100 Days of Cycling

You may remember my post from earlier this year where I set a goal to ride my bicycle 100 days this year. I'm pleased to say, I have met this goal. Yesterday was my 100th ride.

I wasn't sure if I'd meet my goal. Late in August, I was barely past the halfway mark. I figured it would be pretty hard to find the days in the fall and winter. Turns out, I was right. It was hard to find days. That made me switch to nights :) I haven't really done much night riding, but I enjoy it quite a bit now. As long as you have a good light and a safe route, it can be a very calming experience. At least 30 of my rides were done at night. The number of cars I would encounter dropped to 1/10th and the number of police cars I saw at least tripled.

I would never have been able to meet this goal without an understanding wife, and some good equipment. These items were key:

  • A durable bike - At least 50% of my rides were done on my Specialized Langster. I love the bike. It's a single speed, so there's less to maintain, less to break, and less to clean. I managed to make it through the year with only one flat on the Langster. Other than that, I just cleaned and lubed it every now and then.

  • A good light - You want to see and be seen when riding at dusk or dark. I've mentioned it before. My Light and Motion Vega is a great light. It stood up to the cold and rain.

  • A skull cap - It has been warmer than normal this year, but I did have a few rides below freezing. Covering your head and ears is essential. I picked mine up for $5 at a bike tradeshow.

  • Cold weather pants - Plenty of bike riders have no need for pants. When it gets too cold for the shorts, they just hang it up for the year. I'd be really fat if I did that. They weren't cheap, but I got a nice pair from Cannondale with Windstopper fronts. These things are glorious. Warmth is never a problem. I use them for biking, skiing, snow shoeing, and hiking.

This year's goal was not miles, it was days. Next year's goal is back to miles, but with a twist. Stay tuned.


Stupid Internet People

A fun clip from Judge Judy. It sounds pretty bad when taken out of context. It's no secret that Judge Judy doesn't much care for computers, but she was actually ranting about the stupid things people do with each other after only knowing them for a short period of Internet contact only.


I don't get WMP

Maybe it's all of that Apple kool-aid that I drink, but I just don't get Windows Media Player. I don't understand the design. I don't understand where I need to click. I don't understand why it has so many different viewing modes. I don't understand why it can't handle it's own invisible border properly when you drag it around. I don't understand the handling of the timers.

I like to see the timer display time left on the track. Most players represent that with a negative sign. -00:09 tells you that the track will be up in 9 seconds. Windows Media Player doesn't use the negative. The difference between counting up and counting down is...well there is no difference. You have to watch the counter long enough to figure out which way it is counting to know what mode you last left it in. Maybe not a problem to you, but I don't use it alot, and it's a problem to me.

While I'm clicking around trying to figure out the counters, I see something quite odd. The timer disappears and relocates to the title-bar, well the fake title-bar anyway. They show the time in a completely different way up there. More choices have to be better, right?

To recap, WMP starts by counting down. Click it and it will count up. Click it again and it will jump to the fake title-bar and count up. It seems you can't get it to count down in the fake title-bar. Less choices have to be better, right?

The real craziness is the poor little shuffle icon that gets sucked up in the mess. When the counters are down low, you get an icon to control the shuffle modes. When the counter jumps up top, the shuffle mode icon goes on break! It doesn't jump to the top. It just diappears completely! Now you have a blank area that could still have the icon, but it doesn't. No choice has to be better, right? (yes, you can still get to it in the menu...if you can figure out how to pop a menu)

Finally, just to make you slap your head one more time...if you "Show Menu Bar", you'll get a real title-bar. If you go do your click dance on the counters now, the counter and shuffle icon will disappear completely. It doesn't pop to the title-bar. It disappears and you can't get it back until you switch to fake title-bar mode and click. I seriously can not find a menu or right click way to get it back. You have to switch modes and click.

Can anyone justify this behavior? What use case am I missing?


5 of The Now

  • Malcolm Middleton - Solemn Thirsty Malcolm Middleton - Into the Woods - Solemn ThirstyEmotional

  • Goodie Mob - Cell Therapy Goodie Mob - Soul Food - Cell Therapy While chatting music with the crew at work, I got some blank stares when I mentioned Goodie Mob. Let's fix that. Before Gnarls Barkley, Cee-Lo spent his time with Goodie Mob. Take a moment and read the Cee-Lo wikipedia. There's a lot of interesting info there. Guests on the Soul Food album include OutKast. It's a good album and often overlooked.

  • Logistics - Haunted by Her Yesterdays Logistics - Now More Than Ever - Haunted By Her Yesterdays Record labels, pay attention. My purchase of this album was entirely due to the
    always quality podcast
    put out by London Elektricity for Hospital Records. I got to hear a lot of the album and I got excited enough to purchase it. Of all the electronic music disciplines, I spent the least amount of time with Drum 'n Bass. This podcast got me back in the mood and translated in to a direct sale. One more time....free music led to purchased music.

  • The Knife - Silent Shout The Knife - Silent Shout - Silent Shout Still getting in to the album, but the title track already has a grip on me.

  • DJ Shadow - 3 Freaks DJ Shadow featuring Keak da Sneak & Turf Talk - The Outsider - 3 Freaks (Featuring Keak Da Sneak & Turf Talk) The hyphy tracks on Shadow's new album are really growing on me. I should know better than to doubt the Shadow.

BTW, wouldn't it be nice if you could embed iTunes links inline like you can YouTube and the like? I know Apple likes to control the experience in iTunes, but man I wish you could just click and play.


Click the X

I took 5 minutes to see how many different close buttons I could find in some pretty standard apps. Luckily it's hard to make an 'X' look like anything other than an 'X'.

Top to bottom

  • Google Talk

  • Microsoft Word

  • Microsoft Command Prompt

  • Microsoft Windows Media Player

  • Apple iTunes

  • Roxio Easy CD Creator

  • Cyberlink PowerDVD

I'm sure you can find more. Part of me hates that there are so many different versions of the same thing. Part of me understands that some apps want to have an identity or use different GUI libraries. The rest of me just puts up with the non-standard standard controls.


Front Row as DVD Library

I like Apple's Front Row, but it is missing key functionality. One function is the ability to playback DVDs from the harddrive. Apple's DVD player allows this (color me amazed), but Front Row does not, which is a shame since lots of other media enablers out there do.

Note: How you get DVDs to your harddrive is not the subject of this post and I want to make it clear that "borrowing" DVDs from the Internet is not something that I think is right and do not participate in.

Coders to the rescue. A smart guy created a solution to allow stored DVD playback. The app is called DVD Assist. It works by monitoring what Front Row is playing and when it sees a particular file get played, it will launch a corresponding VIDEO_TS folder in the DVD player. A hack, yes. A slick hack, you bet.

To make things work, you need to do a few things.

  1. Create a placeholder movie

  2. Put the placeholder movie in the VIDEO_TS folder

  3. Alias the placeholder and put it in a different folder for easy browsing in Front Row

  4. Give all of these files useful names so you know what you are looking at in Front Row

Now, it isn't hard to do those things, but it is time consuming.

Automator to the rescue.

I play DVDs off of my MacBook, sometimes to a TV. I don't have a lot of room on the MacBook, so I keep my DVDs stored on an external hard drive and then copy them over to the MacBook when I want to watch them. Can't I just watch the DVD directly? Not if I don't have a DVD player hooked up to that TV! Plus, maybe I just want to watch the movie on the MacBook while travelling and not mess with the physical DVDs. So, along with the steps to make DVD Assist work, I add in automation for the file copy.

Before I make with the automator, please understand that I'm not an Automator pro. I'm barely a novice. Can you make a better solution? I'm sure you can. Post it on your blog. This is my solution.

If you want to use this Automator script, you'll need a couple of folders. I have everthing off of ~/Movies.

  • Temp - For temp files, derrrrrr

  • Discs - For the complete disc structures, AKA, where the VIDEO_TS folders live

  • DVDs - Where the movie alias files go. This is the folder you navigate in Front Row

  1. Copy the DVD from external drive to MacBook. The movie gets copied to ~/Movies.

  2. Make a copy of the placeholder movie. This is in the Temp folder.

  3. Ask for the name of the movie and rename the placeholder. I mucked with auto-naming, but it is just easier to spend 10 seconds typing it in.

  4. Put the placeholder in the right VIDEO_TS folder. Yes, you have to pick it. The name you put in can't be tied to the directory structure. Add 10 more seconds to the process.

  5. Make the alias in the DVDs folder that you see in Front Row. Automatic - yay!

Automator screenshots included to see what I've done. Including the saved workflow isn't that valuable as you'll need to tie it to your directory structure anyway.

Of course, after I spent the time making this solution work, I heard about Flip4Mac's Drive-in software. I haven't tried it yet, but it seems like it adds stored DVD disc image playback to Front Row, which would make it quite similar.


Rah Rah Rass

Kick 'em in the bass!

I'm finishing up getting my music collection in to Delicious Library. I have the voice announcement of titles turned on and I get a chuckle every now and then. I find it quite interesting that the OS X pronunciation of "bass" is like the fish, not like the thing that bumps from your car or the guitar.

Seems to me that folks using a computer, and especially a Mac, are more likely to be in to music than fish. Maybe that's just me.