Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Welcome to tonight's edition of Stupid Driving Tricks

I worked late tonight and took a late train home. Just outside my station, the conductor announced that we would be held there for a few minutes because there was a car on the tracks. I figured a car had stalled on the tracks at the next crossing, but that it would be removed and we be moving in a few minutes. After about ten minutes we did start heading for the station, but the conductor advised everyone to look out the left window to see the car that had held us up.

It turns out that this woman had somehow driven a good 150 feet down the track from the crossing and managed to get the tire of her car stuck between two tracks. I have no explanation for how or why someone would do this, unless they were drunk. There are fences on both sides of the track, so she couldn't have just veered off the road. She's damn lucky she wasn't killed. I can't wait to see if there's something about this in the local paper tomorrow.

On another topic, Apple came out with a couple of intriguing new products yesterday, aimed squarely at the low end of the market (not a typical Apple target). The one that got most of the media play is the iPod Shuffle. It's a tiny, flash based music player, about the size of a pack of gum. You load songs from iTunes and it plays them at random. There's no display to tell you what song is playing, and it has only some fairly basic controls.

I like the concept behind this. I, like most iPod users, usually play my iPod in "shuffle" mode, which picks songs at random from your library. This is kind of like carrying your own radio station around, since you don't know what's coming up next. Of course, you know you'll like all the songs, since it's all your music, right? Occassionally I'll want to listen to a specific song or album, but I probably shuffle songs 90% of the time.

It'll be really interesting to see if people go for this, or if people really want more control over their music. The success of the iPod mini proved that some people are willing to sacrifice capacity for size. We'll see if that holds true with the Shuffle. The price point is certainly right, at $99 for a 512MB iPod and $149 for 1GB.

I also thought the new Mac mini looks pretty cool. It's a $500 Mac that measures about the size of two paperback books. It's the cheapest Mac Apple's ever sold, but it comes without a keyboard, mouse or monitor. Once you add all that stuff, you're up to at least $650, which is still $150 cheaper than the low end eMac. I could easily see getting these for the kids eventually.

I'm hoping the Apple Store will have them both in stock this weekend. I have to stop by there to get an Airport base station - I'm planning to set up a wireless network in the house. More on that later.


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