Saturday, December 09, 2006

More Fiidback

So, we got a few more people around to play with the Wii - taking turns because we haven't found any extra controllers. Some representative comments (not mine).

  • "This looks like something from 10 years ago."
  • "Why didn't they finish the game?"

The latter alludes to the Wii Sports game shipped with the console. The little dudes, which are already the simple "booger" design, don't have any arms. And in some of the games, no legs or feet either. (They do in the Mii design window, so if it was a design consideration, it wasn't applied consistently.) And although they're 3d models, sometimes they look 2d. Etc etc. When you hit the ball in the baseball game, the runners don't even bother getting off home plate unless they actually get on base. The catchers don't bother to throw the ball to get an out, the result is just reported.

The bigger problem, though, is certainly the control. As described in The Design of Everyday Things, the key factor in people learning how to use controls is feedback - you need to know why things onscreen happen in response to what you're doing. For the Wiimote, such feedback is woefully in short supply. Lacking that, it takes a while to figure out how to adapt to what the system expect.

For instance, when bowling, the ball does some extra spinning to the left. Why? Is it the tilt of the controller? The spin? It's hard to do controlled experiments to figure out exactly which aspect of your motion is affecting what. Same thing for pitches in the baseball game - what exactly differentiates a screw ball from a curveball when you're wiggling the controller?

Also, inherent to trying to map the position of the controller to the game play are some real fundamental problems. Watching someone playing Boxing and comparing their movements to those onscreen is an pretty jarring. Presumably as you learn how fast the game can track, and what they can tell you are doing, you can keep it in sync better. This was also an issue with the EyeToy games, but those weren't the default, integral controller for an entire console.

Another flaw, at least with Wii Sports, is the limited control altogether. Since you're waving the magic wand, that limits what effect you can have. In Tennis, you swing the racket, but all player positions are computer controlled (including yours). Running/catching in baseball is all computer controlled, you just throw or hit the ball. In general, there's not much you can do.

And the continued safety warning screens, plug in the extra controller, now unplug the extra controller (some games use the Nunchuck attachment, and some games require it be disconnected, for safety presumably), all become an exercise in obeying the system. In a peculiar way, it's reminds me of those old Choose Your Own Adventure books, or Dragon's Lair, with simple branching points.

The best advice from the game: "Why don't you take a break and do something else for awhile?" Thank you Wii. Thii.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Glii or Flii?

I just picked up a new Wii from Nintendo today. First impressions? Well, rather than playing with it, I'm blogging about it - I suppose that should say something.

Rather than jumping into the games, of course, I did the geek thing and started installing system updates, entering wireless passwords, connecting to their store, linking my Ninteno account, and generally setting up shop. Their internet browser? Coming soon... News and Weather channels? Says I need to upgrade, then tells me I'm already up to date when I try. Maybe another day.

First stop after all that is to create a Mii - a tiny little avatar. Sadly, these little boogers have less personality than the much more enticing WeeMees. Oh well, they seem somehow linked to save files, so I'll make an ugly ol' version of me for now.

Next up, a little tennis maybe. After flailing around with the remote and a few rounds, time to calm down the dog, who seems to think I'm having a stroke. Overall impression... eh. The online stuff is so poor compared to my 360 it's not even funny. The account managment/security for multiple users, more or less nonexistant (and the parental locking is uber clumsy). To be clear, all I'm after is making sure my young 'uns don't accidentally nuke my files, charge my credit card, that sort of stuff. Handled slicker than a greased pig on the Xbox. Kludgy ick on the Wii.

Well, although it feels like I've stepped back a couple years in gaming rather than forward, I still have hopes for some of the first party Nintendo games. Next up will be Zelda. That is, if I don't just party on with the Xbox.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Will Microsoft control the seventh generation?

This last week was an important week in the Seventh Generation video system wars.

Sony's new PS3 got a bit of a rocky launch, due to the typical problems of availability of launch titles, kinks in the online play system, and so forth.

Nintendo's new Wii released with better availability (although I'm still waiting for the one I preordered), but apparently no online games whatsoever. A friend of mine who picked one up was disappointed with the initial set of games - the new controllers are apparently not instantly intuitive (more on that in a future post).

Meanwhile, what's Microsoft up to? Well, the last week saw the release of the Zune, which is both an MP3 player and an online store (kind of like that other company). Ok, the Zune is no iPod killer, but it's not a bad little device, and it does have a relatively large screen. And like other MP3 players, you can plug it into your 360 to supply custom playlists for your games, or just media to watch on your TV. Just a couple of days after Zune launched, the 360 added on-demand movie rentals/downloads for Xbox360, with TV shows, etc. The holy grail of digital distribution is continuing its painful birth, but having a networked box that's already connected to your TV and supports the growing HD market is a big plus.

It's hard not to look at the picture and think that Microsoft's got a good head start on the home entertainment market. Sony and Nintendo will need to play catch up for at least a year to come close to Microsoft's online gaming community, which has had a lot more time to mature. And Apple's new iTV will have an existing install base of all Xbox360's as a preexisting competitor, possibly one of the reasons Apple chose to announce it so far in advance of the actual release (although it's too soon to overstate this).

Still, I wouldn't call this one yet, not by a long shot. Here's my quick opinion on Microsoft's highs and lows, strategy-wise.


First to market - 360 wins this easily, although I personally believe the 6th generation gamers got short changed when Microsoft artificially accelerated the 7th generation.

Best online support - although 360 is the only service charging a fee for online play, they also have the only service actually worth paying for. See my Gamertag over to the right? That shows what games I'm playing, and how much I've accomplished in different games. Clearly I don't play as much as I might like to, busy guy, you know? But it's been a blast. The Xbox Live Arcade is a great way to spend time and money, media downloads are cool, lots of fun stuff.


There are a few biggies here, which is where I think Microsoft's positioning is going to not net as big an eventual market share as possible. I suspect this is intentional on Microsoft's part, as they'd rather have an ecosystem they control.

DRM - Both Zune and 360 have some ugly DRM issues. Zune abandoned the existing Microsoft customer base of DRM users for a whole new platform. Their cool new feature of sharing music wirelessly? Not so cool when any such transfer is automatically locked to three days or three plays, especially if it's your own track which you want to give away. And the new download system? Buggy, apparently - I get all sorts of errors on my 360 today trying to watch free previews. I assume this particular glitch will sort out after a few days. Still, I want to see my iTunes videos on my Xbox, my Xbox movie rentals wirelessly broadcast through my TiVo upstairs, or on-the-go with my PSP or Zune. (Nope, don't want to watch movies of my lovely iPod - the screen's just too small.)

More almost, but not quite there - Microsoft's announced the new XNA project, which lets users write their own games to play on Windows and 360. Fantastic right? Almost. First off, you have to pay extra to Microsoft to play games someone else wrote. And, you can't sell those games yourself. So Microsoft gets the benefit, but isn't really fostering the indie game market. Presumably the better XNA games will get offered sweet spots inside Xbox Live, but XNA will never go mainstream in the current form.

Limited/locked content - on demand movies (especially hi-def) rock. Unfortunately, the selection is still quite limited. And you only have 14 days to watch. That's not bad for a rental, but is it really essential to timebomb after 14 days? So what if it occupies my disk for a month - as long as the viewing time is restricted to 24 hours from when the movie starts, they know the movie hasn't been watched, and it's not sucking up their resources. This is just a blatant paranoid feature, totally unnecessary (but probably won't keep me from renting movies online).

My greatest hope is that Microsoft will open up their new ecosystems a little, and let more people play in their playground. (MusicIP Mixer on the 360 anyone?) If not, we're going to continue getting stuck in locked down entertainment silos, and that sucks.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Wicked Ridonkulous

In my previous incarnation as a developer for Parasoft, I designed a program affectionately known as WebKing (It's good to be the King!). Sometimes when you are working on a project for 5+ years, you get a little close to it, and fail to realize just how cool it is.

The new website we rolled out today for MusicIP gave me a chance to get reacquainted with some of the power of WebKing to help ferret out deployment issues with a website. In short, it's wicked ridonkulously cool. I can't imagine the effort we would have had to do to manually track down all the details WebKing popped out effortlessly. Very good stuff indeed.

I'm looking forward to trying out some of the updated versions of the other Parasoft tools as well - it looks like they've been doing some excellent work on Enterprise level testing tools.

Still Stumbling...

A little while ago, I mentioned the StumbleUpon plugin for Firefox. Well, it's still one of my top timewasters (when I have time to waste) - if I want to cruise around the web with nothing particular in mind, I just whack the ol' StumbleUpon button a few times until something interesting pops up. I've found all sorts of weird oddities.

But the real clincher: I just updated to the newest version, and now there's a hotkey to toggle the toolbar visibility (my only pet peeve with the previous version). This sucker's definitely here to stay now! (As long as it works with Firefox 2.0, coming out tomorrow...)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Patently absurb

This one looks like an Onion headline, or perhaps a well propagated hoax. Sadly, it appears not to be. (Somebody please tell me it is...) It appears the fallout from a 1998 decision to allow business patents (like the infamous 1 click patent), is starting to come home.

From Herald Tribune: Lawyers have come up with one more way to make life difficult for taxpayers: Now you may face a patent infringement suit if you use a tax strategy that someone else thought of first. ... At one conference where tax strategies were discussed, participants later got a letter warning that using one idea mentioned would be in violation of a patent.

This will almost certainly be an issue for the courts to decide - my hunch is rather than realizing that business patents were probably a bad idea in the first place, they'll just create some convoluted loopholes exempting patents which may violate consitutional rights, creating an even more complex legal system.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Click, Click, Click, Click, Click

I stopped by a local Coinstar machine today, to turn a big pile of coins into an Amazon gift certificate (so there's no "counting fee").

As I recall from last time I used this machine, it's a pretty simple affair - dump in the coins, listen to the rattles, and out comes a coupon for cash. Piece of cake right? Apparently not anymore. Someone decided there weren't enough options, confirmations steps, verifications, or explanations. For my little trip, I had to make 10 (yep, counted em!) selections before I could start dumping coins into the machine. Ten!

And when I was done, two more confirmation screens before waiting for the little screeching modem sounds indicating the Amazon certificate was being set up. That's a sad, sad piece of user interface design.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Targeting your customers

Surprisingly enough, more silly nonsense coming from Target:

Discount retailer Target Corp has sent a letter to major movie studios urging them to recognize that movies offered through electronic downloading services could hurt Target's sales of DVD's

(See the full text)

Heaven forbid, someone should sell something for less than Target, or that the entertainment industry should experiment with new ways to reach their customers than Target. I'm not opposed to the middle man, but it seems to me that when the middle man becomes the customer, the customer is getting lost.

There's a shift coming as things go digital, and the brick and mortar stores will inevitably need to change in response (assuming they want to stay in business). Wishing the problem away won't work.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Stumbling around the web

I just recently finished setting up Google Analytics on a bunch of web pages I wanted to track info on. Although a bunch of this info is also available from server log files, the Google interface is pretty slick (and free). I'm told there are even better options out there, we'll see.

One of the interesting things I found, was a fair amount of traffic coming from a site called StumbleUpon. This is a social networking site I wasn't previously familiar with (I've used Digg in the past). When you install it (I'm using the Firefox plugin), you get a little toolbar with the usual search widgets at ratings controls. There's about 1.3 million people plugged in to this system according to the StumbleUpon website.

Surprisingly enough, I'm actually enjoying this toolbar so far. If I'm in an exploratory mood, I just type the keywords into the search bar, and start "stumbling" around the web. (Click the stumble button to find a new site related to the search.) Giving even a little bit of feedback with the thumbs up and thumbs down provides more data for the StumbleUpon engine.

It'll be interesting to see how long this toolbar survives for me - I really hate giving up the screen real estate, so I'll need to find an easy way to hide/show the toolbar.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

International Day Against DRM

Make sure you keep up with all the technology holidays - we follow up on GIF Independence Day with the International Day Against DRM.

Please give a moment of silence to all the technological innovations throttled in the name of security.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Adding my 2 cents

I recently receive this bill from Amazon for my S3 locker.

This e-mail confirms that your latest billing statement is available on the AWS web site. Your account will be charged the following: Subtotal: $0.02 (plus applicable taxes)
For those of you who haven't taken notice yet - you can basically buy disk space "in the sky" as it were very cheaply from Amazon. Pay only for what you use (as you can see, I haven't used much yet).

I'm still figuring out what I might want to use this for - I was thinking about possibly an off-site backup for digital photos. With a bit of effort, you can access them from anywhere with net access and never need to track down those files again.

For music, though, it's cheaper to use the Oboe Locker from MP3Tunes... for $40 per year, you get unlimited disk space, as long as you're only storing music files.

If you've never played with virtual disks that are always available, you are in for a treat. Of course, it's really geared more towards technical people at the moment, but this is the future we're looking at...

Sunday, October 01, 2006

October Trick or Treat

As of today (October 1, 2006), apparently the GIF format is completely free of patent restrictions. (Check out today's UserFriendly for a humorous take on the issue.) The interesting thing about this is crusing around the web, I found much along the lines of this Wikipedia quote:
On June 20, 2003, the United States patent on the LZW algorithm expired, which meant that Unisys could no longer collect royalties for use of the GIF format in that country. Those bothered by the patent enforcement dubbed this day GIF Liberation Day. The equivalent patents in Europe and Japan expired on June 18 and June 20, 2004 respectively, with the Canadian patent following on July 7.
With patents expiring over the last three years around the world, it's only today that the Software Freedom Law Center feels the issue is finally and truly resolved. Maybe.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

TiVo coders discover the Meatgrid

I alluded briefly to a TiVo gripe in my previous post. Ok, here's the gist - my TiVo is basically a special purpose computer, connected to the internet. It updates itself every now and then, and sometimes new stuff shows up. For instance, now if you accidentally delete a show, you can go recover it if if hasn't been overwritten yet. Pretty spiffy. So clearly, they've got programmers who can tell my TiVo what to do. And yet... A couple weeks ago, I get a mail message more or less like this:
If you have a subscription to "CBS Evening News", you'll need to change it to "CBS Evening News with Katie Couric"
Ok, leaving aside the obvious commentary on why CBS is monkeying around with show names, why can't my little TiVo box check my subscriptions, and update them itself if appropriate (I don't subscribe to CBS Evening News, so I didn't even need to see this particular bit of tv mail). This is a classic case of coding the Meatgrid - instead of writing computer code to work with the box, they wrote a serious of paragraphs to tell the human operators (the Meatgrid) how to update the box. Sigh.

Who's that blogging over there?

If you're a die-hard "gotta read whicken's blog" fan (and really, if you got this far, what else would you be, seeing as there's been no activity for months), you might want to check out the new Hear Here blog. This is a group blog for MusicIP, which will contain posts from different employees in the company. I'll still use this blog for random stuff, like griping about my TiVo, but things more directly related to MusicIP will be over there. So go read Hear Here there, okay?

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Spam: It's not just for casseroles

Well, this blog has sat quiet long enough that the only thing happening is Spam in the comments. So, I cleaned out the spam, and decided to toss in another post. The best counterbalance for the evil of spam is to recommend something good and useful. Today's lucky winner is WinSCP. If you need to use scp or sftp from Windows, I highly recommend this tool. Not only does it make the whole thing super easy, but the attention to small details in the interface is much appreciated. On the music front, if you're into 60's and 70's Sunshine Pop, try checking out Sonic Past Music. They specialize in "unheard unreleased songs and performances missed by history"... hmm, make that previously unreleased music...

Monday, March 20, 2006

Stuff Behind the Counters

While the very public MusicIP launch was going on last week, there were a few other projects going on behind the counters as well... I received a phone call that the Scorched Earth project is well in motion (with accompanying video). Also, work is in progress for another new project which will be open to the public just as soon as humanly possible. I'll be pouring out clues in my blog, because it's fun to do. So bring your hardhat, pull up a stool, and wait for the construction to be completed.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Dealing with Superabundance

Well, we made it back from SXSW 2006, and the topic on the top of my mind is superabundance. Anyone who was at SXSW probably knows what I'm talking about - music, music, and more music. That's great, but how can you decide what to see and hear when there's so many options? Ok, ok, yes, this is a shocking subject for me to be covering. Obviously that's what MusicIP is all about. This post is more specifically about what worked and what didn't work at SXSW. - We added a nifty feature to the SXSW website, so that artists who had made sample tracks available also got a "Other songs and SXSW artists you may enjoy" link to similar sample tracks available. This was a cool little feature, but depended on the specific tracks being made available, and knowing where to enter the system. (You had to start your search from an artist that was listed on the SXSW site, and that had a track available there). - Right before the show, we updated the "Discovery" window inside MusicIP Mixer to show recommendations based on playlists in your collection. This was easier, because you could start from music you own and know, and access related bands you didn't. Still, you had to go to the extra step of making a mix, and you didn't know who was playing when or where without clicking through to the SXSW website. After a long day working the convention center, if you've got four people walking down 6th Street trying to decide which direction to head, it needs to be even easier. (For the record, we took the easy road of assigning a "Team Leader".) Some things I'd like to see next year (or maybe at NXNE): - Some way, preferably from a phone, to get personalized recommendations and directions about what's playing right now. SXSW did have a service to find bands from text messages ("Where are the Brakes playing"), but not the ability to say something like "Music like Morcheeba, within 90 minutes and 6 blocks". - Some way to created a limited, targeted show guide. For instance, compare my collection and listening habits to the bands out there, remove stuff that doesn't match, and just show me what's left. - And some way to do that with multiple users - sync up our iPods, and find the best recommendations where our musical tastes overlap. That's just for starters. Hopefully we'll be at SXSW next year, with even more cool stuff!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

It's Time for MusicIP

Today's the day MusicIP launches as the new face of the MusicMagic technology. I'm in Austin, TX waiting for SXSW 2006 to begin, so I can start telling people what we've been up to. This is going to be fantasic. Listeners, Artists, and Enterprises will connect in a revolutionary way... today.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Oscar Buzz

Normally, I don't worry too much about the Oscars - this year, however, it seems I've got a relative up for an award. So here's hoping Amy Adams gets the Best Supporting Actress nod for her role in Junebug.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Getting It Right

In contrast to iTunes, who's lousy affiliate feedback I documented in an earlier post, I just received this unexpectedly pleasant email from the Amazon affiliate program:
Hello Associate, We noticed that you were accepted to the Associate Program several weeks ago but have yet to refer an order. Here are three quick and easy steps to help you get started: ... We hope this information was helpful, and thank you for your participation in our program.
I'm not entirely sure what this means, since I thought I already had some affiliate links in this blog, but maybe in just means no one's clicked on them? In any case, it was nice to get a pleasant "how's it going, glad to have you on board email", even if it was automatically generated. Kudos to the Amazon affiliates team.

Compare and Contrast

Two news stories popped out at me this morning from my Slashdot feed. 1. Microsoft Claims Worlds Best Search Engine Soon Microsoft will introduce a search engine better than Google in six months. 2. Wikipedia Reaches 1,000,000 Articles The Wikimedia Foundation announced today the creation of the 1,000,000th article in the English language edition of Wikipedia. I'll leave it to you to decide which story is more interesting. For me, I'm keeping my eyes on projects like Creative Commons and MusicBrainz.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Taking Aim At Target

Or.... "Why the Music Industry Needs To Wake Up" Awhile ago, I got some nice new speakers for my work computer (Logitech X-530 if you want to know, thanks for asking). Wanting to have some fun with the 5.1 speakers, I thought "Hey, why not grab a music DVD and see how it sounds?" So off I head to my local Target, and pick up a recent DualDisc with 5.1 audio on one side, and regular CD audio on the other. Bring it in to work, pop it into my external DVD drive... uh, oh... what's that funny noise? Not music, that's for sure. Thus, I found out the hard way that DualDiscs aren't compatible with all DVD players. Sigh... no 5.1 audio goodness for me. Luckily I kept the receipt, so I truck back into my local Target (yeah, ok, so I'm not entirely naive here - I'm expecting some problems). Local clerk, says "Sorry, we can't refund an opened CD, I'd be happy to replace it". Says me, "Spiffy, but a DualDisc is a DualDisc, and a new one won't do me any good. If you can't fix this, can I talk to someone higher up?" Next person, "Sorry, the State of California says it's illegal to accept returns on CD's for copyright reasons." Says me, "Next please. Preferably someone who won't start spouting lies?" Next person, "Yup, sorry, you're screwed. Take it up with the company if you like." Ok, let's give that a shot. Here's an excerpt from my first response:
I'm sorry for any disappointment, but we don't make returns or exchanges of music once they've been opened, unless the item is defective. Defective music items can be exchanged for another copy of the same title. In order to prevent fraudulent returns and keep prices low, we can't make any other return or exchange if the item has been opened. Great products. Great value. And a great shopping experience - every time you visit our stores.
Hmmm.. the product is clearly defective, but they'll only exchange it for defective product. So much for "great value". Did I mention that it's a lot easier to just download the tracks from the internet than trying to buy/rip/return a CD? For Pete's sake (Hi Pete!) if I was trying to steal the music, I wouldn't have bought the disc in the first place. I fire one more email off, including the following rant, among others: "I can appreciate your concerns, but the simple reality is you have sold me something that will not work, and you are not willing to stand behind the product. In this case, we have a Poor Product, with a Poor Value." And back with the response:
Problems relating to the width of DualDiscs is a known issue, and for help with your DVD, you'll want to call the manufacturer, Sony BMG Music Entertainment.
So we have a confirmation that they sold me defective product, and intend to do nothing about it, because I might in fact be a criminal trying to steal something from them. Who's the criminal now? Seriously, could the record labels try any harder to make me not want to give them my money?

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Scorched Earth: The Movie

Nope, this isn't the "big announcement" I was teasing about a few weeks ago. But it is definitely post-worthy. Andrew Kepple has created Scorched Earth: The Movie. This is a Flash movie inspired by Scorch, and it's hilarious. Good job, TmsT!

Friday, February 24, 2006

A Little Link Love for Canada (Those Arrogant Worms)

I suppose this blog has officially reached it's high watermark with the previous post. It's all downhill from here... A quick business trip to Canada this week, and lots of cool ideas written down for work, hasn't left me with a lot of energy for blogging. However, not wanting to let my blog get too stagnant, I thought I'd tip my hat to our Canadian friends, and give a little link love to the Arrogant Worms, a Canadian band who just released their 11th album, according to their website. I just picked up their Greatest Hits CD, and am enjoying it (think Weird Al, without the slick production, eh?)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Must Be Something In The Jeans

"If there could ever be such a thing as a perfect article of clothing it simply has to be a pair of perfect blue jeans." The Denim Love Affair "Three quarters of women say they love denim and that it’s a major presence in their wardrobe." Denim and Women: The Love Affair Continues "My jeans make me so happy I could cry" Jean Girl: Sonnet o' Jeans

Make Up Yer Mind Already...

Walking through the CD section at the local Target, it's not an unusual occurrence to see stickers like this: "Includes 2 Unreleased Tracks" Uh, hello? If it isn't released, what's it doing here on a released CD? Sigh. (One suggestion: "Includes 2 exclusive tracks.") Browsing through MSNBC, I came across this bizarre quote from Mario Batali: "I'm not going to tell anybody, but of course I'm worried," Batali said in an interview. Good news, Batali - I'm not going to blog this.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Return of the CAPTCHA rant

A while ago I ranted about those annoying online tests you have to take in order move around the web (type in the phrase you see). Since then, I've learned they have a name: Captcha (Thanks, Kevin!), which apparently stands for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart". And yes, there's a patent. Apparently I'm not alone - there's a particularly heinous example blogged by Seth Godin. How many collective hours have we humans wasted taking CAPTCHA's? (Computer Automated Process To Consume Human Awareness). Why not take scanned images, say from Project Gutenberg, and let people do the matching on that? Then at the end of it, at least we've created some value. (Insert witty comment about a million monkeys and Shakespeare - nah, too trite.) Oh yeah - that wouldn't prove to the computer that we're actually humans. It seems only wasting our time will do that.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Treating (Ex)Customers Like Crap

Here's an excerpt from an actual piece of mail I received regarding Time magazine. We had a subscription sometime last year, and decided not to renew it (personally, I prefer The Economist). It's been many months since we let the subscription go. So, we get a piece of mail labelled "FINAL NOTICE", looking like something you'd get hand delivered by a beefy Italian named Guido.
URGENT NOTICE: FOR WHICKEN Your renewal instructions are past due. Your delivery contract has been suspended until we receive your authorization to continue. Detach the Re-order form and return at once with your remittance.
Sorry, Guido, I don't want to renew ok? Please don't break my knees.

Wistful Longing

I just put another playlist up on FIQL: Wistful Longing. I tried to keep out some of the more obscure stuff so it's easier to find the tracks to recreate the list. I started this list by making a mix based on "You're Beautiful" by James Blunt. The theme of wistful longing seemed to come through so well that after some fine tuning I decided to put it up for others to enjoy. It's not exactly pick me up music, though. (Well, the Shatner track is pretty funny...)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


If you have a Mac, and a music collection, you owe it to yourself to check out CoverFlow. This is a very cool app that enables you to flip through your cd collection virtually. It's a beautiful bit of eye candy. Kudo's to the author! Of course, it's album-centric, which is fine sometimes, but I think music needs to be free to be listened to in different ways.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Live from Bleezer

This post is coming to you from the free blog posting tool Bleezer by Larry Borsato. It's written in Java, so you can run it on Windows/Mac/Linux. We'll see how this works. One nice thing is builtiin tagging support (hopefully you'll see the links somewhere in this post - any more importantly, so will Technorati).


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Valentine's Day Playlist

Well, sort of... I've put a new post up on FIQL, you can download it here (hopefully the script will work now). (If not, you can download it here). This playlist starts out with the usual set of love songs, but halfway through hits "It's a Thin Line Between Love and Hate". From there on, it skews to songs of disappointment and bitterness. This list was created with the assistance of waypoint mixes inside MusicMagic, which let me control the acoustic flow between different songs. Thanks to Mike at FIQL for adding XSPF support - that made uploading my playlist *way* easier!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Feed Me

Thanks to FeedBurner, this blog now has an RSS feed (over on the right hand side). Too lazy to look for it? Ok, try this. For some reason, though, IceRocket doesn't like it...

One of my pet peeve(s)

Arg!! Just look at the preceeding post, and you'll see my moment of silence is followed by the line "1 Comments" (assuming no one else chirps in between my now, and your now). C'mon guys, this isn't rocket science. English has this concept called "plurals", and it doesn't apply to the number one. Nope, never has, and never will. Even my debug statements get this right. Watch how simple it is: Code written by lazy people: printf("%d comments", numComments); Code written by people with a clue: printf("%d comment%s", numComments, numComments == 1 ? "" : "s"); Please, please, please get it right! (And don't use localization as an excuse - if you're going to the effort to localize an app, you should have taken care of this a long time ago. Yes it takes two strings instead of one. Get over it.) Okay, I'm officially too uptight. Rant over.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A Moment of Silence

Starbucks is dropping Chantico, an indescribably tasty chocolate drink. Sigh.

Rejected by iTunes

Alas, I've been rejected as an iTunes affiliate. Now, I never really expected to make any money by dumping links into iTunes - I'm much more interested in how the different affiliate programs work in general. Getting an Amazon id was instantaneous - I got a key, and a note that they'd have to approve it. But I already had a key, and within a few minutes, it was a done deal. Apparently the iTunes affiliates require your site to be deemed "appropriate". This process takes about three days. Once they've rejected your site, instead of letting you know what the problem is, they dump you with a form letter. Quote:
We regret to inform you that iTunes has chosen not to accept your application for the iTunes Affiliate Program at this time. This may be because: -- The content is unrelated to iTunes -- Your site is temporarily down or under construction ¿-please make sure to apply again after 2 weeks. -- A wrong or misspelled URL given in the application. Please correct the problem and apply again. -- Your site is aesthetically unpleasing -- Your site promotes tobacco, alcoholic beverages or excessive drinking/drug use -- Your site contains extreme religious content -- Your site is international (with a majority of visitors based OUTSIDE the US. or written in a foreign language)
Tip to the iTunes guys and gals: If there are humans in the loop, give 'em a checkbox to select what the problem was. If it's automated, it should be even easier to indicate the problem. Since they're making me guess, I'll assume they're just ticked because I linked to a typo in iTunes. (Yes, it's probably more like "We spit on you and your puny blog".) Well, DRM sucks anways - wouldn't you rather get music from some place like eMusic, where you can use the music you buy however you want? For that matter, one of the things I wanted to link to was the iTunes Originals release by Barenaked Ladies. But instead of mentioning that this is my favorite iTunes Originals release so far, I'll point out that the original version of the iTunes Originals release was buggy. In fact, BNL issued an apology to people who bought it. Quote:
We have an update for you regarding the audio issues some of you experienced with the BNL iTunes Originals. iTunes have fixed the corrupt audio. Refunds will be issued to anyone who purchased a song, or the whole BNL iTunes Originals, which had this audio problem. So if you bought one song then you'll be refunded for that song. If you bought the entire BNL iTunes Originals you'll be refunded for the whole thing. We're very sorry for any inconvenience this has caused.
Yeah, so I did mention that I liked the music. It's good stuff, and I didn't have any problems with my purchase. But I purchased my copy of The Vanity Project (Steven Page's side project) from the artist website. For $10.99 I was able to download DRM-free FLAC files (meaning no lousy/lossy compression!).


I try to make sure I don't get myself locked into using one specific system. Most of the time, though, when I'm not at my desk, I much prefer to use my spiffy PowerBook (link to the newer model MacBookPro, which I don't have... yet). This computer's fast, light, and a pleasure to use. My most indispensable component on this machine is Quicksilver, a "unified, extensible interface for working with applications, contacts, music, and other data". Translation: you press a keystroke to popup the Quicksilver interface (typically Ctrl-Space nowadays), and type in a few additional keystrokes to make your computer do something. I can't standing digging through the dock, the file finder, etc, when a few keystrokes will do the job much better (for example, I just press Ctrl-Space,M,M,M to launch MusicMagic Mixer). But Quicksilver goes about a zillion steps beyond simple app launching (consider this example as just one of many). Oh yeah - it's free, and (yep) in beta. Getting attached to Quicksilver makes using my Windows box much more annoying. I've tried different solutions, like AppRocket from Candy Labs. None of them have really done the job in my book until Colibri - this is a free app which has nice performance and usability. It's really basic, but it does a good job for the tasks is does (I mostly using app launching, link launching, and google shortcuts). Last thought for this post - I've connected this blog to my Technorati account. Now I just need to figure out how to get post tagging to work. Looks like they recommend using Furl, though I've been playing with in the past. Here's an explicit tag. Apparently some other blogging packages allow more direct settings of tags to blogs. That makes two reasons to look for a different blog engine so far.

Friday, February 10, 2006

It's Getting Hot in Here...

The obligatory Scorch post. Rather that stick this stuff into my profile, I'm gonna stash it here in my blog. You can find this on google if you're interested, but I'll put the links here, 'cause I'm such a nice guy. Back in my college days, I wrote a game called Scorched Earth, buying my first 15 minutes of fame. (Yeah I'm greedy, I want another 15. But 30 minutes should be enough for anyone...) It's even got a Wikipedia entry. For the most personal history, you can check out this email interview which I did with Ars Technica. And because I like to tease... with any luck, I'll be making some announcements about Scorched Earth right here in this very blog. So stay tuned - both of you.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Time Enough

Today's post is dedicated to that last great resource, time. We've all got the same amount of it, and you're tossing yours away right now reading this post. In the Attention Economy, the last great resource to grab is people's time. Note all the free apps out there which are driven by ad revenue (Google anyone?). In the attention economy you're paying for services by surrending part of your time to ads. Some sites let you "buy back" your time by paying extra fees to get rid of the ads, like two of my favorites, IGN and BoardGameGeek. I've given both of these sites money to kill the ads and "buy back" my time. I've signed up with 30 Boxes (beta, naturally) - an online shareable calendar. This is supposed to help you better coordinate your time with yourself and others. It's a pretty nifty app, but I've probably spent more time playing with it than it's saved. To punctuate my post, I've created a playlist, so I can multitask and listen to songs which somehow relate to time while writing this post. I've gone for a more modern list, starting with Time Machine by The Click Five as my seed song - the heavy lifting was done by MusicMagic Mixer, naturally. You can find the playlist on FIQL (beta, naturally). Here's a link: - I wanted to include the nifty Javascript badges, but it looks like Blogger doesn't let me include scripts. Curses! (Time to look for a new blog host already?) Ok, time to take Time Out For Fun (no affiliate id, and iTunes can't even get the metadata right. Not a beta - go figure!)

Digital Photography

 I've never been very good at taking pictures (either behind the camera or in front). But I'd like to at least get my feet wet in digital photography. So, after reviewing the various options (including reading the helpful ebook Take Control of Buying a Digital Camera, no affiliate id), I picked up a Canon Powershot A610 (link over on the left, with affiliate id). It's probably got more features than I'll ever use, but it's something I can grow into if things work out. I've also got a Flickr account set up to upload photos (beta, naturally - hasn't Flickr been around long enough they can drop the beta bit?). Of course, the only photos up there right now came from an iSight camera. The distorted heads were made on a new intel iMac using the included Photobooth software.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Those stupid, annoying little online tests

I'm getting annoyed at these stupid little tests I keep having to take. You know - the ones where you have to copy text from images in order to see pages that bots aren't supposed to crawl. *Especially* when I have to fill them out more than once (is that an S or a 5? Does case matter? (generally doesn't, but my brain doesn't think that way)) Maybe I could outsource filling them out to the Mechanical Turk... (beta, naturally). What happened to the good old days, when you could just click around the web? As a for instance, check out Zillow - a cool new (beta, naturally) site which drops the privacy drawers on your home ownership. Yeah, this information's always been public, but seeing it like this seems somehow more public. Oh yeah - I connected AdSense to my blog. Partly cause I want to see what it does with my posts, and who am I to turn down free money if someone wants to send it my way?

Another new blog

Nothing interesting to say yet, I'm just setting this up.