audio music technology

Radio reborn!

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I had heard about the Squeezebox from Logitec for years, but I never paid any attention. My loss… Listening to the radio was always fun in the past. Part of it was the thrill of the hunt, cycling through different stations in order to find something that fit my mood was a common pastime. The problem is that FM is a total wasteland now. Even the satellite stations don’t do much for me.

Here’s where the squeezebox comes into play. It is a device that allows you to stream your music collection to a sound system. No big deal, right? An airport express will do the same thing. Ah, but the squeezebox allows you to stream internet radio, even if your computer is off. In addition, it is easy to move it around or add more devices in your house. These can be linked together or operated separately. Logitec makes devices that you would hook to an existing system or stand alone devices much like a table radio.

There are over 20,000 stations by my quick count that you can get on there. In addition, there are services like the BBC, classical music organization, and the live performance archive that you can play on there. Then there are the customizable stations like Pandora, Last, and Slacker. You pick a song or group and they will play songs similar to them.

I love the music on my computer and listen to it all the time but it is nice to be able to get exposed to new music too. I think the squeezebox touch (as well as an app for my iPod touch) will be my next audio purchase. I’ll hook it up to a table radio I own right now and in the future I’ll hook it up to a pair of active speakers via its digital output. Stay tuned, don’t touch that dial! I’ll be back soon with more exciting audio news from Isaac!:-)


I need a new computer…

OK, well maybe need is a bit of a strong term, but my trusty macbook is showing its age. One of the new features in iTunes is that it will automatically take higher bitrate songs and convert them to 128k bitrates when you transfer them to an ipod. Basically, the higher the bitrate the song is encoded, the higher the quality of the audio, but the more space it takes up. Being a inveterate audio snob, most of my collection has been ripped at 256k and sometimes higher, but I’ll ever hear the difference between that and 128k in the car or on the go with my iPod. So this new feature is great, I can save a ton of space on my ipod (which equals more songs on my ipod) and still maintain the higher quality at home.

So why do I need a new computer? I set my ipod up to sync before I went to bed, I knew this was going to take a while to do, I figured that overnight would be plenty of time. Wrong. Here it is 10 hours later and it’s still churning away. It still has 1000 songs to go! This is the first big, processor intensive task I’ve had to do, and my poor computer just is a bit long in the tooth for it. I’ve had my macbook for about 4 years now, so I guess it’s time, but it’s going to take me several months before I can pop for a new one. SIGH… It’s the curse of working with new, shiny computers all day, the desire never has time to go away…


The iPad


No really, just Wow.

OK, I’ll expand on that, but just a bit:-) Honestly, when I drove to work this morning, I was worried that the iPad might turn out to be “OK.” Usually, Ok is fine, but this is Apple and the standards are set quite a bit higher. If it turned out to be competent it would have been a total let down. As it turns out, it’s another amazing device from Apple.

Why is it amazing? I’ve been reading the haters online for a while, they all seem to say that any given number of netbooks could “do” what the iPad does, why would you waste your money? With Apple, it is never just about what the product can do, how you do it is just as important. I can assure you that no netbooks works the way the iPad does.

The touch interface is unbelievable. I don’t just mean that it is responsive, quick, etc. I mean that it is an incredible experience to use. Surfing the web on it is a revelation. You interact with the web as though it were a book or magazine, you touch it, you move it around.

I know all this sounds a little over the top, but maybe this little anecdote will help explain what I’m talking about. My manager Michael told us that the original Mac had brought the desktop and mouse into being as a popular way to use a computer. As we move our arm, a pointer on a screen moves in tandem. It does work pretty well, but the iPad is the first computer to do touch screen really well. Before too long, using a mouse will seem as odd to us as using the command line does to most people these days.

He was more right than he knew. I used the iPad off and on over 8 hours today and now using my Macbook feels downright clunky. It’s odd having the screen as just something to look at, it’s weird to adjust things remotely. It feels just plain disconnected. I will have an iPad at some point, I’m going to do well to resist the 3G version for a little while when it comes out. In the meantime, I encourage you to go to an Apple store or even a Best Buy and try just surfing the web with it, the more you do, the harder it will be to put down….


For those that are tired of facebook changing…

I haven’t been keeping up with how facebook looks because I don’t usually log into facebook anymore. I’m still getting all of my updates though. How? I use a program that fetches my friend’s statuses and picture updates. I can also comment on them and post my own comments and status as well.

The program is called socialite, you can download it here. It also fetches all of my google reader feeds. You can also use it for twitter, flickr, and general rss reading as well. This one is Mac only, but there’s probably other programs out there like this for you windows folks. I’ve found it a great way to get the important stuff from facebook and avoid all of the ads, stupid games, and the inevitable format changes. It’s nice having a program that will do my updates for me and allow my web browsing to be just that, browsing.


Flash on the web

The new iPad really has me excited. If you’re sort of “meh” about the specs, I encourage you to take a look at the video Apple has produced. There you can see people handling it and using it and that makes a big difference. I think I “get” what Apple had in mind for this product, and I am beyond psyched about it.

One thing that did concern me was the fact that Flash will not be supported on it. Flash is an Adobe product and it’s used all over the web, but it occurred to me that I didn’t know how much Flash I used in my usual browsing. I downloaded a plug-in that blocks Flash content but allows you to download it if you feel like it.

What a revelation! As it turns out, most of the Flash that I run across consists of ads. Pages load much faster without them, and there is a lot less distractions and annoying things when Flash is blocked. In short, I barely notice the absence of Flash really isn’t a big deal for me in my usual browsing routine. Granted, I never use Hulu, I can definitely understand people’s consternation over not being able to see their TV shows.

So is this a fatal flaw? I don’t think so. There are other, better ways to display video content on the web. H264 encoding and HTML5 have the potential to unseat Flash. Google is supporting both of these formats on Youtube and Vimeo is using HTML5 in limited quantities as well. Right now, limitations in playback seem to browser based. Between those two open standards and Apple’s refusal to use Flash (supposedly for battery reasons although there are plenty of conspiracy theories around), I wonder how long Adobe will be able to maintain people’s enthusiasm for Flash. With all of the iPods, iPhones, and now iPads not using it, that’s a lot of the mobile market. Time will tell. In the meantime, I heartily suggest using a Flash blocker for speedier internet access. I’m using a Safari plug-in called “clicktoflash.” You can get it here.


Google wave and the future

One thing that using wave made me think about is Google’s new Operating system called Chrome. It is still in the development phase, but we already know the basic idea behind it. The way that Google sees it, most people tend to do most stuff on the internet, so why have stuff on the computer at all? Why not just have all of your data and applications on the web?

A wild idea right? Well, not really. Many people already use webmail instead of a mail program on the computer. Google has already shown how useful productivity apps like word processors and spreadsheets can be online through Google office. How many of you use an online photo site like Flicker or Facebook to store your pictures? Banking, streaming music, shopping, watching videos and TV shows, even data storage via cloud servers are now all done online. The Chrome OS is essentially a browser that allows you to have very fast access to everything on the net. The OS itself will actually be at Google, not on the computer really, so viruses and worms won’t be able to affect the computer. Security is all taken care of online, there won’t be any reason to try to gain access to the computer because there essentially won’t be anything on it.

In theory, your computer should be as fast as your internet connection. It’s an exciting concept, and I think it will appeal to a lot of people that consume content (as oppose to making things like music, video, and other media) and don’t want to have to deal with the messiness of backing up data and security issues.

Using Google Wave gave me just an inkling of the potential of doing stuff without an OS on the computer. It will allow you to work in ways that we are just now starting to dream of. Something like wave has the potential to merge word processing, email, wiki creation, and IM on one tab of your browser. Applications will no longer be programs you run on your machine but simply links along the side of your screen. Now that I have FIOS, I can see the potential of online apps. Honestly, I am having trouble imagining anything that I do on a computer that couldn’t be done totally online. Well, eventually, right now I can’t do what I want online because there aren’t equivalents for everything I do online yet. There’s no reason they couldn’t be though…

Chrome won’t be for everyone, not until everyone can get unlimited access to fast internet, but it is an exciting new choice that should be coming in the near future. I can see my next laptop being one running Chrome. I’ll have a big rig for doing my audio, photo, and video stuff on, but for around the house and normal stuff, Chrome will probably be all I need. These are exciting times…


Google wave

I got a google wave invite several days ago in my inbox. I let it sit there until my brother called up last night and wanted to mess with it. It’s a very interesting program.

At first, I thought it was just another instant messaging program (IM). You can use it like that, but I think it’s a bit cumbersome as compared to other IM clients. One twist Google has put on things is that you can edit the other person’s text, and you can both see that happen in real time. Hmmmm…. maybe it is more than an IM client.

Wave also has a word processing capability. It’s limited, but perfectly capable for normal stuff. So imagine this, you can type up a document and share it with someone else, or a whole group. They can then add to it, edit it, append it, etc. It’s an ideal tool for any collaborative project, for brainstroming if nothing else.

Unlike an IM client, you can leave what you’ve done up and then come back to it later to see what the others have added. So Wave is kind of like a cross between an IM client and email, but everyone you have added to the wave can see the edits in real time so it’s also like a really responsive Wiki application too.

There are all sorts of different content you can put in as well. Here’s a wave I’ve made up with a youtube video embedded in it.


It’s just as easy to put in Google maps. There are other gadgets out there for Wave, but I haven’t had a chance to mess with them just yet. One of the ones the Google team used that is interesting allows you to put the wave in your blog. That allows all of the same functionality of the wave, the interaction, the editing, etc. in a blog post! As developers work on this, the functionality will continue to expand.

So Google wave is a word processor, IM client, wiki maker, collaborative tool, and email all rolled into one thing. It takes some getting used to in order to take full advantage of it. I can’t say I’m there just yet. I’m still stuck in the either it’s an email OR an IM session mode. I do think that with more use, I’ll get into the rhythm of using it. It’s still early in the game for Wave, but I see big things ahead for it. We just need more gadgets for it, a little smoother operation, and most importantly, a critical mass of people using it. Watch out for Google, they have some big things coming down the pike!


TV on my mac update

Everything is still going well. I had been getting annoyed over the jagginess I was getting while watching hockey on my 2006 macbook. I figured that the integrated graphics just weren’t up to decoding the HD stream on the fly.

I fiddled around a bit tonight and found a solution. It turns out that the jagginess only occurred at certain window sizes in the viewer. Well, at most sizes really. I’m assuming that at certain image sizes there is less interpolation going on and therefore less processing by my wimpy graphics chipset. Once I found the sweet spot, the image quality was quite a bit better and the game was much more enjoyable There is still a fair amount of smearing on the action, but I’ll forgive my computer that issue. I’m assuming that once I go to a new computer, with a real graphics card, there will be no more problems with the TV stream.


Geeking out

I got my FIOS installed last night. OMG! Not only do I now have internet in my house, it is freaking amazing. My downloads are silly fast and webpages open up almost instantly. Youtube is a revelation…

I also got a TV package. There’s a digital cable box in my room but I don’t have a TV. I am watching TV on my laptop computer. ON. MY. COMPUTER!!! This may be old hat for some of you guys, but I think it’s awesome. All I needed was a firewire cable connecting my box and my computer and a few free programs. Now I have HDTV on my computer. Seems to me that I should be able to record this, but I haven’t figured out how yet.

I may never leave my room again… 🙂

art photography technology

"But what does my picture really look like?"

That’s a question I got a lot when I sold photo gear and I’m still getting it now. Last night, a lady was comparing the regular glossy screen to the anti-glare one on the laptops. They do look different but she was distressed because she didn’t know which one was “right.”

*PISH* Give me a color slide any day:-) Seriously, there is something satisfying about making a physical object that actually exists. Making a string of numbers whose appearance varies considerably depending on how it is rendered just doesn’t feel the same. Or maybe I’m just old fashioned.

I do think that the analog still has a place in this world, even if it’s only in the way people think about stuff. Are we hard wired to think in an analog fashion about certain things or is it just the way we were taught?