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i recently wrote about my birthday binge purchases, one of which included an airport extreme.  in addition to the airport, i acquired a matching (in size so it fit right under it) lacie mini hard drive.  the reason for this (and the initial airport purchase) was i'm trying to consolidate some storage without having to have a running "machine" (OS) anywhere.  the airport touted the ability to plugin an external hard drive and share it with everyone.

well, i'm happy to report that my other birthday purchases are doing me proud.  the airport and lacie, on the other hand, are quite possibly two of the worst pieces of technology that i personally have ever purchased.  i know "your mileage may vary" and i'm not trying to blanket everyone, but for me, it is a complete failure.  which is disappointing because i read the reviews on both products and selected based on particular comments etc.  allow me to vent.

airport extreme:

while beautiful in industrial design, it lacks features i'm used to (and desire).  i should have known not to mess with my ol' trusty linksys solution, but i was lured with the shared drive and 802.11n spec inclusion.  alas, piece of poo.  the sharing of the drive?  yes, but only if it is a mac-formatted one.  i plugged in my existing western digital 320GB drive (which has my files on it) first, and the error log simply stated that it was unable to mount the drive and i must plug it into a computer and "repair" it -- and repair==re-format.  no thanks.  (this is why i bought the lacie which is a bigger capacity as well.)  also, the sharing itself for "mac or pc" is really for mac.  it doesn't use any standard other than its own...bonjour.  so on a windows machine i couldn't map to \\box\share but had to install bonjour for windows and use it that way.  argh.  why wouldn't they just use samba or something?

wireless options...this is probably the thing that bothered me.  first, where is the web-based admin?  nowhere.  i had to install a client on both my mac and win machines to configure it.  while the software is nice looking, it is fischer price features.  seriously, give me the advanced option and allow me to configure from anywhere within the network.  i don't use wep/wpa in my home wireless, but use mac hardware address filtering.  setting up this feature on the airport was not intuitive.  the logging/diagnostics (showing me the connected wireless clients) also only showed me the connected mac addresses?! wtf?!  you made me input the mac address and give it a name, couldn't you show me the name in the connected client list?  argh.

probably the single reason i'm returning it is performance.  yesterday i worked from home.  aside from being a bad idea with a 5 year old, 1 year old, and wife (whom i love so dearly :-)), the interweb was horrible.  my wife even commented something was wrong.  for her to notice something is wrong, means something is wrong.  i "rebooted" the airport a few times (a process that also is not intuitive, you must make a config change to "update" which results in a reboot.  anyhow, my wireless throughput was HORRIBLE (see andrew, i do have caps).  i honestly couldn't believe how slow it was.  as a test i tweaked a few configs but nothing would improve it.  i plugged my linksys back in and all was back to normal/fast.  i still don't know what the problem was, but i could isolate it to the airport.  for that reason alone, i'm ditching it (the other reasons just re-affirm my decision).

lacie hard drive:

again, great industrial design (for mac accessories) and fit perfectly under the airport and tucked away.  the problem?  turn it on.  unless you like the sound of a hair dryer up against your ear all day, this isn't for you.  seriously, with no data on it, nobody accessing it, just plugging it in and turning it on in a well ventilated, cool room, it hummed like a banshee.  i couldn't take it for more than 5 minutes.  my wife, who shares the same home office, looked at me and simply said "absolutely not."  i knew at that moment it had to go back.  i honestly could not believe how loud the thing was...horrible, horrible, horrible.

so i'm back to the apple store today to return.  i suspect they'll charge me a restocking fee which i'll gladly pay to be rid of these piles of garbage.

as always, your mileage may vary.  i consider myself pretty savvy and feel my assessment is accurate for the advanced user, but everyone is entitled to their opinion otherwise.  two big thumbs down on both products...big time.

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my birthday happened recently.  i am not a fan of birthdays and i don't know why.  i'm way past any age of getting additional "benefits" or discounts, and not near any age of getting any additional benefits/discounts :-) -- i'm a tweener now i suppose in a different way.  anyhow, i digress.

every birthday i seem to get gifts that tie to my hobbies.  in high school i played on the golf team.  i owned about every illegal piece of golf equipment, counters, tee holders, range finders, etc. you could have.  and i wasn't fond of any of them -- people assumed they would be useful to me.  as i got older, my hobbies grew both in number and in expense :-).  i still enjoy golf, but don't need anything anymore (golf balls at costco are the best deal).  my other hobby is scuba diving, but living in arizona i don't have readily available waters to troll...aside from that, find something for a scuba diver that is inexpensive (or so my family tells me).  i actually don't mind if i don't get gifts on my birthday.  a quiet day with no responsibilities and the ability to sleep in is good enough for me.

but this year my friends/family were wise to me and instead of gifts i received a lot of gift cards...which is good, i get to choose what i want.  over the years i've acquired all the tech gadgets i could want so spending these gift cards was difficult as i really didn't *need* anything.  i spent a lot of the gift cards on our annual party, festivus, for raffle gifts for others...we got some killer items this year.  for the rest, i wanted to go tech, things i didn't need, but have wanted to try out or have been wanting for a while...here's a run down of what i got and did with the gift cards:

    • swiss cake rolls - yum.  nuf said.  best worst snack you could eat (10 boxes for $10 at my local grocery lately).  i make sure that i personally don't buy these, but hey if someone is willing to buy some for me, i'll take them.  this year i got a box of regulars and my wife's friend made me a giant swiss cake roll for my birthday.  yum.  no really.  it's not tech, but the giant one was (still is in the freezer) sweet.
    • iPod classic 80GB - glad i waited for the announcements to come out!  i have a few media players, but not one that could hold all my music all the time as well as occaisional movies, etc.  this was a good time to get an update in style and capacity.  i got the black one.  why not a zune?  hmmm...i could go on about that one, but see the next item for primary reason.
    • DICE iPod Integration - i own an older car that doesn't have auxiliary jacks, or any fancy stuff to play an external device.  i'm also a bit of a purist and didn't want to alter my head unit in my car for something that didn't look like it belonged.  but for the longest time i wanted something in my car for my media player...so i can listen to whatever i wanted at any time...including podcasts.  this was a stumbling block for me and the zune.  the integration stories and after-market stuff just didn't come soon enough (in some cases at all yet) for my greasy little tech fingers.  ipod has the after-market pwned for sure and that was a factor i could not ignore.  i also didn't want to have to be holding my media player...my requirement was that i needed to be able to control my player through the factor unit and preferrably my steering wheel controls.  lo and behold, i found it.  and check out the installation form factor below...i have to do the installation myself, so we'll see if it turns out that good:

    • AirPort Extreme - my house was already wireless throughout and has been working fine.  i've been monitoring the various devices offering 802.11n for a while and to be quite frank i'm not sure there is a ton of benefit to me *yet* (with media being sent all over the machines in the house in the future, maybe).  but since i had some store credit, i figured what the heck.  the thing i liked about this was increased range, design of the unit and the ability to plug in a usb hard drive to share (my music is on a workstation that i have to keep on to share).  i hooked this one up today and am impressed by the range, but not happy about 2 things: 1) no web-based configuration interface and 2) my USB drive that already has some stuff on it 'cannot be mounted' -- a little research showed that it looks like this actually has to be a mac-formatted drive and then a windows client would have to have Bonjour installed to access it -- argh, not happy about that, but i'm willing to try it out for a while.  so far i swapped it out and nobody (devices included) in the house is wise to any change.  the device itself is nice and small and looks better than the linksys.
    • LifeChat LX-300 - i've been on the lookout for a better headset.  all the 'noise cancelling' ones were driving me crazy for the simple fact that the microphone didn't extent to in front of the mouth.  i know that shouldn't matter, but i could tell a difference in recording.  the lifechat is awesome for the cost.  i love it.  it's a little bulky, but has great headphones and great microphone.
    • Jawbone - i've never been a bluetooth earpiece person and internally snicker at those always walking around with one in their ear (sorry if you are one of them, but are you always so eager to wait for a call?).  i do have a bluetooth speakerphone in my car that i used, but it picks up a ton of background noise, etc.  i saw jawbone when it first came out and was amazed by the adds -- but didn't want to fall prey to marketing.  i didn't *need* one so i didn't get one.  after hearing hanselman's non-marketing sample voice mail...i was sold.  it works great, but my ears must be shaped funny, it isn't incredibly comfortable for me...but works great and as advertised.

so that was my tech indulgence for my birthday gifts -- it was fun trying to stitch gift cards from multiple places together to make it all work -- and of course i had to pay some of my own dough as well, my family isn't that generous :-).  anyhow, end of random post, but needed to clear my head (read: justify to myself) about my new items.