IPOD FIRMWARE: BEYOND VOLUME

Apple just released a firmware update for the iPod. The main feature was a maximum volume limit, which drew all the attention due to recent hearing-damage lawsuits.

Im fine with a governor option to keep kids from blowing out their eardrums. But I was peeved that there was no detailed information, from Apple or any other source, about the declared bug fixes included in this update (1.1.1 for me, owner of the latest-model 5th Generation iPod with video). When it comes to software, I generally go with the aint-broke-dont-fix philosophy, eschewing potential enhancement (and unforeseen glitches) for established reliability.

On the other hand, despite my overall satisfaction with the iPod, there were a couple of things off about it. The main thing: The menu interface would go from smooth-scrolling on lists and between screens, to a herky-jerky slowdown while navigating during song playback. This even affected the gameplay on the minigames included on the unit.

So if nothing else, Id have liked the update to fix this obvious bug. Other tweaks would have been nice, like the ability to adjust the screen contrast/brightness; but the menu interface was the main thing.

After sifting through news articles, blogs and forums for a day, and finding no info on the other aspect of 1.1.1, I finally decided to bite the bullet and just run the update myself.

The results: It didnt foul up the iPod. It added the volume governor (which Ill probably never use). It didnt include an option for adjusting the screen contrast/brightness, but I wasnt expecting that anyway. As for the menu animation: Honestly, I cant quite tell. It seems to be flowing more smoothly than before, but its hard to say. And I think its still a bit slower during playback than when theres no song playing in the background.

Ultimately, no harm done. But if you dont need that volume limit, and arent experiencing any other peculiarities, then Im not sure this update is absolutely necessary.

WONDER TWIN POWERS, DE-ACTIVATED

A couple of days ago, I was clowning around with my little cousin, James. He started throwing his little fist into the air in front of me, and I started doing the same toward him. As our clenched fists made contact, I said to him, Wonder Twin powers, activate!

He looked at me quizzically, as though I were speaking Chinese.

And it occurred to me: This soon-to-be five-year-old had no earthly clue who Zan and Jayna were. Nor has he ever marveled at the spectacular fashion by which the Twins would prime their transformative powers, just to wind up with lame water-animal combinations that invariably needed Gleek the Wonder Monkeys participation to be at all effective.

I guess this GenX-beloved catchphrase is fading into pop-cultural oblivion. Im not sure if I envy or pity young James.

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