TV-PGDecember 31, 2003: The undead are miffed about their iBook logic boards, so they're preparing a protest. Meanwhile, we close out the year with crazy-butt rumors of an Apple set-top box (yes, again)...
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"They're... All Messed Up" (12/31/03)

Ah geez, here we are at the end of another year already-- and we just got used to writing 2002 on our checks. (Yes, we know it's 2003. What's your point?) Well, despite having to subject ourselves to hypnosis and intense aversion therapy to stop seeing "2004" as a really alien sequence of digits, we suppose there are some up sides to the whole year-change thing. New calendars, for one; this year we actually got on the ball and have three, count 'em, three new wall calendars ready to roll as soon as that clock strikes twelve. Yessiree Bob, 2004 is primed and ready to be our year of suspended babies, talking house pets, and wiener dogs made out of bananas. Bring it on.

But it's not all just about wall hangings; New Year's Eve also means that Macworld Expo is just around the corner, and while we're going to be monitoring the festivities from about 3,000 miles away, that doesn't mean we can't get excited about the big event. There's a Stevenote; it's going to be webcast (though the original teaser page seems to be down right now); what's not to like? Especially with all the miniPod buzz, which has become so prevalent that we half-expected to see a mention on the side of our box of corn flakes at breakfast this morning. (No such luck, though... just a blurb about the importance of starting out the day with a balanced breakfast and a quick paragraph about imminent wireless tablet Macs.)

While it'd certainly be nice to attend the show live and in person, we have to admit, in at least one way we're actually sort of glad we'll be all the way on the other coast: faithful viewer Luc points out an article in The Register which reports that "dead iBook owners take protest to Macworld show." As you may have noticed, we've yet to weigh in publicly on this whole iBook faulty logic board fracas, mostly because we were having trouble squeezing enough drama from it. Sure, an irritatingly high number of dual-USB iBooks have been dropping like flies lately, but Apple quality control issues are, sadly, nothing new these days... and even its practice of deleting "troublesome" posts from its support forums has been standard practice for ages. But now that "dead iBook owners" are planning a protest at the Expo, well, heck, that's enough drama to feed a family of four and still leave leftovers for breakfast.

So yeah, we are a little glad we'll be on the other side of the continent when legions of iBook-owning zombies haul their reanimated but bedraggled corpses to the Moscone Center to pick a bone with Steve. The Living Dead are notorious for their fierce advocacy of consumer rights, and in addition to all the shambling and moaning, they're not above tossing one of their own limbs or even eating a brain or two in protest. What's worse, riot gas and rubber bullets have no effect on them whatsoever, so if things get rowdy the cops have to mow them down with squad cars and then the taxpayers get stuck with the cleaning bill when the force gets all that dead flesh scraped off its cruisers. Nobody wins in a situation like that.

We hear tell, though, that in addition to dead iBook owners planning their little zombie protest, living owners of dead iBooks may also be arranging a bit of organized bellyaching for the contingent of affected customers who are still breathing, and that's apt to be far less messy. Mac users with an active pulse are generally a bit more rational than their reanimated brethren, and only rarely eat the brains of their enemies. But hey, push 'em too far, and who knows what might happen? Note to Steve: consider wearing a helmet.

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And It Also Prints Money! (12/31/03)

As we bid a fond adieu to 2003, what better way to finish out the year than with a big ol' bucket of everyone's favorite dish, Kentucky Fried Unconfirmed Rumor? (Now available in Original and Extra-Crispy Skin! Try new All-White Meat Wild Speculation Strips today!) We can't really beat on that miniPod subject much more, seeing as it's already been hammered into a thin paste, so instead let's turn to a fresh page and ponder one of the Great Questions of this or any other age: will 2004 be the year that Steve Jobs discovers TV?

"But AtAT," we hear you say, "TV was discovered long ago-- in 1498 by Vasco da Gama, just minutes after Apple board member Al Gore invented the Internet." Well, duh-- everyone knows that. What we mean is, will this be the year in which Steve finally acknowledges that TV isn't necessarily evil incarnate? The man has certainly made plenty of anti-television comments in the past, referring to it as what people use to "turn their brains off" or whatever. (What's more, he says that like it's a bad thing. Weird, huh?) As of yet Macs have only involved creative video in the Digital Hub scheme, with iMovie and iDVD; any sort of tie-in with actual brain-turning-off broadcast television is still nowhere to be seen, despite its obvious place in any reasonably complete Digital Hub strategy.

Well, that might all change soon. Mac OS Rumors reports that Apple might be cobbling together a "low-cost FireWire 800 TV-input device" that will apparently allow the conversion of TV, HDTV, and analog video sources into FireWire-friendly DV streams. If it comes to pass, said device would conceivably let you use iMovie to recut your recorded episodes of "Petticoat Junction" to remove all distasteful references to "Hooterville" and then burn them to DVD for personal archival purposes. TiVo it ain't, let alone any sort of TV-themed killer app that would propel the Mac to stunning new heights of market share-- heck, you can already buy any number of analog-to-DV converters out there-- but it would at least signal that Apple is finally willing to add a TV spoke or two to its Digital Hub.

Of course, if you want some serious rumorological craziness in the TV realm, faithful viewer Donovan Doak points out a article chock full of "exclusive insider information" on the "iBox," a hard drive-based standalone personal video recorder allegedly slated to ship from Apple sometime in early 2004. Get this: we're talking about a $400-$600 VCR-on-steroids that looks like the illegitimate offspring of a Power Mac G5 and an iPod and supposedly packs AirPort Extreme, a 10/100 Ethernet port, FireWire and USB ports, a full-fledged G3 processor, and a SuperDrive. You plug your TV into the video ports, you throw it on your wired or wireless network, and bam, you can schedule recordings from any Mac in the house (or log in remotely from any system on the Internet). It runs iTunes and iPhoto and can stream songs and pictures from your Macs or store it on its local 120 GB hard disk for all to share. It has a stripped-down version of iDVD so you can burn your recordings to disc right on the unit itself. If you want, you can also watch iBox-recorded shows on any of your networked Macs. Oh, and you can control it from your Bluetooth phone.

So do we believe a word of this? Well, no, but then again, it's nowhere near midnight here yet, so we're stone-cold sober. Maybe if we were a little tipsy we'd be more willing to believe that Apple would ship a DVD recorder with a 500 MHz G3 to encode MPEG video-- consumers love waiting for hours! Okay, okay, fine, that's not really fair, since the iBox would most likely have dedicated MPEG-encoding hardware onboard, but still, we just can't see Apple shipping a $600 set-top box that actually acknowledges that Mac users might conceivably like to watch TV. It's just so... un-Steve. The reason we brought it up at all is because nothing beats a fringe rumor for end-of-year drama-- and because we really, really want one of these things. Pretty please?

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