Two months later, 12,500 pages mention Apple’s “Do not eat iPod shuffle” joke.

Ironically, one page that doesn’t mention it is the one that started it all. Apple has removed the footnote from its iPod shuffle product page. Sure, the comparison to a pack of gum is still there, but I guess enough people thought it was a stupid-lawyer trick instead of, you know, a joke.

Something I didn’t notice at the time, though: the U.K. version was worded differently: “Do not chew iPod shuffle.” Perhaps reflecting the relative populations, this phrase only pulls 48 hits (soon to be 49, I expect).

Holy crap, ThinkSecret was right about pretty much everything. Apple has just announced a $499 miniature Macintosh. Daring Fireball had suggested the price might be unrealistic, given what happened with the iPod Mini announcement last year (ThinkSecret predicted $100, it turned out to be $250, and the audience was underwhelmed because their expectations were set too high… or low, depending on your point of view.)

The Mac MiniCheck out the photos. I’ve been looking from time to time at what’s available in the small form factor market, but for the most part PCs are still clunkers compared to the G4 Cube (remember that?), and the Mini makes the Cube look gigantic. The specs for the Mac Mini look virtually identical to this generation’s PowerBooks.

I keep having to remind myself I’m specifically looking for a new PC—we’ve got a PowerBook and a G4 tower, and the machine that needs to be replaced is a (non-upgradable) Celeron that dual-boots Fedora Core and Windows Me. Otherwise I’d be seriously tempted.

The iPod Shuffle, on the other hand, is just silly. I think its main effect will be to remind people why they went with the regular iPods in the first place.

So Apple is ticked off at Real’s reverse-engineering to let people buy music from Real and play it on an iPod. Apple has threatened DMCA sanctions and all but promised to deliberately break it in the next software update.

Excuse me? In general I like Apple, but their insistence on locking the iPod to iTunes and iTunes alone is short-sighted. When people hacked up a way to use an iPod on Windows, they first licensed the software, then wrote iTunes for Windows. iPod sales have tripled to the point where they may soon outsell Macintoshes. This could never have happened if Apple had kept the iPod Mac-specific.

I’m reminded of the many times Microsoft has altered its file-sharing protocol to break compatibility with Samba, the package that allows Linux, BSD, and now Mac OS X to connect to Windows networks.

The classic analogy is getting a car that can only run on certain roads. So someone’s found a way to let the iPod drive some different roads. But Apple still sells as many iPods. They might even sell more (as when it gained Windows compatibility). Why the accusations of hacking, why the legal threats, and why the determination to keep the iPod locked to their own roads?