Whoa! I've been looking forward to the new features coming to Tivo soon, and this image provides the first possible look into what it might mean. If it's using full rendezvous support, where photos and music are streamed over a home network from an OS X machine, I'll totally be using this.
There are a variety of products that let you stream music from a computer to a stereo system, but cost a couple hundred dollars. It'll be interesting to see how Tivo continues along an Apple-like path of making the DVR into a media hub.
I wish I could track keywords at Google News, and have it email me automatically whenever a new hit matches for my search term(s). In a way, Google News serves as a low-budget clipping service -- I use it to periodically check for press mentions of my projects and I'm frequently surprised to find articles I would have missed otherwise.
update: Lazyweb indulges me again. I got lots of pointers to the google news RSS app and a perl module that could run as a cronjob. Eventually a friend set me up with exactly what I need, which is perfect.
I have to agree with David's observation about weblogs in a post-Google buyout of Pyra.
Whenever I meet extended family, family friends, or new people at a non-web party I'm often asked what I do for a living. After a couple years of confused faces, I've settled upon "computer stuff" as a generic catch-all. Last week when I met some friends of other family members, I gave them the generic answer, but when a family member asked me about the pyra-google deal, these new friends (both lawyers, and not net savvy) perked up and said "Oh! That's the blogging thing. You worked for that blogging company?!"
It's like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I never have to explain what a weblog is ever again.
You know, when I heard Fred Durst say "I hope we're all in agreeance that this war should go away as soon as possible" last night at the Grammies (after laughing about the agreeance of course), I thought he said "this award should go away."
Then I checked the category "best hard rock". Hmm. Is he saying that hard rock/metal shouldn't have its own category? Is he going for a transcendent moment where all music is one, labels don't matter, and hard rock shall be judged along side mainstream rock?
Nope, turns out he was just making a half-assed anti-war statement.
SXSW is gonna be the bomb this year.
I just saw Old School and enjoyed it (not great, but worth a few laughs). I've missed Will Farrell from SNL since he left, but I think the real star was Vince Vaughn's character. It's pretty much the same creepy asshole from his post-Swingers film Made, which that itself was a stronger version of the Swingers asshole.
Speaking of creepy asshole characters, I have to say The Office (now on BBC America) raises it to an artform. Every line they give David and Finchy are cringe-worthy and hilarious. It took a couple episodes for me to get into the show, but now I can't miss it. It feels a lot like the unscripted comedies like Best in Show, Spinal Tap, and Waiting for Guffman.
I can picture the Mouseketeers now, singing along:
Eee-Beee-Oooo....O? O, how much I love you! Lllll-Aaaaaa spells EeeeBooollllaaaa![via Jay via Merlin]
Shift Magazine is closing up for good, which is a bummer. In the past couple years, they mentioned MetaFilter in several issues, including profiles and best of lists. I always thought of them as a canadian Wired, but with more of a design slant. They seemed to fill a niche, and it's a drag to hear they're gone.
I've been looking at getting a t-mobile sidekick for a few months, and when meg pointed out they are basically free, I figured why not do it today? However, I found out along the way that cell phone companies are their same old moronic selves, no matter what they change their company's name to.
Right now I have an overpriced, poor quality SprintPCS plan that covers two phones. The second phone is only ten bucks more a month, and shares the original phone's minutes. I looked around the t-mobile site for something similar, but the only related thing is their family plan, but that doesn't include data.
I called t-mobile, saying I was in the market for a new sidekick, was ready to place an order, but was interested in getting a second phone to share the plan with. I explained the confusion over family plans and data. The first guy I was connected to didn't know the current pricing and transferred me to someone that cut me off. A second call back got me someone else that wasn't aware of any way to share the plan with another phone and suggested "if you wanted a second phone, you'd need to get another plan." Here I am, with cash in hand, asking if I can have more than one phone that works within their rate schedule, and sadly the answer is "we can't help you."
It's as if no one at t-mobile ever dreamed that a customer might be part of a family that has more than one member, and might want to get a second phone at a resonable price to share the plan. Perhaps the sidekicks are marketed to single people in their 20s for this reason.
Jeff Veen actually found a great use for his Treo.
I remember running the LA marathon a few years ago and trying to keep track of the same data myself. As my pace slowed over the long distance, I occupied the time by constantly calculating my minutes/mile in my head, according to my wristwatch time. If there was a way to keep a constant readout on your watch, based on input from the race course markers, you might have a killer app for runners. A steady pace is sometimes hard to keep up, especially when you're running alone.
Health care blows these days.
When I was a kid we had a single doctor from the time I was 3 until I was 17 or so. Anything he prescribed was available straight from his office, and his rates were quite reasonable (we had no health insurance at the time). Then my parents signed up for health coverage and although we got to pick a new doctor, any additional tests had to be approved first. When I got my first job, my health care involved picking a name out of a book, showing up to a hospital at a preset time, and spending a couple minutes with him face-to-face, with all other times spent with assistants or waiting.
The most recent health plan has taken it quite a few steps further. Now you can't even see a doctor until you can prove to a nurse-bot on the phone that you really, really need help. Anything beyond the basics requires approval first, then subsequent appointments weeks from the date you're feeling badly. Prescription drug coverage is scant, and no longer applies to anything besides specific directives from your primary care doctor. So this means that even though my dentist prescribes antibiotics before major dental procedures, my medical coverage will not cover it, knowing that to skip the antibiotics might mean an infection in my blood and heart, and huge medical bills down the road.
When I was a kid, I knew my doctor personally, he watched me grow up, and took an interest in his patients' lives. Today, going to the doctor makes me feel like a carton of milk on a supermarket checkout lane. The nameless, faceless borg scans my UPC code, checks vitals, and dispenses with the minimal advice or treatment, shaving as many pennies off the cost as possible. Where there was once dignity has been replaced by mechanized efficiency.
I'm no foe of capitalism, I enjoy working hard and being rewarded based on how much I accomplish, but part of me wonders if the medical profession is best domain for purely free market economics. In the race to cut costs, I fear that the only considerations were made to those things that an exact dollar value could be placed. You can't put a price on treating people with respect and care. You can't put a price on privacy and dignity. Worst of all, you can't put a price on patient well-being.
All those values seemed to have been lost when health care's focus became the bottom line.
I was just thinking, I hope Google brings back Pyra, the web-based project management app. I used to love using that thing, and since it was taken offline, I've never found a functional equivalent.
New York Times article on pyra getting googled is the first place I've seen the word "synergy" used to describe it (and from a Google employee, no less).
I'm really surprised to see Google getting into content, as they don't seem like a content company. I'm reminded of Yahoo buying Geocities back in 1998 or so, but I never thought Google wanted to be a portal. Still, it'll make blogging all that more mainstream if it's linked off the root of google.com.
update: after sleeping on it, I came up with this. I don't know if I'm right, but it seems right to me. If google can get better results almost instantly, why not pick up pyra and watch the movements of all the blog data in realtime for links?
Visions of the future are usually big on playing up the dystopian angle, with genetically modified foods destroying people, cyborgs killing uncontrollably, and rampant super diseases taking out who is left, but no one ever talks about the simple pleasures that the future may bring.
Take nanotechnology. Sure, it could be a way for evildoers to spread viruses, destroy nervous systems, and kill via warriors too small to see, but there's always a bright side. You'd never need a dentist again. Pop a mouthful of Uncle Marty's Flossin' Bots brand nanobots and let them clean under your gumline while you sleep. You'd never have another cavity, never have to worry about root canals, or even have to brush your teeth, as the bots would clean up the mess and let you wake up feeling and smelling fresh.
We should look to the Jetsons as our blueprint for the future more often.
It's great to see the Jhai Foundation's project to wire up villages in Laos is taking off. Back when they were seeking seed money to get the project off the ground, I donated $20 and it's money well spent when you see how quickly it came to life.
With computer costs constantly plummeting and technology moving ever forward, it's great to see people take advantage of the technology and not just say "we should use this tech in innovative ways for good, like letting people communicate for the first time", but to actually get up and do it themselves.
For $25k, a series of villages in Laos that have never had electricity or phones will have a phone system (and the internet, though I don't see that being nearly as important to their lives). Being able to communicate from village to village (and beyond, out to the world) is going to make a drastic difference in people's lives. I see parallels with Brewster Kahle's Internet Archive project. For a few million dollars (a fraction of what we spend on a single library like the Library of Congress), he's seeking to create the largest library ever built so he can amass the sum total of all human knowledge, built entirely with cheap hard drives and scanners.
The difference between making recommendations like "here's a way to accomplish something that we should do" to a government and actually creating it and instead saying "here's a way to do it, here's how I did it very cheaply, and here it is ready for use" is enormous, and worthy of praise. My hat's off to these people.
I know what each of those words mean individually, but the sentence makes no sense to me.
We got to enjoy life in the US without a cold war for what, 13 years or so? It was fun while it lasted.
Vin Diesel, break dancing instructor
There's a street off the 101 that I see periodically traveling around the bay area, named "Marine World Parkway" but there isn't an amusement park in sight. I've long wondered if lurking somewhere off the freeway was a decaying old park. I couldn't find any information at several closed amusement park sites, but did find photos and information about a park from my childhood, Marineland in Southern California. There's something freaky about being able to see where kids and whales once flourished, but are now gone forever.
The cast of the Simpsons are on tonight's Inside the Actors Studio on Bravo (8pm/midnight). It should be good, though I have a feeling James Lipton's overzealous fawning over his guests will put a damper on things as he tries to claim that "eat my shorts" brought us all together as a generation, or some similar nonsense.
Last month, Clay Shirky wrote a great article on how the music business has been largely replaced by online and cheap digital counterparts except for one key element: finding new music that is good (or at the very least, music that people will buy). He further states that there are great collaborative tools online to find the best writing, but that music is slow to catch up. I agreed with the article wholeheartedly when I first read it.
Recently, I met someone that works at Garageband.com and I have to say what they have achieved is pretty close to what Shirky says is missing. Using a simple review process, you listen to one track, then another, and decide which one you liked more. That's it. Among the thousands of reviewers and thousands of unsigned bands, eventually the review process teases out the highest rated songs. If you check out some of the top songs, they're pretty good and the review process seems to work (try a few low rated songs if you don't believe me). I signed up the other day and reviewed about ten cuts in different genres, most of which was ok, some great, and some not-so-great, but all in all, it was very simple and I could see doing this more often.
Given tools like this for unsigned bands, it's looking like maybe the predicted death of the record industry's business model could actually come true sooner or later.
"What is fair use? Fair use is not a law. There's nothing in law" -- Jack Valenti, in his own words.
I just finished watching* an amazing keynote by Brewster Kahle. The focus was "universal access to all human knowledge" and presents a compelling case for the (attainable! affordable! possible!) goal of digitizing every book, every piece of music, every piece of film, and every byte of software ever created in human history. There's not much more that I can say besides that it's some awe-inspiring stuff, "We will put a man on the moon by the end of the decade" kind of stuff.
An interesting tidbit was mentioned at the end during the Q and A. Brewster mentioned a long-standing annoyance he has with a government site that still stands today. The server that holds the sum of America's congressional record, thomas.loc.gov, suffers from a lackluster set of onsite search tools. The American people, and in actuality the world, is limited to those onsite search tools because of this: http://thomas.loc.gov/robots.txt
A government for the people, by the people, and of the people blocks any and all outside search engines to every single document that resides on the server. This also includes blocking of archive.org's wayback machine that creates a rich historical archive of everything it sees. In an age where public documents are disappearing at an alarming rate, I find limiting the ability to find congressional documents by google and the total elimination of an archive by the wayback machine to be a real slap in the face for democracy. I remember hearing about the thomas.loc.gov robot block being put in place back in 1997 or so, when an overzealous bot brought the early perl backend to its knees. Why this is still in place today is baffling to me. [Keynote via boingboing]
* It's about an hour and a half long, and if you give it a try, I'd strongly suggest using a laptop equipped with an S-video cable out to pipe it to your tv (having a mini headphone-to-RCA audio cable helps if you want hear it through your TV too). Using a mac with OS X, enable the monitors pull down in your menu bar, plug the cables into your tv, then hit the "detect displays" to mirror or extend your desktop to your tv screen, then maximize the real player window to fill your screen.
In many ways, I consider myself a designer and an artist, but I can still laugh at the ridiculousness of some artists. I like David Carson's books, I really do, but everything the guy does on the web is sub-par. Today I got a periodic email update from his site (I subscribed years ago so I could catch his talks in my area).
The email (all in lowercase, of course, with zero details) had a line that said "san francisco state university march 3" among other dates. The email doesn't include a URL leading to any of his sites. His main site has nothing resembling a mention of the SF talk. If you click around on the mystery "navigation" at the bottom, none of the popups seem to carry his upcoming talks or provide any details about them. His other sites are mentioned in the nooks and crannies of his main site. The .org site and the .net site have that air of 1995 pretension that says "my work is a gift and you must find my information behind my pieces instead of me coming right out and showing it to you, or providing a clear path."
The 365 Days project is an amazing and ambitious project I've watched for weeks now. Today's entry for February 4th, the "Creative Freakout" is one of the best files I've heard so far, combining just the right amount of goofiness, hilarity, and shock. It's "silly" taken to a new level.
Once a week or so, I pop in to check out the previous postings, and I would recommend the same thing highly to everyone else. There are some great bits of wacky audio I had no idea existed.
The circle of life is complete south of Market in San Francisco. Old warehouses that were converted to office parks and used to house telecom equipment are being converted back into warehouses for simple storage.