My iPod, and an app question

My first purchase as an Apple employee was an iPod touch. A 32GB one to be exact. I am beyond happy with it. Not only does it make sitting on the train much easier, it’s really helping me out at work. No really! I constantly use the calculator, and I jot down various notes that help me out as I talk to customers.

It has also helped with my internet situation. Since my only regular internet connection is at work, I have been taking my laptop in every day to do my online stuff. No longer. Now I just take my iPod in. I can do my email and facebook stuff pretty easily with it. It has also allowed me to keep up with my podcasts. I don’t keep my itunes library on my laptop’s hard drive, it’s just too big. That meant that when I wanted to get the latest editions of my podcasts, I would have to take my computer and my external hard drive into the library along with the necessary cables, power cords, etc. Now I can download the latest ones on my ipod and then sync them to my music library when I get home. I had no luck researching that little scenario before I got it, so now everyone else can know about this!

I’m just dipping my toes into the apps ocean. So far, my favorite apps are the facebook one, stanza, and bejeweled. Stanza in particular is an amazing program. With it, you get an excellent ebook reader and easy access to thousands and thousands of free books. I need to find a good blogging app, does anyone out there have any suggestions? My favorite blogging program (Marsedit) hasn’t shown any interest in making an iPhone/iPod version.

I’m already plotting my next purchase. I’ve got my eye on the new 27″ quad core iMac that will be coming out in November. Not sure when I’ll be able to afford it, but I will have one eventually. To see the new Imacs is to covet them. No really, they are stunningly beautiful, Apple has really outdone itself this time. It will also serve as my TV. It’ll be about the right size for my smallish room. All it takes is some time to save for it, I hope I won’t go too crazy in the meantime…


Now this is progress!

How many times have you heard that they don’t build cars like they used to? All I can say is thank God for that. This video is illuminating, check out the differences in the inside during the crash.

odds and ends technology

An awful night’s sleep and an amazing dream

Man, last night was perhaps the most brutal night’s sleep I’ve ever had. I tossed and turned and woke up feeling like I got beat up. I ached all over and had a splitting headache.

The good news is that I had a rather vivid, pleasant dream. I was visiting a childhood friend and his family in Hong Kong, not that they have ever been there as far as I know. I also saw one of my college roommates there. I now realize that my completely truthful conversation with him sounds as weird as anything else in the dream. He asked me what I had been doing and I told him that I had been in Yemen, but that my MS has kind of grounded me recently…

Anyway, it was time to leave. I was going to take the train to the airport, here’s where it gets cool. I walked down the street and got into an elevator to take me up to the tracks. Strangely, the elevator got slightly smaller as it went up. Then it started moving sideways. Just as I started to freak out, a window revealed itself and my train tickets were printed up for me! I was on the track, on the way to the main train station. Pretty cool.

At the station, I was supposed to find the area to board my particular car. The cars were similar to the old fashioned cars on trains, or maybe a carriage. They were tall, with lots of glass, and there were two benches facing each other. Cars of a certain destination would cycle through a small eddy-like area and you were supposed to jump on as it came by. Well, mine came and went, it didn’t slow down or stop for me. So I got on another, figuring that they were going to the same place anyway. But then mine came back! So I jumped off and tried to get onto the correct one.

I ended up missing both, but not to worry. There was a keypad recessed in the wall with some instructions. I punched in the general direction I wanted to go and a small compartment opened up. As I punched in my specific destination, a closet opened up so I could store my luggage and we got underway. Once again, I was in my own train car. It was pretty small, people that are claustrophobic would probably freak out, especially with the car’s inclination to get smaller as you got underway. It was also good that I was by myself, no one else would have fit.

Anyway, I enjoyed that, I like trains, and having my own car was quite a treat. Who knows, maybe sometime in the future we’ll get to experience all that for real.


So you want to shoot a video… Information across the generations

Recently, I had gotten some inquires from a local museum wondering if I wanted to do a video project. When I asked what it was, I kept getting told that it was an oral history project. That sounds good, but it was a little vague. Still, the idea of shooting a documentary, however short, was appealing. I was finally directed to another museum’s site to see what had made everyone so excited about getting this underway.

I quickly decided that this is yet another generational issue involving technology and information. The clips are just that, clips of people talking. Apparently, they are shown, “multi-media” style at the museum using a touch screen interface. This really impressed the people that saw this display. Here’s what I saw… I saw some rather amateurish looking clips put into categories depending on what they were talking about. There was no narrative, there was no coherence, and I don’t think there was much point.

When I got to sit down with one of the board members and tried to figure out what it was they wanted to do, I was amazed. They wanted to hire me (or this other guy) to run the camera and edit the footage. They also may have needed me to do the “multi-media” installation at the museum. Ummm, what decade are we living in?

I had to break it to them that it doesn’t take much of a genius to record people talking, or even to string clips together. Just as digital photography has made acceptable looking images easy to get, digital video cameras have made it really easy to get acceptable looking video without knowing much.

Of course, if I shot the stuff for them, it would look much better. That’s still the difference between a hack and someone that cares. Lighting and composition will always separate the men from the boys. Of course she didn’t really understand what it was you need to pay for when it comes to video production like this. Like I said, shooting it is a piece of cake, editing is always work, but it wouldn’t be too bad for a project like this. What you end up paying for is the ability to organize images and sound in order to tell a story, or in this case, history.

This had never crossed anyone’s mind as far as I can tell. They were ready to pay me money to simply record stuff. They were then going to take those clips and put them on a screen via a touch screen interface. Like I said before, I think there is a generational gap at work here. What role do documents and information in general play in learning history? And where does that information belong?

To many people, especially older ones, the act of getting information transferred into bytes is an amazing and unknowable process. The fact that it happens at all is seen as a miracle. In their world, you need to have lots of arcane technical knowledge to do that, that’s why you have to pay people for that. To people that are comfortable with these things (like everyone under the age of 25 and some of us older folks), it is as normal as putting on our shoes. For us, getting the footage or image is understood. What we want to know is what are you going to do with that info?

If teaching history is the main reason for recording this stuff at all, why are you going to stick it in a museum? A museum in Mathews county of all places… Once again, for people in the younger generations, information does not belong in a building where it is subject to opening and closing hours. It is not meant to have limited access. If you want information to be useful, put it on the web so that anyone can have access to it. At one time, museums were very good for that. Nowadays, they are much better suited for showing objects and hosting educational activities.

So I am going to speak to the board in December. I’m hoping to be able to explain the difference between recording data and using data to create something useful. I’m also hoping to convince them that any of them can run a video camera. No, it won’t look as good, but it will be a hell of a lot cheaper. Sometimes quantity is more important than quality… If they do want that data to be made into something useful, the last thing they want to do is limit access to it. I will try to introduce them to the internet…

That’s not really fair, they do know what the internet is, but they seem to have a very limited view of what it is. Older people tend to see the internet as something akin to TV. You tune it in and see what’s on. It doesn’t occur to them that they should contribute. I do wish that people would stop being afraid of technology. I’ll try to do my part in a couple of weeks and hopefully if they ever want to do an actual documentary, they’ll call me…


Wow, where’ve you been Google?

I had noticed my daily hit rate on my site had been going down recently. The other day, a Google bot crawled my website and suddenly I’m getting all sorts of hits. Not only are some of my old popular pages (demand curves, profit is important, in defense of black sabbath, etc.) getting hit again, but Im getting hits on pages that never got them before. I have no idea why my numbers dropped off so much, but I’m amazed that the Google bot has done as much as it has. Glad it stopped by!

One other thing that is interesting, about 30% of visits to my site last longer than 5 minutes. That may not sound like a big deal, but it means that people are reading stuff. Here’s an amazing statistic, as of tonight, 10% of the last 200 visits to my site have lasted longer than an hour! That makes a guy feel good!

books technology


I just finished reading “Neuromancer” by William Gibson. It’s one of those books that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. Along with several others, it was the book that launched the whole “cyberpunk” genre in science fiction. What’s that? It’s hard to pin it down exactly, but there’s a lot of being on the net in a virtual way, total technology domination of the world, amoral and vicious characters, and a general world weariness… The original “Max Headroom” gave you a taste of it. You can also look to the “Ghost in the Shell” movies and series to get a more modern take on on the genre.

Neuromancer war written in 1984, and it shows. To me, it reeks of the 80’s. I remember what the future was supposed to hold, a never-ending cold war with the soviets, japanese corporations running the world, and a general disintegration of all moral orders. As a story, it’s OK. Truth be told, sci-fi books have always left me flat, but at least I was entertained.

The most interesting thing for me was how his vision of the future looked and how closely it resembled today’s reality. Gibson’s view of cyberspace is still in the future. In his world, cyberspace is an all-encompassing virtual world. When you “jack in” you leave this world and enter a totally different one. You float in space, appearances are dynamic and can shift at an instance. We’re still a ways from that although I wouldn’t argue about how far away. Technology moves so fast that it’s difficult to have any good idea about what’s going to happen even in the near future.

That’s where Gibson had some trouble. The birth of the internet as we know it today happened 5 or 6 years after he wrote this book. He understood the extent of information that would be involved, but not the amount. At one point, we were supposed to try and even conceive of thousands of megabytes being transmitted across cyberspace. Can you imagine? Thousands of megabytes! LOL, I have 100,000 (or so) megabytes of storage on my computer, I can’t really imagine what something like google of you-tube goes through, and neither could Gibson at the time.

What we might consider the more pedestrian things that he missed are actually much more influential that his big ideas. Things like cell phones are totally absent from his world. Along with that is the ubiquitousness of the internet. In his world, only certain people with the right equipment had access. In our world, anyone with a decent cell phone has access.

I’m not picking on Gibson, nobody could see how things were going to unfold. It’s a good lesson to be taught from time to time, even the most visionary of artists can’t imagine how little things like cell phones will totally transform the world. We need to keep that in mind whenever we engage in long term plans. Things in the future will not be the same as they are now. That seems obvious enough, but we tend to only think of the big things that will change, not the incredible number of little things that totally transform day to day life. It’s also important to remember than things can indeed get better. Technology doesn’t have to be dehumanizing the way it is in so may sci-fi books. The internet has made the world a smaller one, and I think that’s real progress.


New Apple laptops

My father got a new laptop the other day. He has FINALLY gotten a Mac, now all I need to do is get mom switched over and I’ll have my computer troubleshooting life taken care of… Anyway, I moaned and groaned a bit about the new macbooks because they dropped the firewire port off of them. I still don’t like that, but my father had never heard of firewire, so the new one was fine for him.

I gotta say, the new macbooks are pretty sweet. I shouldn’t really be surprised, Apple keeps doing this and it should be expected by now… It is noticeably zipper than mine despite having the same clock speed and amount of RAM. There have been enough improvements that the overall speed has noticeably improved. I didn’t really care about the new manufacturing process, but the result really is nice. This is the first computer I’ve felt that I like to touch, the aluminum has a very nice tactile feel to it. The screen is nice and bright, and the keyboard is fine. I do like the trakpad, I already miss some of the multi-touch features. In short, I imagine that I will end up owning one of these sooner or later. I’ll get around the firewire limitation somehow (damn you Steve Jobs). I didn’t think my computer was all that bad until I used the new one…

He also got an internet thingy for his computer. Since he’s out in the sticks, cable and DSL were out of the question. Satellite is just too expensive. This thing uses the phone company’s network, a 3g one I suppose. It’s not bad. It’s not quite up to a cable modem type of speed, but it is a huge improvement over the dial up he was on before. So those of you out of reach of cable modems might want to look into this, it’s an easy way to get into the 21st century…


GAHHH! New Apple laptops… No Firewire!

And no, that’s not a good GAHH! Don’t get me wrong, the new additions sound really nice. The aluminum case and the new graphics chips are great upgrades. I’m not to keen on the no button trackpad, but who knows, maybe I’d get used to it. Also, I think the new two tone look is fugly, but that obviously doesn’t affect the usefulness. My gripe, and it’s a big one, is that there is no firewire port on the macbook! Yeah, I guess I could spring for the macbook pro, but that’s 2 grand and a larger computer. It’s just a port Apple, $700 (and less) windows machines have this port, it’s ridiculous that the new macbook doesn’t have one.

I had been thinking about my next computer being an audio one. Without a firewire port, that looks doubtful. USB is fine, if a little slow, for transferring files, but audio and video uses really need a firewire port. I can’t believe this… I may actually buy a windows computer for my audio work. I’d never get it near the internet, there’s just too many problems with all the viruses and malware out there. The necessary anti-virus stuff causes even more problems as far as I can tell. ARGGH! Why couldn’t they put that port on a reasonably priced machine?



I was only out of this country for a couple of years. Before I left, I was pretty up on the technology that I like, not so much while I was away. I am amazed at the progress that has happened in those two years.

Digital cameras continue to get better and better. DSLRs have more resolution, larger sensors, and now have live view and HD video! I’m still waiting for a small camera with a larger sensor. There’s some interesting prototypes being shown at this year’s Photokina. Hopefully they will see the light of day at some point.

I happened to look at a Crutchfield catalog over at my dad’s place. I used to sell car audio systems after I got out of college and the stuff today is almost unrecognizable. When I sold stuff, tape decks were still pretty popular, now, there are decks without a CD player! It’s all about iPods, flash memory, etc. Add to that satellite radio and HD radio, and you have a real music entertainment system in the car… Any of thise things would be welcome in the vehicle I’m using now. I was driving around and flipping through the radio stations (FM hunting I call it) looking for something to listen to. The best thing I found was “18 and Life” by Skid Row. That was the BEST thing I found… Bring on the large music storage and satellite radio!

There are also things that I’m not as interested in but are just as amazing. Navigations systems, dvd systems, multi-zone music and video.. WOW! I’m wondering what all that will be like once I get another car. It’s exciting to think about.


HDTV. Really?

Since I’ve come back and started watching TV again, I’ve been stunned with the hype surrounding HDTV. I actually watch one, and it’s nice. There’s no denying the better picture but honestly, after the first couple of times I saw an HDTV program, I didn’t notice it any more. This seems like a real technical advance, but I don’t think it does much to improve the experience.

One thing that really does improve things is the surround sound that usually comes with the HDTV channels. That’s something I learned way back when I was selling surround sound systems. Even with a so-so TV, the experience could be dramatic with a good sound system. I have fallen in love with concerts on channels like VH-1, with the right system, it is amazing…

So when the time comes for me to buy a TV (it’ll happen eventually) I’ll look for the best deal I can, but I won’t obsess over the picture quality. I will get a nice sound system though…