February 2006

Intel Mac Mini, iPod Hi-Fi

Today, Apple announced a new Mac Mini line with Intel processors and a new iPod speaker system, the iPod Hi-Fi.

Initial thoughts on the new Mac Mini:

  • It’s more expensive than its G4-based predecessor: US$599/C$699 for the 1.5-GHz Core Solo model; US$799/C$949 for the 1.67-GHZ Core Duo model.
  • But it’s arguably better equipped: each model comes with wireless standard, more USB ports, Gigabit Ethernet, and digital audio in/out. It gains a microphone port and loses its modem.
  • In a first for a Mac, the Mini uses Intel Integrated Graphics and shared memory instead of an ATI or Nvidia graphics chipset with dedicated memory. What are the implications for Quartz Extreme and Core Graphics? (Update: It might still be better than the Radeon 9200 in the G4 Mini. Update #2: Apparently it’s a GPU for video playback rather than 3D gaming.)
  • The Mini ships without a keyboard and mouse, as usual, but comes with a remote. (It’s got Front Row, but, as you might expect, no iSight.) There’s something strange about that.

As for the Hi-Fi, it’s definitely aimed at the high end of the iPod speaker market, at US$349/C$429. You have to plug in an iPod (or another audio source), but it’s being positioned on Apple’s web pages as another iPod, which may cause some confusion:


Me, I’d been hoping for a component unit with a hard drive that synced like an iPod wirelessly, but I imagine that the AirPort Express already fills that niche. So does a cable from an iPod to the back of your amplifier, for that matter.

But it doesn’t look like Apple means to complement your existing home stereo; it means to replace it.


I turned 34 about a week and a half ago, but birthdays don’t seem to be the milestones they once were. Though it’s spooky to think that I’m exactly twice the age of the oldest students that Jennifer teaches. One milestone that was passed some time last month: it’s been 10 years since I uploaded my first home page to the Web. It wasn’t much to look at — among other things, it had a “Separated at Birth” thing with side-by-side photos of the Swedish Chef and the Urban Peasant (?!) — but it was a start. It’s one thing to think that you graduated high school 16 years ago, but the idea that I’ve had a web site of some sort for 10 years, well, that boggles the mind a bit. The Internet is still new, right?


As it turns out, we did have an earthquake last night. Only 4.5 on the Richter scale, and it lasted for about a second. Actually, at the time I assumed it was the neighbour’s kids bouncing off or crashing into something. While the idea that it might have been an earthquake did occur to me at the time, it was only when I talked to someone at the Archives this morning who also felt it that I knew for certain. She lives nearly two hours away; my neighbour’s kids are simply not that loud.

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Yojimbo came out last month. It’s a scrapbooking program for storing random bits of information — notes, passwords and serial numbers (encryptable), bookmarks or even fully archived web pages — that can be searched, organized into themed collections and so on. I’ve been using it for my writing notes — future blog posts, stories and so forth — and I like it well enough that, with the 30-day demo running out, I bought a licence for it.

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DFL on Northern Irish radio

I was on BBC Radio Ulster’s afternoon program, Evening Extra, for about five minutes today, talking about DFL. It went quite well, I think: I needed a bit of warming up, but once I got going, I got fired up. You’ll probably be able to catch it via the “Listen Again” feature of the BBC web site.

This is my first media do for DFL’s Torino turn; they originally contacted me last Thursday, so they’re definitely the early birds.

Smart meters and reptile breeders

Interesting article in yesterday’s Globe and Mail about how smart meters help reduce energy consumption in apartment buildings where individual electricity use has not previously been metered. But what struck me was that how reptile breeders — along with marijuana growers — were held up as an example of profligate energy users:

Mr. Stewart has found apartments filled with illicit marijuana cultivators, multiple video duplicators and even catering businesses. “There’s no shortage of examples you could find in certain buildings of folks who are growing dope,” he says.
But the strangest discovery was a reptile farm tucked into a Toronto townhouse complex.
“The resident was breeding reptiles. Iguanas were just one thing. He had alligators,” says Mr. Stewart, owner of a company that installs meters and then bills customers for electricity use.
People doing unusual things risk revealing themselves through their electricity bills, he says. Marijuana growers and reptile breeders use a lot of lights, and their bills are sky high. The same goes for caterers, whose ovens are “literally being used all day.”

A little close to home, that. Interesting factoid from the article: “in a typical building, the top 10 per cent of electricity consumers use 25 per cent of the building’s electricity.”