Oh how I wish someone made a registry that for a small fee, would accept real CDs, DVDs, or Blu-Rays, Amazon and iTunes accounts, or whatever, and would register that a particular person had purchased a particular piece of content. In exchange, the service would guarantee that when new formats came out they could download that song or movie or even, ick, cut new physical media.
Imagine that all the content providers loved this idea and would immediately allow people to buy their music or movies through the registry and not have to deal with physical distribution and format wars themselves. Imagine further that these providers could provide the best possible masters to the registry and make a little money no matter how the user decided to use their media.
Imagine they could come up with a way for families to share their music amongst themselves for less than the cost of buying all the music and movies again.
I sit here thinking about what it would mean to send every CD and DVD in the house off, and turn over the keys to my online download accounts in exchange for a shiny new download service that works with everything I have. I even imagine that DirecTV gets in on the deal and updates their software so I can download my own content to my receivers through the satellite and distribute it to my local computers, iPods, and media centers instead of killing my puny Internet connection. I imagine that Netflix figures out how to make rentals appear on this service in some way that's temporary.
It will never happen of course. Everyone seems to think they'll lose something in this kind of arrangement. But sometimes it's fun to dream about what would be best for the consumer. In fact, I think it's the way out of the rental mess for Netflix, but I doubt they like the idea either.
Instead we are forced to play in walled gardens and buy our music and movies again every time something new comes out. Heck, I have DVD and Blu-Ray versions of a lot of different movies at this point. What a waste!
As I mentioned in November, WebKit-based browser like Chrome, Safari, and especially the iPhone and iPad didn't support open font technologies like @font-face the same as Mozilla and Internet Explorer do, but apparently they do support SVG fonts. The folks at FontSquirrel have updated their kits to include SVG, so poof, the blog is much more readable on those browsers now!
They probably fixed it a long time ago, but I never bothered to look into it until now.
Now to figure out why Chrome doesn't show the blog title correctly…
My new laptop has mobile broadband capability, so I looked at the prices. I pay $400/mo for 1 megabit up/down at home (spread over a large number of devices, at least), so I was just seeing how bad it was out there.
Well, AT&T has a page here that indicates it would cost far more for me to go to mobile broadband for my laptop. That table indicates that there is no unlimited plan, and there are only three other choices. I homogenized the units to gigabytes (there are little KBs hiding in there!), and calculated the price of using 1GB through 50GB a month to see how bad it could be:
I can only conclude that it makes no sense to buy any of these plans if you intend to do any significant work, play, or surfing on the Internet. Never buy the $20 plan for any reason, no matter what, since just surfing to a single web page could use up all of your monthly allowance, and $1,900/GB is pretty darned expensive. Compare that to the hourly activity of a 13-year-old girl and Farmville and you're bankrupt in no time.
A reasonable solution is a $100/mo unlimited plan. Frankly, the most reasonable approach is automatic upgrades to the next higher tier if you go over your limit. Until this is fixed, I cannot consider mobile broadband for a laptop.
There is a point people have missed in the Apple iPad rollout, and I wonder if Apple missed it too.
A lot of people familiar with the apps and interface of this new device have iPhones. The “killer app” therefore should leverage this. Pair them with bluetooth. Allow the big pad to use the iPhone's camera and phone for video conferencing or other conversations. Show caller id on the big pad when your phone is in your pocket. Make the iPhone into a communications hub and the pad the presentation hub.
I didn't see anything about Nike+ in this, but there's another sensor network that could feed data into the iPad. Microsoft and others are worried about Media PCs, but this thing, done right, is a really slick Media Nub. Far better than any other netbook or tablet I've seen to date.
Another thing that is missing is iPhone v4. Will it be nano-sized and all the display work goes to another device? Will it complement the iPad in some other gotta-have-it way? Are a series of bluetooth sensors going to come out? People are so quick to dismiss a single product, but what Apple excels at is integration and user experience.
There are many other Apple products. How will this iPad interact with Apple TVs it finds on your WiFi network when it sends out its BonJour requests? How will it interact with the rumored Apple product that will be integrated into TVs, cars, and the like? What will happen with data visualization masters make apps for it? With a 1024x768 screen it's pretty limited, but that IPS screen has wonderful viewing angles and there's a possibility of bigger pads, and higher resolutions. Old acceptable printed pages had 300 dots per inch... I'd like to see 200 in an iPad. 1080p displays at 200ppi would be 9.6 in x 5.4 in. Sure, that would eat a lot of power, but a lot of strides have been made already.
Finally, I was disappointed with the book experience. Since Apple has a product they are unlikely to let other book products be made. They didn't even say what format their own book app will use. Will I be able to generate good looking content for the iPad with LaTeX? With Word?
The killer book experience I want something like the iPad to solve is my own ability to flag/highlight passages and write notes in the margin. I want to see what other people's notes are. I want links to related content. Some books live on their own but other books live in a context of other publications.
As we near the completion of Oracle's acquisition of Sun, I've been noticing applications that require Sun's particular implementation of Java despite the fact that I'm using a compliant Java from a different vendor (IBM). I found a bug in jruby which required NetBeans and I even hit a firmware update tool for a printer that would only use Sun's Java!
Kinda defeats the purpose of Java's openness by having apps rely on particular flavors of it, doesn't it?
I don't think it's just me, but a lot of podcasts that I used to enjoy seem to be gathering barnacles and getting longer and longer. I'm now firmly of the opinion that if a podcast is longer than an hour then I'm going to get bored while I'm listening to it.
I'm not sure that the Manager Tools/Career Tools method of breaking up long items into multiple short segments is much better, as I've been skipping topics lately when they are in three 40-minute segments.
I sure wish the trend was more towards Wall Street Journal This Morning, where they cover a lot of info in just a short amount of time. Of course they plan and execute a radio show every day so they are veterans at this stuff. However, all of the podcasts I listen to have been making shows for over a year.
I'm at the point where I'm considering cutting more programs off my list. Perhaps it's because I'm back to working from home 4 out of 5 days a week that I've lost my tolerance for long podcasts, but it really seems to me like they've gotten longer.
(I also hate how trying to grab links from google searches includes a bunch of stuff in the URL you don't want.)
The reality in question—admittedly rather a small part of the universe—was the polarisation of pairs of photons, the particles of which light is made. The state of one of these photons was inextricably linked with that of the other through a process known as quantum entanglement.
The polarised photons were able to take the place of the particle and the antiparticle in Dr Hardy's thought experiment because they obey the same quantum-mechanical rules. Dr Yokota (and also Drs Lundeen and Steinberg) managed to observe them without looking, as it were, by not gathering enough information from any one interaction to draw a conclusion, and then pooling these partial results so that the total became meaningful.
I downloaded Google Chrome a couple hours ago. It's a web browser based on a strongly tabbed browsing interface where each tab and plug-in is its own Windows process.
I immediately set myself to work playing with my most common web sites outside of work (I haven't been brave enough to try work-related stuff yet) such as the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, the Drudge Report, Hot Air, my Google Apps for Domains mail, calendar, and start pages, Mint, and the IM replacement, Meebo.
So far I've crashed the Shockwave Flash plugin twice and I haven't even started hitting client-side Java web sites yet.
I'll play with it some more and see how it goes. It does seem to like tabbed browsing, but I've been pretty unhappy with the quality of Flash in this browser.
Update: Google Chrome definitely has a hard time with the internal web pages I use at work. Oh well.
I was suspicious when we had 3 underwater cables cut adversely affecting Internet connectivity for several Middle East countries but now we're up to five cables with India, Pakistan, Egypt, UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and especially Iran with moderate to severely curtailed Internet connectivity. Seems very suspicious to have so many problems on these systems simultaneously, but it's possible that the original perfect storm of anchor accidents led to load on the rest of the system exposing reliability problems with the rest of the infrastructure. Noted security expert Bruce Schneier is watching this too…
I won't add the “terrorism” tag to this article until our suspicions are confirmed. The first break is supposed to repaired in the next few days. We'll see what they find.
Paging SG-1—Colonel O'Neil, we need to you kill Apophis again!
An 690-1080 foot wide asteroid named 99942 Apophis will narrowly miss the Earth in 2029 but could collide with our planet in 2036, according to this science article I found on Fox News. We won't know the chance of Apophis hitting us in 2036 until we fully understand the orbital effects of the near miss in 2029. With how little we know about Apophis and exact measurements of its size and mass, let alone the margin of error in understanding the size, mass, and velocity of Earth and the other planets, we'll have a hard time of judging anything but probabilities for many years to come.
Why the Stargate SG-1 reference? Because Apophis is also the name of the Goa'uld the SG-1 team fought (off and on) from the pilot episode to the first episode of Season 5.
This past weekend Misty gave me an iPod Touch for our anniversary and my birthday and it has easily replaced my aged iPod mini. I quickly dropped TV shows, podcasts, audiobooks, and music on it from my collection. I haven't had a chance to watch many videos on it other than the occasional GeekBrief.TV episode, a few episodes of Star Trek Remastered, and two videos from the Manager Tools Podcast, but what I saw was beautiful on the large touchscreen that fits in my pocket.
I've been getting heaviest use out of podcasts. I listen to a few now that I'm driving into work three or four days a week (which means two or three hours trapped in the car). I like the Wall Street Journal daily podcast, which is about 40-50 minutes long and is arranged into chapters so I can skip articles I don't like. I get it free with my Audible.com subscription. Most podcasts aren't arranged like that, which is a pity, but I suspect they pick audio formats that work with the widest variety of devices.
Music quality is as good as always but the real surprise is how good the web browsing has been over my home's WiFi connection. I've even found a few applications specifically made for the iPhone and iPod Touch that work pretty well, like Gmail and Shredder Chess. I haven't had a chance to try it in a Starbucks yet, or try an iTunes download there.
I've already ordered a sleeve for it, and I have heard recommendations that eyeglass cleaning solutions work well for the touch screen. So far I really like it, it was a great gift!
Extending the great first run of DB2 Viper (version 9), IBM released DB2 9.5 today. I'm already downloading it, and I suspect the users of the free Express-C version have some updating to do to take advantage of new features. I'll probably go play with the warehousing features first, but others may want to try out XML transactions.
We'll see if this has something to do with all the under-the-cover work to handle their new XML-based file formats…
Update: Nope, just tried putting the formula in the previous version's format and loaded it into Excel 2007 and it's still makes the error. This probably has more to do with performance tweaking than supporting new formats.
Paramount, Dreamworks, Universal Drop Blu-Ray, Gather Payola
Paramount Pictures, Universal, and Dreamworks, who had previously announced they would support both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, have announced they will exclusively release movies on HD-DVD. In related news, the HD-DVD consortium has paid those studios 150 million dollars for “promotional consideration.”
I've been firmly in the Blu-Ray camp ever since the Playstation 3, especially since the latest patches to its firmware have made it the DVD player of choice in the household. However, with New Line Cinema (Lord of the Rings, Paramount (Star Trek), Dreamworks (Shrek) and Universal (Battlestar Galactica and Firefly) things are a little rough on a geek.
What's holding me back? I feel that Blu-Ray makes better use of its bandwidth, and does not live under the thumb of the standards-flouting Microsoft. Hopefully these movie houses will see the light and come back to Blu-Ray soon.
Misty didn't believe you could cook a hot with with a battery and a couple forks but I set her straight. What I didn't know is that you could stick some LEDs in it while it was cooking, but these folks did:
Some high school students in Boston have taken a picture of the space station from a telescope here on Earth. Usually shots like these are so distorted that one cannot discern anything, but this picture is great!
I downloaded and played with Apple Safari, yet another web browser, to see what Mac lovers liked about it. Within minutes I saw that people had found security problems with it so I'm not going to surf all over the place with it, but I did notice it brought decent font rendering to Windows 2000 where ClearType is not available. It's still in beta and has security holes galore, so I won't recommend it, but perhaps when the beta is over it will be nice.
The judge in the patent infringement case against Vonage has ruled that Vonage cannot seek new customers until it stops infringing on Verizon's patents. I'm already looking at dropping my Vonage service for something else and this may be it for poor Vonage. Boy am I glad I did not participate in the Vonage IPO for its customers.
Update: Court of Appeals gave an emergency stay. Vonage can still get customers. But how successful will that be?
At a time when negative reviews about Office 2007 appear to be common, I only have this observation: Excel 2007 made data filtering a lot easier for me, but Word 2007 chapter and section numbering was (and is) a serious pain to figure out. I don't use Outlook 2007 (I use gmail for my mail at home, and Lotus Notes for work) so I have no opinion about it. I really haven't had a chance to experiment with Access or Project, and so far Powerpoint hasn't been all that special for me.
I will probably upgrade to Office 2007 here at home when my trial runs out, but I'm not sure about continuing to use Visio, let alone upgrade. I'll only upgrade Project if I need to for work (which is highly unlikely right now).
Jakob Neilsen touches on computer usability in the movies and finds a lot of bloopers. I remember laughing out loud at Jurassic Park's security system supposedly analyzed instantly by a Unix-aware 12-year-old.
Beyond Jakob's article, I am continually amused by the disparity between what problems are easy or hard to solve with the computers on Star Trek. Of course, that's not a usability issue, but rather a believability one.
Jakob's predicts two problems from the spew of bad information on the use and capabilities of computers from the movies: too much focus and funding of bad user interface ideas, and users that blame themselves when they encounter problems making computers work for them. Add to this the already known problem of people that buy computers with no idea what they can or cannot do, what is easy or hard, and what one should cost.
Why is this keyboard interesting? Because each key has a tiny display in it that can be changed via software. This makes for a keyboard that easily supports foreign languages, games, or just plain context sensitivity. Imagine what it would be like if you held down Ctrl and all the keys showed what function they did. If the function keys said what they did. Etc. It has great potential.
Isn't it odd that the term “quality standards” is common? A “standard” is voluntary by its very nature (ANSI goes so far as to say “voluntary consensus standard”) and is generally developed by mutual agreement. One does not have to comply with a standard but it is strongly encouraged. One hopes that complying with a standard would make a product compatible with another, but that's not always the case. I'll avoid the usual discussion of the “embrace and extend” strategy for now.
So, when it comes to specifying quality, one shouldn't call it a “quality standard” one should call it a “quality requirement.” A product or project must meet a specified level of quality to be acceptable. It's no wonder people often forget that quality is part of a project's constraints when changes have to be made.
I have to agree with Walt Mossberg's column reviewing Internet Explorer version 7:
If you are a confirmed IE user, upgrading to this new version makes perfect sense, because it is likely to be more secure and its new features make Web browsing better. But if you are already using Firefox, IE's main competitor, I see nothing in IE 7 that should make you switch. It's mostly a catch-up release, adding to IE some features long present in Firefox and other browsers.
The only thing that prevents me from trying to excise Internet Explorer from every machine in my house is the stubborn insistence a small but diminishing number of web sites have for IE-only web browsing.
What's worse than IE's security is its standards support and at least that has been brought up to par with version 7. I hope people will upgrade so I don't have to keep putting cheap hacks into my web pages.
The Sony Reader with its long battery life looked cool, but with limited books available for it my only hope was PDF support. I have tons of files in this format (standards, specifications, etc.) I'd like to read in a reader. But Walt Mossberg at the Wall Street Journaldrives a nail into that coffin:
But the Reader's claim to display PDF documents proved hollow. In every PDF document I tried, the text was nearly unreadable and the text resizing feature of the Reader didn't help. Sony concedes that PDF documents work well on the Reader only if they are created for the Reader's screen size and resolution.
He calls it a good first draft. Sounds to me like resolution and color need to be dramatically enhanced and perhaps then the PDFs that inundate the web will be readable on it.
A Google executive claims that the Internet is no rival for TV. The focus on the article is that amateur videography is good enough to pull viewers away from the expensive production values of traditional television shows.
That's pretty misleading! When TV shows are showing up the day after they are broadcast on iTunes for $2 without commercial interruption and downloadable any time of day it's obvious that as the catalog increases people are going to stop watching TV. These viewers will start downloading what they want from the “infinite choice” back catalog of all the shows that can be digitized. The question is only how long it will take and how much it will cost. If the studios are too greedy, or if the shows aren't as good as they thought, they won't make enough money to justify making it.
However, there will always need to be content creation, but there's nothing that says that traditional television has to be the means to fund that creation. It also doesn't mean traditional television is the best way to produce content. Heck, how much would Frito-Lay pay for a massive popular viral video prominently featuring Doritos?
There have been efforts to revive Firefly as an Internet or direct-to-DVD enterprise. Some of Disney's sequels are so miserable they never go to theaters but straight to video. The baby step from there to video over Internet is trivial. iTunes has figured out how to monetize it, why does content creation have to be any different?
I think that were are a few short years away from the death of satellite and cable as TV show channels and the rise of on-demand video from the Internet. I also think the intermediate step of on-demand video through the cable box will be short-lived. People always move to where there is more choice. Using the bandwidth to download whatever they want will always trump any limited catalog and delivery mechanism.
Yesterday I got LASIK surgery, almost entirely by surprise. My glasses broke last week and I was able to repair them. My disposable contacts are no longer refillable without another appointment, I looked at all of my options.
Because of my membership in Eye-Care Plan of America (ECPA) I had a significant discount from the LasikPlus+ folks in Portland, and I made an appointment Thursday. Friday I went in and they had the option of a same-day surgery. So, last evening, my eyes were modified by a Alcon laser. This morning I'm already able to see well enough to read and type, although I'm quite far-sighted.
The actual procedure took less than 20 minutes (The laser was only used for 93 seconds per eye) and Misty drove me home. She has a picture of my baleful eye somewhere that perhaps she'll post.
Audio/Video Revolution has an article up about the troubles professional installers are having with the new HD-DVD and Blu-Ray disc players, destined to bring us high resolution movies at home. One would expect some pains introducing a new product, but the warts are pretty bad on these new items.
In particular, I would never by a product with the following problems:
Back at the HD DVD camp, things get worse when you try to seamlessly switch from an HD DVD player to another HDMI source and then back. Currently, in my reference system, once you get a movie going, you are best suited sticking with the movie. God forbid you might want to pause it to check the scores on ESPN HD via another HDMI source (for example, an HD-TiVo). The system will switch to the HD-TiVo, no problem, but getting back to the HD DVD player, nine times out of 10, will require a full restart of the Intel-based Windows computer known as my HD DVD player. Moreover, an actual computer could remember where I was in the movie and thus wouldn’t require me to hunt down the chapter and try to get back into the film.
These sorts of synchronization issues should have been worked out before a product made it to market, no matter how critical it was just to ship something. If you launch a product so buggy that the user experience is poor, you could scuttle the whole format. Early review like this one have put me firmly in the Blu-Ray camp.
The other issue is that standards are still discovering and correcting problems. How many purchasers of either product will look for the elusive HDMI 1.3 version stamp?
With the release of HDMI 1.3, one would have to hope that the connectivity of these players in both formats will improve. Certainly, the audio and video performance will improve, but with the clunkiness of the players at this point, one can certainly understand why custom installers and many retailers are sitting on the sidelines, waiting for better players. It’s just too dangerous right now on the cutting edge.
HDMI 1.3 specifies the signals and cable required to transmit a full 1920x1080 progressive image from a source to other devices. It is a fully digital format with all the attendant copyright flags and so on. It may even bring us the final convergence between TVs and computer monitors. You wouldn't believe how annoyed I was a few years ago to have a computer with DVI outputs and a nice monitor with DVI inputs, yet I had to use the analog signal to get 1600x1200. All the devices in the chain were capable of the resolution, but the interface was not.
In software poor interfaces will ruin your market share. One wonders if consumer electronics makers understand this as well.
MacBook HD Accelerometer + Window Manager = Great Hack
While this hack is currently available for MacBooks, I wouldn't be surprised to see someone implementing the idea in Linux or Windows. It's a cute trick to use the accelerometer used to protect laptop hard drives from sudden movement as a human interface, although I wonder if some game manufacturer has a previous patent for this.
Of course, desktops don't have accelerometers, but how long before some monitor maker adds one?