Auxiliary Displays - It's Already Been Broughten

Back in March, I blogged about wanting auxiliary displays [Bring On the Auxiliary Displays]. Just today, I came across a fantastic Channel 9 video post from the Windows Sideshow team showing off their auxiliary display tech. People like to talk about how video blogs suck, but Microsoft is doing great stuff with Channel 9. Unrestrained tech content from the very guys making the tech, yes please! Take 17 minutes out of your day and go watch the video.

I'm not sure how I missed it, but Engadet covered Microsoft's aux display tech in April. I had no idea Microsoft was this far along when I wrote my original post. Go Microsoft. Make it happen.

After watching the video, I realize that Microsoft is going a slightly different direction. Their first targets are add-ons to notebook computers and keyboards. Logitech is already doing cool stuff with aux displays on their keyboards. Between them, Microsoft, and Asus, maybe this will gather momentum.

I think notebook computers have stagnated recently. For awhile, size and computing power were market drivers, but now you can choose from dozens of ho-hum notebooks that will get the job done. Integrating aux displays is a tremendous opportunity for a notebook manufacturer to make their device stand out and command an upgrade. As Microsoft shows, in many ways, these +1 displays on notebooks will provide PDA-like functionality which could allow a user to leave one more device and charger at home.

Microsoft says they are using some of the SPOT technology. How about using their Smartphone and Windows Mobile tech too? They say themselves that they want to use typical cell phone displays. Those would be the same displays that their mobile developers have already designed for when writing Smartphone apps. Wouldn't it be cool if you could run that code unchanged in the aux display? Emulators run on the desktop, why not on the aux display coprocessor or the main processor itself in a different power mode?

Finally, you knew I'd drag Apple in to this :) Apple could build in an aux display and allow Dashboard widgets to run in it. Run the weather widget when you are travelling. Run the iPhoto viewer widget when you want to show off. Run the iCal widget when you are on the run. That's juicy.

So, to go along with my previous mockup of an aux display tablet, I thought I'd see what a Powerbook would look like with iPod like controls integrated in to the lid.

This gives you the iPod experience with your music when you don't have your iPod with you. The clickwheel could also be the interface to the rest of the widgets that run in the aux display.

I'm liking the idea even if I'm luke warm on how it looks in the lid.


An iPod Full Of Nothing

My dreams have finally been realized. I have a simple, elegant way to watch Seinfeld episodes on the go!

The tool that has made this possible is Handbrake Lite. I have played around with the full Handbrake and have had mixed results. Handbrake Lite, however, is just what I need. It has one purpose in life, and that is to rip DVDs (that I own!) to a format that is optimized for iPods with video.

All it takes is a mac, a couple of clicks, and some time. This is amazing. I can't wait to rip the rest of my Seinfeld and Simpsons episodes. Yes, I'm aware that you could watch TV episodes on portable media players for quite some time, but show me where it only took a couple of clicks. This is finally to the point where it is worth the effort, because the effort is minimal. I would love for Apple to embed this functionality directly in to iTunes (iMedia?), but I doubt they will, especially with the CSS nonsense surrounding DVDs.

Now all I need is for public transport to come near my house and I can trade driving for Kramer each and every morning.


Did Lemmy Jump The Cliff?

Ever had any of your favorite software die? I'm a vi guy. I started my development career on various UNIX boxes and the places I worked for required (ok, highly recommended) that I use vi. The initial learning curve was steep, but I'm vi through and through now. I even toyed with a Windows Explorer replacement that would allow navigation via vi keys. You could blaze through the directory tree and renames, combined with the '.' command, would be the greatest ever. Alas, that's one of those free time projects that sits patiently, waiting for me to come back and tie it all together.

Back to Lemmy. Lemmy is/was a vi clone for Windows. When I started developing primarily on Windows, I pined for my vi. I can't remember the reasons, but I never liked Vim. Then again, I never gave it much of a chance. Lemmy met my needs and I didn't have a reason to look elsewhere. I've used Lemmy for years and watched it grow and change hands a couple of times. It's last owner was softwareonline.org. If you go there now, you just get a domain renewal form. Did Sofware Online give up trying to sell vi to the Windows masses? I paid $20 for a license at work 6 years ago. Can't they live on that $20? :)

Lemmy isn't really dead though. You can still download it from Download.com and you can bet that I have the installer saved in no less than 10 locations. Lemmy is one of the very first pieces of software I put on a new Windows machine.

While we are on the topic of vi. I love the Tarsier image that O'Reilly uses on the vi book. This guy loved it enough to laser etch it on his Powerbook (drool). That very same image can be found on the Limited Edition of DJ Shadow's The Private Press.
How's that for small world? The mascot of my favorite text editor combined with my favorite DJ. Wow, I'm a geek.



Product 6.0 2005 XP .NET for Pocket PC...Mobile

I'm going to do my best Andy Rooney impersonation here. I'm going to complain about how Microsoft names things. This is by far an original complaint, but at least I'm adding a fresh screenshot to the mix.

This screenshot is even better than the Firefox installing one.

As I'm installing Visual Studio 2005 today, I notice it is installing to a Microsoft Visual Studio 8 folder. Well that's dumb. Talk about confusing. What is the product name, VS 2005 or VS 8? Looks like the marketing guys changed things at the last moment and the engineers didn't have time to go back and scrub it.

We're supposed to be in the age (who says? I says) of usability and the biggest software company in the world can't even decide on a consistent product name. Stop confusing us!

Visual Studio has gone from numbers (6.0), to the silly .NET thing, to .NET with a year (2003), to years without the .NET (2005).

This isn't the only example of this from Microsoft. Why does the desktop Windows have Service Packs, but the mobile Windows have AKUs?

Why did Windows go from numbers (3.1) to years (95) to letters (XP) to nothing (Vista)?

Why did the portable Windows go from form factors (Handheld PC, Palm PC) to Pocket PC, to Windows Mobile with years (2003), to Windows Mobile with numbers (5.0)? Ohh yeah, don't forget, it is still a Pocket PC, but it doesn't run Pocket PC anymore, it runs Windows Mobile.

Why did Microsoft Office go from versions (6.0), to years (97), to letters (XP), back to years (2003)?

I really don't think that any of these are better than any of the rest. I just want them to pick one and stick to it!


Slushy Streets iMix

I put together a playlist for shoveling the driveway or driving to work in the muck. I call it Slushy Streets

1. Golan Globus - Blazer (2005 Radio Edit)
2. Quannum Projects - Quannum World
3. Gorillaz - Dare (Soulwax Remix)
4. The Orb - Aftermath (Album Version)
5. Dizzee Rascal - Fix Up, Look Sharp
6. Aesop Rock & L.I.F.E. Long - Inner City Hustle
7. Bloc Party - Tulips (Original Version)
8. Beck - Missing (Remix by Royskopp)
9. Littl Shyning Man - Hart of the Wud
10. Roots Manuva - Motion 5000
11. UNKLE - Reign (Radio Edit)

If you like ANY of that music, you'll probably dig the DFA Holiday Mix 2005, up on iTMS right now. A 45 minute mix for 99 cents? Must be the season of giving!


1 Box Please

As long as product functionality is not compromised, I'm all for convergence and a single item to do it all. Crappy cameras in cell phones, bad. High quality DVD players in home theater receivers, good, in certain uses.

I bring that up because we got a new AV setup for our living room. We were looking to free up some space in the room and getting rid of a massive component stack and big floor standing speakers was a great way to do that.

The box of choice is the Denon S-301. You can read my full review of it over on sadida.com. I even slicked it up a bit with pictures and a video (ooooo, a video). We're quite happy with it so far. It's been everything we wanted and the performance is top notch.

Another interesting thing I found is that Denon is running a blog for the S-301 and its little brother, the S-101. This isn't the first time a product has gotten its own blog. The iPod has dozens, but they aren't official ones. For offical products, I'm aware of myxda.com, but it is still refreshing to see companies connecting with their customers and bringing the post-sale details right to them. Too bad that I, a customer, had to find the site during searching while writing my review. I don't know how "regular" customers would find it.

I have been impressed with Denon lately. Not only are they doing this receiver blog, but their engineers and test teams frequent a few of the Denon DJ boards. Being a tech guy myself, I like it when I get straight technical answers that I can trust.


I Still Want Bluetooth in my iPod

Time flies. It's been nearly a year since I last posted about wanting Bluetooth in my iPod. If you don't feel like going back to read that post, I'll sum it up for you.

  • Address Book, Contacts sync

  • Audio to headphones (A2DP)

  • Music file sync in small quantities

I think all of that still has value, but I have a few more things that Bluetooth would enable.

Playlist sync - The playlist I listen to the most is "Not Heard Recently". I like to keep my music rotating through. I'll listen to specific things when the mood strikes, but usually it is NHR or shuffle. I recently upgrade to a 5G iPod which left my 3G iPod to secondary purposes such as hooked to my home stereo. I also have a shuffle which I use while working out, mowing the lawn, and riding my bike (only while on trails). I still like to keep that NHR playlist updated, which requires me bringing the pods back to the main machine every so often. Sometimes I'll end up with playlist overlap and listen to the same songs 2 or 3 times before they get pulled off of the NHR playlist. Bluetooth would allow me to keep the playlist more up to date and avoid that.

Playlist sharing - If you follow my blog, you'll see me posting music I like and DJ sets that I work on. Lots of the music comes off of the iTMS and the stuff that doesn't is usually available on Amazon. How cool would it be if you came up to me at work and I could just send you that playlist over Bluetooth? I would send the songs, just the playlist metadata. It would take about 5 seconds and brings a social element to the iPod experience. You can share playlists with people on the bus, or friends at school. If you have the songs on the playlist, you can instantly play that playlist in the order your friend made. If you don't, you can check out the songs on the iTMS the next time you are synced to your computer. Apple isn't making much on the music sales, but more sales has to be a good thing. Getting your customers "in" to the store is half the battle. Why not let your other customers help fight that battle by getting their friends in to the store?

Music send - A2DP works great to headphones. I've heard it and I'm considering buying a pair of headphones. In addition to headphones, there's no reason car and home stereos can't be the A2DP "sink". Sure, we can cable up, but do you want a cable hanging out of your car's dashboard, even if it is in the glove box? I know I don't. Add in the hand-off technology you get with Bluetooth headsets for your cell phone and you can have your car start playing the same music you were listening to on headphones when you walked up. Don't laugh, I know friends that do this every day with FM senders on their iPods.

Remote control - Control the iPod using the Bluetooth AVRCP. I was very disappointed to see Apple use IR for their universal iPod dock and remote for the new iMac. If they do bring out a Mac Media for the living room, it better have Bluetooth for remote control. They can keep their stinky IR, but add Bluetooth too!

Printing - Without getting too far away from the purpose of an iPod (music), you could bury the ability to print things like album art, playlists, notes, and even photos to Bluetooth enabled printers using BPP, or as a simple Object Push. This is another social element, and all part of the Apple Experience. Bluetooth enabled printers are out there and this would avoid you connecting your iPod to someone else's computer which may or may not have the right cables and software. This isn't vaporware stuff. It's possible today with the right software.

Finally, I have to comment... have you seen the new Creative Zen Vison:M? I can't stop laughing at the thickness. They better have room for Bluetooth in there...and a waffle maker!


Video is an Internet Star

You like free videos, right? Good. Head on over to deepdish.com and check out the new video for their upcoming single, Sacremento. Keep a sharp eye out for BT making a cameo.

It's no Crooked, but I like Deep Dish, so it is worth a post.


Medium Definition?

So an article over at the Technology Liberation Front discusses the fact that many people who have HDTV, don't know what to do to see HDTV, or simply aren't making use of it. 49% of the people that HDTV aren't watching it. Well count me in to that 49%, but I'm not dumb, I'm frugal. I know what it takes to watch HDTV, I just don't want to pay for it.

I might be called an early adopter when it comes to HDTV. We bought our set in January 2001, nearly 5 years ago. At the time, HDTV in this area was nearly non-existant. There were a couple of OTA channels becoming available, but the content was few and far between. I didn't care though. I was at a point in my life where I was able to buy a nice TV, and I needed it to last awhile. I knew HD was coming, so if you are buying a big set, you pretty much had to drop a few more bucks and just do it right.

DVDs look fantastic on our WS-55807. Good thing too, because that's the only exercise I really give the thing. I guess I can call DVDs medium definition. Ohh, I tried HDTV. My set doesn't have an ATSC tuner, so I experimented with a few OTA tuners. In the end, they were expensive, marginally capable of receiving a signal, required an antenna, and there stilll wasn't a whole lot of content. I tried a couple and they both went back to the store. It wasn't worth spending $200-$300 to watch a few shows in HD.

Why don't I just go with digital cable? Good question. Good answer too, money. It is shameful what Mediacom wants for the privledge to watch HD. Granted, it has been a while since I checked, but it was going to cost me an extra $30-$40 a month to get HDTV over digital cable and that was going to require sticking a stupid digital cable box on my TVs. Uhh, no thanks. NBA in HD looks spectacular, but I can buy a lot of music with $40 a month and I'll enjoy that a whole lot more. HD needs to be free, and by that, I mean no add-on cost vs. regular cable. I know they need to cover their upgrade costs too, but the extra cost needs to trickle away. My friends that live in big cities (Denver, Milwaukee) get HD on their sets for pennies compared to what I'd have to pay.

So we've gone 5 years with no HD, but I'm ready to give it a another go. The content is finally there. All of the major networks are available in my area in HD. Every night has shows in HD that we normally watch. We sold our old college TVs at last summer's garage sale and we recently got a new set for the bedroom. It has a built-in ATSC tuner. This was a requirement. We weren't going to have an external tuner, especially not in the bedroom. We also strung coax through the house when it was being built, so hopefully I can put an antenna near a window in the basement and not have to have that eyesore in the bedroom. I'd love to explore cable card, but I don't know of anyone in my area that is offering it. Maybe in another 5 years :)


Mac mini in the Living Room?

You've probably already seen the rumor that a revamped Mac mini is on the way and will end its trek in your living room. It will be optimized for multi-media and possibly even contain PVR software. Ohh please let this be true. I can't help think that my beloved ReplayTV will die someday and TiVo isn't all that appealing to me, yet. I'm probably underestimating, but how hard can PVR software be? Once you've got the recording and playback handled, the rest is just file management, simple searches, and pretty GUIs. Apple has plenty of multi-media experience with Final Cut Studio, QuickTime, iTunes, and iMovie. They are well on their way with pretty GUIs in Front Row. They proved they can excel at managing type specific files with iPhoto and iTunes. Roll it up in one tasty software burrito and let us feast!

Ok, you get that I'd buy one of these, but what would it look like? Maybe we've already seen it. The Mac mini form factor is great, but I'm not sure it would fit in a typical home theater stack. What if it looked like Apple's xServe?

Certainly we don't need all of that stuff. It's too wide, so I'll chop it a bit. We have no need for the rack mounts, so I'll remove those. We don't need massive cooling, so say bye bye to the gigantic air ports. And, we won't need terabytes of data in it, so we'll cut it off at the knees. What's left? A 'shopped mockup of a Mac media, of course!

It still is too busy, but you get the idea. I'd put one of those next to my TV for sure.


Backup Some More

After my recent thoughts about backups, I figured it was time to give Apple's recent update to Backup a try.

My first impressions are positive. The software is definitely geared towards your data, not really your drive. It appears Backup is much better at restoring your iLife data than restoring your OS. It also may have problems with restoring to alternate locations, but a patch has been released that is supposed to address that.

The thing I like the most is the preset plans. I already made use of the plan to backup my iTMS Purchased Music. This required 2 DVDs but I can also choose my external drive to be the backup target and save the burnable media for every few months. The procedure was quite simple. It even popped up a message suggesting the label I should apply to the disc. I'm guessing it will ask for the disc based on the recommended name if I ever need to do a restore.

My next step is to create a plan to backup my home folder that does NOT include my music and movies. Those folders are huge and I don't want to mess with the incremental backups of those in my home folder backup. I'll keep seperate plans for those.

Now all that's left is to create a plan that will backup open files that I am working on :)


Whoa, Back it Up

Computers make everything easier. They especially make it easy to work for days on something and then make it disappear in a poof.

Backups are always hard. What do you backup? Who will do the backup? When do you backup? Where does it backup to? How do you restore the backup? Will the restored data be good?

If you are anything like me, your total backup procedures are pretty primitive. Every so often you will copy most of the stuff you want to backup off to an external drive, to CD/DVD, or maybe you'll archive it online somewhere. That's a start, but the absolute killer to me is when I work on a document or some code for a week, or even just a particualarly productive day, and that work gets lost. These near term backups are what inspired this post.

The problem with backing up that hard day's work is that sometimes you simply can't. You encounter stupid things like eMbedded Visual C++ holding on to files in an open project and not letting them be copied. You try to be smart and use a Save As... in Word, but that switches your active work to be on the Save As file, not your original one. Usually that's not what I want and then I have to go through extra steps to open up the original again. Even if I can make a copy of the file, I still have to go find it in File Explorer or Finder and copy it off to some other location which I hope I remember.

What I want is a very simple, Backup command in the File menu of every program that saves data. The idea of the Backup command is that you create a default location that will receive in-progress backups of your file. This is all really a hack until we have decent journaling file-systems in place that would do this sort of thing for us, but I'll take what I can get. Once you've worked a few hours on your latest PowerPoint, you can select File, Backup and a copy of your file will get saved off to your predetermined Backup location (you did put this on another disk, in case one fails, right?). Sure, we can include a dialog to change your Backup location if you'd like, but most times you'll just select 'Ok' on the default. The active document WILL NOT change. The software WILL BE smart enough to make a copy without closing the app. The backup will even get saved with metadata such as which file it is a copy of, the time elapsed since the last backup, and other fun stuff like that.

I think I might try to make such a beast using Automator under OS X. Hopefully I'll be able to make it smart enough to figure out the active app and the file/project it has open. I wonder if I'll encounter the same "I'm using that file, you can't copy it" nonsense that I get on Windows.

With this simple backup hack in place, maybe I'll have time to look at some more advanced backup techniques that I probably should be using anyway :)


We Don't Need No Stinkin' Hard Drive

Wow, they read my mind. Earlier this week, I was working on a post about how we needed a notebook computer that had no hard drive and included flash for storage.

NEC has announced such a beast, and I'm excited. The Engadgeteers can't get past the price and RAM. I agree with the Engadget comments, this does cost too much, and I would like to see 1 gig of RAM. However, if they'd take a moment to step back, they might see something cool here.

If you've been paying attention, you saw Apple release a sleek digital audio player with up to 4 gig of flash. They packed that flash in to a sleek package and let you take it home for a decent price. UBS says that 4 gig of flash costs about $115.

One of the biggest complaints with notebook computers these days is a reversal in weight trends. They seem to be getting larger, rather than smaller. Bigger screens, bigger drives, and bigger batteries to power it all. What I want is the opposite of this. I want a tight 12" notebook with unbelievable battery life that still let's me do all of the things I like to do with a notebook. So what do I like to do? Browse the web, author documents, watch DVDs, transfer files, and maybe play a few games of poker. None of these things require a large hard drive.

What if we could swap out the 60 gig hard drive for 20 gig of flash? We could save size, weight, power, and battery since we don't have to spin platters. Sounds just like what the iPod nano did, huh?

A typical 60 gig 2.5" notebook drive weighs about 120 grams. 1 gig of flash weighs about .5 grams, so 20 gig would be 10 grams, less than 10% of the hard drive weight.
That same hard drive has dimensions of 0.374" H x 2.75" W x 3.94" D. I can't find dimensions of the flash right now, but the entire iPod nano is about half that size, so I'd imagine my smaller size claim holds up.

What about the loss in hard drive space? You know what? People seemed to get by with less than 20 gig for the last few years with notebook computers. Ignoring music and video, file sizes haven't increased all that much. You can keep your music library on a portable music player and ignore video (other than DVD) for this product. That isn't it's focus.

In the end, we can make the notebook even thinner, and still have room for a bigger battery. We also gain some reliability because we get rid of the spinning drive. Finally, we ditch the slow 5400RPM notebook drives and kick it up a bit with flash.

The biggest issue I see is cost. Going by the numbers from earlier, 20 gig of flash is going to cost about $500 today. That's quite a bit more than the ~$60 for the 60 gig drive. As the Engadget comments already proved, people aren't going to like the idea of paying MORE for a simpler, less powerful, and probably secondary, computer. Fast forward a year or so, when prices have dropped, and I hope to have a flash-only iBook in my hands.

Play This on Your Playlist

Time to update the 5 of the now. I'll put the old ones here, just for future reference :)

The old 5

The new 5

The Keane track used to be on iTMS, no longer. I guess you'll have to settle for the original.

The Alex Dolby track is featured on Steve Lawler's latest Lights Out compilation. This is a great series and Vol. 3 is quickly becoming my favorite of the series.

The High Contrast track has been around a while and I just enjoyed it when it came up on shuffle so it made the list.

Ulrich made the 5 again with a track of the recently released (domestic) Far Away Trains Passing By

Finally, the Nipple Fish! Fantastic track that I've been rocking out to since 1997. Through the magic of the long tail, you can pick this up on iTMS. Imagine trying to find that on vinyl these days!


I see London, I see France, I see Flat-D in your pants

All right, the site says "Tell a friend about our site. You might help them more than you may ever realize."
So, I'm telling you and I really hope I never have a reason to realize that it helped you.

Flat-D are stink absorbing pads that you wear where the wild things are. They'll turn your butt frown upside down and leave your trail smelling less like zoo keeper's shoes.

Yes, this "body tech" is coming at you from my very own Cedar Rapids, IA. Funny isn't it that a city known for its smells would inspire odor reducing couture. I'll save you the story of how I heard about them, but rumor has it, they will be appearing on Simon Cowell's new show, American Inventor.

If I'm being honest, you used to smell like horse poo, but after that performance, you are just so-so, and that's a good thing.


Lessons in Web Design

Lesson #4 - Make your site accessible to the lowest common denominator user.

A picture over 1 MB in size is NOT a good idea for your homepage.

Good grief man. Resize and up the compression a bit. I cry for dial-up users.

That said, the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art is pretty cool and they are showing off a spectacular Grant Wood collection right now.


They Superimposed Me!

Today, while watching the Packers play on Fox, they had some technical difficulties (Fox and the Packers). The graphics package that puts the score, down, and time at the top of the screen quit working. They had to go "low tech" and point the camera at the in-stadium signs, which were simple lightbulb arrays. Keep it simple I guess :)

Even more interesting was that the graphics that they are now superimposing over the field to show the down & distance, and the first down marker were working fine. I guess they were controlled by a different computer. If you watched closely, you could also see that Fox is now putting banners over portions of the crowd during kickoffs. Pretty sneaky. Advertising that costs nothing more than CPU cycles. Let's hope this doesn't get too out of hand. I don't want to see Pepsi ads projected on to a ball during flight.

So, all of these enhancements to the game reminded me of my previous thoughts, and inspired me to post a couple more that I've been "kicking" around for a while.

Pressure sensistive rims in basketball. Tell me how hard LeBron dunked that ball. Tell me how hard Shaq bricked that free throw. Show me how softly Steve Nash put that layup on the rim. Wouldn't these be fun to see?

Also, do you remember CBS' EyeVision? Do they even use that anymore? The problem with EyeVision is that it really only works to rotate around a point in time. Interesting points in time out on the field are hard to come by. Where EyeVision would be great is focused on the uprights during a field goal kick. Add a virtual extension of the pole projecting out the top and you could rotate around that ball that just missed or just made it.

Finally, they hate to show streakers that might run on to the field. It only encourages them right? Well, let's turn that in to a marketing opportunity. Naked dude that should drink less beer and eat more salad can instantly have the Planter's nuts guy superimposed over him. The security guards could have hungry elephants superimposed over them. Elephants chasing Mr. Peanut around a football field, that's good TV!

Rock Your Burger

Mmmmmm, beef.

Update: Josh got a vid cap for me.

I just saw a new Wendy's commercial. It featured pulsating burgers (some stacked 5 patties high) that were supposed to mimic sound meters that jumped to the grinding music. That music, if you are wondering, is Satisfaction by Benny Benassi & The Biz. You can pick it up over on iTMS.

First person to send me a pic of a Wendy's burger with 5 patties stacked in it will receive a gifted version of Satisfaction (Radio Edit) off of iTMS!


3 Months with the Mighty Mouse

I've been using Apple's Mighty Mouse for 3 months now. Overall, I'm satisfied, but there is room for improvement. Here are my observations.

* Overall mouse operation is fine. It tracks as well as any other optical mice I have used.

* The no buttons = 2 buttons is flawed, but not how you might expect. I'm fine that there are sensors for the left and right buttons. I'm fine with slightly lifting my left finger to right click. I got used to that within a day. The problem comes when switching between typing and mousing quickly. With a typical two button mouse, you have the tactile feedback of the button gap. If you grab it blindly, and miss, you can feel that you missed. You won't wrongly right click something because you will correct your grip immediately. With the Mighty Mouse, on occasion I will find myself right clicking something simply because I gripped the mouse wrong. My left finger will be in the center, above the scroll ball, and it will register as a right click.

I think there is a simple solution to this. Just add a slight ridge, much like the ridges that are probably on your 'f' and 'j' keys right now. Apple gets to keep the sleek no button design, and I will get the texture necessary to correct my grip if I mess up.

* Wireless - Where is it? I like Apple's Bluetooth mouse but I have decided that 1 button is not for me. I gave it a good go. I used it for months and it wasn't bad. Eventually I swapped in a Microsoft Bluetooth mouse because my wife was frustrated with not having a right click. I found that I too preferred the extra buttons.

* Speaking of extra buttons, the scroll ball is awesome. I prefer it to a scroll wheel. It feels nice and isn't too large. The "squeeze" buttons are weird. They work fine, but without visual confirmation, such as the browser page going back, you really aren't sure that the action registered. That said, the side buttons on other mice have always been problematic for me. The Mighty Mouse isn't any worse.

Summary - I'd buy another Mighty Mouse, especially if it were Bluetooth enabled.


iTMS Already Has Variable Pricing

So everyone is talking about how Mr. Jobs might raise iTMS prices.

The thing is, they already have variable pricing. Not every song costs 99 cents, and I'm not talking about the different prices between the countries. Let's look at a few examples:

PQM - The K Song 4 tracks = $9.99
Eddie Amador - Psycho X Girlfriend 4 tracks = $9.99

You will surely notice that two of the four songs in each bundle is over 10 minutes, which seems to be the magic cutoff to only being available if you purchase the whole album. Still, that's $2.50 per track. Are these considered albums, requiring the $9.99 price?

But it goes the other way too.
London Elektricity - Pull the Plug 7 tracks = $5.99
Here, we also have two tracks over 10 minutes, but the prices is less than 99 cents a track when spread across the whole album.

Clever - Breakbeat Science Exercise 5 15 for $8.

Even better, here is 13! tracks for $4.49.
Energy 52 - Cafe del Mar: The Best of the Remixes The funniest thing is that if you buy the tracks individually, it will cost $11.00 and you only get 11 of them! Now that's variable pricing.

It is true that I have not yet found a single track that costs more than 99 cents, but I swear I saw some a while back, so I'll keep looking. The best I can do is 2 tracks for $9.99. However, I'm guessing this too is a glitch in the way the music is priced. Since both of the tracks are over 10 minutes, all of the tracks are available "album only" and albums are $9.99. Could that be it?
BC - Switch It

Damn you iTMS. I added 4 songs to my cart just browsing around looking for variable priced music! No, none of them were the higher priced ones, but that's not to say that I will quit buying if they raise prices. I'd really love it if they raised some and lowered others, but I doubt there will be any lowering. If they raise too high, I'll probably send more of my money to Beatport, but I would miss the ease of use of iTMS, that's for sure.

Today is 2005-11-17

Consistent communication is something that gets my riled up sometimes. One item in particular bothers me more than most. The representation of dates.


What a mess. Thankfully, some smart people got together and decided that we should have a date format that can be used worldwide with consistent meaning.
ISO 8601 - Follow the link for a great explanation of it, but the main idea is YYYY-MM-DD. Always 4 digits for years. Always 2 digits for the month. Always 2 digits for the day. Just like numbers, the bigger unit is on the left. It all makes a lot of sense to me.

What doesn't make sense is how many companies today do business all over the world, yet still use the date format that is common in their region. I see documents at work sent to the UK with US style dates on them. That has to be annoying and confusing. Blogger won't let me choose this date format. Who knows why.
I even see people coding year logic based on 2 digits. Uhhh, did you sleep through the 99? Does Y2K mean anything to you? Sure, the world continued on 2000-01-01, but shouldn't we be preparing for 3000-01-01?

I'm doing my part. I tell anyone who will listen about ISO 8601. Most times I get the "you are nuts" look, but a few people have taken to it. I write the date on all of my checks this way. The bank has yet to complain. I also use this date format in documents and test data that I prepare at work. I haven't been told to stop, but I have had people edit my dates back to their favorite format. 2 steps forward, 1 step back I guess.


You Need Some Automator

Automator, one of the reasons I was looking forward to Tiger, and last night was the first time I actually played around with it. What's wrong with me?

So, one of my least favorite parts about blogging is getting images in the right format and uploading them so I can display them in my blog. Sure, blogger is hosting images for you now, and that makes it easier, but you still have to get them in the right format (screen shots, ug) and get them to blogger.

I decided to see if Automator could help me out, and it can! Programming, without code. It hardly any time at all, I was able to figure out Automator and create a workflow that will take the highlighted file in the Finder, convert to JPEG, post to my iDisk, and copy the URL to the clipboard. All that's left for me to do is paste the URL in to my blog post. Sweet! I just ran the action to post this picture.

Automator lets you compile your workflow in to a program too. I dropped that in my dock so it is easily accessible. When the Automator action is running, you can watch the progress in the main titlebar. Very cool.

I still need to figure out a good way to automate the screen capture. Full screen captures are already there, but I haven't figured out how to do selection caps like those I get with Grab. I also want to be able to upload to servers other than .mac. Once I get those figured out, I'll post the workflow for you guys to enjoy.

Now, if only I could use Automator to make the Automator dude dance to the Activator track that inspired this post's title.

Stunningly Original and Gushingly Beautiful

The title of this post is what Remix magazine had to say about Ulrich Schnauss' Far Away Trains Passing By album. I'll have to agree with their assessment. Any mood you are feeling will be turned to bliss within the first 2 minutes. A brilliant work of musical art.

I've posted about Ulrich Schnauss before. I'm posting again because this, his debut album, is just getting a US release and it comes with a great bonus CD.

Unfortunately, this album isn't available on iTMS. But even if it was, it might not have been for long. Ulrich's other album was up on iTMS for a while, but it is gone now. That also happened with the Evil Nine mix I posted about. I don't know what's up with that. It seems you have to be quick to grab some stuff off of iTMS before it is gone.


Amazon Pays To Search

I'm not exactly sure when they started doing this, but Amazon.com is now providing a 1.57% discount on orders as long as you search every now and then with their search engine, a9.com. Their Pi/2 formula is a bit cheesy, but ohh well.

It took me 3 days from first using a9 until I was given the discount on Amazon.

Just like gift certificates to BestBuy, this is essentially cash to me. I don't spend a lot of money at Amazon, but 1.57% can be a nice benefit of tossing a few searches at a9.com. Sure, I have to be logged in to a9 for my searches to count, and they'll build a profile of me and my searches, but if you don't think they can do that with cookies alone, your head is in the sand.

The a9 search engine is good. It reminds me of google quite a bit. It even has some nice distinguishing features. I especially liked how your search results will tell you right in the page, which sites you've been to recently. This would be a big help as you plow down the pages of search results. For those of you that get real lazy when writing scripts, a9 also had a feature that anything following the '/' after a9.com is the search term. Go search for adidas.


Huge Headphones

A post on Engadget got us talking about huge headphones at work today. What better way to capture the moment than some pictures.

My first experience with big can headphones came with my Dad's old Pioneer phones. I did a quick search and I swear these are the ones he still has.

[Thanks to www.classic-audio.com for the pic]
These were/are great headphones and are probably responsible for my love of big headphones.

My current favorite phones are the Sony MDR-V700. No joke, I wear these at least 4 hours a day. If I'm at my desk at work, most likely I have these on. I have a second set at home that I use while DJing. I also like to take these on airplanes because they are wonderful at blocking out sound that they aren't creating. I'll even wear them during takeoff to soften the noise. I actually had a conversation with the flight attendant about them on my last flight. She asked if I was wearing them to block out noise and mused that she could use a pair herself.

Denon has piqued my interest with their new DN-HP1000 headphones. These look even clunkier than my Sonys. They look awesome! I'm really not in the market for new headphones, but I still like looking :)

Finally we arrive at the instigator. Macally has some big cans with a built in slot for your iPod nano. I'm down with the idea. I think it works better with the Shuffle, but these still look pretty cool. All of the benefits of wireless, without the drawbacks of wireless.

BTW, I don't care if you think I look stupid wearing huge headphones. The music is more important than your opinion.


Plenty of Content, No Tools

Before its release, one of the biggest reasons why Apple would never release a video enabled iPod was because there was no content. That's not true. There is plenty of content, it's just hidden away on those shiny discs and doesn't want to come out. Worst of all, the software tools to extract (rip) video content that you already own suck.

A few of the CDs I buy these days come with companion DVDs. These companion DVDs include videos, documentaries, and even video of live performances. A few of these include...
* Hybrid - Morning Sci-Fi
* Ferry Corsten - Right Of Way
* DJ Shadow - Mashin' On The Motorway

These are just the audio discs that came with some video content. Let's not forget about the pleathora of music based DVDs filling the store shelves. I personally can't wait to watch Underworld and DJ Shadow on my next plane trip.

The movie studios don't even want us ripping DVDs, even ones we own, to portable devices. HandBrake can help you out here if you run OS X. Unfortunately, as I play with HandBrake, I'm finding that it wants to rip things to widescreen when they aren't, and it doesn't properly handle anamorphic content. I'll post the details if I come up with something I'm happy with.

I guess I can't be too mad. I didn't have to pay anything for HandBrake. But this begs the question, why didn't Apple release dead-easy video content ripping to their dead-easy audio content ripping tool, iTunes? Are they scared of the MPAA? Is the software just not ready yet? Are they waiting for the release of the real Video iPod?

The content isn't limited to video enhanced audio. Most people are far more likely to have a season of their favorite TV show on DVD. It will be a happy day when I can easily rip my Simpsons and Seinfeld episodes to play on any computer on my network, and all of my video enabled portables. Who will be the first media distributor to include a "formatted for iPod" disc in the same case as the DVD? I'm guessing it won't be Sony :) Will it be the next Pixar release, or will they expect you to buy it again online?


My iPhone Ideas

I was cleaning up some files this weekend and came across the iPhone mockup I made in late 2004. I originally posted it to the AppleNova forums, and it went over with a thud.

I still think there are some cool ideas going on here so I thought I'd post it again here and see if it sparks any discussion.

First off, this wouldn't be the desired form factor anymore. I'm thinking the nano form factor now, but I didn't want to spend the time to alter the mockup.

* No numbers - Current cell phone designs seem constrained by the number keys. You know I hate phone numbers, so why would I want to dial one? Well, I don't, and you shouldn't either. If you have to dial, you can spin out a number. Otherwise, it seems like the primary function of a phone is talking, not number pushing.
I admit, this isn't a completely original idea. Nokia already sells a cellphone with no number keys. More manufacturers seem to be hiding the keys in sliders, but that just makes the phone cost more and makes it easier to break.

* Ring lists - Caller ID is cool and all, but setting my phone to only ring a set "whitelist" seems better. Set you phone to ring 4 and 5 star contacts and vibrate the rest. Have some people that you definitely want to talk to (wife, boss, kid's school), even when you might not want your phone to ring for others (Uncle Billy, golf buddy, boss :). Cool, you can do that too.

* Can you say universal dock? Apple's doing that with the pods now. Might as well make that a "standard" dock for other on-the-go peripherals.

Let me guess, you guys all like flip-phones :)


For all those anal-retentive nerds

I finally got around to picking up the latest Simpsons box set. They are up to season 6 if you haven't been paying attention. Up until now, the discs have come in your regular DVD sized cardboard box. Each season was a different color and they each had different characters on the spines. They look spiffy on my DVD rack. But, we can't have anything looking spiffy now can we?

They decided to change the box type. Why? Who knows. Season 6 is a big Homer head.

This isn't a bad idea. It would have been pretty cool, if not for two things.

1. Started this from Season 1.
2. Made a better box. Homer has a plastic hinge on the bottom which makes it sit funny. Why couldn't they have made it open sideways to avoid this?

My next Seinfeld season better not come in George's head. Maybe they could come in Kramer's meat slicer!

So I crack open Homer's head, and had a good laugh before I even put a disc in.

Nice, very nice. They saw it coming and didn't care! I haven't yet decided whether I will call the number or not.

"for a very derivative, old-style, just-like-before box with almost nothing new or creative to annoy or terrify you."
Seems like this fits most of the stuff you hear on the radio too - zing.

This got me thinking about the other media in my racks that bugs me. The Global Underground boys win the stupid packaging award hands down. Let's take a look at a few.

Not so bad until you realize the box is about 1cm taller than a normal CD case. Why? Ohh, to be different and cool. I'm with you daddy-o, just be cool.

Look here, this must be one of those fancy new Super Audio CDs, or perhaps a DVD-A. Nope, just a regular CD in one of those better-than-you boxes from the next gen audio discs.

Now this is just uncalled for. Why is it even bigger and goofier than past ones? Must be Sasha remixing the packaging.

Here's one I actually like. The Fabric series comes in a nifty tin. Too bad the CD rattles around loose inside. At least these are the same size as regular CD cases and line right up with the rest of them.

Ok, you got me. I guess I do like weird packaging, but only the Global Underground long boxes! These things are a pain to store too.

What's your least favorite packaging?


Happy Halloween

Now where did I put my cardboard?

Mad cow


Fire and Don't Forget

I meant to post about this a long time ago, but better late than never.

In an earlier post, I wrote about wanting a digicam with Bluetooth and built-in GPS. Well guess what? Daisy Multimedia is making that happen with their Gempix DM 600 Z.

I'd love to try this camera out. The specs look good, but I've used a Daisy Multimedia camera before and it was not a pleasant experience. The Bluetooth implementation was the definition of a bad user experience. Hopefully they've improved since then.


Mozilla is Scary?

Ok, the hallows eve is approaching, my favorite full screen app is rocking the jack-o-lanterns, and the Frightmare Forest is making people soil themselves nightly. So, what more can I do than show off my evil, not so bug infested, mozilla pumpkin from a couple of years ago.

iPod - It Keeps Getting Better

It was nearly 2 and a half years ago when I bought my first iPod. It's still kickin, but it has been replaced. My 5G iPod arrived on Monday. It is beautiful. I'm amazed how much has changed in those 2.5 years.

I picked up the 60gig and it is still smaller than my old 3G 15gig. The screen is fantastic. Crisp, bright, and BIG. On my old iPod, I can only see 7 lines of text. You can see 10 on the 5G. Even better is the width. No longer must I select a playlist such as "Nick Warren - GU...". Now I get to select "Nick Warren - GU 028 Shanghai (Di...". I can't quite see which disc it is, but at least I know which Global Underground city it is :)

The sound is just as good as my old one, if not better. It still doesn't have gapless playback, grrrrrrrrr. I've been itching for album art ever since the first iPod photo was released. I love being able to view the album art. I was also delighted to find that I can put it in full size album art mode and it stays there as the tracks change. That's nice for a docked iPod if I just want to see art and I don't care to see the track details.

Video looks great too. I picked up a couple music videos, two Lost episodes, and I ripped my Batman Begins disc as well. They all look good. I bought the AV cable to go with my new toy.

Watching Lost episodes on my big screen wasn't as bad as I thought. It looked pretty good. I would watch video of this quality, although I'd prefer it to be better.

The picture viewing is great. I'm amazed at how quick you can flip through them. I also like how you can view the last, current, and next picture when using the video out. Very slick.

In all, I'm quite satisfied and glad I upgraded. Now, if my remote and universal dock would hurry up and get here, I can give those a whirl.


5 of the Now

No need to tag me anymore, I'm going to keep 5 tracks that I'm enjoying in a sidebar of this blog. Most likely I'll change them without an accompanying post, so keep an eye out.

I'm digging back a little for this 5. Only one is a new track. That's the great thing about a large music library and shuffle. Your old stuff gets to be new stuff again!


Just Write Your 1s and 0s On the Paper

The ol' switcheroo. If you know me, you might have heard me tell my story about buying a HUGE 1 GB hard drive at Wal-Mart back in the day, only to find a thick stack of paper inside, no hard drive to be found. I thought it was a pretty unique story, but after reading the comments on a recent Engadget story, I guess it is pretty common. Buyer beware!


What's On?

Apple recently released a new iPod that is capable of playing video. The primary purpose of this device is still audio, but video capabilities are included. I'm excited to test these out. However, that's not the big thing that Apple announced last week. The big thing is the ability to download video content from the iTMS.

People have been speculating for years about video content on the iTMS, and now that it's here, no one seems to care. Sure, Hollywood is whining about wanting their cut, but I'm not seeing the press coverage that I thought I would.

Have no fear. This will be a big deal, but don't take my word for it. Maybe you've heard of HDnet. It's probably on your cable dial right now. HDnet is the baby of a very smart guy, Mr. Mark Cuban. Mark Cuban knows a thing or two about media. His involvement in Broadcast.com made sure he'll be able to do whatever he wants for the rest of his life. Thankfully he's chosen to be the voice of reason and insight in the changing face of media.

I bring up Mr. Cuban, because his recent post to Blog Maverick lays out why the ability to download network television is such a big deal. Today, the programming isn't the product the networks are selling. The ads are the product. The content is just there to keep us tuned in. With the ability to buy the show directly, the content becomes the product, and the content producers stand to make more money than today's model. The post is incredible, go give it a read.

I have now bought two Lost episodes from the iTMS. I purchased the first and fourth episodes from season 2. I bought the first episode because I wanted to try it out. I bought the 4th episode because I screwed up and didn't set the ReplayTV. The episode quality is OK, but not great. File size is about 200MB for the 45min episode and comes in MPEG-4 format. If I run it at double size, I start to notice the compression, especially in dark scenes, which sucks for Lost episodes. Running it at full screen looks bad at only 2 feet away. If I was sitting on a couch, I probably wouldn't notice it as much. Unfortunately for me, I've spent way too much time hanging out in the AV Science Forum. I have now trained myself to spot the video flaws that irritate me. Yay for me. Ignorance is bliss I guess.

This is about the content, but it is also about the convenience. I actually have more than 2 Lost episodes. We bought season 1 on DVD, but haven't watched a single one yet. I guess we're too lazy to put the disc in? (lol) Apple *MUST* release DVD rip capability in iTunes. Having the content on the go will ensure that I watch it, somewhere, sometime.

So, I guess my point is, I'm on board for getting video content pay-per-download, but I'd like to see the quality improve. I know Apple is just testing things and they are serving up content meant for the iPod right now, but I hope it doesn't end there. It does concern me that they haven't offered the ability to download music off of the iTMS in the Apple Lossless format.

I'm not done with this topic. I still have lots to say about the cost of the content and the Front Row software.


5 of The Now

Jason tagged me for some current music I'm listening to. Here's 5 that I'm enjoying as of late.

Adam Freeland - Heel N Toe [All Mixes]
Hybrid - Finished Symphony (Original Radio Edit)
The Chemical Brothers - The Boxer (DFA Version)
Deep Dish - Awake Enough
Greg Churchill - Budonkadonk

I tag Monk Jones and Jeff.

Oldie, But a Goodie

Ahhh, the radio. Certain to make a hit out of anything, as long as you play it enough. Listen to Your Heart by D.H.T. What's DHT stand for? Don't have talent, must borrow? No, that's too harsh. I actually like the song(s), but why has this particular track struck such a nerve? Why is it 4 of the top 10 in the iTMS dance section?

Why aren't any of the other dance remakes getting any love?
Fatboy Slim - The Joker
DJ Nu-Mark & Pomo - Believe
Deep Dish - Dreams

Ehh, what can I expect from the same people that put Crazy Frog in 3 of the top 10 of the iTMS electronic section.

I swear, if the wretched stench of a dirty diaper were audible, it would be a Crazy Frog track. My goodness people.


The New iPod

Of course I'm posting about this. I think you'd be more surprised if I didn't post.

Ok, so first off, it's not fat! It's an optical illusion. Check for yourself, the new iPod is the same length and width as the previous generations. You can get the old specs from my over-the-top comparison I did before and then compare that to the new specs. 4.1 x 2.4 is the magic ratio. It looks different because the screen is bigger and the scroll wheel appears smaller.

Now, how did Apple fare in my wishlist?

60gig - check
Under $500 - check
Color screen and photo features - check
A depth less than .5 inches - yes on the 30gig, reeeeeeeeal close on the 60gig (.55)
Video capability - bonus

I'm a man of my word, so I ordered the 60gig white one earlier tonight. I expect my 3G to start giving my the cold shoulder now.

Now, video playback. I'm glad it's there. I'm glad the focus is still music. I'm jumping up and down with joy now that I can buy shows. I really hope that expands the way the music store has. It might get to the point where I could run the numbers and ditch expanded cable and just buy the shows that I'd normally watch on those channels higher up the dial. Battery life - ugg. 2 hours when playing video? That's just crap. Good thing it will get 20 hours playing music.

I downloaded a Lost episode. It looks ok on my 19" LCD. Not fantastic, but it will look good on the 2.5" screen on the iPod. I'm curious to see how long it takes for tonight's Lost episode to become available for download. Somehow I didn't have the ReplayTV set and we didn't get it recorded. I was ready to spend the $2 right then and there. I won't pay for every show, but there are cases where I will. I'm hoping that 1/4 VGA isn't the end all. I'll pay for high quality video delivered over the web.

Happy Halloween - Bluetooth Style

Happy Halloween and don't forget to visit Frightmare Forest


Don't Shade My Shine

Has anyone else noticed the new, hip thing in UIs? Well, it's the half shine, of course! Take a look at these examples from Office 12 and iTunes 5.

Ok, so maybe the half shine isn't new. Apple used this technique on its buttons for apple.com way back in 2002. Go check the archive. I just seem to be noticing this more lately. Can anyone point me to the first use of this by either Apple or Microsoft? Is Office 12 Microsoft's first use of the half shine? This post seems to suggest this is the first time Office has used it.

The Office 12 UI is shaping up to be pretty cool. There is a great blog on it. It is really nice to see the developers letting the rest of us take a look in on their thought processes. I'd love to do something similar at work, but I have a feeling that isn't going to happen. Microsoft is doing a great job with this. I guess it is all about developers, developers, developers.


Evil 9.99

Need some new music? The iTMS continues to impress me. First off, they have the newest Y4K, a DJ mix series, over a month before it is set to release.
Even better, it's by none other than Evil Nine. Even better, it appears to be an import to the US, which means Amazon wants $20, but the iTMS will give it to you for $9.99. This is some thumping, grinding, mixing. If you liked Crooked, you will fall in love with "Heel and Toe". I highly recommend picking this up.

Ohh, did I mention that I WANT FRICKIN GAPLESS PLAYBACK on my iPod? I want to break the thing everytime it harshes my groove. Head nod, head nod ... silent pause - DAMN IT!

While you're at it, take a look at the newest Global Underground release - Synchronised. This is an even better deal. $4.50 for a full album? I'll take 2 for that price :)


Take a Look

I don't think I can sustain a photoblog like Ian does, but I do have a few pictures I'd like to share from a recent trip to Illinois. Surprisingly, none of the pictures that I took in Chicago made the cut.

Some large fungus

Halloween fungus - This one's for you Ian

Cabins in White Pines Forest State Park

Moist Flowers in Illinois

Be careful passing on the left

Some sweet kayaks. The 3 person one has to be over 20ft. long.