Apple’d and loving it

I’ve just realized that over the past 12 months I’ve gone Apple. It started innocently enough with a Juniper iTunes credit card and an iPhone on launch day last June. Then an Apple TV found it’s way into my home. Eventually, a MacBook and a Mac Pro followed suit.

I have to say I’m impressed with all my Apple products. Here’s a quick review roundup:

My iPhone gets plenty of use at home and on the go, and if the next version only adds in 3G and GPS, I won’t even be all that tempted to upgrade. It’s so much better than any previous phone I’ve owned, and AT&T’s customer service isn’t nearly as bad as it was in the Ameritech/SBC days. I can’t wait till the API is finally released and the 2.0 software comes out. I’m sure my wallet will take a beating that month. Interestingly, I use the iPod functionality less than I did my old iPod.

My Apple TV probably gets the least use of all my gadgets. We have ditched out Netflix subscription (kept forgetting to send movies back), and decided to put that money towards rentals & tv shows. Between the Apple TV and my Xbox 360, we could get pretty much anything except Smallville and NBC shows. Combine this with the rewards my Juniper iTunes card gets for just paying monthly bills with it, and we get quite a deal.

My MacBook is the surprise of the bunch. For many years, I’ve only had 17″ laptops. Unfortunately, the $2,800 Macbook Pro was out of my price range, and there were some great deals on MacBook refurbs, so I picked one up. I was pleasantly surprised that the screen size wasn’t that big of an issue. The real surprise was how quick and light, and long lasting this thing is. Sure, I’m not going to get any modern 3D game to run on it, but it’s almost half the weight of my previous laptop, and the battery life is amazing. I guess the LED backlighting really paid off. I was also able to improve laptop gaming performance on my new laptop. Having a lot of computer geeks friends who love Apple products I can say that the Mac Pro is, well, awesome. It’s great to run three virtual machines, plus all my development servers and software, email and still not break a sweat. It’s replaced three physical machines (dev/file server, photo server, and workstation), so I’m saving on electricity and space. The keyboard is surprisingly awesome to type on, though the Mighty Mouse doesn’t like to always tell the difference between a left and right click.

What’s left to be assimilated? Well, I want to upgrade my wireless network to N, and the likely candidates are an AirPort Extreme and AirPort Express to bridge some HD-capable streaming to my Xbox. My wife likely won’t be switching anytime soon, and is plenty powerful with XP for the internet/email/light web dev she does. Our daughter, however, will probably inherit this MacBook in a few years and eventually get an iPod.

360 Dead… again

For those who don’t know, I won the Xbox 360 at CFUnited ’06 from Microsoft’s booth. Immediately upon receipt, I had to spend $150 on this “free” system for a wireless network adapter and one game, just to play it. That’s the most expensive free system ever.

That Xbox lasted a long time, relatively speaking… It was around spring of ’07 when the disc drive tray decided to stop opening/closing. I wasn’t experiencing any of the overheating, red-ring-of-death problems I read so much about. I figured that perhaps the problem was overblown or whatnot, or maybe I was just lucky.

Well, my luck ran out. A few months after getting my first replacement, it died. Now, just moments ago, my replacement’s replacement died. After weeks of inability to just log in and play games, thanks to Microsoft’s servers buckling under the pressure of Christmas sales, I now can’t play any disc-based games. On top of that, the 360 is also our DVD player, so not only can I not game (and use my 360 subscription that is paid for), but I won’t be able to watch movies (and use my Netflix subscription that is paid for).

I’m thinking that it’s time to bite the bullet and actually buy a 360 Arcade (or a used 360 still under warranty) for the other room. Not for primarily gaming, but as a Media Center Extender. I’ve built up quite the library of movies, and it’ll be nice to watch them from the other room, too. And, when the next XBox dies, I’ll have a spare to tide me over until the repairs are finished.

Ugh… XBox Live still having issues

I love how Microsoft claims that there was no outage. Sure, only a small percentage of people were able to log in and play over the past week, but that’s not an outage. Apparently the servers never went down, they were just overwhelmed. Next, the power company will say “Sure, only a small percentage of our customers have power, but it’s not an outage. The power plant is still functioning.”

We deserve compensation for the service we’ve paid for that we were unable to access. Of course, since they don’t provide compensation for service unable to be accessed when your defective console is going in for repair, I expect them to pull the same shenanigans with this, and pretend that they owe us nothing.

XBox LIVE login issues

It’s been mostly ignored by the social media sites, but XBL has been having major issues the past few days. Inability to log in, people getting kicked off of XBL in the middle of online games, etc… And it’s a worldwide problem, not just in the US. Hopefully Microsoft can actually provide us with the service we *pay* for, on the days we’re getting new games, and actually want top play them online.

Oh, if any of you are able to sign in, have COD4, and want to play, send me an invite. My gamer tag, as you might have guessed, is iotashan.

Plantronics GameCom X30 and XBox 360 Messenger Kit Review

Last week, I was in the middle of some Team Fortress 2 when everyone started yelling at me that my mic was producing nothing but static. It would seem that the frail little wire that connected it to the controller must have shorted out. It was time to get a new headset.

First I went and got the Plantronics GameCom X30. I love Plantronics headset quality, so I figured it would be perfect. It probably would have been, except that this headset grabs onto your ear from the bottom. Now, I don’t have ears like Will Smith, so it kept falling off. If I turned or tilted my head at all, it would end up half-hanging out of my ear.

I took it back to BestBuy, and figured I’d just get another one of the standard Microsoft headsets. When I got there, the price for the headset alone was $19, but the price for the XBox 360 Messenger Kit, which also comes with the same headset, was $29. I figured for $10, I might as well try it out. I’ve had it for a couple hours now, and I must say it’s not bad. It’s definitely faster and easier to type out messages. Connecting it was a tad tricky, but no big deal. The headset that comes with it is the “revised” headset. You can tell the difference by the connector… It’s just the plug. The volume and mute switch are actually halfway up the cord. This headset actually provides richer sound, better base response, and the microphone actually seems to pick up my voice more accurately.

By reading the manual (You’re surprised, aren’t you?), I discovered that this keyboard has another trick up it’s sleeve… You can hook up any standard 2.5mm headset. So now, you can actually get a nice telephone headset (not the cheap-o ones for wireless phones, but ones actually designed for people who wear a telephone headset all day like customer service reps or receptionists) and use it with your 360.