Wednesday, March 28, 2007


I like Facebook a lot better than MySpace. Facebook lets you connect with your friends and see what they're up to easily, without having to sift through any unrelated garbage, or what I'll call social networking byproduct - the waste that often gets produced when so many people with nothing better to do start finding inane ways to waste their time and the time of everyone their connected to. Bad social sites like MySpace suffer from this since the actual social networking side of their operation is lacking, and as a result this byproduct is produced to fill the void. Since Facebook has social networking down pat, there's very little in the way of a void that needs filling. Yet more and more often on Facebook I'm seeing instances of this waste cropping up in my messages inbox, on my wall and in my news feed.

"Check it out," one of the headlines declares, "Go to my profile and take a look at my new celebrity look-alikes!" Um, no.


............| \
...\___ A BOAT_____/
....\_____________/," a popular wall post begins, "which probably makes you pretty angry." Yeah? No kidding. So how about you fuck off throwing bullshit at my wall, dumb-ass?

Let me ask, do you go running up to your friends on the street and cry out, "Hey, I'm hitting you with a boat! Please! Talk to me!?" I doubt it. Or perhaps you approach everyone you know with the latest issue of Celebrity Crap Magazine and start flicking wildly through the pages while declaring proudly the names of all the stars you barely resemble? Probably not.

Such approaches to socializing, be they off-line or on-line, are impersonal. I know its not actually important to you that I specifically see the results of your latest tryst with time wasting, but rather that someone at least does and that they acknowledge it. To achieve this you spam these results out there to everyone you know, and in the process diminish the impact of your own actions, not to mention that of Facebook as a social networking service.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying Facebook should be for serious play only, but there's silly and then there's just inane. What's happening right now on Facebook is quite nearly the MySpace equivalent of the sparkling animated GIF. If we ever get to that point, people, Facebook will be lost. Sparkling animated GIF's are truly the point of no return. They've devoured MySpace, and they'll devour you, too, if you're not careful.

Please, for the love of Facebook, just be careful.

GUI of the Future: Reflection of the Past

First, quickly: Every OS (operating system), like Mac OS X or Windows XP or Vista has a graphical user interface, or GUI (lovingly pronounced "gooey"). The GUI is basically all the stuff you interact with in the operating system, like folders, icons, windows, buttons, menus, even applications. Most of what you know about your computer exists on the GUI level, and that's the way it was intended. The GUI is just a shell for the guts of all that's really going on inside your computer, which is incredibly complicated stuff, which is why you need the GUI to dependably and easily interact with it, to get it to do things like play movies, burn CD's, send e-mails, write blogs, etc. Some GUI's are arguably better than others, and there are often trade-offs between functionality and appearance when designing a GUI (though I think OS X has a pretty impressive handle on both). As technology and our understanding of it improves, however, this trade-off diminishes and we come closer and closer to having pure functionality co-existing harmoniously with alluring appearance in an OS, the way it truly ought to.

While our OS should be smart and fast at doing all the tasks we require of it, its appearance should tell us things, not only about our computer, but about ourselves. What I would like to see as a feature in a future OS would be "aging". I'd like every unique aspect of the OS, every individual application's screen, every menu, button, folder, wallpaper, all of it to age based on use. Applications we use a lot, buttons we press a lot, would all show signs of aging sooner than ones used less often. The edges of windows could start to chip and crack and peel, buttons could wear down, smudge, fade, or even fall off. Folders could tear, wallpapers could scratch and peel and even fall on a slant. Just like objects in the real world, our GUI objects could all show wear and tear. This would give us some sort of feedback on our usage habits, which would be interesting to see in such a real world fashion. Of course, if we really started to dislike the look of all these signs of aging, would could initiate repairs, bring elements back to their original condition, keep on top of it all and have things looking nice and cared for part of or even all of the time, if such were our inclination.

I can do this for the exterior of my computer, and this care or lack thereof is in part a reflection of who I am, so why shouldn't the rest of my computer be the same?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Buying a Used Bicycle: Help Wanted

Despite the lion-like way in which March is going out, I do believe that Spring is upon us. Spring is a time when certain urges are known to take hold, and I am feeling one of those particular urges quite strongly at the moment. That's right: I want to ride a bicycle.

I've found a local used bike for sale, and the price looks right, but I'm none too sure I know enough to make any judgments on its quality or style or suitability towards me, so perhaps you can help. Here's a picture:

From what I can tell, its a Dyno. The bike is described as being in good condition, 26" tires, summer usage, the back tire is a little bigger because the original tire was blown out and replaced, it has grip shift gears, shocks on the front forks and under the seat, gel seat and U-lock included. Originally $350, he's now asking $125.

In terms of size, he is 6'6" while I'm 5'9", though he says that shouldn't be a problem since he hunched over and the seat can still be adjusted. I'd be trying it out for size, anyway. I'd just like to know if anyone knows enough to say whether this is a decent deal at all. I'd like to be able to ride back and forth across town in it for work to avoid the bus and get in shape.

Advice welcome!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Apple TV + DVD = Hack-o-Rama

Its not even been a week, and Apple TV has already had the crap hacked out of it. People really seem to have taken a shining to Apple's latest big-kid's toy, and it got me to thinking, maybe I've been a tad hard on the little guy. Especially since my one main conflict with the entire Apple TV ecosystem, its inability to incorporate DVD's into the mix, has already been resolved. The solution is no more legal than it is simple and straightforward, but Mike Curtis lays it all out at his very own Apple TV Hacker blog with lots of detailed description and screen shot goodness to guide you through the procedure.

As Curtis refers to it, both in his blog and in the comments (of which there are many) below his DVD hack entry, what he frequently does with his Apple TV is the technological equivalent of doodling. With that in mind, unless you're willing to crack a few pencils, shade outside the lines and crumple up the odd scrap of paper with yours, so to speak, then perhaps you'd best leave this one alone. Did I mention already that its illegal? Interestingly enough, if you read to the end of the entry, Curtis mentions this as well, at least with respect to the popular "Rent, Rip, Return" craze that's sweeping the nation.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Pogue Weighs In, Way Off

I won't spend too much time on this, but I have to follow up on my previous post here after David Pogue's review of the Apple TV produced this little gem of an insight right at the start:

"In the technology world, conventional wisdom says that we’ll soon be saying R.I.P. for the DVD. Internet downloads are the future, baby. No driving, no postpaid envelopes. Any movie, any TV show, any time."

Indeed, anyone with an Apple TV wishing to rent a movie or watch an episode of TV will be kneeling at the altar of the internet download at the iTunes store, but that's hardly the makings of a true eulogy for the DVD. Even still, a movie on iTunes isn't going for rental prices, but rather is more inline with DVD purchase prices. So remind me again why you'd pay the same price for something that's locked into your home network, has no additional content and perpetually teeters on the brink of accidental deletion? Oh right, because the Apple TV demands it.

If people were going to replace their DVD's with purchased internet downloads of movies, they would have done something similar already with CD's and music from the iTunes store. While I'm sure some people have done just that, they're a very rare breed; I know of but one, and his passion is for drawing comics, not exactly a reflection of the Western zeitgeist. Its a shame, because if DVD's were easily and legally rip-able the way CD's are, I think the Apple TV would indeed become the iPod of the home entertainment world (just, you know, without the always breaking within the first year part).

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Amazingly Incompatible Apple TV

Apple TV is shipping, and suddenly the latest Apple product that no one really seemed to care about is all anyone can talk about, or blog about anyway. Case in point, here I go. I was perfectly willing to leave Apple TV well enough alone, it never quite looked like anything I'd be interested in but I didn't see anything inherently wrong with it, either, until now.

There are comparisons that can be made to the iPod with Apple TV, in particular with its integration with iTunes. Supposedly, its this tight integration that is going to make yet another tag team knockout in the digital entertainment arena, this time in our living rooms as opposed to, well, wherever the heck we go with our iPods. In terms of music, Apple TV will indeed do just this. It will replace our ear buds with whatever sweet little (nay, large) bass pumping, 'nad dropping sound system we have set up in our homes and get our complete music library, from all of our iTunes purchased DRM'd sing-alongs to our ripped collection of CD's, flowing readily through. That's all fine and dandy, but what about TV? This is, after all, Apple TV we're discussing, right?

Lets assume TV means anything you'd normally watch on your screen; primarily TV shows and movies (the whole photos-on-your-TV thing never really seemed to take off, did it?). Sure, Apple is ramping up the content drive on its iTunes store, so you can buy TV shows and movies which will stream to your HD screen via Apple TV. Similar to what many cable services are now offering; with iTunes and Apple TV you'll have your very own on demand service running, watching what you want, when you want, and that's all you'll ever pay for in terms of content. Apple TV owners, you can kiss your cable bill goodbye. That's swell, for casual viewing, anyway.

Coming back to iTunes music store for a moment, purchases made from there are usually pretty casual. Almost anyone with a real appreciation for a band will still go out and buy the CD if they want the whole album, and with TV and movies you can bet DVD sales will continue to work the same way. TV on iTunes has more of an appeal because each episode is available as its aired, while the complete package of a season won't come out on DVD for some time later, but movies are a tidy package, no staggering there. While with music you can take your purchased CD, rip its contents to your computer and then carry it around in your iPod or stream it to your Apple TV and wake up all your neighbors, TV shows and movies don't rip from DVD's... easily or legally anyway. This is the problem.

Statistically, most of the contents of a person's iPod is music they've purchased on CD that has been ripped to their computer. The iTunes store is a great accessory to the iPod, but its just that. Apple TV is essentially dependent on an accessory for its functionality. Enjoying content on an Apple TV will be like trying to dress yourself while staring at a closet full of clothes but only having access to the scarves, or perhaps more to the point the scarves you bought off the internet from that one store. All those DVD's you lovingly collected and own, and the ones you're still planning on collecting for years to come, will be incompatible with Apple TV.

Unless Steve Jobs has a yet-unveiled plan in place which will suddenly make ripping DVD's easy and legal (another finger pointing letter to be written, perhaps?), I see no real future for Apple TV. A tight integration with the iTunes store is not nearly enough to make this otherwise promising device as necessary and ubiquitous as the iPod so readily became. Which is a shame, because for some reason I still find myself really wanting one.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Real Six Months of iPhone Bugs?

A friend on Facebook has suggested my pseudo-insider information on the iPhone's toxic release may in fact be another example of Steve Jobs and his spymaster ways, as it has been speculated was the case with Asteroid. The problem with that analysis is that it would seem imprudent for Jobs to be going out on the hunt for his neighbors, particularly when the only information they would ever possess in the first place would be that which he gives them. There's nothing to gain and plenty to lose with that strategy.

Everyone, hold on to your irony hats.

The other possibility is that this is all just a sad example of the telephone game gone international. When I looked a little closer at the details here, I noticed a coincidence. The speculation is that the iPhone will launch roughly six months from the date it was announced. These six months will see the iPhone riddled with bugs, the overwhelming majority of which, one would expect, should be getting squashed as we come up to the launch date. So what gadget-geek's best friend's mom might have heard Steve say was something more like there are still six months of bugs to be worked out before we release the iPhone to the public. Tell that to someone, who tells someone else, and immediately you begin to see the breakdown.

Now if only I'd thought of that last night.

Six Months of iPhone Bugs?

MOAB made a media buzz-fizzling effort of trying to expose Apple for having a month's worth of bugs back in January of this year. In the end, no one really noticed. Its not like they didn't have a captivating product, but an infinitely more captivating product was arriving early that same month, something a lot of people had been anticipating for a long, long time (even if they didn't know it yet.) On January 9th, Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone. Duh. And MOAB drifted into obscurity.

As it turns out, the iPhone, which muted the Apple bug whistle as it was being blown, may in the end sound its shrillest, loudest squeal. I have it on authority from the guy I spoke to on my last call of my last day of a near two month stint at a call center servicing Sprint PCS customers, that the iPhone is coming out beta. According to my source, a young hipster-gadget-geek with a troublesome Motorola Q, from Orange, CA, his best friend's mother is Steve Job's neighbor. Jobs, it seems, is a pretty generous guy, giving out Nanos and other Apple toys quite frequently, and when he's not dropping product, he's dropping future product knowledge. California hipster-geek claims that Jobs has admitted the iPhone will hit the market with at least six months of bugs to be worked out, and that early adopters will be Apple's unwitting testers.

For the record, this guy didn't just start blabbing all these details to me uninvited; I asked his opinion about the iPhone as we were wrapping up his call since he'd shown himself to be something of a gadget-geek and I was looking to kill the last few minutes of my shift without having to do any more work, and that's when the story came out.

I still have a hard time believing Jobs, who managed to keep the biggest tech secret in history for years before launching the iPhone to a semi-stunned, semi-salivating populous, would so readily boast that this same iPhone was to be released into the eager clutches of the dazed and drooling unfinished. Then again, the first generation MacBooks came out before the clear plastic seals could be peeled off the cooling vent and people had to figure that one out for themselves at first, so I suppose anything is possible.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Psychics Beware

If you're a psychic, you probably already know what I'm about to reveal. Then again, unless you've skimmed ahead, you'll have no clue since you're nothing but a shammer, a con artist with no other powers than that of a deeply suppressed and contained moral conscience, and James Randi more or less agrees. Randi is the driving force behind the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, a contest setup to allow self-proclaimed psychics the opportunity to prove themselves and their powers. Anyone who can guess the contents of Randi's box takes the grand prize. It's really that simple. So why isn't anyone winning?

Well, they weren't until Matt Blaze came along. A cryptographer and self-proclaimed quester for science, security and curiosity, Blaze rose to the challenge and in no time solved the puzzle. He was able to do this not by rubbing his temples or waving his hands about the air; he didn't gaze into a crystal ball or a mirror, mirror on the wall, but rather at this set of numbers:

5 -14

Randi had just last week posted this odd looking set of digits on his contest's website as proof of the box's contents, an encoded message describing what was inside. The idea was never to present this as a puzzle, but to use it as proof that the contents were never changed, should someone ever guess what was inside or demand that the contents be authenticated. How anyone could interpret the above set of numbers as an object would have forever been beyond me, until I read Blaze's blog. Apparently, if you're a brilliant cryptographer, its simple.

Blaze isn't claiming the prize. He never for a moment contended that his discovery of the box's contents resulted from any sort of psychic power he possessed, and he supports Randi's cause, which was why he revealed the code's weakness. The world needs more people like Matt Blaze and James Randi. Oh, and Darren Brown, too.

Psychics are a pet peeve of mine. I don't mind the odd parlor trick here or there for a laugh, but when ego-maniacs take advantage of people, making bold claims of contacting deceased loved ones, locating the missing, solving murders or claiming a paranormal knowledge of any matter which is of significant importance to a person or persons, feeding off their hopes and/or fears for fame or money, it is unforgivable. However, when such scum are given credence by the media, its a thing far worse. The media has a duty not to be dazzled. Then again, how else are we to be warned when our unsuspecting North Atlantic hometown is in imminent danger of being smashed by a tidal wave?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Cranley's On Hold

I picked up on this little gem at work over the last week. Sprint PCS uses the Broken Social Scene song Cranley's Gonna Make It for their customer service hold music, exclusively. I've transfered a few calls in the last week or so of working on the phones at Teletech, and no matter where the call is directed, the hold music remains the same.

As cool as that is, I'm still glad I'm leaving there on Friday.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Tutorial: How to Make a Left Turn While Driving

1. Drive straight, approaching your desired lane at a 90 degree angle.

2. Slow down until your left side view mirror is aligned with the entrance to the desired lane.

3. When a break in oncoming traffic allows, cut your steering wheel to the left and gently accelerate.

4. Two thirds of the way through your turn, when the nose of your vehicle is nearly aligned with the path of your lane, release your grip on the steering wheel while continuing to accelerate, allowing the tires of your car to steer themselves back into a straight forward position.

5. As your vehicle gently aligns itself with the path of your lane, return your standard grip to the steering wheel and accelerate as necessary to achieve the prescribed cruising speed for your lane.

Note: DO NOT start your turn before arriving at the entrance to your desired lane, thereby approaching at a 45 degree angle and cutting across the oncoming lane adjacent to your desired lane, as you risk a collision with vehicles in that lane!!! I mean, for crying out loud, what is wrong with people in this town?? Twice in as many minutes... come on.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Back it Up There, Buddy

When it comes to computers, a lot of people sort of idly think, I don't need to bother backing up, chances are I'll never lose any of my files, that's the sort of thing that only happens to other people. If the odds are even remotely in a person's favor, then the path of least resistance is the path we'll almost all take, and in the case of personal computers that path involves doing absolutely nothing to safeguard our personal files.

The only problem is, people have the odds figured all wrong. Chances are that in your lifetime you will experience a hard drive failure, system crash, power surge, house fire, theft, a sudden case of butter fingers, whatever, which will result in the loss of your data - photos, music, e-mails, precious porn, you name it. It'll be gone. Forever. When that time comes, and it will come, you'll wish, oh how you'll wish, that you'd done something to back those files up.

So start backing up now.

I lost 5GB of photos once because I kept them in one place, on an iPod with an invisible ticking time bomb inside. When that bomb went off and the hard drive failed, my photos were gone. Two years of my life in images, gone. Was I upset? Yes. Did I learn anything? No.

Today I almost lost everything. After running an update for my Mac that somehow went wrong, my computer wouldn't boot. It would just hang on the welcome screen, unwilling to go any further. I had some stuff backed up, my screenplay, some TV shows I've downloaded, my music is mostly all stuff I own on CD, but some big things, like all my photos from my life in London, and little things, like carefully crafted playlists in iTunes, all hung in the balance.

I was lucky today. A reinstall of the operating system solved the problem, kept everything in tact like nothing had ever happened. I'm writing you from that same computer right now. But it reminded me that I'm still a total dope when it comes to holding on to the things I think are precious.

I survived the loss of those photos from my early twenties, its true, but I still wish I had them today and I'd do an awful lot to get them back. So why aren't I doing anything to keep what I still have?

As of today, I am.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ecstasy: Climate Change of the Mind?

For decades now politicians and the media have been mostly denying the existence of climate change, despite all the scientific evidence in support of the fact. Now, all of a sudden the issue seems to have gained some traction and reports are coming in from all sides that, yes, climate change is real, and yes, something needs to be done about it.

What the situation with climate change has revealed (if you hadn't already noticed) is that governments and the media are entirely capable, if not willing, to perpetuate false notions, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, to the point of manufacturing evidence in support of their mistruths. Call it propaganda, call it stubbornness, but the truth is we're not always told the truth about very important matters, and this can affect the way we make choices in our lives.

Ecstasy, or MDMA, is a drug which has received a lot of bad press from the media and politicians. It drains the fluid in your spine, it can lead to epilepsy, it can drill holes in your brain; these are all "facts" that at one point or another have been released into the public as verifiable truths about this drug of choice for clubbers and party goers alike. The only problem is these claims are neither verifiable nor true. Scientists are proving this, and the media is finally starting to latch on.

BBC Radio 4 recently did a 30 minute story on MDMA and the current studies being done on its effects, both temporary and long term, and its findings are incredibly contrary to the popular myths about this drug.

People wishing to look into some of the studies on MDMA currently being done and their findings might be interested in consulting The DEA's website (that's Drug Enjoying Americans, as opposed to the American government's Drug Enforcement Administration).

Of course anything becomes instantly more dangerous the moment it is relegated to the criminal realm. If Ecstasy poses any real danger to people, it may well be entirely due to the fact that it is illegal. Without measures in place to ensure that what people are using is in fact ecstasy and not some cheap and potentially harmful derivatives, the potential for real harm will always exist.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Feed Me

I've been a sort of half-assed, casual user of feeds for something like a year now. My Goggle home page is set up to receive feeds from some of my favorite blog and news sources, as well as a few pass-time items like word of the day and quote of the day, but the interface is clunky and limited at best. As far as browser home pages go its a knock out, but a true RSS reader, it is not.

I've just tonight made the rather simple leap to a full fledged reader, the stunningly simple and elegant Vienna RSS Reader, and the difference is everything. Now I can keep up on the latest news, technology, Mac buzz, recipe ideas, and yes even words and quotes of the day without the need to open my web browser; without even the need to go looking. Any feeds I've subscribed to arrive in my reader the moment they're available online, organized and ready for me to read/view right there on the spot. Along with the text you'd see on the web page if you were using your browser, embedded photos and even videos come through in tact and in place. I don't know why I didn't do this before.

An easy way to peg a website that uses feeds is that you'll see a little orange coloured square icon in the far right of your browser's address bar with a white little dot and two curved lines in it (looks like a little frequency pulse of some kind). That signifies the page is set up to offer a feed - any time that page updates with new content, a feed will be sent out to anyone subscribing to it with the updated content for them to view. offers an RSS feed, as indicated by the icon in the browser's addres bar. Clicking on it would give you a choice of how you'd like to subscribe.

If this icon isn't present, its unlikely a feed is available. Sites like Macsurfer's Headline News and Facebook, sadly, do not offer feed services. The former is the greatest daily culminating effort of Mac related news the internet has ever known, and the latter is a social networking site where the activities of friends are constantly offered as updates on your social home page. Both would be ideal providers of RSS feeds, but alas neither does.

The coolest thing about an RSS Reader? You could even subscribe to this blog.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Review: My Throat Infection

Before the antibiotics completely eradicate the divine pleasure that is my current throat infection, I'd like to offer my thoughts and observations on its presence in my life.

Its worth noting that swallowing is a function of the body most of us probably take for granted. When your father finds you at 2am in the kitchen, clad only in your underwear, having a full fledged, hyperventilating, tear- and sweat-dripping panic attack over not being able to swallow a pill, let alone the water you're gagging on or even the saliva in your mouth, the value of this function is therein forever ingrained.

3am and we're in the Emergency waiting room after checking in with a lovely bunch of nurses, all very friendly and warm. The place is empty apart from a lone figure in the back corner who appears to be there more for shelter than anything else. Eventually I'm escorted to another location where I sit and wait in the dark for a while until a doctor comes and places a tongue depressor in my mouth, shines a light, rubs my throat up and down and walks away. Sometime later, another doctor comes and asks if I've been given a prescription. Its difficult for me to speak through the swelling and the pain, but I say in a somewhat pathetically monstrous voice, I'm not sure. She leaves and comes back with a prescription, along with two pills she's placing in my hand and a cup of water. She waits. I ask, with difficulty, what these pills are. She replies, Amoxicillin. Um, ok... what do they do? They're antibiotics. Ok, thanks. I struggle through the swallow, gagging some, feeling a tad embarrassed. I sit there. Um, am I done now? Yes, you're free to go, remember to drink plenty of fluids. But I can't swallow. Plenty of fluids. Ok. As I walk away, an awkward pat finds its way onto my shoulder. Thanks.

I spend the next day holding onto walls and door nobs while kicking and clenching my way through partial sips of water that splash my esophagus, causing me to gag and spit into the nearest sink. Food is an altogether foreign concept. My visit to the hospital left me with no idea of how long it would be until this situation might change, let alone a diagnosis of what this situation might be beyond one of the nurses casual comments that it was a throat infection. I manage to stave off any further bouts of massive panic, apart from a few choice moments here and there, and by late night the antibiotics have made enough room in my throat to allow small, gentle intakes of mushy food, which by now I am more than grateful for.

Today I've graduated from impossible to difficult to now mere painful swallowing. I'm eating toast and drinking coffee and feeling altogether more human. The uncertainty and terror have passed. Its a whole new day!

In conclusion, I'm sick of doctors that suck but otherwise feeling better.