iPhoneFor all of you out there with iPhone envy but little tiny bank accounts (like ours), I read some good news over on TUAW the other day. Apple is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished iPhones at The Apple Store for $399 for the 4 GB model and $499 for the 8 GB model. That is $100 off the list price for each model! If you just couldn’t bring yourself to spend $499 for a device with only 4 GB of storage, perhaps $399 sounds a whole lot better. Unfortunately for me, I’m still out of the market for an iPhone mostly because I have a BlackBerry through work, and I suppose the price tag is still a bit out of reach right now as well, but I bet there are a lot more people out there considering an iPhone purchase with the lower prices for the refurbished models.

To add a little perspective as far as Apple’s iPhone pricing is concerned, I ran out in October of 2001 and bought an iPod for $399 because I was (and still am) an Apple freak. That $399 bought me a devise that could play music, and that was it. Sure there were some other little features like a game or two, but the iPod was predominately a music player. Now, the iPhone is a music player, a video player, a wireless Internet device, and a cell phone. That’s a lot of functionality squeezed into a stunning little piece of machinery. So I guess $399 doesn’t sound all that bad after all.

Now, what did I do with that Powerball ticket?

Google MapsI read on TechCrunch this morning that Google Maps now provides the ability to embed the results of a Map Search, Business Search, or Directions Search in a web page without having to mess with the Google Maps API. This is a really great tool for anyone who wants or needs to show a map on a web page but does not have the technical know how to work with an API. This is very similar to the way YouTube and other video sites make it possible to show videos directly on your web page. This seems especially useful for businesses of all shapes and sizes as well as individuals who are planning parties and events.

Google really could not have made it easier to get the code to embed a map into your web page.

First, type in the location, business, or directions you need to find, and then click the Search button.

Google Maps

Second, click the “Link to this page” link, select the text box labeled “Paste HTML to embed in website,” and copy the text.

Google Maps

That’s all there is to it. You now have the code to add a map to your web page. Google has also provided the ability to change the size of the map with presets for Small, Medium, and Large as well as an option to enter a custom width and height. The custom option provides the greatest control over the map so you can really make it blend in well with your site.

With this new functionality, Google has provided another great free service for all of us to use.

SkypeOK, so maybe Microsoft Windows didn’t really break Skype, but this is a great story. As most of you have probably already heard, Skype had a huge outage late last week, and the system was down for about thirty hours. Skype is a P2P network which means it uses resources from all over the world. It turns out that new patches were released through Windows Update last Tuesday that required a reboot to finish the installation. When all of these millions of computers rebooted at about the same time, and the users tried to log back in to Skype, the loss of P2P resources and the massive number of log ins overwhelmed the system. Skype claims to have fixed the bug so hopefully something like this will not happen again.

I still think Skype is an incredibly useful tool, and it provides a service that allows individuals and businesses to communicate around the world at a very reasonable price. I just couldn’t resist the fact the Microsoft’s Windows Update brought one of the Internet’s most widely used communications systems to its knees.

(via GigaOM)

My family and I moved away from the Chicago area back in the Spring of 2005. Since then, it has been a struggle to keep up with my two favorite teams, the Cubs and the Bears. I get to see a few Cubs games on WGN Superstation, and there are always the Cubs and Bears games on national TV, but it would be great if I could sit down and enjoy any game that I want to see.

Now, I know some of you are thinking, well Tim, just order MLB Extra Innings or NFL Sunday Ticket, and you’ll be all set. That’s all well and good, but why would I order a package with so many games when I only care about the Cubs and the Bears? I don’t sit around and watch sports games just because they’re on. I want to watch my teams, and that’s it. Some of you are also probably thinking that I should just order MLB.TV and watch the games on my computer. While I enjoy computers, and I work with them all day, I don’t really want to sit at my desk to try to enjoy a game. I want to sit my butt down on the couch and watch the games on my TV.

It seems to me that I can’t be alone in my desire to watch my favorite team out of market. Here is what I would like to see happen. The leagues should provide an option on both digital cable and satellite so that a fan can subscribe to all of the games for their favorite teams. Obviously, the packages should be a lot more economical than the packages available today because they will include significantly fewer games. With the combination of a lower price and the ability to watch only the games from your favorite team, I believe many more people will subscribe to these packages making everyone a winner. The leagues and providers make more money from more subscriptions, and the fans will be happy because they get to see their favorite teams.

Come on MLB and NFL, make this happen!

A lot has been said lately about the state of gaming on Mac OS X. Most recently, a lot of noise has been made about the amount of time it took EA to ship some games for the Mac platform even though they had pledged to release the games at the same time as the Windows versions. They have finally shipped four of the six games with the other two coming later in the year.

I personally have very little interest in gaming on my Mac or any other PC because I am too busy with work and family. The time I do spend on the computer is usually spent creating and consuming content for the Internet, and as a Mac user, I am not alone as you may have read earlier this year. Mac users are just more likely to be engaged in other activities with their computers that it is no surprise that EA and other game makers tend to keep the platform on the back burner. There are so many other interesting things that you can do with a Mac that it seems a waste to spend time playing games on one.

With that said, I do enjoy playing games from time to time, but it’s not on my Mac or other PCs. I prefer gaming machines because the experience is so much better. Machines like the Playstation and Xbox are specifically designed for gaming, and they have the horsepower to make the games come to life. Why play games on a computer that was designed to do something else when you can use a gaming machine and have the best user experience? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Well, my Cubbies have moved into first place in the NL Central again with a half game lead over the Brewers. The Cardinals have also managed to get back into the race and are only four games back with a little over a month to go in the season. The Cubs are playing really well going into the last month of the season, and they have a great chance to win the division. They just need to keep focusing on one game at a time, and everything will work out. Besides the last two games of the current Cardinal series, the Cubs will have another shot at both the Cards and Brewers in September. If they can play well in those important series and take care of business in a majority of their other games, they should be pretty tough to overtake. It should be fun (and stressful) to watch to see what happens next.

Go Cubs!

If you’re a long time reader of Probstisms, you have probably noticed the new look of the site. I had been using the default theme in WordPress which was a very nice, clean design, but I wanted something that would stand out a little more. I also wanted to move to a three column theme so I could have more content towards the top of the page. I’ve admired the themes created by the designers over at Wpdesigner.com, and I finally decided to make the move to Pride created by Small Potato. I think it’s a great theme, and I hope you like it too.

You’ve also probably noticed that there are two new sections in the sidebar of my blog. I have added the latest content from DocBuilder.com by Scott Driza and Lazy Revolution by Terry Brown. Scott and Terry are two of my closest friends, and I really enjoy reading their posts. I think you’ll find them entertaining and informative too.

Thanks again to Small Potato over at Wpdesigner.com for making such an awesome theme!

Saint Louis Gateway ArchI keep going back to my Flickr account to look at this picture of the Saint Louis Gateway Arch that I took while we were listening to Ani DiFranco at Live on the Levee. We pretty much had the perfect spot for this picture and the concert.

Live on the Levee is a fantastic free event that happens every Friday and Saturday night throughout the summer. We had planned to go to several concerts this summer, but we only made it to see Ani. With the Arch in the background, you couldn’t ask for a better setting. Other artists that appeared this summer were Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Los Lonely Boys, and G. Love & Special Sauce.

I was actually surprised by how manageable the crowd was that night. Back in Chicago, the free concerts in Grant Park were always very crowded, but Live on the Levee was much more enjoyable because of the smaller crowd. I suppose that comes with living in a smaller city, but I think it’s something I can get used to.

For all of you St. Louisans that didn’t make the trip downtown this summer, you really missed out. Get out next summer and enjoy the events that make this city unique and great.

So, I’m reading through my email last night, and I come across this week’s edition of Circuits from the New York Times. David Pogue wrote what was basically a huge rant about the new version of iMovie from Apple. iMovie has been completely re-written and re-positioned as an application to quickly create and share movies. This is quite a change from the intent of the previous versions of iMovie, but it also goes along with today’s YouTube-crazed world. Pogue wants his iMovie back so he can make professional movies at a bargain price. Someone in his position should really be using at least Final Cut Express anyway, and I’m sure the New York Times can afford to buy a copy for him.

Fake Steve Jobs has a theory about why Pogue is so upset. The iPhone was so perfect that Pogue had no chance to give any negative feedback. Of course, it was in his contract to only say wonderful, positive things about Apple’s latest creation.

I will reserve judgment on the new version of iMovie until I’ve had a chance to create a few movies, but it can’t be nearly as terrible as Pogue makes it sound.

Google PackI read on TechCrunch this morning that Sun’s StarOffice is now included in Google’s Google Pack software package. While I agree with Duncan Riley that Google will help add some credibility by association, I really don’t think it matters all that much in the grand scheme of things. StarOffice, OpenOffice, and other products like it seem incredibly clunky to me, and I have never had a positive experience with a product that uses Java (Documentum, Business Objects, etc.). Now, I have to admit that I have developed some insanely cool document automation products using Microsoft Word, but I am a Mac user at heart so I have no love for Microsoft. With that said, there are other quality alternatives to Microsoft Office like Apple’s iWork and Google’s own Google Docs and Spreadsheets that I would use before even bothering to download StarOffice or OpenOffice. You can bet that as soon as Google figures out how to incorporate the presentation product they bought and make it possible to use Google Docs and Spreadsheets offline, StarOffice will come off of the list of products available in the Google Pack. Sun will have to enjoy the extra attention while they can.