Monday, March 26, 2007

The first million-dollar laptop

Suppose you had one million dollars to spend and you dropped that sum on a single notebook computer. Suppose, too, you were an idiot. But I repeat myself.

Gizmag is carrying a story about the first million-dollar notebook computer. The company that makes such an expensive appliance, Luvaglio of London, justifies its purchase with the following: "Many claim to produce luxury goods but we believe that the true element of luxury is having something that says 'YOU', that money can't buy." Never mind the glaring contradiction in that statement -- how exactly does a notebook computer say "YOU"?

Maybe it says, "YOU will feel like an idiot when asked by the curious nerd about the brand, specs, and cost of your notebook (assuming you ever take the thing out of its gilded case in public)!" You'd better do your best Dr. Evil when you admit, "I paid ONE MILLION DOLLARS for this notebook and it was worth every penny of FORTY FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS the moment I took delivery of it, diamond power button included. Best of all, I'm going to attach frickin' laser beams to its head!"

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

My kids all a'buzzle in Bear Valley Lodge

This is a test (disguised as a post) of embedded YouTube content, which, if you see video below, has succeeded (I've been trying to use the YouTube "Post Video" feature, but am consistently getting http 400 errors with each attempt -- what gives, Google?).

My family and I went skiing this past weekend at Bear Valley in California's Sierra Nevada, and we shot some video on the slopes with our compact Olympus digital camera. The video quality as delivered by YouTube is far less than that offered by the camera (no surprise there) and the audio is woefully out of sync through much of the clip, but it's still cute.

My kids are seen eating lunch in Bear Valley Lodge. This was my son's first ski trip and both he and his sister had a great time, and both are asking when we'll go again, so I can envision how we'll be spending our winter breaks in the coming decades.

The Apple QuickTime Pro Enema

This is straight out of Orwell's "1984" -- a propitious year for Apple Computer -- only not quite so dark and forbidding as events in the book. Actually, this is nothing like "1984" or, if it is, it's "1984" as written by Ayn Rand, which publication would have been a dark day for literature.

My wife and I shot some video on our compact Olympus digital camera this past weekend, while skiing with our kids at Bear Valley in California's Sierra Nevada. Without thinking, most of the video I shot was in portrait mode, which, as you can imagine, plays "on its side" in Apple's QuickTime application (and most/all other applications, I'm sure).

I assumed naively that the free version of QuickTime 7 for Windows would allow me to rotate the video and, sure enough, the option to do so is right there in the Window menu, labeled "Show Movie Properties." Alas, it is disabled and is only available if you purchase the Pro version for $29.99. Never in my life did I think I would buy a copy of QuickTime but at 10 pm last night, due to a desire to make the video files available to other family members ASAP, I was offering up my Visa number to Apple in exchange for the privilege of rotating a few video clips 90 degrees (yes, there's probably a free solution that would allow me to do this, but I was in a freewheeling frame of mind).

So I paid $32.46 (which included estimated tax) and was taken to a receipt web page, which mentioned the "registration code" I would need to upgrade to QuickTime Pro, but there was no code anywhere on the page. I then received the confirmation email that also mentioned this code, but it, too, contained no code. I then visited the My Account page at Apple, and on the transaction page for the purchase there was, again, no code. Mind you, Apple's support pages indicate the registration code should be available on all three of these sources.

Flummoxed, I sent a nasty-gram via Apple's support form and a reply was waiting in my Inbox early this morning:
Dear Mark,

Thank you for your recent order. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Although your purchase attempt was successful, a QuickTime Registration Code was not generated.

A credit in the amount of $29.99 is being credited to your account and should appear on your statement within five business days....
A credit of $29.99? What about the $2.47 charged for tax? I fired off another form submission asking that very question of Apple Support and received the following a couple hours later:
Dear Mark,

Thank you for contacting Apple.

We apologize for any confusion. Your original purchase was for $29.99, therefore Apple issued a $29.99 credit for web order number W27652158 and sent it to your credit-card company....
At a loss as to the $2.47 misunderstanding, I savaged another form submission, this one ending with, "I don't give a damn about the two dollars and change owed me for the tax -- it's the principal! I feel a nasty blog entry worming its way out of my sphincter, so please let me know I'll be getting a $32.46 refund before I pass this thing!" Apple Support replied an hour later:
Dear Mark,

We apologize for any confusion.

In order to verify the information provided at the time of purchase, Apple requests a preauthorization from your credit card company. Each time a change is made to your billing information, a preauthorization is requested. The preauthorization may sometimes appear as a line item of $1.00. In addition, you may see a preauthorization for the approximate amount of the order to reserve funds for your purchase.

Preauthorizations will not appear on your credit card statements and will be dropped from your account based on your credit card company's policy.

The actual charge to your account (and subsequent credit) was $29.99....
Preauthorization. Ah, yes, I knew that....

Friday, March 09, 2007

For you March Madness fans

If you follow college basketball you should consider signing up for 4INFO's NCAA Tournament Pass, which, in a nutshell, sends a text message (complete with score and seed information) to your cell phone whenever a tournament game ends and when an upset is likely to occur. And you can't beat the price: it's free, as in beer. If you don't want the results for all the tournament games you can sign up for individual team alerts, as well.

Signing up is quick and easy -- you can use the widget below or text message "tourney" to 44636 (4INFO) for the complete tournament pass, or text a team name with "alert" to the same short code (e.g. text "stanford alert" to 44636 and you'll receive Stanford end-of-half alerts and upset alerts for all tournament games in which Stanford plays, if any). Stopping the alerts is just as easy -- simply replying "stop" to any 4INFO alert will permanently remove it.

I've been using 4INFO for almost a year now, getting sports, news, weather, and stock information sent to my phone on a daily basis, and find the service reliable and indispensable, but the fact that I'm a 4INFO fan is probably obvious given the two 4INFO widgets in the right column of this page. In any case, give the service a try and let me know what you think.