Trouble with Western Digital Studio II Drive

I was very happy with my Western Digital Studio II Drive so I bought a second one. This new one has been giving me trouble since I got it. For starters, it always shows the temperature condition as “Warm”. The drive is regularly missing from my desktop as it just shuts itself off. I figured I had a bad drive. I went on the WDC website and found the RMA process to be extremely pleasant. My replacement arrived today. I plugged it in and it immediately shows the temperature condition as “Hot”.

I thought it might have something to do with the order on the Firewire chain. I changed the order of the drives but there was no change. I unplugged the drive from Firewire and plugged it into the USB port. The temperature status on the drive changed from Hot to Warm — but still not “OK”.

I changed the order in which the drives are connected to my system. Sure enough. The first drive is always OK. The second drive is always Warm. And the third drive plugged in is always Hot.

So at this point I chalk it up to yet another problem with the WD Drive Manager software. This hurts my already low opinion of this software.

I plan to call WD tech support in the morning so see what they have to say.

Oh No! My Mac Has a Virus!

No, it’s not 1988. I know my mac doesn’t really have a virus. Aside from the occasional email, I have not seen a virus on my Mac since System 7. So image my surprise that while Googling I came across a link that appeared to have the information that I was seeking. The title and summary looked valid. I did not notice the URL right away or I would have suspected it — Poland. I clicked on the link and was bounced to China and then to a .com site with an official looking URL. Google’s Safe Browsing did not catch it. Norton’s Safe Web also does not have it listed as evil.

Anyway, clicking on the link I found out that not only was my computer infected, but it is apparently running Windows XP and no one told me.

Warning!!! Your computer contains various signs of viruses and malware programs presence.

You system requires immediate anti viruses check!
Antivirus 360 will perform a quick and free scanning of your PC for viruses and malicious programs.

I chuckled to myself and I clicked the cancel button on this JavaScript dialog and proceeded to watch the “scan” proceed. The screen clearly showed my C and D drive. It ran through all of my Windows DLLs an found several “infected” files. Once it finished I got a very official looking “Windows Security Alert” showing some very nasty looking Trojans on my Windows computer. At no point did the screen say “just kidding”.

The next thing that happened was a downloaded file. The file name was a very official looking “InstallAVg_77025304.exe”. I’d had enough fun and this point and closed the browser and deleted the annoying little .exe.

For what for me was a humorous interlude could have actually fooled the average user and put their systems at real risk. I wanted to post some screen shots so that people could see what to watch out for. There are various permutations of the domain name. Both AVG and Norton 360 are real products and arguably good products. But there is no “Antivirus 360”.

What can you do to protect yourself? Aside from shunning Windows altogether it’s going to take some vigilance. Well if you are running a modern web browser like Firefox, IE 7, or one of the Webkit browser (Safari & Chrome), you are probably safe so long as you do not download and run their software. Don’t buy or even install software that volunteers itself to you. If you are searching for good shareware, use a trusted site like VersionTracker.com.

I recommend using OpenDNS.com. You can set the DNS numbers in your router and protect your whole home. The bad guys are smart about using domains that look official. Since OpenDNS is publicly supported, once a domain is identified as bad, it will be blocked. You can customize your protection and protect it immediately.

Kindle for iPhone is the Next Killer App

When the iTunes music store first came out it was all too easy to drop 99¢ on a song. At least one reviewer dubbed it iCrack because of its addictive nature. Apple later brought that easy way to part with your money into the palm of your hand in your iPhone. Last summer Apple opened the App Store and gave us yet another to part with 99¢ on fart apps. Today we have a new way to loose $10: Kindle for the iPhone.

The Kindle seems like a cool product. I have actually seen one in the wild. For me the price of $359 puts it out of reach. I understand the business model. I’m sure they have to price it that high to cover the wireless service. It’s possible that even at that price it is a loss leader to get people to buy the books. Until they figure a way to get the price down to $199 or $99, I do not think Amazon will get the critical market penetration.

So what if we take the hardware out of the equation. By developing an iPhone App, Amazon just got $10M new customers. By making it free, they have lowered the barrier to entry. And by offering “Try it free” they have made it accessible to anyone who can operate a web browser.

This is not my first time to try an ebook reader. Nearly 10-years ago I bought an Orson Scott Card novel in eReader format for my Handspring Palm OS PDA. That experience was less than stellar. It involved paying for the book online, downloading it to my computer, and copying it to the Palm. Once on the Palm, I used my credit card number to unlock the book. The eReader was not a bad platform. Ten years later I still have access to that book I bought back then. They have improved the DRM mechanism and made a reader available on my iPhone and Mac OS. Their only weakness was lack of inventory.

Last week I tried Stanza, an iPhone App for reading ebooks. The program has a nice interface. They are making several books available from sources like Project Gutenberg. While the reading experience was very good, the purchasing experience was not. In the end the achilles heal is inventory.

The Kindle certainly has no inventory problem. They already claim to have a quarter million books online. The standard price is $10. Some books are available for as little as 99¢. Now we are in iCrack territory. If only the hardware weren’t so expensive.

I downloaded the Kindle for iPhone app this morning to try it out. My first impression was a little rough. I wanted to try out the newspaper subscriptions. As much as I tried, I could not get past the message telling me that I did not have a Kindle or iPhone. I even used the feedback option in the app to try to get some help. My next attempt was to buy a book. This went off without a hitch. Poof. There went $10. The reading experience was good. The navigation is a bit rough. It requires you to swipe to turn the page. Stanza uses a single touch to turn the page. The choice of font sizes works. I found that the smallest font worked for me. I wish I could zoom in on illustrations. Amazon clearly did not want to add features to the iPhone that their own device did not have.

I got a reply from Amy V at Amazon later today. Here’s an excerpt:

The entire selection of books available for reading on Amazon Kindle can also be read on Kindle for iPhone. Periodicals such as newspapers, magazines, and blogs, and personal documents can currently only be delivered to a Kindle and cannot be viewed on Kindle for iPhone.

The real joy was when I found the Try it free option. This sends the first chapter to your device so you can start reading. This simulates the experience you get when you are in the bookstore except you cannot flip to the ending. At the same time this lets you try out your device so you can really see what the experience will be like.

The final straw for me was when I got home. I installed the Kindle for iPhone on one of my kids’ iPhone. The result was that that all my books in my library were immediately available on that phone too. I check to see if the current reading assignment was available on Amazon. It was and for just 99¢. Bought. Now the kid can do homework even though the paperback book is still at school in a locker.

I’ve tested the Kindle for iPhone app on the iPod Touch as well. The experience was just as good.

Here’s my wish list of improvements.

  • Make page turning a single tap action
  • Integrate with the Amazon.com iPhone App so the entire shopping experience can be done from the phone rather than in Safari.
  • Add text-to-speech, it’s great for the Kindle 2
  • In general, don’t be afraid to give features to the iPhone the the Kindle 2 already has

Terminator Salvation Trailer Ups to the Ante on Expectations

I’ve been looking forward to the new Terminator movie. I like the TV show. I even enjoyed Terminator 3. The new movie looked like just the next chapter in the story. The early trailers showed us little that we had not already seen in the future scenes for the last 25 years. My expectation was that Bale would just make it cool. The motorcycle terminators and transformer terminators seemed like normal progressions. The new trailer is out. It really ups the ante on the mythology and introduces something new.

I’m at the point when I am sure I want to see this movie. The tough part now is avoiding any new information for the next two months so as not to spoil it the surprise. The trailer already gives away a big part. Don’t watch it if you want to enjoy the movie in May.