Archive for the Apple Category

The Digital Audio Player celebrates its tenth birthday

Posted in Apple, pop culture, technology with tags , , on March 25, 2008 by Paxton

iPod AdThe ubiquitous Apple iPod has pretty much taken over the world. There are at least three versions of the main iPod and the device has become synonymous with “portable music player”. Many people say that it’s the best player out there and that they can’t live without their iPod. However, the iPod was not the first device to play portable music. In fact, the device that was the first digital audio player celebrates its 10th anniversary this month. Let’s rewind back to that much more innocent time, 1998. Ten years ago, there was no iPod, no iTunes and only one digital audio format, MP3.

The MP3 music encoding standard was developed by several different labs including Phillips and Bell Labs. This encoding went public in the mid-90s and with it’s ability to encode/compress large music files down to very small file sizes it would become extremely popular with the tech/audiophile crowd on the early internet. Nullsoft would release it’s WinAmp MP3 player in 1997 which would make MP3 encoding/playback available to the masses and caused the format to explode into the mainstream.

I remember first being introduced to the MP3 format and the WinAmp player in 1999. I was consulting in Tampa, FL and this guy burned me a CD of thousands of songs that I could just drag and drop from the CD to the WinAmp window and play on my laptop. The sound quality was unbelievable. I wondered when I’d have a way to listen to it in a portable device like my old Sony Walkman. What I didn’t realize was that my idea had already been created.

MPMan F10

Roughly a year earlier, in March 1998, Eiger Labs imported the MPMan F10 from Japan, the first solid state portable audio player. It had only 32Mb of memory (by comparison, the iPod Shuffle has at least 1024Mb of memory) but if you sent it back to Eiger with 70 bucks, they’d up it to 64Mb. It, of course, would only play MP3 files because that is the only digital audio format that existed at the time. Despite being deceptively small, the MPMan F10 was not well received. A few months later Rio would release the PMP300 which would garner much better public opinion and sold fairly well. Both devices ran on regular AA batteries and needed replacing often. It was these two devices that helped usher in the age of digital music until the release of the Apple iPod’s 1st Generation player in October 2001.

Apple iPod

This first generation iPod didn’t have the click wheel (or Touch Wheel) we have all become so familiar with as that particular feature wasn’t introduced until the third generation of the iPod in 2003. I remember the first iPod back then but I was unimpressed with them due to many technical problems, the most prominent being severe battery malfunctions. And since the battery was sealed inside, you had to return the entire unit for repair.

Instead of buying the brand spanking new iPod, I got the Archos Jukebox Recorder (pic below) for my birthday in May 2002. At the time, Apple had only just released the 10Gb iPod in March 2002, but the Archos Jukebox had a 20Gb hard drive and it was only about 100 bucks more (for quadruple the memory). Since iTunes wasn’t the online force it is today, buying the Archos was an easy decision. I was actually getting most of my music from Napster or Kazaa anyway so I had a ton of MP3s built up ready to load onto my new music player. I was set.

Archos Jukebox

This player served me well for almost 3 years. I not only used it to store my music files, I also kept a lot of work/personal files on it while I was traveling as a consultant because there was so much room. There were problems with it though. The interface was clunky and nowhere near as elegant as Apple’s (and it tended to freeze requiring a reboot). The player itself was bulky and heavy. In 2005 I started running for exercise and using this player was like carrying around a paperback book made of solid steel; heavy and unwieldy. It made running long distances tough. I actually dropped it on my foot one day and I thought I broke my toe. That’s how heavy this thing is. Also, the hard drive was your traditional platter drive, so you could hear the humming like you do in a normal computer (the iPod had this also but their sound buffering is better). This thing was built like a tank. Nothing I did could break it. It still works, except the battery is pretty much at the end of it’s rechargeable cycles because I have to plug it into the wall to turn it on.

Luckily, for my birthday in 2006, I got my first iPod, the Shuffle. It’s perfect for running. Small, lightweight, easy to manipulate controls, it’s great. Makes running much more enjoyable.

So wherever you came in on the portable digital audio player time line, just remember, you are enjoying the fruits of labor of many people and many years of technolgy. Apple didn’t invent portable audio players, they just perfected them (in my opinion).

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Those wily Japanese: Pepsi Ice Cucumber and Seafood Pringles! Release of Apple iPhone

Posted in Apple, food, humor, iPhone, Pepsi, random, reviews, soda with tags , , , , , , on June 29, 2007 by Paxton

Hey, guys, I’m back for another Friday update. I was hoping to get a full article out this week, but that didn’t happen. Instead you get this quick multi-level update. I would like to use these Friday entries to hit you with a veritable kaleidescope of items all at once…to “pepper” you with goodness on this last day of the week. Hope you enjoy.

iPhoneWell, today marks the birth of the single most awaited electronic gadget since the Motorola Razr was released back in 2004. Remember when the Razr phones were originally priced at $799 without a 2 year contract? Crazy, cause now you can get them for free. I’m on my second one. Anywho, Apple will finally release the iPhone to the sweaty, eager masses today at 6pm. The media blitz leading up to this release has been on overdrive. If the news isn’t talking about Paris Hilton, then it’s been talking about the iPhone release. People have been lining up at Apple and AT&T stores all week waiting to get their hands on this electronic slice of nirvana. However, I do wonder how many of these people that are lining up plan on actually keeping the phone or are they going to unceremoniously dump it to eBay with a 300% markup? Shades of the PS3, me thinks. The phone looks cool, but I’ll wait for the early adopters to test it out for me to see if I’ll like it.

Ice CucumberThose crazy Japanese. They have the strangest flavors of American food products over there. Sushi ice-cream. Really? WTF?! However, if I found that stuff here while I was at the grocery store without my wife, you can bet your sweet hind-quarters I’d buy it. I’m kooky like that. I most assuredly wouldn’t like it, but I’d try it anyway. Similar to this phenomenon, cucumber flavored drinks are becoming very popular over there. In fact, Pepsi recently released Pepsi Ice Cucumber in Japan to much fanfare. Thanks to the magic of the ‘inter-tubes’, I was able to procure a bottle of the mystical green elixir (you knew I would) and it’s ‘go-time’ for a taste test. If you are a regular reader of this site then cucumber soda shouldn’t be too big a shock to your system. Back in February I reviewed sodas that tasted like celery and chocolate fudge. How bad can this be, really…………oh sweet, Mary Francis this is worse than anything in that last article. I thought that ICE cucumber meant it was a cool, refreshing drink, but it actually means that there is a hint of mint in the flavor. Yes, MINT cucumber soda. Imagine making a cold cucumber salad, but instead of mayonnaise you soaked it in a bottle of Scope mouthwash…..and then puked in it. That’s what it tastes like. My lord, I think the soda is actually trying to fight its way back OUT of my stomach. Why do I do this to myself? The soda itself is a nice, pretty anit-freeze green color. It almost looks radioactive. It probably is.

Seafood PringlesWell, as if that self-induced bit of flagellation wasn’t enough, I also procured a can of Pringles from Japan. So what, I hear someone in the back yelling at me? Yes, I answer to that same non-believer. Pringles. Garlic Seafood Pringles. Go ahead, rub your eyes, shake your head, you read that correctly. GARLIC. SEAFOOD. PRINGLES. To further illustrate the point, there are pictures of shrimp and oysters on the can. Awesome. Okay bright blue can of seafood potato chips……”let’s do this”. The first taste of chip after going in the mouth is surprisingly mild. Not a hint of sea—-wait a sec, there it is. Shrimp taste hitting me now like a metal pole to the genitals. Oh lord, I’m getting nauseous. That’s not good. Man alive, I might be spewing seafood chips and cucumber soda all over my computer in a sec. Cripes, WTF is with the Japanese and their taste buds? Do they enjoy engaging their gag reflexes? I feel like I’m on an episode of Fear Factor. Makes me wish I would have opted for the Grilled Bacon flavored Pringles.

Man, I could use a Silkwood shower after trying those. Pepsi Ice Cucumber may be the 21st Century version of castor oil. Grilled Seafood Pringles may be the 21st Century version of getting molested by your Uncle. STAY. AWAY.

Hope you have a good weekend. Me, I’m going to need the two days to get over the nightmares and full body heaving caused by the above two products.

See you on the other side.

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