Looking Out from the Inside

Sunday, November 27

Pop Quiz: When is a Peacock an Ass?

Wow NBC, you really don't waste any time. As soon as the last turkey sandwich is gone and the pie is finished you get right to the litigation...

TiVo appears to be acting unilaterally, disregarding established rights of content owners to participate in decisions regarding the distribution and exploitation of their content. This unilateral action creates the risk of legal conflict instead of contributing to the constructive exploitation of digital technology that can rapidly provide new and exciting experiences for the consumer.

See, now I'm pretty sure the most exciting experience for the consumer will come about when the content companies step aside and let the digital technology do it's thing.

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Heading image Courtesy of Tivo

Saturday, November 26

This Year I'm Thankful For...

New Egg.

Seriously. The black friday sales across the web-o-tron were pretty good to be sure, but New Egg was straight up off the hook. I picked up a pair of 1 Gig SD cards for $40 a piece and seeing as I don't have a digital camera yet I also got a SD to USB converter for $5 so I can use them as regular flash drives. Boo-Ya.

Well I'm back in IC. I had a great holiday and hope you did too. Not a whole lot happening in Apple news this week, what with the holiday and all. The XBox 360 was released this week. Not huge news for the non-gaming Mac user, but it does offer some limited iPod compatibility so we'll see how that works out.

Tivo announced that they're planning on expanding their "Tivo To Go" offerings to the PSP and (more importantly to you and I) the iPod. Now this sounds pretty awesome if it weren't for the fact that the computer interface that all this content has to pass through in order to transfer to your shiny iPod is Windows only. No biggie, says Tivo, they should have a OS X version out "sometime next year."

Well it's about freaking time! According to a release from NPD Group Apple's iTMS has broken the list of Top 10 Music Retailers! We're up to #7 at this point but we've already taken down the likes of Sam Goody and Tower Records. Now it's just a matter of making the labels recognize that messing with the pricing structure at this point will only droves sales down. We're doing awesome right now, just leave us alone and let's see where we can take this thing.

That's about all the big news for the last week or so. Apple locked up it's flash needs for the next five years, some company wants to hack into FairPlay so that they can liscense it to other music stores, and Apple beat out everyone in Consumer Reports' yearly survey but you can check out the small fry on your own.

Heading image Courtesy of New Egg

Saturday, November 19

iPod Accessory (and nothing but) Store Hits London

When I first heard about the iPod and accessory store opening up in London I imagined a store the size of a kiosk in an airport. Sure, it's a store, but it's not like a real store. Just a little niche shop catering to a very small clientele. Then I read this article on Pocket Lint and they casually mention that the store is a) three stories tall and b) is the first of a dozen they plan to roll out across the country.

Now I haven't spent a lot of time overseas but with every story like this I read about the magical delights that await the naive American consumer on those distant, golden shores I can't help but look out towards the horizon with a wistful longing. Yea, the lands that created such commercial wonders must themselves miraculous to behold. Surely if a man such as I were ever to cast his gaze upon such treasures he would blind from the spectacle.

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Heading image Courtesy of Apple

Just So You Know

Tomorrow (or rather later today) I'm catching a plane to visit some family in upstate New York, a land apparently barren of high speed internet connections. My Gram's rocking the 20" iMac G5 complete with Airport Extreme but all she's got to connect that kit to the outside world is the worst phone line I've ever had the misfortune to use for data. Needless to say posts are expected to be somewhat light for the next week but I'll do what I can in the meantime.

Until then, have a great Thanksgiving peeps.

Heading image Courtesy of Francois Schnell

iPod Battery Settlement Derailed?

It seems an appeal has been filed in the iPod battery lawsuit. If you aren't familiar with the situation, a class-action suit was filed on behalf of owners of the 1st through 3rd generation iPods against Apple claiming that they misrepresented the nature of their batteries (turns out rechargeable batteries run out of juice eventually, whoda thunk). Well the settlement came down months ago and owners who registered were entitled to $25 cash money, a $50 credit towards the Apple Store, or, if yours was a 3rd gen, a free battery replacement.

Apple's already released a statement saying that they did not file the appeal themselves. While it's not clear who else might have done so what is clear is that this latest action is doing nothing but postponing the payout for the members of the class-action by up to a year. Bummer too, I was really hoping to use that Apple Store credit towards a notebook soon too...

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Heading image Courtesy of Apple

Friday, November 18

Shuffle to Get the Mini Treatment?

I have little tolerence for random analyist predictions but this one makes more than a little sense to me so here you go. It seems American Technology Research analyist Shaw Wu thinks that Shuffle updates are in the works for MacWorld 2006. No major memory upgrade expected, just a smaller design and colors too.

And for good reason too, the colors of the late, great iPod Mini were one of the features that made it the best selling of the entire lineup. And as far as the current design is concerned, well compared to it's svelt cousin the Nano the Shuffle's looking more than a little portly along the Z axis.

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Heading image Courtesy of Apple

Apple Hearts/Hates EMI (Circle One)

You know what? Nevermind the whole protecting your consumer rights and all that crap. I'm just gonna grab some popcorn because this is getting really funny. So EMI and Sony are seriously pushing the copy-protected CDs (my parent's always warned me about pushers). Sony through their now infamous "rootkit" solution, EMI though a method developed my Macrovision that has worked just fine in Windows computers since it's introduction but had locked out Mac users specifically, iTunes users generally, and (queue scary music here) iPod users entirely.

Well it seems EMI in an effort to stave off the bad press associated with copy protection has made an announcement yesterday that:

Apple is nearly finished with the technical work necessary to enable consumers to transfer music from content-protected discs to their iPods. This is an important step for EMI and Apple, but even more so for music consumers who will soon be able to legitimately port music from protected discs they own to the iPod.

All well and good if Apple hadn't come out just afterwards saying that:

The information EMI provided regarding iTunes and iPod compatibility with Macrovision's technology is not true and we have no idea why EMI made this statement.

Next comes the part where EMI calls Apple a filesharing slut. Then Apple calls the EMI and hall her stupid friends music nazis. Then they get into a tussle and have to be pulled apart by Mr. Belding and totally get detention together. Now pass me the Jujubes, this is gonna be good.

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Heading image Courtesy of Apple

Thursday, November 17

Analyst: Apple isn't so great, it just sucks less.

iPodNN reports on a rather disturbing report from technology analyst Roger Kay. It seems Mr. Kay is attributing apple's recent rise in market share not to any purported halo effect coming off the iPod but rather just the natural cycle of the company. The report has some very nice graphs but never gets around to saying where his data is coming from. He's dealing entirely with percentages of market share but that's notoriously hard to measure.
Case in point. I'm writing this post on a G3 iMac that was introduced in 2001. We're verging on 2006 and it still as snappy as it was when I first got it. It's a little sluggish when it comes to multimedia but for being a three and a half year old pc it's perfectly respectable. I got this PC a year after I received a Dell as a graduation present. Why did I abandon my Dell after only 12 months? Because it crashed. Crashed hardcore. Crashed enough for me to go out and buy a new computer because damn, that thing just totally crashed. Now say I'd gotten another Dell in it's place and gone through the whole routine in another year or two. From a market share perspective in the last 5 years Apple has only sold one computer to one user while Dell is rocking the market with 2 or 3 users in the same time. See what I mean? Percentages are tricksy things and without hard numbers I'm not exactly on board with this dude's analysis.
Of course having said that there is the usual disclaimer that the Halo Effect, if it exists, has only really been in effect since the iPod became crazy popular in 2003/04 so no matter what it's too soon to say that A caused B. In the meantime why don't we all just cool our heels and realize that in a time leading up to a processor shift, a period normally overshadowed by the specter of the Osborne Effect, Apple is actually selling 48% more macs this past quarter than a year ago. This should have been Apple's dark hour and instead they're growing. Halo Effect or no, that just gives me the warm fuzzies all over.

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Newsflash! Fire still hot! Record labels want your money!

Well if you didn't see this coming chances are you're sportin' the white cane. Alain Levy, CEO of EMI music, is pushing Apple to change the pricing scheme on the iTunes Music Store from the current flat 99 cents to a "variable pricing structure." What's this mean? The notion is that the really popular artists and songs should cost more than the everyday meh stuff so instead of having a flat pricing across the board in this new model will have the super popular bits bumped up a bit while the less popular albums and back catalogs would actually be reduced.
Now it's no secret that the record labels are feeling like they're getting ripped off by this pricing scheme. Nevermind the fact that the labels are already getting $.70 out of every dollar purchased, they feel like the market can take more and damn if they aren't going to try to suck it out of us. Steve, on the other hand, already outted the labels last September saying...

The labels make more money from selling tracks on iTunes than when they sell a CD. There are no marketing costs for them... If they want to raise prices they are getting greedy

So where does this put you and I? Well, truth be told if they go through with this idea I'll probably come out ahead. I stopped listening to FM a long time ago because I'm not generally interested in the megahits. This would, however, create a bad prescident. I'm sure once the shoe's in the door they're going to do everything they can to boost the price of as many tracks as much as possible. And if that happens? Well lets just say that I've got Acquisition on my dock for a reason.

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Heading image Courtesy of Apple

Jan 2006 = Macintel iBooks?

According to Think Secret "highly reliable sources" are reporting that this January's Macworld (Jan 9th kids, mark your calendars) will bring with it the first Intel-bades Macintoshes. This contradicts what Apple Insider has been reporting for the last week: specifically that January will bring Intel processors to PowerBooks and iMacs first and leave the iBooks until April.

Now Think Secret hasn't the most reliable of late, but I think they may be on to something here. It always struck me as odd that the iMac would be first for an upgrade when it's already rocking the G5 goodness so the notion of single core iBooks coming out first followed by dual core PowerBooks doesn't seem too off the mark. I would, however, take the alalyist predictions towards the end of the article with a grain of salt. Apple has been consolidating their lineups of late, it's pretty unlikely that they're going to fragment the iBook market with more screen sizes and price points then they already have.

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Heading image Courtesy of Apple

Wednesday, November 16

Product Guide: iPod shuffle, iPod nano, iPod

The iPod is obviously a different beast than any of the other major hardware from Apple. It's incredibly fast moving compared to the computer market and as such a general outline is relatively impossible. I had considered breaking the Product Guides up into the individual models but since they are all, at their core, music players I think it'll best serve to have them all in the same place. Therefore before each family I'll include a short intro outlining that player's abilities and shortcomings compared to it's brethren.

iPod shuffle
Introduced on January 11th, the iPod shuffle is the epitome of zen-like simplicity. The controls consist of a mode switch on the back and a compass like array of control buttons: play/pause, volume up and down, track forward and backward. This design makes it rather a one-trick pony, but it does that trick better than anything else on the market. Since the shuffle has no screen trying to find one song is akin to picking names out of a hat. The answer to that is to embrace the random nature of shuffle. You load it with all your favorite music and don't worry about when a particular song is going to come up. You like it all, and it'll all come up eventually. This lassez faire philosophy of music collection combined with the diminutive size and durable form factor makes it idea for high impact activity.
The shuffle connects to the computer via a USB plug on the player itself, no cord required. The shuffle comes in white only.


Storage: 512 MB
Song Capacity: 120
Battery Life: Up to 12 hours
Cost: $99


Storage: 1 GB
Song Capacity: 240
Battery Life: Up to 12 hours
Cost: $129

iPod nano
Unveiled September 7th, the iPod nano replaced the then best selling player, the iPod mini. Shifting storage medium from a tiny, spinning hard disk to the more impact resistant flash memory meant a dramatic reduction in size and but at the cost of a reduction in raw storage. Not that this matters to most consumers, 2 GB is enough for most anyone's favorites list but if you're looking to carry your entire library with you at all times this player is unlikely to suit your needs.
The nano connects to the computer via USB, firewire syncing is no longer supported. The screen, while slightly smaller than the mini, is now full color and higher resolution for greater visibility. With this color screen, photo storage has now been enabled. Unlike the full iPod, however, photos are viewable on the nano's screen alone, outputting to a TV is no enabled. Syncing contacts and calendars to Outlook on Windows machines is now supported in addition to the Mac support that's always been there. The nano comes in both black and white.


Storage: 2 GB
Song Capacity: 500
Photo Storage: 25,000
Battery Life: Up to 14 hours (music playback)
Cost: $199


Storage: 4 GB
Song Capacity: 1,000
Photo Storage: 25,000
Battery Life: Up to 14 hours (music playback)
Cost: $249


iPod
Apple refreshed it's line of full size iPods on October 12th, about a month after the nano. Coming in the same footprint as the former iPod the new version featured a much larger screen with higher resolution while simultaneously reducing the thickness by almost half as much. The big news about this update, however, is the video capability. Videos display at 320x240 on the screen and can be output to a TV just as photos could on the previous version. The iPod connects to the computer via USB, firewire syncing is no longer supported. Syncing contacts and calendars to Outlook on Windows machines is now supported in addition to the Mac support that's always been there. The iPod comes in both black and white.


Storage: 30 GB
Song Capacity: 7,500
Photo Storage: 25,000
Video Storage: 75 hours
Battery Life: Up to 14 hours
Cost: $299


Storage: 60 GB
Song Capacity: 15,000
Photo Storage: 25,000
Photo Storage: 150 hours
Battery Life: Up to 20 hours
Cost: $399


Heading image Courtesy of Apple

Product Guide: iBook G4

Upgraded July 26th the iBook has long provided the best value in the notebook arena. With processor speed approaching that of the PowerBooks at a fraction of the price if you can live without the super speedy graphics and dual layer SuperDrive then this is undoubtedly the machine for you.
Be on the lookout, however. Rumors have this being one of the first models to receive the Intel upgrade come next year... Note features that have been upgraded between models are italicized.

12" iBook - $999

CPU: 1.33 GHz G4 processor
Memory: 512 MB DDR SDRAM
Display: 12.1" TFT w/ 1024 x 768 resolution
Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon 9550 w/ 32 MB DDR SDRAM
Hard Disk: 40 GB at 4200 rpm
Optical Drive: Combo Drive (DVD-ROM/CD-RW)
Networking: 10/100 Ethernet
I/O: 1-Firewire 400, 2-USB 2.0
Dimensions/Weight: 11.2" x 9.06" x 1.35" / 4.9 lbs
Battery: Up to 6 hours
Misc: Airport Extreme (802.11 G) & Bluetooth built in
Headphone out
VGA output (mirror only)

14" iBook - $1299

CPU: 1.42 GHz G4 processor
Memory: 512 MB DDR SDRAM
Display: 14.1" TFT w/ 1024 x 768 resolution
Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon 9550 w/ 32 MB DDR SDRAM
Hard Disk: 60 GB at 4200 rpm
Optical Drive: 8x Super Drive
Networking: 10/100 Ethernet
I/O: 1-Firewire 400, 2-USB 2.0
Dimensions/Weight: 12.7" x 10.2" x 1.35" / 5.9 lbs
Battery: Up to 6 hours
Misc: Airport Extreme (802.11 G) & Bluetooth built in
Headphone out
VGA output (mirror only)

Heading image Courtesy of Apple

Product Guide: PowerBook G4


Apple's pro line of notebooks were last updated October 19th. Here are the specs. Note features that have been upgraded between models are italicized.

12" PowerBook - $1499

CPU: 1.5 GHz G4 processor
Memory: 512 MB DDR SDRAM
Display: 12.1" TFT w/ 1024 x 768 resolution
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce FX Go 5200 w/ 64 MB DDR SDRAM
Hard Disk: 80 GB at 5400 rpm
Optical Drive: 8x Superdrive
Networking: 10/100 Ethernet
I/O: 1-Firewire 400, 2-USB 2.0
Dimensions/Weight: 10.9" x 8.6" x 1.18" / 4.6 lbs
Battery: Up to 5 hours
Misc: Airport Extreme (802.11 G) & Bluetooth built in
Analog Line in, Headphone out
Mini DVI output

15" PowerBook - $1999

CPU: 1.67 GHz G4 processor
Memory: 512 MB DDR SDRAM
Display: 15.2" TFT w/ 1440 x 960 resolution
Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 with 128MB of DDR SDRAM and dual-link DVI
Hard Disk: 80 GB at 5400 rpm
Optical Drive: 8x Superdrive Dual Layer
Networking: 10/100/1000 Ethernet
I/O: 1-Firewire 400, 1-Firewire 800, 2-USB 2.0, 1-Type I/II PC Card Slot
Dimensions/Weight: 13.7" x 9.5" x 1.1" / 5.6 lbs
Battery: Up to 5.5 hours
Misc: Airport Extreme (802.11 G) & Bluetooth built in
Analog/Optical Line in, Analog/Optical Line out
Mini DVI/S Video output
Illuminated Keyboard with light sensor

17" PowerBook - $2499

CPU: 1.67 GHz G4 processor
Memory: 512 MB DDR SDRAM
Display: 17" TFT w/ 1680 x 1050 resolution
Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 with 128MB of DDR SDRAM and dual-link DVI
Hard Disk: 120 GB at 5400 rpm
Optical Drive: 8x Superdrive Dual Layer
Networking: 10/100/1000 Ethernet
I/O: 1-Firewire 400, 1-Firewire 800, 2-USB 2.0, 1-Type I/II PC Card Slot
Dimensions/Weight: 15.4" x 10.2" x 1" / 6.9 lbs
Battery: Up to 5.5 hours
Misc: Airport Extreme (802.11 G) & Bluetooth built in
Analog/Optical Line in, Analog/Optical Line out
Mini DVI/S Video output
Illuminated Keyboard with light sensor

Heading image Courtesy of Apple

Product Guide: Power Mac G5

With the conversion to Intel processors looming in the first half of next year Apple announced a whole new line of dual-core Power Macs on the 19th of October. Aside from the processors the new towers boasted PCI Express, room for up to 16 Gigs of RAM, upgraded graphics cards, and included the new Mighty Mouse in the box. Note features that have been upgraded between models are italicized.

Power Mac G5 Dual 2GHz - $1999

CPU: Dual-Core 2GHz G5
Memory: 512 MB DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 6600 LE w/ 128 MB GDDR SDRAM; 1-Single-link DVI, 1-Single-link DVI
Hard Disk: 160 GB at 7200 rpm
Optical Drive: 16x Superdrive Dual Layer
Networking: 10/100/1000 Ethernet
I/O: 1-Firewire 800, 2-Firewire 400 (one on front), 4-USB 2.0 (one on front)
Misc: Mighty Mouse
2-Internal hard drive bays (one occupied)
4-PCI Express slots: 2 Four-lane, 1 Eight-lane, 1 Sixteen-lane (occupied by graphics card)
Optical Line-level In/Out, Optical In/Out, Front headphone, Speaker

Power Mac G5 Dual 2.3GHz - $2499

CPU: Dual-Core 2.3GHz G5
Memory: 512 MB DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 6600 w/ 256 MB GDDR SDRAM; 1-Single-link DVI, 1-Single-link DVI
Hard Disk: 250 GB at 7200 rpm
Optical Drive: 16x Superdrive Dual Layer
Networking: 10/100/1000 Ethernet
I/O: 1-Firewire 800, 2-Firewire 400 (one on front), 4-USB 2.0 (one on front)
Misc: Mighty Mouse
2-Internal hard drive bays (one occupied)
4-PCI Express slots: 2 Four-lane, 1 Eight-lane, 1 Sixteen-lane (occupied by graphics card)
Optical Line-level In/Out, Optical In/Out, Front headphone, Speaker

Power Mac G5 Quad 2.5GHz - $3299

CPU: 2-Dual-Core 2.5GHz G5
Memory: 512 MB DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 6600 w/ 256 MB GDDR SDRAM; 1-Single-link DVI, 1-Single-link DVI
Hard Disk: 250 GB at 7200 rpm
Optical Drive: 16x Superdrive Dual Layer
Networking: 10/100/1000 Ethernet
I/O: 1-Firewire 800, 2-Firewire 400 (one on front), 4-USB 2.0 (one on front)
Misc: Mighty Mouse
2-Internal hard drive bays (one occupied)
4-PCI Express slots: 2 Four-lane, 1 Eight-lane, 1 Sixteen-lane (occupied by graphics card)
Optical Line-level In/Out, Optical In/Out, Front headphone, Speaker

Heading image Courtesy of Apple

Product Guide: iMac G5

Updated October 12th this iMac revision was most notable for it's multimedia capabilities. Changes included PCI Express based graphics, an iSight video camera built into the top bezel, and an IR receiver hidden behind the Apple logo. With this IR receiver and the included Apple Remote users gained controlled a new program called Front Row which allowed them access to their Movies, Music, Photos, and DVD player from a distance. Seen as many as Apple's first foray into the Media Center concept of computer it has been both hailed for it's ease of use and criticized for lack of TV tuner and recording abilities. At this point it remains unclear if Apple intends to include these capabilities in future revisions.

17" iMac G5 - $1299

CPU: 1.9GHz G5
Memory: 512 MB DDR2 SDRAM Display: 17" TFT w/ 1440 x 900 resolution
Graphics: ATI Radeon X600 Pro w/ 128 MB DDR SDRAM (PCI Express connection)
Hard Disk: 160 GB at 7200 rpm
Optical Drive: 8x Superdrive Dual Layer
Networking: 10/100/1000 Ethernet
I/O: 2-Firewire 400, 3-USB 2.0
Misc: Mighty Mouse
Apple Remote (w/ Front Row)
Built-in iSight
Airport Extreme (802.11 G) & Bluetooth built in
Headphone/Optical output, Audio line in, Built-in stereo speakers and microphone

20" iMac G5 - $1699

CPU: 2.1GHz G5
Memory: 512 MB DDR2 SDRAM Display: 20" TFT w/ 1680 x 1050 resolution
Graphics: ATI Radeon X600 XT w/ 128 MB DDR SDRAM (PCI Express connection)
Hard Disk: 250 GB at 7200 rpm
Optical Drive: 8x Superdrive Dual Layer
Networking: 10/100/1000 Ethernet
I/O: 2-Firewire 400, 3-USB 2.0
Misc: Mighty Mouse
Apple Remote (w/ Front Row)
Built-in iSight
Airport Extreme (802.11 G) & Bluetooth built in
Headphone/Optical output, Audio line in, Built-in stereo speakers and microphone

Heading image Courtesy of Apple

Product Guide: Mac mini

There's some debate as to exactly when the Mac mini (the capitalization is intentional) was last updated. If you ask Apple they'll tell you July 26th, but towards the end of September some customers noticed the machines they were receiving were actually faster than advertised on Apple's website and even on the box itself. According to everything you can find the minis come with 1.25 and 1.42 GHz processors but apparently some boxes come with 1.33 and 1.5 GHz processors. Not so much a case of Buyer Beware so much as Buyer Be Hopeful.

1.25GHz Mac mini - $499

CPU: 1.25 GHz G4
Memory: 512 MB DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics: ATI Radeon 9200 w/ 32 MB DDR SDRAM
Hard Disk: 40 GB
Optical Drive: Combo Drive (DVD-ROM/CR-RW)
Networking: 10/100 Ethernet
I/O: 1-Firewire 400, 2-USB 2.0
Misc: Headphone/Audio line out

1.42GHz Mac mini - $599

CPU: 1.42 GHz G4
Memory: 512 MB DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics: ATI Radeon 9200 w/ 32 MB DDR SDRAM
Hard Disk: 80 GB
Optical Drive: Combo Drive (DVD-ROM/CR-RW)
Networking: 10/100 Ethernet
I/O: 1-Firewire 400, 2-USB 2.0
Misc: Airport Extreme (802.11 G) & Bluetooth built in
Headphone/Audio line out

SuperDrive Mac mini - $599

CPU: 1.42 GHz G4
Memory: 512 MB DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics: ATI Radeon 9200 w/ 32 MB DDR SDRAM
Hard Disk: 80 GB
Optical Drive: 4x SuperDrive
Networking: 10/100 Ethernet
I/O: 1-Firewire 400, 2-USB 2.0
Misc: Airport Extreme (802.11 G) & Bluetooth built in
Headphone/Audio line out

Heading image Courtesy of Apple