You will know it is time to turn the page...

Want to figure out how old someone is? Ask them what medium their read-along storybooks came with. Vinyl? Cassette? CD? MP3?

I came across some of my old read-alongs and thought it was time to do a little preservation. Even though I have a nice turntable, and use it often, I figured having the read-along audio as a digital file might prove useful in the future. So, I dropped the 33 and a thirds on the platter and hit record. In no time, I had a copy of the audio that will live long after the books do.

So what read-alongs did I find? Well, there is the gripping The Ewoks Join the Fight.

I also found the 5 book tranformation of a mild Mogwai in to those raucous Gremlins! I think these originally came from Hardees. Remember when you could get good stuff in the drive-thru? Smurfs glasses, California Raisins, Gremlin records!

I bet you never thought you'd see Star Wars on vinyl (again?).


Snuck in a Day of RAGBRAI

It's hard to believe that I last rode RAGBRAI 3 years ago. I miss it and hope to get to do the full week many more times. On Friday, RAGBRAI passed close to home, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to sneak in a day.

The day started in Marengo and ended for most in Coralville. The day was a mild 48 miles. Even though I rode easy and stopped quite a few times along the way for pictures and food, I still made it to Coralville long before my ride was to arrive. I decided to extend the route and continued on in to North Liberty.

It was great being back on the road during RAGBRAI. Even if you aren't in to cycling, it is an experience you should try at least once. Pick a short day. Take your time. The view, the people, the bike. What a day.

Beer and bikes. Sounds like RAGBRAI. Rolling out of Marengo about 7am.

We love to see the state troopers out helping to keep the cars from attacking the bikes. Plus, you get to play chicken with the inflatable trooper bear!

A little early in the morning for the streets to be lined with welcomers, but they were still out waving hello.

If the corn field bathrooms aren't your thing, you have to wait for town.

Yes, it was hot. Yes, this felt great.

No, it's Iowa.

I swear I saw Grant Wood up on a hill with an easel.

Poorrrrkkk Chhhaaaaooooppp! I've yet to try the wares of Mr. Pork Chop, but he is a crowd favorite.

Fire pasta from Pastafari. They start their signs 15 miles before you get there. Sure makes you ride a little faster.

The reward. Tastes great. More filling.

Who's riding with me next year?


There is No iPod, Only Zune

So now Microsoft is in the iPod killing business. Details are starting to come out about their upcoming line of digital audio players called Zune. I'll let you catch up on the details if needed over at Engadget. I want to get right to why I'd care.

Getting me to switch away from iPods is no easy task. My iPods are part of my daily life now. I have one near me pretty much wherever I am. It's not just the hardware. It's iTunes. It's the iTunes Music Store. It's the availability of accessories. It's the experience.

So what would it take for me to ditch the 'pod and get with the Zune? I'll give you a list.

  1. Gapless Playback - I'll keep saying it until they give it to me. Don't try and tell me about Rockbox or 0 second crossfades. I want true gapless playback, just as if I were playing the CD and I don't want to hack anything to do it.

  2. Battery Life - No, I'm not unhappy with the iPod battery life. I find it to be quite adequate for most uses, but I always want more, MORE! Oh, and you can't make the device any bigger than an iPod. Smaller, smaller, please.

  3. Player to computer sync - Read that closely. I want to be able to use the player as the source to sync. This means I could transfer music on to another one of my computers without some middleman harddrive. The music player is the middleman harddrive. It's completely possible to do it today. There are plenty of 3rd party apps to allow it. The only reason Apple itself doesn't allow it is the copyright argument.
    My friends and I were discussing this the other day. If anything, the DRM'd music should absolutely be allowed to be pulled from the music player to another computer. You can't play the DRM'd music without a proper registration right? Right! So, what's the harm in allowing it. Only authorized users can listen anyway.
    I doubt Microsoft will leave DRM out. That just won't happen. However, they do have the opportunity to make it even less intrusive than Apple's already reasonable uses.

  4. More selection in their music store - Don't get me wrong, the selection in the iTMS is great and getting better everyday, but it still doesn't have everything that I can find in some other online music stores, like Beatport. The other biggie would be unsigned music. I want to upload my latest creation and sell it in their store. I can sort of do this today in the iTMS through places like CD Baby, but why do I need that service taking their cut? If Microsoft can find a way to ink deals to cover all of that music too, they gain some points in my book.

  5. Uncompressed downloads - Let me burn my disk space, please. I don't want stuff that sounds like the CD. I want stuff that is the CD.

  6. Pitch control - This is a selfish one. I want to be able to use my music player as a DJing source. The only way that can happen is if I can adjust the playback speed to allow beatmatching. Things like key lock and original pitch snap back would be appreciated as well. Heck, just give me a DJ mode where the scroll wheel becomes a scrub wheel by default.

  7. Increased meta-data viewing and editing - I want to add notes to files. Example, a setlist from a live DJ recording. I want to add meta data on the fly, like marking files I want to delete, or maybe blog about later. Right now, I have to do silly star ratings hacks to accomplish this. I know the interface is not ideal, but figure something out.

  8. Wireless - The WiFi rumors are interesting. Hopefully Microsoft enables some peer to peer streaming. Ideally, I want Bluetooth. A2DP, sync, I've covered all of that before.

  9. Run code on the device - I saved the best for last. Here is where Microsoft can step things up. They have years of experience in their CE and Windows Mobile operating systems. I sure hope they use that experience here. I'm not saying I want Pocket Word on my music player, but having the ability to run my own apps that also run on a PDA is killer. The development environments already exist. From day 1, I could develop apps to leverage the wireless in the device. I could write a Bluetooth phone dialer. I could make my own album art display system or visualizations. I could add in those things they leave out, like DJ pitch control :) Microsoft has a huge advantage over Apple here.

For what it's worth, I like the Zune design show above. It's clean. It's simple. It doesn't have words all over the front! Ahhh, refreshing. Sort of like the iPod :)


Backup Gone Bad

I'm going to complain about Apple software in this post. Those that are faint of heart should quite reading now.

A backup isn't a backup until it's proven, right? Right, so I proved my backup, but got some unexpected behavior along with it. I make use of Apple's Backup program. It seems pretty slick. It comes preloaded with plans that people, like me, might want to make use of. One of those plans is to backup purchased iTunes Music Store music. I buy from there, and I don't want to lose that music, well heck yes I'll backup. Thank you very much.

This has been going fine for months. I backup, not only to DVD, but also more frequently to my external hard drive. I went to do a restore from DVD the other day. This was a dead end because I couldn't find the original DVD. Doh, my bad. You see, Backup will only make incremental backups, which in a way, is good, as long as you keep all of the incrementals. Seems as though I should insert a full, fresh, backup every now and again.

With the DVDs in hiding somewhere in my house, I decide I'll just use the external HD backup. First off, the restore went great. It was easy, fast, and did restore my entire collection of purchased music. Too bad it brought the full iTunes library file, but not the library, with it. Yes, that's right. Glorious Apple, rulers of tight integration, gave me a seeming simple and unborkable plan to restore my purchased music, but when it came time to yank those bits back from the edge of the ether cliff, it invited a few more to the party.

This is a big problem for a couple of reasons.

  1. I was doing this restore on my MacBook. I don't have room for my full iTunes library on there, but I did want to have my purchased music. I have that now, but I also have over a hundred playlists that point to nothing because my full library is not loaded.

  2. Even worse, the things I had added to my library on the MacBook are now floating in no man's land because the iTunes library has been blown away and replaced with the one accompanying the purchased music backup. So much for not caring where or how iTunes stores files at the system level. I now have to go data spelunking to bring the file from the previous library back from the depths. That's just not cool.

How could Apple get this wrong? Sure, I wasn't doing a real restore, but what if I was? What if I had made tons of changes to my library and then did a restore from just a week back. It seems like I'd lose all of those changes. No, I'm not going to go try it.
Everything involved here is from Apple and I think you can see where I thought a restore of purchased music would only restore the purchased music, not pull a Weekend at Bernie's and prop some dead library up next to the bought tunes!

If you know of a better way to accomplish what I want to do (Import function?), without copying individual files in the finder (duh), I'd love to hear it. Ohh, and Apple, shame on you. Hold a lunch meeting and get the Backup team talking to the iTunes team. And while I'm yelling about Backup, can we get a default plan to backup our home directories excluding Music, Pictures, and Movies? I already back those up with the other plans. Either that, or send me a few terrabyte drives. Thanks.


5 of The Now

  • Sissy - So Long Yay! An odd and interesting video to go with an interesting and not odd song. If you like the Gorillaz, give this a shot.

  • Milosh - The City Milosh - Meme - The City It was hard to pick a Milosh track. I want you all to give him a listen. A couple of albums to choose from. I find the recent one to have a more diverse sound.

  • Aim - Loop Dreams Aim - Means of Production - Loop Dreams Only on the Internet can you see comments from idiots that think this band named them self after AOL's IM client. No, I'm not joking. Do the band a favor and give them a listen. Try a few tracks. Aim is hip-hop+jazz+dance+mellow+cool.

  • Massive Attack - Teardrop Massive Attack - Mezzanine - Teardrop I think this is the song I'd like to listen to as I reached the top of a mountain...during a long bike ride...at sunrise.

  • Lostep - Because We Can Lostep - Because We Can - Because We Can You say noise? I say joy! The album is amazing.


Music for Motivation

If you exercise and like music, you're already well aware, but the right music bumping in your ears can be the key to getting the most out of a workout or race.

With the rise of small, spacious, digital audio players, we're seeing even more athletes utilizing music for training and even competition. Burton keeps snowboarders amping, Oakley keeps it thumping on the bike, even the human hot dog shredders at this year's Nathan's Famous Hot Dog eating contest could be seen syncing their jaws to basslines.

Small sites like Jogtunes have sprung up to match music to miles, but the real momentum is just getting rolling with the recent partnership between Apple and Nike.

The best thing to come out of Nike + iPod is purpose driven music. One of my favorites, The Crystal Method, have released a new album specially crafted for Nike + iPod. The 45 minute continuous mix is aimed at a nice run, but I plan to buy it and give it a try during my cycling training rides. The sample on iTunes is too short. Go to to hear drops throughout the mix.

I've been using DJ mixes for years to pass the hours on the bike. Sander Kleinenberg's 2001 Essential Mix of the Year is especially good for packing on the miles. It is really amazing how my cadence will rise and fall with the energy of the music. Maybe if Phil Liggett were around he'd proclaim that I'm dancing on the pedals.

Check back in a month or so and I'll let you know how the training is going.


Stylesheets for TV

Let's dig deep in the bag of tech dreams and pull out a good one. Stylesheets for TV!

Hopefully you know what I mean when I say stylesheet. I'm talking about things like CSS, DSSSL, and XSLT. Stylesheets are key when seperating content from presentation. So why in the world would you need that on a TV? A lot of reasons. All of these ideas revolve around the concept that there is content on the TV and then many stations layer on that with news tickers, score reports, weather warnings, and the like.

  • Bad production - If you've been watching the Tour de France on OLN this week, you've surely noticed that the distance to go is shown in the bottom left corner of the screen...at least most of it. Until today, the larger digits have been chopped off. Dangling in no-see-um land deep within the bezel of my screen. Where did the info go? Was it chopped at transmit by OLN? Did my local cable company cut it off? Who knows, who cares. If I had a stylesheet, I could position it over a few pixels (inches?) and solve the problem.

  • Bad eyesight - When your eyesight goes bad, you could apply font increasers to graphics and text. Maybe you care more about the stocks than the talking heads on Bloomberg TV. Maybe you have a disability with your eyes. Adjust your stylesheet accordingly.

  • Time-shifted content - DVRs are here to stay. Not only do I have LIVE! indicators on week old World Cup games, but I also get to see programming notes for stuff that has already happened. I'm not adverse to letting the networks in on the styling fun. I'd be ok with them inserting fresh content over top of stale during playback of recorded shows, as long as I had the option to turn it off. There is also the hugely annoying problem of telling me results of sporting events that I have yet to watch. While enjoying the day's World Cup match, ESPN was nice enough to ruin the Tour stage I was saving for later in the night by showing the result on the stat line. They robbed me of the joy and excitement of watching the peloton reel in the breakaway just before the finish...or will they? Let me specify a blackout period for scores and results to let me catch up with other events I may have recorded.

  • Personalized content - I don't need to see MLB scores, ever. Go ahead and apply a display:none to those, thank you. You might also have a reason to not want static content, like news ticker rectangles on your display. With TVSS, you can whisk them away!

  • Variable screen geometries - 4x3, 16x9, 25x16? Screens will evolve and you'll always have folks watching on older form factors. With styling opportunities, you could drop the NBA scoreline, or severe weather report where you want on the screen. They let you adjust the PIP window on your TV, why can't I move the county map showing where the flooding is?

TV is far from dead, but it does need to get smarter. Rumors of Apple plasmas don't sound that far-fetched when you consider the sorts of things you could do when once you have a full computing platform bolted to your TV.

What sorts of styling would you like to apply to the things you watch?