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?