2008 Albums of the Year

  • Girl Talk - Feed the Animals [Amazon]

  • Sasha - Invol2ver Sasha - Invol2ver

  • Sia - Some People Have Real Problems Sia - Some People Have Real Problems

  • FM Belfast - How to Make Friends FM Belfast - How to Make Friends

I was especially struck with the fact that I didn't buy the physical disc of any of these. 3 of them came from the iTunes store and one came direct from the artist.

Also of note are the albums that didn't make my list. Evil Nine, Bloc Party, and Milosh all had new albums that I bought in 2008. I enjoy all of them, but none of them managed to crack my yearly favorites. Robyn's album is also great, but I have a hard time calling it a 2008 album. Much of the album has been available for years.

Past albums of the year:


MagSafe on a Desktop?

When the Apple LED Cinema Display was launched, I was immediately drawn to the multi-headed cord that supplied video, USB, and power. This was no iMac, but it was again attacking the number of cables you need to snake around your desk. A single power drop to the floor is fantastic...but only if you're using a MacBook or MacBook Pro.

I won't admit that the Mac mini is dead, and the number of rumors surrounding it suggest it is ready for an update (but we've heard that many times before). I'm wondering if Apple would release a new Mac mini with a MagSafe connector. Certainly the desktop computer is a different beast than a notebook. People shout "I wouldn't want my computer to shut off when I trip over the cable!". To those folks I say, why in the world are you tripping over your computer's power cable? Do you trip often? Do you drink a fair amount? Do you like to host double dutch tournaments with your power cords in the living room?

Personally, I'd me more than happy with a MagSafe connector on my desktop. I can't say I've ever tripped over the cord of my desktop, so I'll take the risk that it'll get yanked out at an inopportune time in exchange for fewer cables.

That leaves the cost argument. Folks in the market for a Mac mini aren't the target market of an LED Cinema Display. However, since that's the only display Apple makes, that would be a nice little carrot to get them to spend the cash.

Here's hoping for a new Mac mini in '09. Let's see what it brings. My mockup including the Mac nano is included here. If Apple really does this, I'd expect the cables out the back.


Peanut Butter Jelly Time

Just a fun idea for your kids or those with a kid's heart. Cookie cutter for the shape. Peanut butter works as glue for the ornaments.

Make one and post a link to the picture. You know you want to!


You Already Have That Information

Let's start the rant.

Earlier this week, we had the misfortune of a dead battery in our Toyota van. How it got that way is a whole other rant. For whatever reason, we were unable to jump it (I still don't know what I did wrong). Roadside assistance to the rescue! We had such a service as part of purchasing the vehicle. Here's where the mess started.

Getting someone on the phone was no problem. It was the conversation topics that were the problem. 95% of the conversation was spent gathering information they already have. They wanted our name and address. Sure, no problem, you need to identify me. I can handle that. We then spent over 5 minutes convincing them that our address really does exist, and has for nearly 4 years. You can blame the map companies for this one, but we'll get to that.

Here are some other things they needed to know:

  • What kind of vehicle we had

  • The type of drivetrain the vehicle has

  • The color of the vehicle

This irritates me, because this is all information they already have, and by asking me, and re-entering it, they can only make mistakes. They can't get any better data than they already should have. We bought the vehicle from Toyota. They know the make, model, drivetrain, and color of the vehicle they sold us. It was on the paperwork we signed. They know where we live, it was on the paperwork we signed, generated from data we gave them at the time of purchase. The service plan was purchased from Toyota and applied to the vehicle that we purchased so the plan is linked to the vehicle that is linked to us and our address.

I don't care if you farm out the service contract to another company. Give them the information you already have. I don't care if map services don't think our street exists. How about you trigger an "are you sure" to their databases when you process a customer that seems to live on a street that doesn't exist. Perhaps the map guys would even pay you for the heads up!

All I want to hear is "Sir, we show you have a '33 Foobar AWD with purple poka-dots". I'll, say yes, and let them know that I added lime green racing stripes which they'll add to their information store.

Computers are good at this stuff folks. It isn't hard. Companies can save themselves money and time getting their ducks in a row, and the side effect is they wow me with their great service.

Maybe GM and Chrysler can apply some of my tax dollars towards service. One way of making a desirable car is making one with exceptional service behind it and you don't have to be a luxury brand to accomplish that.


CRbus Update

Public transit in Cedar Rapids had a bit of a shakeup this year. With all-time record flooding in the city, our Ground Transportation center was damaged, as well as many of the neighborhoods that the buses blaze through (and some of the buses themselves).

The city has made the best of what they have. This includes a new hub at Parking Lot 44, south of the regular GTC. It also includes some new stops, less frequent buses, but also later running buses.

My iPhone optimized Cedar Rapids bus schedule, CRbus, is now up to date with the schedules posted on August 22nd. Sorry for the delay. I wasn't riding the bus much in the last few months, so it wasn't a priority for me. [CRbus was launched here]

Let me know if you find any errors in the data. The city doesn't provide the data in an easily consumable format, so there's a lot of hand editing involved.


Simple Lists

Keeping a list of things to do is something most everyone does. I certainly do. Crossing something off those lists is one of the most satisfying things I encounter in a day. Traditionally, I keep these lists on scraps of paper and consolidate to a larger, heavy (to signify importance), piece of paper every so often. This works, but it certainly has disadvantages.

  • Tough to share it with others or between home and work

  • Tough to save large archives, unless you want a box of scrap paper

  • Can't search it

  • Easy to lose

I've tried to take my todo list digital many, many times. Microsoft Outlook tasks, Microsoft Project, Google Notebook, _todo.txt in the root. These are all as capable as paper, but they all had drawbacks that never let them stick. I always went back to paper and pen.

Over Thanksgiving, I took some vacation. I've found that I enjoy my vacation far more when I have a nice list of things to do, (and get them done). Otherwise I find myself watching the Today show until mid-morning, doing nothing of real value all day, and next thing I know, the family is walking in the front door.

So one of my todos for my last vacation was to check out the software that I got in the last MacHeist bundle (listing here) that I never got around to trying. One of those apps happened to be TaskPaper.

I went in pessimistic, expecting to be deleting the app after a day or so. After a few minutes of checking it out, I decided to give it a go for the week with my vacation todo list. By day 2 I was hooked. The digital todo list was finally a reality for me.

I love the simplicity of the app. I love the tagging and tag based filtering. I love that it still feels satisfying to cross off a task. I love the amazingly simple data format rules that let the app style the data appropriately.

TaskPaper seems to have a good buddy in TodoPaper. TodoPaper has essentially the same design, but for Windows systems. I'm now using TodoPaper at work and TaskPaper at home. I'd love to see them add a way to sync them.

TaskPaper recently bumped to 2.0 and got even better. The interface got even cleaner and they added a great query language (not @done is a favorite).

The only real holdback on these apps is the price. $30 for each seems a touch much to me but I'd still buy it at that price. I'm very happy to have gotten my TaskPaper license in MacHeist and work bought the TodoPaper license. Free trials are available, as well as discount codes every now and then. Be sure to check the site blogs and the TaskPaper screencast for a discount.



A bit late on the post, but since I've posted them in previous years, I thought I'd get that going again.

Mine was the ghost, and no, I did not intend for it to look like Pac-man or the logo for Ghostly International.

:set tings

This post is half googlecache, half hoping someone will find it useful.

I'm a die hard vi user. So hardcore that years ago, I started a project to replace Windows explorer with something that could be controlled with vi keys. Imagine blazing through your filesystem with j and k and then renaming a file with vi commands. I'm starting to drool again. I mothballed that project long ago.

Anyway, I have some settings for vi that I'm used to and I like to take them with me to whatever machine I touch. Here is what you'll find in my .exrc, .vimrc, or lemmy.rc (depending on the platform).

set shiftwidth=4
set autoindent
set ruler
set showmode
set wrapscan
set warn
set showmatch
set tabstop=4
ab teh the
ab fo of
map ,, o^[k
map g ^i/* ^[ ^[A */^[j
map f ^i^[j
map ,da :r!date

If I'm on OS X, warn, showmode, and wrapscan are on by default. Remember that Leopard uses Vim, so put your settings in ~/.vimrc.

To me, a tab is 4 wide, not 8. Feel free to start a religious war with me if you'd like to.

Some of my favorites are the mappings I have near the end. Hitting to add a blank line is a must have. The auto-comment-this-line shortcuts are nice too.

I know some of the readers of this blog are vi users. What do your settings look like?


Forced Receipt

Uhh, you're doing it wrong.


Baby Toy on a Pole

I can't believe I haven't run across this sooner, what with all of the complaining (err, suggesting) I do on the color blind topic. It seems that some traffic signals in Canada do use shapes, in addition to color. I love it.

Photo credit of user Sprocket from Wikipedia


The Cheapest Thing at Amazon

I don't pay for shipping at Amazon. Ever since they started offering Super Saver Shipping, I make sure that I never spend less than $25. This used to be very easy for me. I kept a wish list 5 pages long. Most of it was full of music, movies, and books that I wanted. When an order went in, I'd go pluck something from the wish list to get me over $25.

This worked great until recently. Most of my music now comes from iTunes, Beatport, and the Amazon MP3 store. I'm not buying many physical CDs. I've all but stopped buying DVDs. Between my existing collection and Netflix, I have way more movies than time. Books are similar. I have no less than 10 I need to finish and I've promised myself no new books until I do.

I recently put in an order for some rechargeable batteries (Sanyo Eneloop
if you care). The total was $24.99. Nice. Now I have to spend a penny to get free shipping. Nothing on the wish list was suitable. I went on a short search to find the cheapest thing on Amazon that I could buy and still have a use for. I ended up getting a set of Cat Crinkle Balls for one dollar and 62 cents.

So, I'm curious. How do you get your cart over $25 to get free shipping? Do you have any low cost items you toss in? What's the lowest price item you've seen at Amazon?

One warning about the Crinkle Balls link. It seems a pet supply store rather than Amazon currently has the lowest sale price, so make sure you are selecting Amazon if you try to buy this. Otherwise you will spend $7.99 to ship your dollar cat balls!


5 of the Now

  • Evil Nine - All the Cash Evil Nine - They Live! - All the Cash (feat. El-P) [Amazon]

    I wasn't full bore into "They Live" when it came out. That's changing recently. El-P absolutely smashes it on this one.

  • Kid Cudi - Day 'n' Nite Kid Cudi - Day 'n' Nite - EP - Day 'n' Nite [Amazon]

    I don't tend to rank my 5otns. It isn't a contest for the best track. It's what I'm feeling and listening to at the moment. That said, this is #1 for me right now. It has infiltrated my brain. I have dreams about playing the beat on Bloom. I'm sick.

  • FM Belfast - Underwear FM Belfast - How to Make Friends - Underwear [Amazon]
    They say that all of this great music comes out of Iceland because there's nothing better to do (I don't buy it, seems like a wonderful place to live and I'd like to visit some day). Well now we get the great music that celebrates the fact that there's nothing to do there! Rock on.

  • Alex Metric - In Your Machine (Treasure Fingers Remix) Alex Metric - Deadly On a Mission - In Your Machine [Amazon]

  • Get Shakes - Sister Self Doubt Get Shakes - Sister Self Doubt - EP - Sister Self Doubt [Amazon]

iTunes and Amazon links included for your convenience and my music addiction!


Multiple Formats, Watched Once

I have a new feature to add to my wish list for iTunes Pro. Podcasts have overtaken TV for me. I watch them at home on my Mac and my Apple TV, and on the go on my iPhone. For those podcasts that support it, I like to watch the HD versions on my Apple TV. The iPhone doesn't care for that high of resolution, so I need to either not watch certain shows on it, or catch a duplicate feed, in a lower resolution.

Catching dual feeds burns more disk than necessary, but that's not why I hate it. I hate it because iTunes isn't smart enough to know that when I've watched the HD version, it should mark the other version as watched as well. iPhones aren't that big and it really hurts to have it sync'd full of stuff I've already watched.

Apple could hide all of this mess. I could just have a single entry for Diggnation and it could figure out the best version to show for the platform I'm using.

One day the iPhone will support HD, but unless flash capacity jumps dramatically in the near term, it will still be more cost efficient to sync a lower res version.


Simple Time

My wife bought me this alarm clock from Target earlier this year. It's designed by Michael Graves. She said she got it for me because it looked simple. She was right and I love it.

I love the large numbers that are easy to read. I love the backlit display that only comes on when you need it, which is nice since the unit runs on batteries. I love that there is no power cord. I love that the backlight stays on for 10 seconds or so from a single push. This allows it to be a quick night light too to help you rearrange your bedding.

I love that there are only 6 buttons and they don't require a bunch of weird hold sequences. Alarm, clock, plus, minus, snooze, and on/off. Hold the alarm button to change the alarm. Hold the time button to...wait for it...change the time. Turn it on and you get clear indication the alarm is set. It's also small enough to take with you when you travel. I really love not having to worry that I didn't get the hotel alarm set right.

Best of all, it looks nice and it didn't cost much. A truly great product. I wish I could find more of them to buy for friends and family as gifts.


Goat Moon

5 of the Now

  • DJ Zeph & Azeem - Sunset Scavenger - FrogsDJ Zeph - Frogs
    Nod your head

  • LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver - Someone GreatLCD Soundsystem - Someone Great
    Eventually I'll work my way through their whole catalog as 5otn entries. I think this is the 5th time LCD Soundsystem has made the 5otn. In a parallel universe, I listen to this while drinking coffee outside my last bike messenger drop-off in New York city.

  • Freeez - Freeez Frame! - The Best of Freeez - I.O.U.Freeez - I.O.U.
    What's old is new again. It's so damn catchy. Garish elegance. Sometimes Y!

  • Babe Ruth - Grand Slam - The Best of Babe Ruth - The MexicanBabe Ruth - The Mexican
    Let's take it back...

  • MGMT - Kids (Soulwax Remix)
    Focused chaos. Amazing. Hundreds of shady places to download this one. Can't seem to find an official one.

Bonus - Dexy's Midnight Runners - Too-Rye-Ay - Come on EileenDexy's Midnight Runner - Come on Eileen. I blame Girl Talk for this one. Believe it or not, I have this on vinyl from years and years ago. Girl Talk has planted it in my head, never to be heard the same again.


I'm Leaving iGoogle...wait not yet

The new iGoogle launched and I hate it. iGoogle is my homepage. I keep weather, stocks, mail, and feeds on there...mostly feeds. The new iGoogle destroyed it for me. The old one showed me post titles with a plus box to open up and read the item. This worked well. If I wanted, I could click-thru to the main site, but I rarely did. The new iGoogle chose to do away with the plus boxes and just give me the first two lines of the RSS items. This was terrible. It wasn't enough to read and it made the page an absolute mess of text that was impossible to read. Combine that with the worthless side bar links and I was ready to look for a replacement.

Well, I guess Google is feeling the heat. As of tonight, the plus boxes are back. I can collapse the side bar links and I'm mostly back to normal. I'll stay...for now.

As a temporary workaround, you can change your language preference to UK english and get the old design back. Who knows how long until they roll the new site to the UK version.

The software industry is excited about web apps because they can spin versions whenever they want. New features can launch when ready, not as part of a larger bundle. The problem with this is that it's usually a forced upgrade. With boxed software, I can choose to not have the Office ribbons, for example. With online software, beloved features are killed as the users scream in pain. Will web apps face a sustaining nightmare? Will customers demand old versions stick around forever?


iTunes 8 Helps You Clean

I would have thought otherwise, but I love genre tiles. How nice of iTunes 8 to ram those badly tagged tracks in my face. Are you like me, can you not stand 4 ways to say the exact same thing? Well iTunes helps you find those ID3 abominations so you can clean them right up.

BTW, the correct one of the 4 is "Hip Hop". I know this because Shadow says so.


Strictly Enforced

One of favorite signs to see along the road is the "strictly enforced"
sign. It usually contains some trumped up promise meant to make you
believe law enforcement personnel are strapped to every other tree,
two fisting radar guns that are pointed squarely at you. What makes it a
puzzler is that the signs rarely list the speed limit they are
strictly enforcing. 20 square feet of signage and they can't find
room for a measley "35"!


5 of the Now


iPhone Remote Review

iPhone 2.0 software is out and that means your iPhone can now be a remote. Yes, with Apple's Remote application, you can use the iPhone to control iTunes on your computer, and better yet, your Apple TV.

I'm loving this app so far. Setup is very easy. You use the same PIN entry that you use to create a relationship between your Apple TV and the computers in your network. Once you are setup, you get a familiar iPod-like set of menus on the iPhone. The only difference is that when you pick something to play, sound and video start on the Apple TV, rather than the iPhone.

It is interesting that the playlist interface is a bit different from the one you get with the traditional iPod controls.

Other things to note

  • No, you can't stream from your library to your phone using this app.

  • You can view ratings of your library content, but you can't set new ratings with the Remote app.

  • Coverart and track info is displayed so this is the perfect party controller. You never have to leave the poker table to figure out which song is playing or start something else on request. If you are progressing through a playlist, the coverart will just update for you. Turn off power savings and hang your phone on the wall next to the stereo so your guests know what is playing.

  • Elapsed track time does display. Very nice.

  • It has search!

  • Regular remotes still work. Get in a remote battle with your family members.

  • Coverflow does not work in Remote

  • You can spend as long as you like selecting something new from the Remote interface without stopping what is playing on the Apple TV. This is especially valuable when viewing movies because normally the Apple TV will stop playing the movie completely when you jump into the menu system.

  • Sadly, you can crash the Apple TV using the Remote program. It doesn't happen often, but I have done it.

  • Best of all, it is free


Hooray for Trism

iPhone 2.0 software is out and somehow I managed to get upgraded this morning amongst the melting Apple servers. I'm a little underwhelmed with the selection of apps in the app store so far. I figured there would be dozens I would want to try and buy. There aren't, yet.

I was looking for a good puzzle game though. I came across Trism. Looked like something I'd enjoy. Match up tiles. Things slide around. Bonuses for large matches. Hold on, what's this. Color blind mode!. I was already leaning towards buying this game and color blind mode, with letters along with the color, put me right over the top.

Huge thanks to the developer, Demiforce, for including a color blind mode. It is much appreciated and resulted in a sale of your game.

One final thanks to Apple for building in a screenshot function in the 2.0 software. Hold home and hit sleep/wake. I love it.

BTW, the game is lots of fun too.


5 of the Now

Back to back 5 of the Nows without any other posts? Hmm, either I have nothing to say, or I'm too busy listening to music.

Let's review for the record companies in case they are listening. 4/5ths of the music in this list is available for free in one form or another. I paid for a copy of all of them because I enjoy them, and I was able to buy them in a format that provides me value. The only one that I couldn't find free anywhere is put out by Ghostly International. Ghostly isn't avoiding the free though. You'll find them dishing out tracks at Rcrd Lbl, as well as being the latest label to team up with Adult Swim. Go download Ghostly Swim now!


5 of the Now

  • Paul Kalkbrenner - Gebrünn Gebrünn Paul Kalkbrenner - Camping, Vol. 2 - Gebru?nn Gebru?nn iTunes must hate Mr. Kalkbrenner. I reported a bad encoding of his track, "The Palisades", years ago. It's still messed up (you can hear it in the preview). My download of "Deep" also has dropouts in it. Is BPitch providing the crappy encodings or is Apple out to get him? Luckily my copy of "Gebrünn Gebrünn" is clean and sounds wonderful. This track has such a big, yet lush, sound.

  • Radiohead - All I Need Radiohead - In Rainbows - All I Need Perfect for an afterparty. Since we're talking Radiohead, I need to link this masterpiece.

  • LCD Soundsystem - Big Ideas LCD Soundsystem - 21 (Music from the Motion Picture) - Big Ideas Rock! I want an extended version of this track. I find myself in possession of a head full of big ideas after I have a beer or two. My wife calls a beer a "bottle of words" for me. Much like the lyrics in this song, most of those ideas are gone the next morning or condemned to live life on a hastily scribbled piece of paper, of which there are dozens in my dresser. It's no lie, this writeup is coming from one of those scraps of paper :) Thanks to Jason for pointing me to this soundtrack that slipped my radar.

  • Zombie Nation - Black Toys Zombie Nation - Black Toys - Black Toys No doubt you are familiar with Zombie Nation's "Kernkraft 400" track. I believe it is required to be played at all major sporting events worldwide. Anyway, Zombie Nation is more than that track. I really enjoy the harshness that starts about 1:23 into this one. Sounds even better pitched up a touch.

  • Gnarls Barkley - Run (I'm a Natural Disaster) Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple - Run (I'm a Natural Disaster) I'm not digging the new album as much as I thought I would, but I can't sit still listening to this one.


Sigh, Another Box

I'm happy and sad. The recently announced Netflix Player, by Roku, seems like something I would have ordered the second I saw it. I've been a Netflix customer nearly as long as they've been around. I talk up their service to anyone who will listen. I eagerly joined in on the Watch Now beta testing, and put up with the new client downloads seemingly every time I watched something. I even keep a Windows partition around on my MacBook, just so I can have IE and watch now capability (no Parallels on the MacBook).

Then there's my good buddy Roku. Well, it's more like a friend of a friend. The founder of Roku, Anthony Wood, is the man that gave us the ReplayTV, and it is well documented how much I love that thing.

So we have Netflix and Roku...together. They give us a fairly priced, one time cost, little box that will let me watch Netflix movies on my TV with no computer involved. This should be awesome...but it's not.

It's another box. I don't want another box. The days of a towering electronics stack being cool are long gone. I was there. I wanted to buy a separate CD player from my DVD player because it would be better and it would look sophisticated and privileged. I don't care about that sort of thing anymore. I want my hardware to blend in with the furniture. I want it elegant, but minimal. I want fewer things to dust. Fewer cords to plug-in. Fewer remotes to handle. Fewer interfaces to tolerate (most of them suck).

So what happened Netflix? We saw reports that you were bringing your service directly to the TV. Is that still coming? That's where it's at for the end game. No extra boxes. Just a service in the box. TVs are frickin finally getting smarter. Samsung's InfoLink looks pretty interesting for a start. RSS feeds for stocks and weather. Sounds familiar.

I think Apple has Netflix beat on everything but the price with their Apple TV. The Apple TV isn't just a movie box. It's a content box, with movies being one of the content types. Apple is pushing hard for you to buy stuff through the Apple TV, but is quite capable without spending a penny. I love its ability to subscribe to video podcasts. Where's that feature Roku? I love that it can play YouTube and view Flickr. Can't Netflix make these partnerships too?

Did I mention the Roku box is fugly? I'm eager to see what the other hardware vendors that have deals with Netflix will bring. The Roku box looks like a Radio Shack composite video switcher from the 90s.

The thing that kills me is that even though this thing is ugly and another box, I still want to buy one because that crappy experience will be amazingly pleasant compared to the crappy experience of booting a whole other OS just to access Netflix content and then sit at my computer desk for 2 hours.