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One Minute Review: Bose SoundDock Portable speaker system (with iPhone)

sounddockp What: Bose SoundDock Portable, $399 (

The good: The SoundDock Portable weighs under five pounds, has strong volume and bass, tight design and solid construction. Bose reports up to three hours of use on the rechargeable battery when listening at full volume. The company says lowering the volume provides longer battery life but does not cite specific estimates. In my test with the iPhone, I was able to receive calls while using the SoundDock Portable; like the iPhone’s headphones, the music fades to silence to take the call, then fades back when the call ends.

The not so good: The power adapter is big and clunky, and while a groove to wrap the cord is nice, the shape and size of the adapter makes it an unpleasant travel partner. The iPhone’s volume control is deactivated when plugged into the SoundDock, so you’ve got to use the remote to raise and lower the volume. The iPhone’s other controls work fine, and the remote lets you also pause, play and skip tracks. Lastly, as with certain other Bose products, there’s no bass or treble control and the bass is very heavy while the treble not fine enough. Since female vocalists like Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones, Nina Simone and Alanis Morisette are my favorites, treble matters to me; I managed to improve the sound of the ladies’ voices by changing the iPhone’s EQ setting to Acoustic (Vocal Booster and Treble Booster both gave too much treble).

Bottom line: Great room-filling sound with lots of bass, acceptable treble when adjusted via the iPod or iPhone’s EQ setting, but traveling with the clunky adapter is a bummer. Dedicated fans of Bose products will be pleased with the SoundDock Portable, while others may want to consider the less expensive Logitech Pure-Fi Anywhere Compact Speakers ($149), which though not as loud and bassy, do produce good sound and are easier to travel with.


One Minute Review: Invisible Shield screen protector for iPhone (and Treo)

The folks at Shield Zone sent me half a dozen iPhone and Palm Treo Invisible Shield screen protectors to try out.

While Apple’s iPhone has hardened glass that seems impervious to scratches (as demonstrated by CNET and a few other sites), the super-smooth screen is a total smudge-magnet.

Hours after owning the iPhone I began to perfect the left-pec-screen-wipe maneuver to swipe my screen clean on my tee-shirt every so often. So though the Invisible Shield is meant to protect your screen from scratches with its ultra-strong plastic material, I’m more grateful for the way it minimizes the smudge factor with its watery finish that offers a bit more tactile touch-feedback under the fingertip.

I blew it on the first two I applied – mostly because I was hyper-aware of not touching the sticky side of the sheet because I was afraid a fingerprint would appear. Following the directions, I sprayed both sides of the sheet (and my fingertips) with the supplied fluid and set it onto the screen, sliding it this way and that to align with the speaker hole and the home button at the bottom of the iPhone. Because I feared time was of the essence I tended to do my best to move it in place, then, using the supplied squeegee, squeeged out bubbles. Both times I found dust beneath the surface of the Invisible Shield.

Trying a third time I was super-careful to make sure there were no dust particles on the screen, sprayed my fingertips and the shield, then applied it and took a little more time to get the fit exactly right. This time I nailed it – but at $14.95 a pop, take my advice, don’t worry so much about being gentle, and concentrate more on making sure you have no dust on your screen, or your fingers, and then take a deep breath and relax as you move the slightly slippery screen this way and that to get the fit just right.

Once you do, squeegee away the fluid, and if possible, keep your hands off the iPhone for the recommended 24 hours. That wasn’t possible for me, and in my case it didn’t matter – as the Invisible Shield “dried” it seemed to tighten up nicely and I’m absolutely pleased with the fit and finish.

Sheild Zone offers a costlier version that provides the same plastic protection for the backside of the iPhone, however I skipped that, as I’m only concerned about the screen staying scratch-free and, the real win for me, lessening its smudge showoff factor.

As an aside, I also applied the Invisible Shield for Palm’s to a Treo 680 and it turned out great, though I have to say the feel of using a stylus against the shield’s slightly tacky surface feels a bit stuttery rather than smooth.

The iPhone shield texture feels the same, but under the fingertip it feels like there’s less drag/stutter.

Bottom line: The Invisible Shield for iPhone (and Treo and other devices) offers great protection while hiding smudges.


Review: Apple’s new iMac

From the sewing machine-sized luggable Compaq of yore, to the diminutive original Mac and those that followed, all-in-one computers aim to minimize clutter by bringing everything (computer, DVD drive and monitor) together in one neat package.

Apple’s newest iMac models, ranging in price from $1200 to $2,300, are less about breakthrough and more about refinement, and once again set a new standard with an all-in-one design that’s aesthetically pleasant enough to display in the family room rather than relegate to a spare room or home office.

The loaner iMac Apple sent me to test was the 20″ model (1680 by 1050 pixels), with a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 320GB hard disk, 2GB of RAM, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, bundled applications for Web browsing, e-mail, contact and calendar management and a host of media-centric programs.

Such fine design and bundled goodies cost two or three times the price of inexpensive Windows-based PCs or even Apple’s own Mac mini, the tiny white slab of a computer.

There is nothing junky about the new iMac, which trades its former white plastic casing and plastic screen for sleek aluminum and hardened, glossy glass.

It’s that latter element, the screen, which has already prompted a love it/hate reaction to the new iMac. I prefer glossy screens to matte and the new iMac is no exception. Turned off, the black screen reflects my visage with the clarity of a windowpane or dark mirror. Turned on, and my reflection vanishes, helped in part because I’ve stationed the iMac against the same wall as a window. Turned around, the iMac’s screen does pick up the window reflection, most noticeably around the wide black rectangle framing the screen.

The second dramatic change to the line, the keyboard, also runs the risk of turning off some potential buyers while turning on others. Candy bar-thin, the keyboard’s Chicklet-style keys respond to the same ultra-light touch as my MacBook’s keyboard. That part I like.

What I don’t like is how wide the new keyboard is on account of the right side cursor and page keys and 22-key numeric keypad. All of those extra keys mean positioning the wired scrolling Mighty Mouse half a foot away — a reach that causes a distinct stress in my right arm and shoulder.

Lefties won’t mind at all, but other right-handers like me may. To be fair, most any keyboard with a numeric keypad forces the same far-reaching mouse placement. Much nicer is Apple’s newly announced Wireless Keyboard (shipping in a few weeks), which eliminates the extra keys and cable, thereby closing the aching gap between hand and mouse.

Love or hate the keyboard and mouse, either or both can be swapped out for third-party alternatives such as those offered by Logitech, Belkin or Microsoft. Continue reading ‘Review: Apple’s new iMac’


iPhone update 1.0.1: Security fixes but no new features

A month after the iPhone began life as the most desired/derided tech gadget ever, the first update is available for download via iTunes. The update patches Safari security flaws which, left unfixed, make the iPhone vulnerable to hacks. Unfortunately the update includes none of the fixes or new features I and others are anxious to see, as described in my iPhone wish list (companion piece to my iPhone feature story for

In other update news, while pouring my own morning java fix my MacBook’s Software Update alerted me to two updates for my system: Safari 3 Beta Update 3.0.3, and Security Update 2007-007 (Intel) version 1.0. Information about the updates can be found on Apple’s web site.


iPhone Spotted in Claw Crane Grabber Arcade Game

A friend visiting the boardwalk at Point Pleasant, NJ this weekend snapped shots of two arcade claw crane grabber machines with iPhone as hard-to-win booty. AT&T plan sold separately.

Share/Save/Bookmark Can the iPhone do double duty as a laptop?

Can the iPhone do double duty as a laptop?
Slick new phone proves it can go the distance as an all-in-one device
By Joe Hutsko

Also: iWish: iPhone updates we’d like to see

Share/Save/Bookmark iQuit – Love affair with iPhone cools when handset breaks

Love affair with iPhone cools when handset breaks
After four days with phone, trouble in paradise
By Joe Hutsko

Falling in lust with an expensive device like the iPhone sets owners up for a hard fall if it stops working. I know, because mine died after only four days into our relationship. Read the full story on


iPhone and iTunes not syncing some photos problem

For some reason iTunes (on a Windows Vista PC, in this case) is having a problem syncing certain photos with my iPhone. I’ve created a separate iPhone folder for photos that I want to keep on the device, and filled it with 44 pictures for my test. But only 15 of the photos got transferred from the folder to the iPhone. What’s more, some of the photos that transferred are messed up, with weird errors, as shown with this one (bad resolution because I had to take it with a Nokia phone up close; I don’t have a digital camera).

Anyone else experiencing the same problem? Solutions? Comments welcome.


Is your iPhone too hot to handle?

I wrote earlier today about my iPhone crapping out and replacing it, and at one point I was so worried that it was unusually hot I nearly challenged the heat by forming a little aluminum foil bed on which I’d rest a cracked open egg, to see if it would turn opaque. Well, this replacement phone is much cooler, I have to say, but I’m wondering if others have hot-handed iPhones that feel way too hot, and would like to hear if they stay safe or fail and wind up needing a fix. All comments welcome.


iPhone crashed, keeps trying to reboot

Four days old and my iPhone has crashed and won’t come back to life. It does not turn on when unplugged from USB cable or power adapter. When plugged into either of those, it starts up with the Apple logo for a few seconds, then goes black for a few seconds, then comes back to the Apple logo again, repeating the same thing all over and caught in an endless reboot/restart loop.

I tried restarting the iPhone by holding both the Home and Sleep/Wake buttons, as described in Apple’s iPhone help – but that’s simply meant to restart a stuck iPhone. Because the iPhone is caught in an endless loop iTunes does not recognize it, which means it cannot be restored.

I assumed there has to be some way to force the iPhone into recovery mode, so on a whim I held the Home and Sleep/Wake buttons through two of the restart cycles (about fifteen seconds) and got a yellow alert icon that instructed:

Please Connect to iTunes.iTunes found the iPhone and stated: iTunes has detected an iPhone in recovery mode. You must restore this iPhone before it can be used with iTunes.

iTunes then downloaded a software update. I clicked the Restore button and iTunes presented a warning message: Are you sure you want to restore the iPhone “iPhone” to its factory settings? All of your songs and other data will be erased, and the newest version of the iPhone software will be installed.

I clicked the Restore and Update button and iTunes popped up the message: Preparing iPhone for restore…

The iPhone then got caught in the endless restart loop again, trying over and over, until finally iTunes gave up after about two minutes and gave me the message: The iPhone “iPhone” could not be restored. An unknown error occurred (1603).

I’ll be going to the AT&T store where I purchased the iPhone with the hope that they’ll simply replace it with a new one, though whether they even have a replacement in stock remains to be seen.Stay tuned for updates.

Update (3:36 pm): I called the AT&T store where I bought the iPhone and the very helpful manager, Jason, said customers with bum iPhones must contact Apple for support. I contacted Apple by way of a public relations contact and was told someone would call me to take care of the unwell iPhone. While awaiting the call from Apple I decided to drive over to the Apple Store in Atlantic City to see if they could help more immediately.

As it turned out the Apple support person who called was going to have me do exactly that, go to the Apple Store, to meet with Sean, the very friendly and pro manager on staff.

Nate patched Sean in on our call and he was on the phone with us as I walked into the Apple store. We hung up on Nate and took care of the phone.Sean grabbed a new, unopened iPhone from the back, same as my defective 8 GB model, and then turned me over to two guys named Chris who were working the Genius Bar.

Transferring my phone account from one device to another took a couple of minutes. Out of curiosity I asked if we could see if we could get the defective iPhone to show up on a Mac (since I was using it on a Vista PC when all of this started) so we could restore it. Not because I wanted the phone back, but rather because I wanted to know for sure that my personal data would be erased and not viewable by others, whether at the Apple store or by the service persons at wherever the iPhone would wind up.

We tried to restore it, but no luck. As earlier, the device kept cycling through the Apple logo in an attempt to restart, over and over. One of the Chris guys said he couldn’t get it into recovery mode, and so I showed him that you have to hold the Wake/Sleep and Home buttons for more than a few seconds until it cycles at least once, and I think twice, before it then puts up that alert triangle icon and tells you to connect to iTunes (see above).

As such, we chose the recovery option from iTunes running on a MacBook, it appeared to be doing something, then the iPhone shut off and iTunes reported the same error as earlier on the Vista PC: The iPhone “iPhone” could not be restored. An unknown error occurred (1603). Chris was about to open the new iPhone box to move my SIM from the defective phone to the new one, but I said I’d already done that. (Before leaving I popped it into my the excellent Nokia 6682 that the iPhone was replacing, and yes, your iPhone-activated AT&T SIM does pop out and work on another AT&T/Cingular phone or, in my case, an unlocked phone.) So I left the store feeling reassured that a brand new iPhone was replacing the defective one – but not very reassured that my data on the iPhone I was leaving behind (contacts, calendar, notes, Safari bookmarks and email) was gone. Had the iPhone died totally and wiped whatever was in memory? Or would Apple’s service team wipe it out, as part of a company policy? I don’t know the answer to that latter question, but I will find out soon after Apple’s PR department gets back to me.

I also asked what do customers who are not in range of an Apple Store do. I guess with any data device there’s a risk of personal information being at risk when said device needs to be sent in for repair. And like other SIM-based phones, the owner must part with the device if it needs repairs, but can generally use the SIM on a replacement phone.

Will Apple offer a replacement phone in the repair process? The AT&T store manager Jason said it isn’t AT&T’s policy to offer customers a temporary replacement phone when a phone is being repaired.Meanwhile, I popped my SIM card out of the Nokia and into the iPhone. It said to connect to iTunes to activate. I plugged the iPhone into the dock, let iTunes find it, and about a minute later it was activated without any additional input from me. iTunes synced all of my data from the automatic backup iTunes made this morning, before the first iPhone failed.Stay tuned for additional updates.

Update (4:43 pm): Just got off the phone with an Apple PR contact. She sent me a link to Apple’s iPhone Service: Frequently Asked Questions which pretty much answered all of my questions. So, if you’re in the first 30 days you can walk into an Apple store and get a replacement if your iPhone is considered “DOA” like mine was. After 30 days you go through the service-by-mail option, by which you’ll ship your iPhone to Apple (minus your SIM) for service, and they’ll ship it back to you when it’s fixed. You have the option of renting a replacement iPhone for $29 while yours is being repaired.

As for AT&T, a spokeswoman for the company said an iPhone you’re unhappy with can be returned for a refund (minus a 10% restocking fee) within 14 days of purchase, but replacing or repairing a defective phone must be taken up with Apple.

In sum: I was lucky the Apple Store had a replacement 8 GB iPhone in stock to swap for my defective one. I was unlucky, however, on my way out of Caesars Casino on my way back to the parking garage. I slipped a $10 bill into one of the nickel slots, pressed the first button I saw (labeled 8X), watched the digital reels spin and come to a stop, and wound up with “Game Over” with nothing more to go on with or about – which is an apt conclusion for this story, as well. (Or so I hope.)

Thanks to all who took my calls and to those who dealt with me in person, and have a great July 4th holiday.

Share/Save/Bookmark Building the poor man’s iPhone, by Joe Hutsko

Poor man’s iPhone
Can’t afford the new gadget? Trick out the phone you’ve got
By Joe Hutsko

You’ve drooled over the iPhone hands-on videos on Apple’s Web site. Read the first round of reviews giving the world’s most desired gadget mostly a thumbs-up – including generally positive feedback on the button-less, all-thumbs virtual keyboard that tech pundits collectively agreed would be the iPhone’s biggest potential deal maker or breaker.Your mind’s made up: You want one.


The New York Times: All the Films You Want to See, but When? By Joe Hutsko

All the Films You Want to See, but When?
By Joe Hutsko

Downloading movies over a high-speed Internet connection offers the promise of convenience, but promise is the operative word for this new method.

Read the story on the New York Times.

Related: PODCAST
Tech Talk, June 20, 2007
Tom talks to writer Joe Hutsko about what it’s really like to download and watch movies from the various services vying to deliver video right to your PC or TV.

Listen to the podcast.


The New York Times: If You Like the Safari Browser for the iPhone, You’ll Love Opera Mini for Cellphones, by Joe Hutsko

If You Like the Safari Browser for the iPhone, You’ll Love Opera Mini for Cellphones
By Joe Hutsko

Taking a page — albeit a tinier one — from the iPhone’s design is a new test version of the Opera Mini browser for cellphones.

Read the story on the New York Times.


On Surfing Safari – Five Tips for using Apple’s new Web browser

Five Safari for Windows tips
by Joe Hutsko

Apple this week jumped into the Windows Web browser world with Safari 3.0, available to download in beta form from Beloved by Mac users for its speed (but begrudged for incompatibilities with certain websites and features, including the inability to use those handy pop-up section navigations buttons on this site itself, for instance), Safari for Windows test-drivers will find some things old, some things new. Here are five tips to help you get started.


Best Buy Lets a Little iPhone Chatter Out of the Bag

Though they don’t reveal anything we don’t already know, Best Buy dedicates some electronic ink to the iPhone in the new issue of Best “magazine.” The story starts on page 64, (which is actually page 66 in the .pdf), with a sidebar focus on iPhone on page 69 (page 66 in the .pdf) that wraps with mentions of Mozart, Manhattan, and Simon Cowell. Click here to read the magazine on Best Buy’s site, or download the entire .pdf below.

Download the Spring ‘07 issue of Best magazine (19.35 MBs) ->


On Nike + iPod: Be all that iCan be?

On Nike + iPod: Be all that iCan be? by Joe Hutsko

Also: Turn your iPod into a personal trainer & Five spring sports gadgets

In the story I mention how the lozenge-size sensor tucks into the Nike + running shoe, however you can also make clever use of Velcro to attach the sensor to your existing, non-Nike + runners. Better yet, I found a couple of inexpensive products that accomplish the same feet. Er, feat. See below.

Sport Sensor Nike iPod Sport Kit Shoe Pouch for Nike+iPod Nike+iPod Sport Kit Shoe Wallet Nike + iPod Sport Kit MA365LL/B


In MacWorld: Living a Second Life

It’s been more than a decade since I’ve written for MacWorld, and I’m happy to be back in the magazine with this story in the April, 2007 issue: Living a Second Life: Maximize your experience in the virtual world. Here’s a PDF version of the story as well.


SOHO Notes: The start of a long-term working relationship?

SOHO Notes in actionThis is a test, to see if I can post a blog entry directly from SOHO Notes for the Mac – particularly if it supports formatting, like italics, and bold. If so, cool. I may be using SOHO Notes more for my day to day work – non-fiction and creative/fiction – than I have in the past. It seems like a more functional way to bring lots of disparate information together, under one roof. It has a Palm sync option, so I’m covered on that front, and there’s also a Journal folder, and another for keeping track of Passwords – securely, I expect. A side feature is called Services, which lets you search for info in SOHO Notes much the way you search for system-wide information using Spotlight. A little panel in the lower right corner bearing the SOHO Notes tab pops open for quick access to SOHO Notes folders, and there’s also a clipboard feature for going back several steps to information copied to the clipboard, to paste as needed. That could come in handy. I also see a little key icon in the middle of the tabbed SOHO Notes pop-up window, and I’m guessing that is for access to the aforementioned passwords I’ve saved. Possibly more to come on this subject, as I continue to work with the program.

Update: I was not able to post to my blog as directly as I expected; I need to figure out an Atom API connection between SOHO Notes and my blog.


Samsung BlackJack i607 review: Smart, sleek, but bound by data fees

Samsung i607 BlackJack Smartphone (Cingular) The Samsung BlackJack is beautiful to look at and the slightly rubberized finish feels nice in the hand. Using the main keyboard is pretty comfortable, however the center OK button and surrounding directional buttons often lead to mis-taps on either side.

The BlackJack’s screen is bright and ultra-sharp. Out of the box the phone syncs perfectly with Outlook. That means contacts, calendar and to-do items, emails – and thanks to an add-in extra, sticky notes, too. (For some reason Microsoft doesn’t offer Outlook sticky notes sync with Windows Mobile 5 as standard equipment, hence the helpful add-in that comes with the BlackJack.)

It’s worth mentioning that the BlackJack comes with two batteries, which suggests the battery life isn’t the greatest. Such was the case in my test of the phone, which meant I always had the extra one charging with the charger, and when at my desk I kept the phone plugged in to the USB cable to keep it charging at the same time. USB charging is always a nice touch, and one I appreciate on my Palm Treo 680 as well.

The BlackJack’s applications – Internet Explorer, Email, Media Player – run smoothly, but as with all Windows Mobile devices you may want to keep tabs on what’s running in memory, then manually cancel loaded but unused programs in order to maintain an overall snappier responsiveness when opening menus and operating programs. I’ve always found Windows Mobile devices a bit tricky to get used to, mostly because settings are scattered all over the place and require lots of hunting to get to exactly what you’re looking for, and the BlackJack was no exception.

Continue reading ‘Samsung BlackJack i607 review: Smart, sleek, but bound by data fees’


From Times Square, Windows Vista launches around the world

In line for Vista launch event in Times SquareStood in line last night with other journalists, for admittance to Microsoft’s Windows Vista (and Office 2007) launch event. It was cold out, and major kudos to the people managing the lines, checking bags (security was pretty tight; bomb-sniffing dogs included) and looking up our names and passing out badges with their bare hands. Mine own fingers were nearly frozen to the point of frostbite by the time I got inside. Not kidding. So to you folks, thank you, again.

Inside we milled about a bit then gathered in the auditorium to listen to some live music before Bill Gates took the stage, talked a bit about Windows past and then present, showed some slides and videos, was joined on stage by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, some partner executives, and eventually one of the families that’s been beta testing Vista for two years. Their major suggestion/contribution: A burn-to-disc button in Vista’s new bundled photo application (which I like a lot). Nothing new about that since other programs, including Apple’s iPhoto (which I don’t like at all), have had that ability for years, but no need to dwell.

The family’s beta-kids all pressed a touch-screen button to officially launch Vista around the world, and on several screens we watched some pretty cool videos of the event in other countries. It was sort of like watching New Years Eve in Times Square on TV, when you see 12 o’clock ringing in in Sydney, Paris, and other locales.

Afterward I checked out Toshiba’s sweet little Portage R400 notebook/tablet PC with wireless dock (going to request one for a future review, here) and went to the bar to order a Manhattan.

Continue reading ‘From Times Square, Windows Vista launches around the world’


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