was still quite high.

As of late, the situation has gotten a whole lot better. I can't say that it is good, but it is at a usable point. I now have a complete, stereo audio, Bluetooth solution. I'm happy with it in some cases, and disappointed in others. Here we go.

The Headphones
I spend a fair bit of time monitoring what Bluetooth products are available on the market. During one of my routine weekly searches, I found something called the Motorola Bluetooth DJ Headphones. This instantly sparked my attention. Through further searching, I was able to determine that Motorola had released a set of A2DP enabled, on the head, big can, headphones.

They appeared to be more durable than any of the other Bluetooth enabled full headphones on the market. The price was reasonable. They seemed to meet all of my criteria. I had to have them. After a handful of delays, Mobile Planet finally shipped me a set. I was elated. I've been using the headphones for a few months now, so I can really give a honest review of them.

The Good

  • Build quality - They aren't bombproof like my Sony MDR-700s, but they are the toughest built Bluetooth headphones I've handled. They have swivel ear cups that allow them to flatten for easier storage. The headband is adjustable and seems like it will hold up. The ear pads seem nice as well. They are soft and I haven't had any problems with wear so far, but it has only been a few months. My only complaint is that they hang a wire out a bit where the cups meet the band.
    If you really used these for DJing, that could snag on things, or just wear to the point where it would fail. I wish that the wire were routed through the interior of the phones like most "DJ" headphones.

  • Comfort - Pillows of sound. My ears can start to hurt after a few hours with the MDR-700s. I can wear the Motos all day without the slightest discomfort.

    These are very comfortable headphones. I also like the traditional
    over the head design. I can't stand the behind the ear designs. I wore the Logitech A2DP headphones and my ears hurt after 7 minutes, I counted. I know that I probably look goofy with my giant headphones, but I don't really care.

  • Battery life - Battery is good. It far outlasts the other end (dongle). I usually go a few days of listening between charging. This matches up well with how often I charge my iPod.

  • Sound quality - A working A2DP setup is nice to listen to. A problematic A2DP setup will frustrate you to no end. More on that in a bit. I like the sound quality. I'm no audiophile, but the range is wide and the bass deep enough that I don't complain that it isn't enough.

  • Ability to be wired - When you're on the plane or out of battery, you can cable up the headphones and use them traditionally. The headphone jack is hidden under a rubber flap on the ear cup, next to the charge port (mini-usb, type B)

  • Interface - Moto keeps it pretty simple. There are two different actions and two instances of each action, left and right. You can push a button, or twist a ring on the ear cups. The left button is for connecting, disconnecting, turning the headphones on and off, and initiating a pairing. That sounds like a lot of options for one button, but it works pretty well. The right button is for play and pause. If you have an A2DP adapter on the other end that supports AVRCP, you can start and stop your music without touching the player. I love this. You can also skip tracks back and forth with a twist of the right ring. You can't fast forward and rewind however. The left ring is for controlling the volume. The volume is not affected by the volume you set on your iPod, at least not for those A2DP dongles that attach to the dock port. Those that connect to the headphone jack are affected by the volume set on the iPod.

    To put these controls in perspective, this morning I rode the city bus. I was waiting in the pouring rain for it to arrive. I had these motos on. I could change tracks, play/pause, and control the volume through the hood of my jacket. That's good design.

  • Styling - The blue lights aren't too brash. The Moto logos are visible, but not overpowering. They aren't as clean as an iPod, but they also don't look like a label happy PDA (cough, Dell Axim, cough).

The Bad

  • Buttons - I like the size and location of the buttons. My problem is the feel of them. Sometimes I'll push them, they'll depress, and nothing happens. I think the button contacts are poorly designed. You have to push the buttons pretty hard, or exactly perpendicular for them to work.

  • Charging - I got these via import so they came with a UK power plug. It's massive and only gets worse when I add a US converter to it.

    I've found that the Motorola HT820 headphones expect the exact same power supply characteristics, so if I can find a replacement charger that works with them, I can do away with my charge lump. I also hate that the phones have a mini-USB plug, but don't seem to want to get charged from a real USB plug. They want 550mA of power. A USB port can provide 500 according to the spec. I hated my electronics classes and thus didn't learn a whole lot. I'm guessing I could get away with charging at 500mA, but I haven't tried it yet. If you have the knowledge, please smack me down in the comments on why this would or wouldn't work.

As for these headphones being "DJ" headphones, forget it. There is a slight latency between the source audio and what you hear in the headphones. You couldn't care less when you're listening to your iPod. You care a huge deal when you are trainwrecking your beatmix. We'll just assume that Moto is using the "DJ" descriptor to refer to the swiveling ear cups, and not the ability for them to actually be used by a performing DJ.

Overall, I really like these headphones and I would recommend them. Hopefully Motorola will give the US a proper release of them.

In a follow up post, I'll discuss the iPod adapter that I chose to complete my Bluetooth audio solution.


Apple Tax?

My lean towards the Apple side is quite obvious. With today's announcement of Core 2 Duos in the MacBook Pros, I decided to again look at the cost difference between Macs and Dells. The Apple Tax of the past is all but gone in most categories and in fact, a Dell Tax is emerging.

I compared a stock 15" MacBook Pro to a Dell Precision M65 that I configured up to match the MacBook. There might be a better Dell model to start at that requires less upgrades, but that's the one I found under the Mobile Workstation heading, so it seems like a competitor to the MacBook Pro.

Specs include

  • 15" screen

  • 2.16 GHz Core 2 Duo

  • 1GB RAM

  • 120GB HDD

  • DVD Burner

The Dell tax is in effect. I didn't capture screenshots of the entire configs, but the prices seem to change by the minute at Dell anyway, so go configure one yourself to see the current price.

This comparison doesn't account for added value on the Apple side. The value of the MagSafe connector, iSight camera, lighted keyboard, Front Row, iLife, OS X, etc. I was amazed that Dell still requires you to choose to add Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to a notebook computer. Sure, the cost differential was minimum, but these seem like must haves if you ask me. They charge $9 for Bluetooth. Man, just put it in. There has to be diminishing returns from choosing every last component that goes in the thing. Can I leave the Windows key off and save a $1?