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So About that Snow Leopard "No Features" Feature

The Mac cognoscenti are all aflutter, rushing to heap praise on Apple for its daring "no features" Snow Leopard upgrade. There are many articles describing all the cool technical things going on in the background, from OpenCL to Grand Central Dispatch. It's groundbreaking. It's significant. If you only listened to the tech nerds, upgrading is a no-brainer. It's that good.

But I'm curious as to what the adoption rate will be after a few months. Judging from a sample of one, my girlfriend, a typical non-techy user, it won't be too good.

"So, your Macbook has new software (eschewing any technical terms like 'operating system,' or I would lose her right off the bat)."

"What's new about it?" she asked, very reasonably.

"Um... nothing."

A pause as she looked at me like I'm wasting her time.

"Well, not nothing. There are a bunch of little tweaks here and there and it's supposed to be a little faster."

"Nah, I don't need it then," she pronounced. "It's working fine right now, why bother?"

True, by the way.

"Well, it's only US$30."

"Wha?!?? And this costs money? I definitely don't want it then."

"Well, it's good, trust me, let me install it." I insisted. I wanted to see all the hoopla myself (I don't use a Mac). She said fine, whatever, since I'm her one-man I.T. department. So a few days later, I installed it while she was at work.

She looked at it when she came home and said to me, "So? it looks the same."

I started pointing out the small differences here and there and she just shook her head and rolled her eyes at me like I'm a silly, silly boy.

Sep 10, 2009 |

Mobile Safari Crashing, Solved?

As soon as I clicked "publish" on my previous entry complaining about excessive Mobile Safari crashing, I realized what I should have tried a long time ago: clear Mobile Safari's cache. And sure enough, after I cleared the cache and the cookies, I went nearly 2 hours of constant browsing before it finally crashed on me. Yes, it still crashed, but before clearing the cache, I couldn't even go 2 or 3 pages before it crashing.

My problem was that I kept thinking about the iPhone in terms of consumer electronics and phones and that it should "just work," thus I wasn't thinking in terms of troubleshooting the problem. It should just work, damit! Instead I should have been thinking about it in terms of what it really is—a tiny computer that makes phone calls. Computers crashing, that I have had plenty of experience with.

Now, if I could get the mail fetching to work again.

October 25, 2008 Update

Nope, not solved. It still crashes all over the place. With frequent purging of Mobile Safari cache, the frequency of crashes seems to be lower, but it still crashes way too often. I don't recall a single day without the browser crashing on me, and often it's multiple times.

The latest remedy I've tried is doing a hard reset (holding down the power and home buttons together for a few seconds) after the browser has crashed a few times in succession and that seems to make the crashing temporarily subside, but I'm not sure. The browser crashes so randomly that it's almost impossible to detect a pattern in order to identify a cause. It crashes on long pages, it crashes on short pages, it crashes on text heavy pages, it crashes on graphics heavy pages. It just crashes. Sometimes it can go for an hour without crashing. But then the crashes sometimes come in bunches. This is a typical scenario: Load page, finish loading, read, crash. Re-open Mobile Safari. Load a different page, during loading, crash. Open Mobile Safari again, load same page, finish loading. No crash. Yay! Load another page. Crash.

Maybe it just crashes whenever Mobile Safari runs out of memory which I assume is very easy to do since there's only 128mb of ram in the iPhone (what were they thinking?!). I think I read somewhere that Mobile Safari keeps running in the background until the OS needs the memory, so perhaps Mobile Safari just keeps crap in memory and grows and grows until it crashes.

I guess Mobile Safari is simply not ready to be used like I'm using it, which is usually at least an hour a day of browsing on it...

I haven't tried a complete restore from iTunes yet, but you know what? I don't want to spend days troubleshooting this damn thing!!! I give up. Forget about phones, even computers should not be this frustrating to use. It says something about the iPhone (its UI, its functionality, its packaging, and yes, its marketing... the Reality Distortion Field is strong with this one) that even with a major part of its functionality essentially broken (actually mail fetching is also broken, so that's two of its major functionalities), I can't even fathom giving it up and using another phone. I'm just going to have to suck it up and hope they fix it.

Oct 12, 2008 |

The iPhone 3G and Mobile Safari

I have been using an iPhone 3G for just about a month and a half. It's been a decidedly up-and-down relationship with the device. On the one hand, it's the most amazing piece of consumer electronics I've ever used. On the other hand, it's the most frustrating one as well.

The bulk of my issues with the device (I hesitate to call it a "phone" because it is clearly much more than a phone) is that Mobile Safari is just too buggy. Firmware 2.1 did not improve on the stability, at least for me.

Sure, I browse the web on the iPhone when I'm out and about whenever I have some free time, but it turns out even more than a device to access the web when I'm not near a computer, the iPhone has become a go-to web access device even at home. It has taken the place of my laptop in bed right before I go to sleep, for example, and, yes, on the toilet if I'm having a... particularly big "download" queue.

But Mobile Safari crashes literally every few minutes for me. I haven't heard much of this issue being talked about online so I'm not sure if it's something with my particular iPhone. Bad memory perhaps? But nothing else on the phone appears to crash so it's limited to the Mobile Safari app (well, that and the NYTimes app, but I'm assuming that's using WebKit to render the pages so it's basically the same thing) which leads me to believe it's a software bug as opposed to a hardware one. It has crashed on basically every site I regularly visit (Google Reader, NY Times, Engadget, ESPN, to name a few). It crashes in the middle of doing nothing. For example, a page on would finish loading and I would be in the middle of the article when Mobile Safari just quits to the home screen for no apparent reason.

Reading on a small screen in the palm of my hand turns out to be so satisfying for browsing the latest news that for the time being I'm putting up with the constant crashing, but it is extremely frustrating.

Phones and/or consumer electronics should not crash!

Putting aside the extreme bugginess (I've never used a web browser that crashed this much, literally every few minutes if I'm reading a lot of pages), Mobile Safari is s-l-o-w. The iPhone in general is no speed demon, but it really shows in Mobile Safari. I have a 10mbit connection at home, but you'd never know it if you judged it by the rendering speed on the iPhone.

But when it works, it's beautiful. It's like once you've used it, you can't go back to other phones, so you live with the slowness and crashiness just to experience the occasional high you get when it does work. It's like a bad drug.

Oct 11, 2008 |

eBay + iPhones = $$$

If you are in the U.S., you should totally get into the unlocked iPhone ebay business while you can. I decided I wanted to get an iPhone now before it's locked back down with the next firmware update so I've been watching iPhone auctions on eBay very closely for the past 2 days and man, people are making a killing selling them.

Just as an example, between 10:00 pm and 12:06 am last night/this morning (US pacific time), there were 35 completed auctions for 8gb iPhones on eBay, 8 didn't sell because those sellers were dumb enough not to ship internationally (that's where the demand is, people!). Out of the 18 who do ship internationally, only 1 did not sell (most likely because the seller was too greedy and wanted $648, including shipping, for the phone). The other 17 sold at an average price of around $560 (high of $607 and low of $507, again, including shipping). That's about $70 in profit after you subtract eBay/PayPal fees and shipping cost. Do that 10 times a day and you have made $700 (and believe me, you can easily sell 10 a day). The only problem I could see would be getting enough phones to sell. I wonder if Apple Stores frown on people who come in and buy 10 phones a day, every day.

And it's nearly risk free. Like I said, except for a couple of sellers who wanted too much, every auction I've watched (that ships internationally) in the past 2 days sold. Aim for about $70 to $80 in profit and you can probably sell as many iPhones as you can get your hands on. Even in the unlikely event the iPhone eBay market suddenly collapses for whatever reason, you can always bring them back and get a full refund (don't open them to unlock until they've sold, obviously).

So go after work tomorrow and buy 15 phones. Spend half-an-hour when you get home to make the listings on eBay. Do one day listings and you'll sell them out by the following day. Another hour or so to unlock the phones and to pack them in boxes for shipping. Bam! A thousand bucks. Not bad for a few hours of work.

Wash, repeat and go buy yourself something pretty (or better yet, buy me something pretty). And if you put the phones on a credit card with mileage rewards, you'll rack up major miles for this racket.

By the way, who wants to help me buy an iPhone???

Sep 23, 2007 |

Nikon Is Ridiculous

So I accidentally broke one of my D2X bodies while I was in Indonesia last week. It was a dumb mistake. I had the camera mounted on the tripod but forgot to tighten the clamp on my ballhead and when I let go of the camera to reach for something else, I heard the most sickening sound. My fisheye lens, which was mounted on the camera, took the brunt of the damage. The built-in hood shattered and the front elements cracked.

The camera body looked okay. It is a "pro" body after all. It's supposed to withstand some abuse (not dropped from nearly 6 feet I'll grant you that). I tested it, it turned out the AF mechanism was busted. Everything else functioned normally. So I ended up focusing manually with that body for the remainder of the trip.

The point of this post is not to tell you how I damaged the camera but how ridiculous Nikon is. I took it in to the service center in Taipei (where I am living at the moment) and was informed that since I did not purchase it from the official distributor in Taipei (I bought it from Nikon USA when I lived in New York), the only way they will even look at it is if I paid them NT$10,000/US$302.39. That is just so they will look at my camera. And then I still will have to pay for the actual parts and labor. Isn't that absurd? That US$300 is essentially Nikon Taiwan[1] telling me "fuck you" for not buying the camera from them.

I understand them not providing warranty service to cameras bought out-of-market to protect their own interests (though in this day and age of the global nomad, that is frankly very anti-consumer), but this is going way too far.

Does Nikon do this in all markets? Does Nikon USA charge you a US$300 penalty if you brought in a gray-market camera to repair? And for that matter, does Canon? If Canon does not do this, or at least has a more reasonable policy regarding gray-market cameras, I am going to switch back (I used to use a 1D). I move around the world (in any given year I might be living in Taiwan, China, Canada or the States for example) and I need to know that I can walk into an authorized service center in any country and have my cameras expertly repaired in a timely manner without paying a hefty penalty.

I'm pissed.

[1] Well, technically, it's not "Nikon Taiwan", but Nikon's Taiwanese distributor. But Nikon is equally culpable for allowing its distributor to treat its customers this way.

Jun 4, 2007 |

Computer Shopping in Taipei

So I went looking at Mac Pros (yes, I've decided to switch back... a long story for another day). I went to an authorized dealer and asked (in Mandarin, of course, so I'm paraphrasing here): "So, is the price for the Mac Pro what is listed on Apple's website?"

"Yes," came the answer.

"So why should I buy it from you instead of buying directly online?" I'm fishing for a discount.

"Well, we could install programs for you."

"What do you mean? I thought everything comes installed and ready to use."

"Well, we could install Office for you, that doesn't come with it."

"You mean, the full version?" I asked.


"What about Photoshop?" I asked.

"Yes, that, too."

"So you can get me anything I want."


And I thought this type of blatant piracy is only available in China.

Oct 25, 2006 |



Say hello to the idog, from Sega Toys. I searched high and low all over Tokyo this week and nobody had it. The ¥4,179 "music entertainment pet" came out April 2 and sold out quickly apparently. So how did I get my hands on one? From the airport, of all places! On my way out of Tokyo, the toy store on the 2nd floor of Narita (before immigration) had some! I guess international travelers don't know about these puppies yet so not many people bought them. I know I had never heard of these things until my cousin told me about them before I went to Tokyo. In any case, I think there were maybe 4 or 5 left there (hard to tell as they were stacked behind the counter) so pick one up if you happen to be flying through Narita! The airport sells it at the MSRP, however. Yodobashi sold them for ¥3,340 but, like I said, they don't have them in stock anymore. And when I asked, none of the stores had any idea when they will be back in stock.

Continue reading "idog!"

Apr 24, 2005 |

Tivo and Netflix to Join Forces

Tivo+NetflixNewsweek is reporting that Tivo and Netflix are about to announce a partnership. While I don't use Netflix, I have been a loyal Tivo owner since their earliest days; and if they don't mess up the pricing and execution of this Netflix-on-Tivo idea (a big if, but those are two pretty cool companies), I just might become a Netflix subscriber as well.

This could help give Tivo some independence from DirecTV (an astounding 78% of new Tivo subscribers from the last quarter were DirecTV customers). Or this might just piss DirecTV off enough (by stealing their PPV movie business) that they stop promoting DirecTivo and drop Tivo altogether after their current deal expires.

9/30 Update: It's official.

Sep 6, 2004 |