REVIEW: Sony’s NetMD Minidisc Player

What: Sony’s latest portable Minidisc player
Where: Stores everywhere
How Much: $129.99 MSRP, I paid $62.83 at

For years, Americans as a whole have been avoiding the minidisc. Minidiscs look something like one of those small 3″ CDs encased in a floppy disc shell. Revered by audiophiles as the only real way for the average person to listen to music digitally, the American hoi polloi have avoided them like the plague, and with good reason. For starters, there’s the whole format issue. Minidiscs came out not too long after CDs began to be the accepted music medium; this was also the same time that DAT and DCC came out, so it’s easy to see how the average person would stick with the more accepted CD. Also, since minidisc is a proprietary format, only Sony makes the players. This means that there is little (OK, no) competition to force prices down like there was for VHS or CD players. Lastly, minidiscs have also traditionally required realtime transfers. This means that copying 70 minutes of music to a minidisc required, well, 70 minutes. So even after Sony started lowering prices on MD equipment – which happened well after CD-R drives started invading American homes – people were loath to waste the time making MDs when even the slowest CD-R drive can do the same in about half the time.

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REVIEW: Futuredial’s SnapSync software

What: Software that syncs your mobile phone with Microsoft Outlook.
Where: Futuredial’s site (for CD shipment) or the Sanyo Store (for download)
How Much: $29.99 and also requires a USB cable for your phone (sold separately)

One of the biggest beefs I’ve had with SprintPCS over the years is their complete and total refusal to sell a phone that can sync phone books with Microsoft Outlook. It seems so silly to have the exact same list of Contacts on my home and work PCs and my iPaq, but still have to manually enter numbers into my cell phone’s list of contacts.

My friends with Nokia phones have been able to do this for years but Sprint seems content to live in the Dark Ages with its head in the sand, refusing to believe that someone might actually think that it’s convenient to have just ONE LIST of names and addresses that could be synched to multiple devices with a couple of clicks. After all, I can sync my work and home PCs by clicking the “synchronize” button in FusionOne. I can also sync my iPaq simply by putting it in its charging cradle. Why would I want all that convenience? Isn’t it more fun to enter 150 phone numbers on a cell phone by hand? And if someone gets a new work phone number, isn’t it more fun to spend more time changing it on my cell than it takes to sync it to my home (or work) PC and iPaq?

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REVIEW: Time Warner Cable’s DVR

What: Time Warner Cable’s newest digital set-top box.
Where: Available in Charlotte and elsewhere, contact your local cable provider for details.
How Much: As low as $6.95/month

It you don’t know what a “DVR” is, you’re behind the times. It stands for “Digital Video Recorder” and popular DVRs like TiVo and ReplayTV record your favorite TV shows on a computer hard drive instead of a tape. Given the massive capacities of today’s hard drives, DVRs can record dozens of shows on the hard drive, instead of a measly 8 hours on a T-160 VHS tape. And programming them is a breeze compared to a VCR. Easy to read on-screen menus – much like the channel guide you already have with your current analog or digital cable – have replaced the cryptic commands associated with setting the timer on your VCR.

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The 2006 “Best Of IT” Awards!

Lots of my non-technical friends often ask me what the best program for this or best program for that is. In fact, it happens so often that I decided to put a list of them here, so that they could look it up for themselves. However, I figured that a generic list might be a little boring, so I decided to make the list the “First Annual JIMCOFER.COM Best Of IT” Awards – complete with commentary! So put on your black tie and let’s roll out the red carpet… it’s award time!

Best Office Suite
Winner: Microsoft Office

Office suites are packages of software mostly used in business. They almost always include a word processor and a spreadsheet application, and nowadays most suites come with presentation software, personal information management (PIM) software, and maybe even HTML editing and database software.

Microsoft Office is the 800-pound gorilla in the office suite category, and for good reason: Microsoft has spent millions in R&D making Office as easy to use as possible. And since 90%+ of all businesses use Microsoft Office, you can be sure that any document that you send to a business will be able to be read by the recipient. is a package of programs that mirror the capabilities of Microsoft Office, yet has one important difference: it’s free. Although is still rough around the edges in many aspects, it’s definitely coming along nicely. Although claims to seamlessly import Microsoft Office documents, beware that the conversion doesn’t always work that well in complex documents.

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REVIEW: Madonna Obsessive Support Group

What: A play. A comedy (sort of)
Where: Dad’s Garage, 280 Elizabeth Street
When: 12 April – 11 May 2002

Dita and I were heading north on Buford Highway when she stumbled across the ad in the Creative Loafing:

“Look, here’s something for you – the Madonna Obsessive Support Group…”
“Gee, thanks. I know I’m a bit obsessed and all, but…”
“No, it’s a play… at Dad’s Garage.”

I completely forgot about it by the time I got home, but Dita emailed me a reminder shortly thereafter. I hadn’t been to Dad’s Garage since I was in college. Back then it was called “Actors’ Express”. How would Dad’s fare given the somewhat recent gentrification of Little Five Points? I went to the website and checked it out. And then I thought “what the hell – why not”? Was there ever a play more tailor-made for me?

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REVIEW: Keane live!

What: A review of the British band Keane in concert
Where: The Roxy Theatre, Atlanta, GA January 28th 2005
How Much: $20, plus TicketBastard’s “convenience charges”

Don’t you just love falling in love? I think everyone has the same kind of moment… you’re in the car listening to the radio… at a friend’s house listening to CDs… or hangin’ out at a club… and then it happens! Some song comes on and makes all the hairs on your arms stick up. It grabs your attention and holds it completely, just like a beautiful woman. And the next thing you know, you’re at a record store buying every CD from the artist you can find. You’re surfing the Internet looking for fan sites. You’re bidding outrageous sums of money for the artists’ memorabilia on eBay. You even spend the few extra bucks to order their CD directly from the UK, just so you can have it before any of your friends. The next thing you know, you’re even considering naming your first child after them!

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REVIEW: Emiliana Torrini’s Fisherman’s Woman

What: The new album from the Icelandic chanteuse
Where: Currently available in the UK only
How Much: £8.50 at Amazon UK

Torrini CoverYou know what I hate? Have you ever bought a great CD from an artist, only to never hear from them again? I suppose in a way it’s better than really bad follow-up albums. After all, was there any need for A Flock of Seagulls’ 1995 stinker The Light At The End Of The World or The Fixx’s unheard-by-anyone 1991 album Ink? At least when an artist disappears you don’t have some godawful claptrap ruining your memory of the band. But still, a collapse into nothingness is sad. There are a slew of abandoned websites out there that promise “a new album coming out soon!” yet haven’t been updated since 1999. I thought that one artist in particular was going to fall into this trap, but thankfully she hasn’t.

I don’t remember the exact moment I first heard Emiliana Torrini. I do know that it was while working for Pathfire, where one of my co-workers – good ol’ Joe Klingler – had a massive music-sharing file server set up. It’s kind of funny – he was told to spend the rest of his department’s budget for the year, so he went out and bought a massive server with a RAID-10 disk configuration and gigabit Ethernet in it and… Well, it’s not that important, really. It suffices to say that he commandeered a massive amount of company hardware that held well over 200GB for music on it at the time. So anyway, one day he turned me on to this mellow Icelandic chick whose voice sounded a lot like Bjork but who’s smooth, mostly downtempo electronic music was much more soothing and consistent than her fellow countrywoman. I mean, I’ve got nothing against Bjork, but the girl can sometimes just be all over the damn place. And while I can appreciate her wanting to develop a new sound for each album… well, sometimes it’s just a bit too much. Emiliana Torrini has a much more… controlled sound. When you listen to her, you can rest assured that she’s not going to go off on some loud, jazzy “It’s Oh So Quiet” rant just when you’re falling asleep. No, Emiliana is far more smooth and atmospheric, some would say in the Massive Attack vein. I think that that comparison is a bit off, but there *is* certainly some truth to it. While Emiliana is mostly softer electronica, that doesn’t mean that all of her songs have less of a beat than most Zamphir tunes. No, no… far from it. The girl can rock when she wants to!

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REVIEW: Grand Buffet Restaurant

What: A new Chinese buffet restaurant
Where: 609 N. Main Street, Belmont, NC
How Much: $8.99 per person for dinner (Friday & Saturday); $7.99 the rest of the week.  Lunch is less.

A few weeks ago a new Chinese buffet opened in a former steak house in lil’ ol’ Belmont. The missus and I have been long-time customers of New China right across the street, yet every time we passed Grand Buffet the parking has has been freakin’ packed! I’m sure Lisa got sick of me saying “ya know, we should really check that place out sometime…” every single time we passed the place.

And so it was this past Friday. Lisa was kind of tired after work and didn’t want to cook anything or drive very far to eat out. I couldn’t think of anything in the freezer that I wanted to make for dinner anyway. Charlotte is a long drive from Belmont if you’re tired and just to get something to eat, so I jumped on it with abandon: “CHINESE BUFFET! CHINESE BUFFET CHINESE BUFFET! CHINESE BUFFET! CHINESE BUFFET! CHINESE BUFFET!” Perhaps I was a bit childlike in my tactics. Maybe I should have said something more erudite and well-reasoned instead of simply chanting over and over again. As it was, I needed only to grab a pan and a wooden spoon and start banging on the pan whilst marching in circles chanting “CHINESE BUFFET! CHINESE BUFFET!” to make my regression complete… but hell, it worked and so we went.

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REVIEW: New Order’s Waiting For The Siren’s Call

What: A review of New Order’s newest album
Where: Stores everywhere, April or May 2005
How Much: Around $15

I wish more of the members of my musical generation would die early. Seriously! Think about those tired, old 60s “heroes”… Would Jim Morrison still be revered as an “American Poet” if he was playing in Branson, Missouri today? Would Jimi Hendrix still be granted God-like status if he were pimpin’ his new albums via late night infomercial? Would people still get all misty-eyed about Janis Joplin if she was telling us to “get more” from T-Mobile?

Instead of our rock gods dying early, it seems that far too many of them are pumping out album after album of dreck that ends up in the $1.99 bin faster than William Hung’s newest crapbomb. Lord knows I loved The Cure back in the day, but to see Robert Smith still trying to fly his freak flag at age 45 is saddening. Watching Sting trying to remain “cool” while putting out disc after disc of elevator music is saddening. Even though Motley Crue and Guns and Roses are not my type of music, watching Vince Neil and Axl Rose still trying to be relevant is saddening. Even though Duran Duran’s new album is pretty damn good, it easily could have been a train wreck of the first order. It’s all depressing and it’s senseless, and that’s where this New Order disc comes in.

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REVIEW: Jaipur Indian Restaurant

What: Charlotte’s BEST Indian Restaurant
Where: 5909 South Boulevard, Charlotte, NC
Phone: 704-643-1421
Online?: Yes, here.
Lunch: 11 – 2:30 (M-F), 12-3pm (S-S)
Dinner: 5:30pm to 9:30pm (10pm F-S)
How Much: $10.95 per person for the buffet

One of my first priorities when I first moved to Charlotte was finding a good Indian restaurant. When it comes to epicurean delights, few things can beat a kick-ass curry. So I went to several websites like Creative Loafing, Citysearch and Digital City to see the score on local places. Several places were recommended, but for some reason, Jaipur stuck in my mind. And so the missus and I went there the first time to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day (of all things). A year later, we went there to celebrate my birthday. And just a couple of days ago… Valentine’s Day. Why we pick an Indian place to celebrate B-list holidays is beyond me, but you’ll sure know where to find us on Arbor Day or Columbus Day!

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