Farewell to Rob and Patrika

First of all, apologies for the delay in making these photos available. I’ve been working figuring out how to best publish these images, and needed to hack some software to get my images to display properly.

It’s been a while since our farewell dinner party for Rob and Patrika. I hope they are doing well in California. Though we no longer have them around, I’m at least glad that their last party here was an enjoyable one filled with Patirka’s spicy soup, our pasta and meatball sauce, and, of course, Allen’s famous garlic bread. Didn’t think Allen could cook? The evidence is in the pictures above.

The new iPod Nano

Apple recently released a few new iPods onto the music scene, but it may be confusing what these new iPods offer. First up is the iPod Nano. The Nano has been available for some time now. Apple has made a few important, albeit relatively minor, changes to this popular model. The Nano is, of course, the successor to the Mini. This smaller and easily pocketable version of the iPod has a relatively small capacity (now 2GB-8GB, note the increased memory in the new high end model) but is arguably more portable. The original Nano won points for its smaller case and bright color screen when compared with the mini, but many preferred the more durable (and scratch-resistant) colorful aluminum shell of the mini.

iPod Nano

Arguably the biggest advance of the new Nano is that it combines the best of both worlds. It maintains the small, slim design of the original Nano while bringing back the scatch-resistant aluminum body. The software and screen are slightly updated with features such as search. Capacity has been doubled to 2 GB at the low end and 8 GB at the high end, with a 4 GB model in the middle. The middle capacity model comes in silver, pink, green, and blue. The low-end model is avaialble only in silver and the high-end model is available only in metallic black.

What’s the bottom line? If you already have a Nano, there’s no reason to upgrade because the improvements are minor (unless you are in desperate need of more storage space). If you have been thinking about buying a Nano, the new models are more compelling, largely for the more durable case design. These Nanos won’t play video, movies, or the new games Apple has released for the full-sized iPod, but if highly-portable music playing is what you are after, the new Nano may fit the bill.

Stay away from myworldphone.com

I have generally had good experiences from online vendors despite a long and varied history. Anyone looking for a good deal on an unlocked GSM phone is bound to come across a wide range of online storefronts. GSM is the technology used by carriers such as Cingular and T-Mobile. Their phones use a SIM card, a tiny chip that holds information identifying the phone number, identity, and sometimes even address book of the phone. To change phones, you can simply take the SIM card out of your old phone and pop it into the new phone…assuming your phone is “unlocked.” Many phones sold by carriers come “locked”, so they can only be used on a single carrier. Unlocked phones have the advantage that they can be used on any other GSM network (including carriers in other countries). The only caveat is that the some carriers use different frequency, but there is a growing population of “quad-band” phones that support all the currently used frequencies. One such phone is the Nokia 6131 flip phone, for which I’m working on a review. Despite not being available through any carrier, it is available unlocked through many online stores and is a great option for someone looking for a feature-packed compact flip phone.

One store to stay away from, however is myworldphone.com. To be fair, I’ve ordered several phones from this company without incident, but when I opened the box for the latest Nokia, I knew something was amiss. The box was not sealed and the packing job seemed unprofessional. There was no clear shield on the screen that normally has to be peeled off, one of the great joys of unwrapping new electronic gizmos. To my surprise, it quickly became apparent that I had been sold a used phone that was masquerading as new. Several SMS text messages were already on the phone, as were some pictures that were clearly not taken by me.

Any store worthy of its name would immediately take the phone back and offer profuse apologies, but myworldphone.com is apparently not in that category. After several emails went unanswered, I waiting on hold several times only to be instructed to call back on a different line. When I finally spoke to a “manager”, they tried to walk me through their website by instructing me to click on links they didn’t exist (had they loaded the website up themselves while rudely talking to me, they would have seen that the page they were referring to had been renamed). Instead of simply taking the information over the phone, they had me download a form and fax this over to them. Even after going through this excessively tiresome process, I found there was no reply to my request for a refund, even after several emails. It was only after I filed a formal complaint via PayPal.com that I was eventually given an RMA number. After following the similaly convoluted insructions for including the appropriate documents and forms in the return package, I waited for my refund.

Fortunately, I had sent the package via the USPS certified mail with tracking. I could confirm that the company had received the package, but I had no response. Several emails later, including via the PayPal site were not helpful. A formal request to escalate to PayPal‘s management proved equally useless – PayPal is notorious for offering buyers little, if any, protection. Eventually, was able to reach someone via telephone who promised that my refund would be sent by the day today. Whether this is true or not is unclear, but one thing that is certain is that I’m going to steer clear of myworldphone.com in the future, and I recommend you do the same.