What the Macworld keynote means to me personally

  1. Time Capsule: I just bought a hard drive for backup purposes, so there is no immediate need for it. However, this is a really compelling product at a really compelling price, so I may get one once I get a laptop (which would benefit from wireless backup) or other Mac with 802.11n wireless. Otherwise, we’re fine for now.
  2. Software updates for the iPhone and the iPod touch: Still no iPhone in Canada. I was just saying the other day that I’d buy an iPod touch immediately if it came with an e-mail and mapping application, and now it does. I still have an underused 30-gigabyte, fifth-generation iPod, so there’s no immediate need for a new one, but the possibilities of it as a PDA/mobile Internet device are intriguing.
  3. Software updates and a price cut for the Apple TV: We don’t have a high-definition television, and Apple’s rental service isn’t in Canada yet. Despite interesting Flickr integration, I don’t need this thing.
  4. MacBook Air: Reason not the need; WANT. I anticipate buying a laptop this year, and wanted something small and light, enough so that I’ve been considering the Asus Eee and its ilk. But while the MacBook Air is thinner and lighter than a basic MacBook, it’s just as long and wide — the X/Y is essentially the same. It’s clearly meant as a secondary machine; I’m just thinking that it’s easier to contemplate a $1250 secondary machine than a $1900 secondary machine. Still, WANT.

Wireless network outages solved

A $20 phone has solved the wireless network problems I’ve been having for more than a year. After ruling out other possibilities (such as hardware or software problems), it turns out that our neighbour was using a 2.4-GHz wireless phone: every time she made a call, my computer — which is in a room next to her apartment — was cut off. (Jennifer’s stayed running, because it was far enough away from the interference; I’d thought that there might have been something wrong with my computer or the router’s range.) Our solution was to buy our neighbour a 900-MHz phone, which won’t interfere with the network: fortunately those are still available! Now I only have wireless router hiccups, fibre-optic cuts, DNS outages, and my web host’s variable reliability to drive me bonkers.

AirPort Express failures

I note with interest this report on HardMac (via Gizmodo) that more than 200 Airport Express base stations have ceased functioning 13 to 18 months after purchase — because, you may recall, so did mine.

From the report:

Today, with over 200 reports of APX defects, we can draw some conclusions:
- as we originally suspected, it predominantly affects users living in 220/230V-based countries (98% of the reports).
- all defective APX have been manufactured by Foxconn during S2 2004
- as a result, all defective APX have a serial number starting with HS42, HS43 or HS44.
- most of the defective APX have a product number either A1084 or A1088.
We are still missing proof that the large amount of defective APX is based on a design or component failure, even though we also suspect a Samsung-branded fuse to be part of the problem.

It’s interesting, but not necessarily surprising, that the serial number of my defunct AirPort Express begins with HS44; my replacement base station’s serial number begins with 6F53. And, true to form, the old station lasted a bit more than a year — though I’m not in a 220V region. Interesting.

More entries below »

A wireless update

A follow-up to yesterday’s post. Though multiple hard resets were able to resuscitate it for short periods of time today, I’ve decided to declare my AirPort Express clinically dead. Off to buy a new one, probably tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ve got a whack of Ethernet cable connected to a laptop that’s sharing its connection via WiFi. (The old AirPort was definitely the culprit in the case of the poor iChat bandwidth; it was considerably improved under the new setup, which is admittedly a hack — iChat was crashing on my iMac for some reason, so I had to haul the iSight downstairs.)

A faltering wireless network

The performance of my AirPort Express base station has been degrading in recent months and has gotten even worse recently. Videoconferencing with my mother — who’s just bought a new iMac with the built-in camera — is next to impossible due to low bandwidth, but we’re both on broadband. I suspect my wireless network as the culprit there. I also have to reboot my base station as often as several times a day to regain performance approximating normalcy. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s terrible: bad enough at times that I think it’s time to buy a replacement; good enough often enough that I hope I can defer that purchase. The way things have been going lately, though, it looks like I’ll be going shopping very soon.

It’s hard to troubleshoot something as ephemeral as wireless networking: hard to tell whether it’s an ISP problem, a local interference problem (neighbours running a microwave, say), or a hardware problem, though it’s increasingly looking like the last. The base station may have been acting up as early as last June, when we first moved here, though it’s possible that the sudden bouts of weak signal were due to interference rather than hardware problems. The other thing is, I expect hardware to be binary: either it works or it’s broken; having it “kinda-sorta” work is kinda-sorta counterintuitive.

But electronics have a hard time of it out here, thanks, I suspect, to the wonkiness of the power supply — lots of brief outages and, presumably, surges. So far we’ve had to replace our cable modem once — that unit, too, had exhibited some inconsistently weird performance — and have burned through an Airport (Snow) base station and an aquarium pump as well. I’ve got my iMac on a UPS, and, while I’ve got all the living room electronics (TV etc., stereo, cable modem and base station) on a surge protector, I think I’ll get a UPS for that stuff as well, just to be sure. Electronic gadgetry just isn’t safe in these parts, and frankly I’d rather not have to make a new wireless router an annual purchase.

See previous entries: Rewireless; Security alert: Mac networks susceptible to irony.

Solving the iMac lockup problem

Ever since I got my 17-inch G4 iMac in December 2003, I’ve periodically run into a problem where the computer would lock up when entering sleep mode: the screen would be dark, but the computer would not respond to any user input. It happened relatively infrequently, and relatively irregularly: a couple of times a week, then nothing for months. One suggestion was faulty RAM, but I didn’t think that fit the description. At least it was infrequent enough that it didn’t interfere overmuch with my work; I rarely, if ever, lost any data.

It happened again this morning. For some reason it occurred to me to yank out the Bluetooth adapter from the USB hub. It worked immediately: the computer sprung back to life.

Now why didn’t I think of that before? That Bluetooth adapter — it’s an older D-Link dongle that isn’t compatible with Apple’s wireless mouse and keyboard — had been giving me trouble with my G3 iBook. Just not the same kind of trouble, I suppose, or I’d have recognized it sooner.


For the first time since April, when my AirPort base station blew out, we’ve got a wireless network in the home again. Jennifer, using her education discount, splurged and got an AirPort Express and an AirPort Extreme card for the iMac. The rationale behind this is to reduce desk clutter (moving the printer and modem off, connecting them to the base station elsewhere) and to allow wireless-equipped laptops to connect (Jen’s old Toshiba or a school iBook or an eventual new iBook or Powerbook, or a visitor’s).

We got it set up last night, with no difficulties except that our ISP had to reset the modem — apparently it locks to a specific device and won’t work with anything else, which means you can’t just unplug it from one computer and plug it into another (I’m sure there’s a reason for it). It’s working well; I’ve got some oboe concertos coming out the stereo — which for some reason is less distracting than the computer speakers, even if they’re only a couple of metres apart.

Related: My WiFi links.

iPod mini available internationally; AirPort Express not listed in Canada

Apple is now taking pre-orders for the iPod mini from international customers; they will begin shipping on July 24. The mini’s availability has been limited to the U.S. for months due to high demand and constrained supply (previous entry). The Canadian price is $349.

(Meanwhile, why doesn’t AirPort Express appear in Apple’s Canada Store? The Canadian page says “Coming soon.” I’d love to know what’s behind that.)

All hail Bluetooth

A man, an unlimited data plan, and a whole whack of devices and software: Matt’s a convert to Bluetooth, using his PowerBook and his T68i to connect anywhere there’s a GPRS signal, among other things. His mind boggles at the idea of ubiquitous net access. It’s something I’ve been coveting for a while, and something I’ll make a priority when I safely re-ensconce myself somewhere urban.

Sony Clié UX-50; slow Nokia cameraphone

Mobitopia has a couple of interesting recent articles. One is a rather gushing review of Sony’s top-end Clié, the UX-50, which includes a built-in camera (640×480), Bluetooth and WiFi, but not a cradle or a portrait-mode option for the screen. And it’s pricey. The other article is a complaint about the Nokia 3650’s built-in camera. Apparently its advantage is ubiquity, not speed: you may have the camera with you, but you might not be able to take the damn picture fast enough.

SD WiFi card delays

Next spring? Oh, for crying out loud — how can SanDisk be almost a year behind schedule on their 802.11b SD card for Palm OS 5? This is something I’d buy just about instantly — in theory, the Bluetooth on my Tungsten T2 is more useful on the road, especially since there aren’t many WiFi hotspots in rural western Quebec, but it’d be nice to surf the web on my Palm at home. (Otherwise, I’d have to figure out how to enable Internet connection sharing via Bluetooth on Panther — the original hack under Jaguar appears to have been disabled as of OS X 10.2.6.) Serious grumblage.

Note: Entries prior to November 2003 did not have categories assigned to them, and are not included in category archives; please consult the monthly archives.