While I've heard about eMusic for ages, I never signed up due to the small selection back in the day. With these two reviews, I'm thinking it's almost time to consider signing up for it. I had no idea they had so many independent label artists, and every song downloaded is a 192kbps MP3s, without any DRM baked in.
I noticed a lot of people seem to be using KnowSpam. It works like this: I send an email to a KnowSpam user, then get a bounced message saying go to a webpage and input a code found on that page, then I get whitelisted and all email to them suddenly works.
The thing is, I've heard that if a person using this sort of whitelist technology sends an email to a new person that also happens to use a whitelist technology (either from KnowSpam or someone else), a bounce from one could trigger a bounce to another, since they've never corresponded before. That bounce could trigger another bounce, and so on.
For some reason I get a little giddy at the thought of bots locked in an email bouncing battle. Who will bounce to the whitelisted death? Who will reign supreme?
Somewhere there's someone pitching this idea as a new reality show and somewhere else someone is building a site where you can bet on which email bounce bot will win.
Usenet is an immense, astounding place. Newsgroups have been around for going on 20 years now, and due to the strict taxonomy you can really find the nooks and crannies of the Internet there.
There are many stories of how great it is that we built this global network because the strangest people can finally find each other. Somewhere on earth right now there's a person that would like to do nothing but wear flowing golden robes and throw pickles at people in the street, and thanks to the web that person can connect with a group that also indulges in that specific activity, compare locations, techniques, and preferred robe fabrics.
Every once in a while I stumble upon some outer reach of usenet like alt.binaries.pictures.rail. Don't let the alt.binaries.pictures category scare you (long known as the place to find porn in the pre-web days). These are people obsessed with trains, more specifically, photos of them. Looking at their archives, it's thousands after thousands of photos of trains, tracks, bridges, and switches. Nothing scandalous, nothing too earth shattering, just photo after photo of trains.
I don't know who started the group, why they did it, or how so many people find each other to exchange photos of trains, but for some reason I feel good knowing a place like that exists for people that take part in it.
Last week, I got an IM from Scott saying "dealership is on the radio, now!" After seeing them play the previous week, I was happy to hear a couple of the new songs again.
I noticed on dealership's bulletin board that someone captured the whole show as mp3s and posted them here. In case that person's bandwidth is a problem, I mirrored the files on my own server, and also wanted to give archive.org's new Freecache service a test run.
Freecache is supposed to be an opensource/free Akamai-style caching service. It should also help with local and peer mirroring like bittorrent, but doesn't require any client software or registering with any central authority. It looks pretty freaking cool.
Oh, and Dealership's 80s-style cover of their own song Jungle Gym is to die for.
VW just sent me a post card annoucing their new "PhatNoise Digital Car Audio System" is available at dealers. Looks like an interesting system that acts like a CD changer you store in the trunk with "cartridges" that must be hot swappable hard drives. The prices look pretty steep for just 20Gb of music, and there's not much in the way of details. I wonder if it plays plain old MP3s or if it requires a DRM-laden format.
I also wonder how they kept this under the radar. I've never heard of these (unfortunately named) "Phatnoise" systems until today.
I posted on blogroots about an RSS-to-IMAP feature over at Blogstreet, but I have to mention it again here because it's one of my favorite new things I've seen in the world of weblogging. I share time between operating systems, so none of the myriad of RSS readers worked for me in the long run. Reading weblogs via IMAP email across two computers works beautifully, and you can even forward posts onto your blog through email. I've also noticed I can keep all the messages and essentially have a searchable, personalized archive of weblogs I read. If I remember hearing about a crazy new doohickey that was mentioned somewhere a few weeks ago, I can find it with a keyword or two in my email app.
Aside from weblog software, this is one of the first features I'd pay for, if I could.
"Kottke has always stayed on the cutting edge of new technology, such as the first private contractor in Southern Oregon with CCTV sewer line inspection equipment, and now the leader in trench less repair and restoration of underground sewer systems."
-- from Kottke Underground & Kottke Plumbing [via onfocus mopho]
It's unfortunate to hear Internet Explorer 6 for windows may be the last version to be released as a standalone application. I don't use the browser much anymore, and it does have several long-standing CSS bugs I wish could be fixed, but the biggest problem with the browser is the lack of security.
When the DOJ went after microsoft for bundling the browser so close to the operating system, I never really considered the potential pitfalls of such an arrangement. That is, until I used my dad's computer the other day.
It's ridiculously easy to install software through IE on windows and that's great for necessary stuff like quicktime and flash players, but it has been exploited to the fullest by unscrupulous developers. Web sites can cloak some pretty hideous installers with innocuous popups that ask you if you want to speed up your connection or some such nonsense. Sometimes they go for the double negatives, so you can't tell what option needs to be checked to prevent something from being added to your system.
My dad is retired and disabled now and is computer savvy enough to read email and search the web, but I have to help him with installing some apps and working with the filesystem. When I fired up his copy of IE, it went to a get-rich-quick site, launched a sidebar search engine that I've never heard of, and then a barrage of popups and popunders began that slowed the machine to a crawl. After about two minutes, the computer became stable again and I proceeded to close all the advertising windows, but through the use of various exploits, phantom popunders continued as I used it. Toolbars were featured in the app that couldn't be removed. A couple strange things were running the taskbar, one in a character set not used by his OS, that monitored everything he was looking at.
I ran ad-aware and found a couple processes running and untold numbers of registry keys and cookies used by advertisers. I uninstalled everything I could, but there were still spyware remnants everywhere. Just opening a file explorer window caused the machine to dialup and send data to god-knows-who.
I installed mozilla on the machine and showed my dad how to use it, but I never realized just how much normal people get taken advantage of as they wander the depths of the hinternet, thanks to slimy spyware and advertising companies.
There exist businesses with business models that rely on the lax default security of popular applications combined with the technical naivete of typical users. While I wish those companies much ill will, to hear one of the most popular internet applications will no longer be updated in major ways... that is unfortunate news for millions of people trapped by the software.
I change my AIM icon fairly regularly, since I discovered iChat's wonderful applet for sizing/cropping buddy icons. After I rotated through all my personal photos I decided to check the web for some new ones.
I searched Google Images for my last name and picked out the best photo I could find, regardless of whether or not it was me. Since then, everyone has been asking me who my buddy icon was (some guy named Dan Haughey's 1982 picture -- how could you not use it with a moustache like that?), and after explaining it so many times I figured I might as well post about it here. So go forth chatters, and find the gems within your surname.
update: holy crap, I found the same guy's current page (and photo)
While stopping off at a tourist trap during a drive home, I noticed a Civil War reenactment was taking place nearby. Apparently it was over earlier in the day because they were populating the diner where I got a bite to eat.
I find any sort of past reenactment amusing but what is really amusing is seeing these fake former war heroes mixing it up with regular folk. You haven't lived until you've witnessed Sherman's march to the cash register. Later in the nearby tourist trinket stand, I was going to buy some candy but the line of confederates was too long. On the way out, I was stuck behind a guy pulling a howitzer on a trailer that was covered in confederate flag stickers.
Speaking of the gray, what kind of inferiority complex or low self-esteem must you have to play "the south" in a reenactment? Yeah, yeah, yeah, you could believe all you want in states' rights, independence to continue slavery, and "the war of northern aggression", but at the end of your fake war day you're going to lose. You know the result of almost any reenactment is going to end up with you losing. You already know you lost the whole thing. It's not like they play reenactment as do-overs, they follow the battles as they happened and the south lost more of them. It'd be like having a WWII reenactment and playing a german. Who in their right mind would want to take that side?
This article on cartoon shows beating late night TV talkshows for the 18-24 demo doesn't surprise me at all. Among my friends, it seems like everyone passed along the secret of Adult Swim on the cartoon network to each other. Ever since I found out the family guy and futurama are on every night, I've been watching them religiously. Perhaps they'll spark new development deals for both shows, so we can see new episodes.
I've spent the past few days devouring Bill Bryson's latest work: A Short History of Nearly Everything. It's an incredible read and reinforces how amazing the history of the earth really is. Bill's wit and comedic timing that has made all his previous travel books instant classics is absent, but it has been replaced with an enthusiastic and somber tone that is just as interesting to read. I've enjoyed all his previous books, but I like this one just as much, even though it's a bit of a departure.
Bryson took three years to research the book by conducting interviews and reading lots of history and it comes through in the text. You almost feel like you were in the room with Bill, following prominent scientists around, asking newbie questions. Bryson comes off as genuinely enthralled by the subjects at hand and you learn new things along with him. The narrative reminds me a great deal of James Burke's books and Connections TV series. Bryson not only tells the tales of how things came to be, but he's constantly weaving a link between all the various stories and pulling similar themes out.
It's a fantastic book and reminds me why I was so enamored by science in school. It also drives the point home many times that we are very, very lucky to be standing here, doing what we do everyday. The chances that the universe came together to enable it are insanely slim for all sorts of reasons as you will quickly find out.
I haven't talked to Emily in probably 3-4 years. That was the first thought going through my mind when my mom called to ask me "Remember your cousin Emily?" There was an ominous tone of the past tense used after that and I knew something terrible had just happened. I don't get out to Arizona very often so I've lost contact with much of my family there. It didn't really hit me until now, seeing this article about her, but I miss her.
I love how cafes have been adopting wireless nationwide here, but I've been dismayed at the number of them that require paying several dollars for just a few hours of use. More often than not, even when I'm willing to pay I've had problems signing on at starbucks in strange towns.
Now that prices have fallen on hardware, a cafe owner only needs a $40-50/mo DSL line and a $80 wireless access point to offer wireless to customers. That's essentailly $2-3 a day of cost for the owner, which one extra grande latte would cover, and I'm glad many small cafe owners have figured this out. Customers will flock to places that offer it for free and buy more coffee.
Today I was at a cafe in rural Oregon that advertised wireless, but I assumed I'd have to sign up with Verizon or t-mobile. After popping open my laptop I found out it just worked. I checked email and my sites for the first time in a couple days and later on I met some friends for coffee. In total, I spent about $15 at the cafe, mostly because they offered free unlimited wireless. Thanks for getting it, Corner Coffee Roasters.
I grabbed some fast food tonight from a drive-thru, and I couldn't help but notice some serious problems with the name "Sprite" for the soft drink. The "audio interface" to the name sucks. Nearly every time I order it from a drive-thru, this happens:
me: ...and a large Sprite
them: ...and one large Fry
me: no, that last item is a Sprite
them: large fry?
me: large Sprite
I'm sure they test marketed the name to death back in 1961 before Sprite was introduced and it certainly sounds like an optimistic, pick-me-up word. They probably didn't think ahead to how it would be used in other media, but I have a feeling today's beverages are tested for how the names sound as well as how the name appears in print along with the general meaning of the name and any associated logos.
Fresca, Citra, and Sierra Mist don't sound like anything they might share a menu with, and even with the scratchiest speakers, weakest microphones, and loudest engines, I've never had anyone at Taco Bell confuse my Sierra Mist with a burrito.
I wonder if the music industry's embrace of the Apple Music store was due to them realizing MP3s could be another lucrative (to them) format shift for customers. Music fans have gone from LPs to 8-tracks to cassettes to CDs, and now to MP3. Electronically-distributed music is semi-permanent at best (what do you do when a hard drive fails? Will you be able to play the tracks three years from now?) and there is plenty of past precedence to show how much the movie and music industry love selling easily destructible formats to consumers, who often have to re-purchase the music later on.
The Animatrix finally came out on DVD on Tuesday and it also became available on Directv as a pay-per-view movie. I paid the $3.99 and Tivo'd it last night, which is faster than waiting for Amazon to deliver a DVD. I've seen two or three of the preview versions on the Animatrix site, but the full sized digital version viewed on a TV looks much better.
After watching the first half of it, I wonder why it wasn't released before Matrix Reloaded opened in theaters. It includes some backstory on how everyone at Zion found out about the tunneling machines, and how the war with the machines first started the Matrix. Seems like the kind of thing fans would have scooped up before Reloaded, when enthusiasm ran high for the film. Now that it is out I'm sure Reloaded's lukewarm reviews will greatly harm sales of Animatrix. Searching around online, I see that ripped copies of the complete animatrix DVD were available right around May 1st. It's not like the disc wasn't ready before Reloaded, it just wasn't sold which I find really odd.
My prediction: This web designer job at Apple will probably be the most highly-coveted job in the valley.
As much as I have loved playing with Mac OS X for the past year and a half, it might be time to switch to a PC laptop. A couple days ago, I was reading email when I heard a loud snap and my screen collapsed right in front of my eyes. The titanium metal snapped clear off the LCD screen, right above the left hinge.
I've heard that the Tibooks were fragile, but all the stories I heard involved dropping it from height, slipping off a table, or dropping something on top of it. My Tibook was sitting in my lap when the metal just up and severed itself. I couldn't believe what I saw, but in searching around I found many, many stories of people experiencing similar problems. I expect things to eventually wear out, but I'm surprised a 2 year old laptop that was handled gently for its life would up and break in such a big way. I have read story after story about other Tibooks, some just a couple months old that suffered broken hinges from sitting on a desk.
Looking at the parts I need to replace, it's looking like a $600-$800 repair. I love Apple's design, their products look great and usually function well, but I find it disconcerting that they know this problem exists and still sell Tibooks that suffer this failure.
The reality of the situation is that for nearly the same price as the repair, I can either buy a faster megahertz, but G3 chip iBook, or a 1+ Ghz PC laptop. While I have enjoyed a few mac only apps (like iPhoto and iTunes), none of them are key to my getting work done, and in actuality I could always get web development work done faster on a PC with Homesite and a few other tools. It was a fun diversion while it lasted, but when I get tired of always propping the LCD against a book or my leg it will probably become an apache development server and mp3 streaming server to my other machines.
I'll come right out and say it: I've long been skeptical of the Baghdad blogger, Salam Pax, and his story for some pretty obvious reasons. I've been through the ringer before with the Kaycee Nicole hoax, and through that entire escapade I learned of many more hoaxes that happened in the BBS, MOO, MUD, and diary communities. Simply put, on the internet no one knows you are a dog and it's not that hard to pull the wool over the eyes of the unsuspecting.
Since I'd been burned before, I couldn't help but notice that every measure he took to protect his anonymity (and his safety from Saddam's regime) also happened to allow him to be totally false if that were the case. Look at the warning signs near the end of this comment from two years ago and notice all the things in common with modern day Pax's story. It was always left to the reader to determine if his story was on the up and up, and since I wasn't 100% sure, I wasn't going to fall for it again.
But now I know he's the real deal, and I'm absolutely positively sure of it. My friend Peter Maass just published an article at Slate entitled "How do I know Baghdad's famous blogger exists? He worked for me." A couple years back I had the opportunity to work with Peter and I ended up designing and building him a website to house his past decade of articles, his book, and his weblog.
Peter has a long history of reporting "in the shit" and I had a feeling he'd be working hard through this recent conflict. When he sent me email the other day from Baghdad, he was finally planning his return home and I remarked how happy I was that he made it through unscathed, and added that during his last couple days there, he might want to track down Salam Pax so we could know once and for all if the guy was for real. Peter said he didn't really have the time for it, but in his new article he tells the story of how he figured it all out when he got back home (I'm assuming I'm one of the blogging friends he mentions in the first sentence, the other is Nick Denton).
Now that I know, I'm glad I was wrong on Salam Pax being a hoax. I wanted to believe but after being burned in the past, I let my cynical side take over. It's always reassuring to find out an optimist's attitude can win out and that people in the world are generally truthful and good. I'm going to go back and re-read all of Salam's previous dispatches with a fresh attitude and an open mind.
With recent news of cancer-sniffing dogs I should spill the beans that I've successfully trained a hamster to sense a person's credit rating. Yes, with frightening accuracy Mr. Bubbles can smell your FICO score from across the room, and will proceed to spell it out in hamster pellets.
Amazing animals, those hamsters.