iPodDownload is yet another tool for getting music off your iPod. I use iPod.iTunes to back up my iPod, which I've had to do twice lately; once because the battery finally wore out, and the whole iPod was replaced under extended warranty, and once because I got an engraved 20GB iPod from work for a Christmas present. In both cases I needed to get all my songs off of one and onto the other, which isn't as simple as it might seem since Apple has designed the iPod to be a sort of roach motel of music. The default setup is to have you keep all of your songs on your computer's hard disk, and have those sync to the iPod, but that wastes a heck of a lot of disk space on your computer in my opinion. If you do that, though, the iPod is easily replaceable - just plug in another and fill it up with music from your hard drive. The way I use it, syncing is manual, and I don't have to waste valuable space on the internal hard disk of my laptop. So, I need to back it up every now and then.
If you have a PC, maybe this page will be helpful for iPod backup or song copying solutions.
The Star Wars Holiday Special. Behold, if you dare. I stopped watching after about a minute. Mini-chewbacca? Horrible.
Five Mistakes Band & Label Sites Make reminds me of my own Web Publishing 101 for Musicians. I guess I'm not the only one who has noticed that most musicians are total retards when it comes to using the internet to reach their audience and sell concert tickets and recordings.
The Apple Graphing Calculator Story is pretty cool. I remember this application - back in 1994 when the PowerPC was new, and I was working at American University selling computers, this helped people realize what could be done with a faster CPU. (example graph) What was really cool was that you could play around and see in almost real time what a complex equation would look like. We played with it trying to find really interesting 3D equations that would result in cool surface graphs. The fact that you could spin the graphs with the mouse was fun too. We sold a fair number of Power Macs based on this and a few other CPU power demos.
Are you a fan of the Hammond B-3 organ? Maybe you are but you didn't know it. It's been around for almost 50 years. Here are some famous artists who use the Hammond (including a ton of songs you've probably heard). Here's how it works. Cool, huh? Maybe it's time to buy Charlie if you're into the computer-based music thing, or maybe even the New B-3 if you can swing it and you want an instrument you can play live (that doesn't have a computer attached). One owner says it sounds the same, but some disagree. You might become addicted to that sound and spring for the real deal. These people certainly love theirs and they say they paid $1,500-$2,000 for theirs. It seems to me that if you're gonna get a big-ass organ (as opposed to any of the zillions of normal keyboard-sized instruments that imitates the B-3), you might as well get the real thing. Regardless of what you end up with, once you get some chops, make sure to learn the 25 Hammond Licks You Must Know. Or maybe you should practice them first, so that when you go to buy the thing, the seller will give you a break. (I've found that when you go to buy a used instrument, the haggling goes a lot easier if you can give the impression that you're not going to leave it in the bottom of a closet or in the corner collecting dust - if you can show that you can play, or at least that you plan to put some real mileage on of the thing, the seller tends to go easy on you.) This one's my favorite. Totally hyper.
If there was any doubt that Apple has a powerful influence on marketing and product design the last time around, now the ad campaign for the iPod is spawning not only imitators, but a mini industry. Behold ipod my photo. But wait, there's more. Proving that no trend has truly peaked until it's been assimilated by the porn world, there's iBod (not safe for work). Did they use "ipod my photo" to make that picture on the iBod page? Probably not. But apparently there's demand for people and software to create that effect. There's also apparently demand for porn on the iPod Photo. Go figure.
Kim and I saw Bad[der] Santa (the longer DVD edition) on Christmas Eve. Hilarious. Better than I thought it would be. Best quote:
Security Guard: Those pants look awful baggy, you wouldn't have anything in there would ya?
I love my family but I'm so so so glad we didn't travel for Christmas this year: US Airways admits'operational meltdown'. I guess the weather hosed everything. We had to deal with that last time we were on the East Coast (hurricane) and the time before that (snow?). Jeez. The weather's nice here... come visit...
Naughty kids lose gifts to eBay. Is it real. Well, maybe. Here's an auction that appears to be the real deal. The winning bidder bid $5,300, and I'm guessing that ain't real.
PalmSource bought a Linux based wireless phone operating system maker. This is a pretty good sign, although I don't think that their management has what it takes to make a turnaround story out of this decision. Basically, PalmOS was appropriately stripped down way back when device resources were more expensive and power hungry than they are now, but it hasn't kept up with advances in hardware. They desperately need a more modern operating system foundation, but also need to support legacy apps. This looks like a move in that direction, although their message is a bit confusing - they appear to be saying that this isn't so much a technology strategy (off of proprietary, outdated internal OS, and onto Linux with their enhancements sitting on top) as much as it is an additional product offering. I suppose that's OK, because I predict that offering #1 (the old PalmOS) will look like a dud compared to offering #2 (the Linux kernel and mini OS from MobileSoft, plus PalmSource's look and feel and APIs and application compatibility on top).
You've probably already read that IBM is selling its PC business to Lenovo. I think this is a great move. Considering how much of PC and laptop design, manufacturing, and support takes place in Southeast Asia already anyway, I imagine that the ThinkPad line isn't going to suddenly decline in quality. The only parts that were made in the US were probably the manuals and shipping carton (and OS) anyway.
I am worried that as more and more manufacturing work gets shoved off to foreign countries, less and less actual work of any kind is happening in the US. Yeah, service economy, blah blah, but what does that mean? At some point our national assets boil down to being imaginary money in an imaginary bank, paid to us for ideas that we wrote down and claim to own. What happens when a foreign country takes those ideas and gives us the middle finger when we demand patent royalties? Send in the Marines?
I know this is a ridiculous oversimplification, but the whole information / services economy makes me very nervous. You don't need to be a cat burglar to pull off industrial espionage, and your victim won't wake up and see their secrets missing, because you made a perfect digital copy and left the original. Take this to the extreme and we'll become a country of middle managers and analysts, pushing papers and making PowerPoint presentations, but entirely lacking in the skills required to make or design anything. Or maybe not! Maybe we'll lose the skills to make anything, but we'll excel at design...?
Jakob Nielsen touches on this in Why Consumer Products Have Inferior User Experience. The interesting part is right here:
Wow! He's identifying something there that gives me some hope for the information service economy: usability is a facet of design expertise that we have, and other countries don't. Well, OK, we're pretty bad at it, but it's starting to sink in that we need to care about it, and we're ahead of the other guys.
TiVo is a good example of this, as is the iPod. Every time a TiVo or ReplayTV product announcement appears on Slashdot, a few folks always make a point of saying that you can get similar software bundled free with certain PC video cards, and thus it's silly to spend money on a set-top box. I've seen a couple of those bundled apps, and for the most part, they suck big time. They're poorly designed, poorly implemented crap, included just so that the manufacturer of the video card can claim that the $150 card does the exact same thing as a $750 set-top PVR. Well, yeah, it has a channel guide and can save TV shows on a schedule. But it's a pain in the butt to use, and it's not near the TV, and it doesn't come with a 160GB hard disk to store all that video on, and there's no remote. In short, they're technically similar, but the user experience is completely different. We get it, and they don't.
And then there's MythTV, which blows that statement out of the water. All they have to do is make a set top PC and load MythTV on it, put a bow on it, and call it a product. I mean, there are even Linux distributions specifically designed to run MythTV, such as KnoppMyth. Why doesn't anybody just make a nice set top shaped PC with KnoppMyth in the box? I guess nobody gets it. I priced out a system based on the KnoppMyth author's comments and it's possible to get a suitable system for about $500 (or $1000 if you want a monster disk drive and super fast CPU). A random $500 Dell PC would probably be fine.
Firefox and Mozilla continue to leave IE in the dust: SessionSaver "Remembers loaded tabs and their history items when Firefox is manually closed, then restores the tabs and history items when next started. The saved session can also be manually restored or updated at any later time via the items in the File menu".
Sun President and COO Jonathan Schwartz grossly oversimplifies the considerations behind the Sprint/Nextel merger by dividing the transaction cost by the number of customers, and calling that the acquisition value of a subscriber. Yeah, if you push the whole damn company off a cliff and just hang onto the subscriber agreements that customers have signed, I guess they do cost $2400 each. Forget about employees, infrastructure, factories, offices, intellectual property, knowledge, etc. etc. Forget about the stuff you have to DO for customers to get them to pay you.
Ridiculous. This guy's helping to run a really big company (into the ground) and he can't even do back of the envelope estimates correctly. No wonder Sun's strategy is so confused: "SPARC is technically superior, but we'll sell you an Opteron server if you want." "Linux sucks but we'll sell it to you anyway." "Open source is what customers want, but we're only listening to them regarding Solaris. Java works better when it's owned by us but you can see the source, and we'll sue you if you share your improvements." "It's important to have a strong vendor supporting your Linux investment, but successful vendors supporting Linux are evil, so buy from us, because we don't understand open source and haven't been selling Linux for very long, and because our Linux on x86 products compete with our cash cow products, so we'll be just as committed to them as we were to Solaris x86 the first time."
How many employees does Nextel have? How many technology licensees? How many cell tower sites do they have equipment in? Are we to believe that none of this has any value? Here's a thought experiment for you: if Sprint just bought the customer contracts from Nextel, but all of the employees, equipment, IP, etc. were sold to Verizon, what do you think the breakdown would be? Would it even be 50/50? What's the value of a company that can win and support 15 million customers, versus the 7.5 million customer-years worth of cell phone contracts (15 million customers x 1 year contract x average remaining contract of 50%)? Hint: those contracts will all expire in one year. I think I'm being conservative by assuming that 100% of users are still locked into one-year contracts instead of being on month-to-month plans, by the way. Either way, those are not lifetime contracts, and the company is going to have to win those customers' business on an ongoing basis in order to keep 15 million from dropping to zero million.
Any dork who's watched the stock market in the last 10 years knows that company valuations are wildly out of whack with short term financials. Nextel made $1.5 billion in profit last year, but they're being bought for $36 billion? I guess Schwartz thinks that Sprint thinks that Nextel subscribers will stick around for 24 years to justify that valution...? No. Sprint knows that they're buying more than customers; they're buying a successful company. There's a gigantic difference. (The merger folks are calling them equals but Sprint has 2.5x the revenues of Nextel and 3.8x as many employees, so I'm looking at this as Sprint acquiring Nextel.) Interestingly, Nextel made more money than Sprint did last year, with less revenue and fewer employees! No wonder Sprint's interested.
I'm pondering my Spring 2005 plans. I'm trying to decide if I should just be in ensembles at school, or a band outside of school. So I'm looking on Craigslist in the Musicians section. The posts there are so frustrating. I deal with frustration through humor, so I posted this. More cowbell!
Check it out - a graphical representation of the Monty Hall problem. Hint: right-click on the image, and pick "view image" (or whatever your browser says) to see it at full size. Or, just click here (90K GIF image).
Favorite new Firefox feature discovery: Command-Shift-M (same as the Mozilla "new mail" command, also works in Thunderbird) works in Firefox! As in, it switches to Thunderbird, and Thunderbird starts a new mail message. (I haven't tested to see if it works with other mail clients.)
Update: here are some of the responses I've gotten from the Craigslist post:
From the time I was a child until my teenage years, I had respiratory allergies that led to asthma. I was given biweekly injections of weakened allergens through high school, ending in my junior year. Lately, now that Kim and I have cats and we live in a carpeted apartment, I'm finding that almost every day I wake up needing to blow my nose, and that I have a runny nose and sneeze a lot. My guess is that this is because of airborne irritants such as cat hair, carpet fibers, and cat litter dust. So, I've been researching air filters in the limited amount of time I've had outside of school and work.
I wasn't surprised to learn that Consumer Reports had shown that the Sharper Image's Ionic Breeze products don't actually work. I was surprised to read about the court case in which the Sharper Image sued Consumer Reports for unfair testing (without ever having defined what a fair test would be, according to Consumer Reports).
Also interesting is the fact that DrKoop.com says that scientific studies show that sugar doesn't make children hyperactive. I think they're referring to the long term condition of hyperactivity vs. the temporary, short-term state of being more energetic. I don't see how anyone could think that artifical sweeteners, particularly undigestible ones, could cause long term hyperactivity.
Don Box gave a presentation from a bathtub. It's not really important that you know who he is or what the presentation was about. All you need to know is, this dude gave a presentation from a tub, and there's a video clip.
Best Nigerian Bank Scam variant ever! I found this in my probably-but-not-definitely-spam folder yesterday:
I recently bought and installed Adobe Acrobat Professional (because I need to work with PDF Forms). It adds a persistent little crappy toolbar to Excel (and, I'm told, Word) that's tiny (two buttons), puts itself in a stupid place (right where the upper left corner of the document should be, even though there's a ton of space to the right of the default toolbars), and will not go away. Screenshot (46K JPEG)
You can use Excel's "customize" feature all you want to disable the toolbar. Next time you open Excel, the toolbar comes back, like it's the Night of the Living Dead Toolbar, or Acroferatu, or something. Why won't it die? I even deleted the toolbar so it wasn't in the toolbars list, answering "yes" to the prompt asking me if I really really want to *gasp* delete a toolbar forever. Nope. It's back. Worse, you can't even move it and have it remember where it was. Next time you launch Excel, it pushes the other toolbars out of the way and reclaims its spot, as though making PDFs in Excel were the #1 most important feature in the app. Formula bar? Nobody uses that! Shove it down a level, shove the freaking DOCUMENT WINDOW down, and make more room for totally wasted screen real estate so our 80ish-pixel-wide toolbar can have an entire horizontal slice of your display all to itself... for two buttons. Adobe has decided that they own that part of my screen when I'm running Excel, regardless of what I want. Thank you, evil Adobe marketing department. 'Cause I know no usability specialist would take control away from the user like that.
Apparently there's an unofficial workaround, but I'm interested to hear what Adobe support has to say, so I'll ask them when I get a chance (once finals are over).
Thank goodness someone has actually organized the P-Funk Mythology in a way that I can actually follow.
Yesterday, Mozilla Thunderbird 1.0 shipped. (Get it here.) It's the open-source email and news reader from the Mozilla organization, and the companion to the popular and critically accalimed Firefox browser.
Finally, I can migrate myself off of the Mozilla Suite and onto their latest stuff. I did so today. I waited because I didn't see much point in spending a lot of effort manually migrating my profile info when both projects promised that the 1.0 versions would include a simple profile importing tool. They did. They work. I'm on Firefox 1.0 and Thunderbird 1.0 now, and off of Mozilla 1.7.3.
Here are some immediately obvious improvements:
I'm sure there are many more cool things that I haven't discovered yet, but just those things, plus the trivial migration process with the importing tools they provide, makes it worthwhile to upgrade.
One downside remains: Thunderbird (with my mail account open) uses 89.7MB (according to top). Firefox (with a couple of pages open) uses 71.2MB of RAM. This is the RSIZE value, which means how much physical memory it's using. Ouch. Mozilla needed about 100-120MB for both. Fortunately after my PowerBook upgrade a few weeks ago, I have 1.25GB of RAM, so I can afford it, but on an older machine, this would be a pain in the butt.
I remember reading somewhere on the Mozilla site that they were working on changing the underlying software framework ("Mozilla the platform": XPCOM, XUL, XPToolkit, etc.) so that it could be shared, on disk and in memory. Right now, if you're running (say) three different Mozilla platform based apps, such as Firefox, Thunderbird, and Sunbird, you have to download them as if they were independent apps, and the OS has no idea that they are the same and that it could just load a huge chunk of each application one time and then share it across all three. That wouldn't reduce the amount of memory that it takes to display a web page, but it would cut down on wasted disk cache use as the OS pages in the same code from three copies of the same library so that all three apps can get to it. I look forward to the time when this all works, because this also would reduce the incremental cost to a user of installing a dozen more apps that are based on Mozilla-the-platform.
After Friday's New Moves Dance Showcase, I got a ride home with my friend Jeni (who was in the show, in the piece I liked the most, and not just because she was in it). So at 11:30pm, while crammed in the back seat of her Montero with some other friends who were at the show, and listening to The History of Funk on KPFA, I heard a totally badass heavy funk song and made a point of noting the time so I could try and find out what it was. Go KPFA! Go Rickey Vincent! Thank you for putting your show online, and thank you for saying what it was that you played. Now I know that the song I heard was Whamola (QuickTime streaming video) by Les Claypool's Frog Brigade.
Whamola? The video looks cool but it's not easy to see what the hell Les is whacking to make that sound. Google to the rescue.
I have to play in front of several music teachers next week at is ominously called a "jury". I have a serious problem with performance anxiety - I play far better on my own or in a rehearsal than in front of an audience. My brain short circuits and cuts off, and I stand there drooling and not knowing what the hell is going on. Brain dead. I get over this by overpreparation - my successful performance in the Stevie Wonder Combo this semester was 100% due to the fact that I knew the material cold. I could play that stuff in my sleep. But in my jury I'll have to solo, and play something I've never seen before, and play something that I won't be given until tomorrow (giving me a week to learn it). I'm a few hairs short of freaking out, which is of course self-defeating. So I've been reading about the psychology of this problem while taking breaks from practicing. The Art Of Failure: Why Some People Choke And Others Panic is very interesting. Panic! How it Works and What To Do About It was interesting but also very scary. Reading about a diver who panics and kills himself by making his lungs explode doesn't help to calm me down.
I found a really interesting page about Genesis's music writing process.
I found a huge archive of interviews with Megadeth. Singer/guitarist/bandleader Dave Mustaine is a pretty funny outspoken guy. Just reading about his experiences with addiction (and his description of what it's like from the inside) and people in the music business is fascinating and entertaining.
I recently saw a series of TV commercials advertising a big-screen TV by showing a simulated TV image. The viewer is apparently supposed to be impressed with the superior picture quality. The camera pulls back from what it was showing, revealing that - gasp - we're watching a television! On television. "For a moment there I thought my television was just a television, but it's actually a television. Ooo."