Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Zippo lighter

Imagine all the storage you could ever use in a device the size of a small Zippo lighter or a box of Tic Tacs. The good news is that it's not your imagination; it's the WD Passport Pocket Drive.

Made by Western Digital Corp, the Pocket Drive accommodates up to 6GB and costs a mere $129.99. We covered the drive's arrival on the scene last month, and we simply couldn't wait to see what it can do. Here's what we found.

This marvel can hold as many as 5.5 hours of movies, 2,400 digital photos, 2,400 songs or tens of thousands of Word documents. As a result, you can go on the road with your entire digital library. No need to phone the office to ask someone to e-mail it to you in the middle of an interview.

The Passport Pocket Drive weighs 1.6 ounces and measures a scant: 0.37 x 2.41 x 1.80 inches. It houses a one-inch, 3,600 RPM WD hard drive inside with the rest of the space taken up by a flip-out, rotating connector that goes into one of the USB ports in a desktop or laptop computer. It's even Mac and PC-compatible.

Historical Note

It seems like only yesterday that a floppy disk held a LOT of data. At 1.44 MB, though, it soon became a casualty of the Internet-driven data explosion of the nineties. By the turn of the millennium, stories began to appear that said the end is in sight for the floppy. Manufacturers began issuing computers without floppy drives and today you rarely see a floppy drive in any new gear.

Try going to an office supply or computer store to buy floppies — it might well prove to be a fruitless task.

Today thumb drives have become the format of choice for storing and moving data. The first one we owned contained 64 MB and, at the time, carrying the equivalent of 40 floppies in a device about as long as a toothpick seemed incredible. Now you can buy 128 MB thumb drives for $16.99. The-top-of-the-line versions offer 4GB and cost anywhere from $150 to $250.

The WD Passport Pocket Drive, though, might signal the end of the line for thumb drive expansion. It's already cheaper in terms of total capacity and — since it's an actual hard drive — it's inherently more reliable. It also draws power from the computer; so it doesn't require a separate power supply, thus keeping its compact design.

Presto, It Works

How easy is it to install?

This ease of use is reflected in the instructions: there are none. Three simple diagrams show you how it works, mainly explaining that the connector slides out from the case and rotated ninety degrees to plug into any USB port no matter which direction the port faces.

At first, we thought we'd have to place our laptop on a book to give enough space underneath for the Pocket Drive. Instead, we just rotated the connector, and it worked perfectly.

The three basic installation steps include:

  • Plug it in to the port at the side, back or front of your computer or laptop
  • Reboot the computer
  • You are ready to go

It took a few seconds for the laptop to recognize and prepare the device. Once we rebooted the PC, we could download or drag and drop files to it — or even play music from it. An activity light on the drive glows solid when the drive is connected, and it flashes while the drive stores data.

The "instructions" also contained a listing of compatible operating systems:

  • Windows 98SE
  • ME
  • 2000
  • XP
  • Mac OS versions 9 and 10

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Too Kool

In the fall of 2002, British American Tobacco's Canadian subsidiary, Imperial Tobacco, re-launched the KOOL brand in Canada.

The promotional campaign used to re-launch the brand showed how permeable regulatory controls on tobacco promotion can be in the face of a marketing onslaught.

The launch of KOOL cigarettes showed at least FIVE ways in which BAT's Canadian subsidiary slipped through restrictions on promotion to launch this brand.

Retail displays put the new brand before the nose of virtually every Canadian (eye-level for children).

Although the Tobacco Act allows the government to restrict the number or size of tobacco displays, no regulations have been developed in this area. Some provinces (like New Brunswick) have banned counter-top displays, and Saskatchewan and Manitoba have legislated bans on retail displays. Ironically, this last measure was struck down in a Saskatchewan court because it was considered to infringe on federal authority.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Light cigarettes

Cigarette Marketing Increased 85 Percent In Four Years After 1998

The major cigarette companies increased their marketing expenditures to a record $12.5 billion – $34.2 million a day – in 2002, according to the annual Federal Trade Commission report on cigarette marketing and sales released today.

This represents a one-year increase of 11 percent from the $11.2 billion spent in 2001 and an 85 percent increase in the four years after the tobacco companies agreed to curtail some aspects of their marketing as part of the November 1998 legal settlement with the states.

This report contradicts the tobacco companies’ claims, repeated during their recent opening arguments in the federal government’s tobacco lawsuit, that they have made “profound and permanent” changes in their marketing since the 1998 settlement.

While the settlement restricted some forms of cigarette marketing effective at reaching kids, such as billboards and event sponsorships, the tobacco companies have simply shifted their resources and increased spending in other ways that appeal to kids, especially price discounts that make cigarettes more affordable to kids and high-visibility store displays.

The new FTC report shows that 63.2 percent of cigarette marketing in 2002, or $7.9 billion, was spent on price discounts paid to cigarette retailers or wholesalers in order to reduce the price of cigarettes to consumers. The tobacco companies spent another $1.06 billion, or 8.5 percent of their total marketing, on promotions involving free cigarettes.

These price discounts and free cigarettes represent an aggressive effort by the tobacco companies to undermine state cigarette tax increases and make cigarettes more affordable to kids, who are their most price-sensitive customers. In 2002, 21 states – the most ever in a single year – increased cigarette taxes. The tobacco companies are well aware that studies show every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking rates by about seven percent and overall cigarette consumption by about four percent.

The fact that the tobacco companies acted so aggressively to undermine the public health benefits of cigarette tax increases shows that they cannot be taken seriously when they say they do not want kids to smoke.

States should respond by further increasing taxes on cigarettes in order to counter price discounts and reduce their appeal to children. Voters in Colorado, Montana and Oklahoma can take immediate action by approving the initiatives on the November 2 ballot to increase tobacco taxes in those states.

In addition to increasing their tobacco taxes, states must also allocate more of their tobacco settlement and tobacco tax revenues to tobacco prevention programs that can counter the industry’s aggressive marketing. In Fiscal Year 2004, the states cumulatively have allocated $541.1 million for tobacco prevention programs, which amounts to just four percent of cigarette marketing expenditures as reported today by the FTC.

In fact, the tobacco companies spend more to market cigarettes in a single day ($34.2 million) than all but four states (California, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York) currently spend in an entire year on tobacco prevention.

It is unconscionable that the states have been cutting back on programs proven to protect our kids from tobacco addiction at the same time that the tobacco industry is spending record amounts to market its deadly products.

The states collect nearly $20 billion a year in revenue from tobacco taxes and the tobacco settlement. It would take only about eight percent of this revenue for every state to fund tobacco prevention programs at the minimum levels recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.