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Archive for March, 2006

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Where’d the Google Go?

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

Google accidentally deleted it’s own blog recently. I love the quote:

The blog was mistakenly deleted by us (d’ oh!) which allowed the blog address to be temporarily claimed by another user. . . . Our bad.

Hey, at least they didn’t accidentally delete the search engine…

Categories: Tech Talk | Comments Off on Where’d the Google Go?

The Mysteries of Immigration

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

Via Instapundit, here’s a map of the world that resizes the countries based on relative levels of net immigration.

On most political issues, I’m happy to offer my opinion regardless of how many facts I have (one of the many benefits of not actually being responsible for any of this…), but in this case, all I have are questions.

First, if we’re so interested in protecting the illegal immigrants, why not simply make them legal? I mean, we control the immigration laws, right? If we’re going to protect them when they’re here, why not just hand them a photo ID card at the border? Then we could even get them to pay taxes and other fun stuff like that.

I’m being glib, but seriously: I can’t think of anything else in this country that we call “illegal,” and yet argue about whether or not their should be a punishment for it.

More questions: if there are jobs that people are willing to do for less than the minimum wage, and we’re willing to let people pay less than the minimum wage to do these jobs, then why don’t we establish legal exceptions to the minimum wage laws for certain jobs? If, as our leaders are currently telling us, immigrants do this work because Americans refuse to, then nothing changes. If, on the other hand, there are Americans who would work in the fields for $2/hr, would we rather they be unemployed, restricted by their unfortunate (!) status as citizens or legal immigrants?

Anyone have any answers here? Is it just about stirring the pot before the mid-term elections? Is this a problem no one wants to solve?

Categories: Political Rantings | 1 Comment »

A Moral Dilemma…

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

I’m on the commuter train heading home. The man sitting next to me has fallen asleep. His right elbow is leaning against the window while his right hand props up his head. His left hand is holding his open cell phone, which is currently running some kind of Texas Hold’Em game.

His left thumb is resting (rather firmly) on the “3” key. I’m not sure what the “3” key does in this game, but he appears to be losing hand after hand. I have no idea if this is for real money or not, but if it is, this is quickly going to become a very expensive train ride for this guy.

Question: Do I wake him up?

Categories: New York, New York, The World Wide Weird | 1 Comment »

Live from New York…

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

As I may have mentioned before, my new work location is in 50 Rockefeller Center, right across the street from the famed 30 Rockefeller Center, home of NBC Studios in New York.

This morning when I booted up my laptop, it did its usual scan for available wireless networks. One of my choices was a network called “SNL”. You think…maybe?

Makes me wish I knew more about breaking into networks…

Categories: New York, New York, Tech Talk | 4 Comments »

March Madness online

Friday, March 24th, 2006

It seems I wasn’t the only one watching a non-televised game on the CBS website. I think the success of this is an awesome thing long term. Maybe we can off-load all the specialty channels into on-demand websites, and make channel surfing a little easier? Perhaps when the web interface is a TV/Remote Control just like the rest of TV…

Ah, convergence – thy name is subtlety…

Categories: Tech Talk | Comments Off on March Madness online

Be Careful What You Wish For…

Thursday, March 23rd, 2006

Continuing the theme of my discussion with Jeff about superior Mac technology, here’s a guy writing for BusinessWeek Online who thinks Mac users shouldn’t boot to Windows, even if they can.

I’m very much convinced that the arrival of the MacTel machine has moved this debate away from the last vestiges of technology, and squarely into politics. You’re either in the Microsoft party or the Apple party. And whatever party you’re in, everything the other party does is bad. Worse than bad – evil. Any indication that “they” may have an advantage, no matter how small or in what context, is sacrilege.

A few key snippets from this article to illustrate:

There was a certain illogic to the idea of running Windows on a Mac. As one commenter on Slashdot.org observed: “We’ve figured out how to put an inferior OS on more expensive hardware!” That way, he says, you can have both the frustrations of Windows and pay a lot for the equipment. “Next, how to mod your Porsche into a Toyota Camry.”

First of all, the hardware is more expensive because it’s not made/sold in the same quantities as Dells or HP/Compaqs. There’s no reason to believe Apple could not compete given the same economies of scale. As for an inferior OS, there are certainly arguments to be made in terms of architecture, security, etc. But this guy has no interest whatsoever in making those arguments. Instead, we get this:

Windows certainly is inferior. But like taxes and carbon emissions, many people find it a necessary evil for getting along in the world. I dislike the way Windows gets in your face all the time with system messages, and how it requires so much hand-holding.

I have one Windows box at home. Every time I use it, before I can get anything done, I need to update something — whether it’s a new set of spyware or virus definitions, some new component of Windows, or the driver software for my mouse. The Mac for the most part stays out of your way and walks you through simple updates, but only when you really need them.


On the one hand, he complains about security. On the other hand, he can’t be bothered by updates to his virus definitions. Even still, if it really bugs him, he should set the virus updates to download automatically on a regular basis (this is what I do – it only bugs me once a year, when I have to authorize the credit card for another annual license to the software). The same is true for Windows updates/patches – with LiveUpdate, I never get bugged at all (unless I want to be). And the mouse driver? Dude…if that’s really happening, get a new mouse.

This a time to go on the offensive: Bring back the “Switchers” TV ads that portrayed happy Mac converts telling their personal stories of Windows unhappiness followed by Mac-inspired bliss. Ellen Feiss, call your agent! It’s time for Apple to publicly flog Microsoft for a long string of slipping development schedules.

Damn straight! Why make the two systems interoperable and let people choose the tool they need to do the job at hand, when you can wage all out war and attack the opposition through the media will half truths?!?

I am sure Microsoft is not the least bit happy about delaying Vista until after the hoilday season. There must be some significant functionality that isn’t working right for them to forego that kind of marketing opportunity. I’m also sure that if they did release it early and a major bug was found, this same author would be all over them for rushing software to market before it’s ready (something Apple would never, ever do…)

To paraphrase Aragorn’s rousing speech from before the final battle in Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, a day may come when it makes sense for Apple to get serious about offering Macs that boot to Windows easily. But it’s not this day. This is the time to fight.

And so the battle rages on. Next week: Bill Gates is secretly wiretapping e-mails to suspected terrorists, and Steve Ballmer is having an affair with his intern.

Categories: Tech Talk | 4 Comments »

Apple takes a shortcut, costs me $30

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

After some good advice from friends, I finally decided to bite the bullet and buy a Video Ipod (the rationale that finally won out among the many offerred was this: What the hell – just buy the damn thing already.) I also minimized on accessories, which was my concern here, by not buying a car charger or a radio transmitter (we’ll use the old iPod whenever we’re in the car with the kids. The new one is MINE, ALL MINE!!!! BWAH, HA, HA, HA, HA. Sorry…)

At any rate, the iPod lived up to Apple’s typical standard of easy to configure, easy to use, etc. I had it up & running in a few minutes (not counting the several hours it took to upload 3,000 songs from my iTunes library, of course). But then, I went in search of video.

Much of the video available on the web is in one of several formats: Quicktime (.MOV), Windows Media (.wmv), MPEG (.mpg), or Real Media (.ram). The iPod only supports H.264 video (.m4v) and MPEG-4 (.mp4). This page from the QuickTimePro tutorial, however, explains how QuicktimePro will effortlessly convert videos into the proper format. Seemed simple enough, so I shelled out my $30 and downloaded the upgrade.

I found a QuickTime video on the web, and followed the steps in the tutorial. Everything went swimmingly, except when I tried to watch the video on the iPod itself. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. I could watch it just fine. I couldn’t listen to it. The video had transferred without any audio. To the web, Batman!

A quick Google search of Apple’s site yields this surprising page, which basically says, “Yeah, sorry, but that doesn’t really work all that well…” It, in turn, refers you to this page, which contains this priceless line:

You may want to consider using a third-party utility to convert the muxed file to a format that does allow you to edit or export.

Again, not entirely accurate. It’s not a priceless line: it’s price is $30 (for the QuickTimePro software that doesn’t do what I bought it to do), plus the cost of the third party software that does perform that function.

So, it’s back to Google, this time in search of software that will properly export video to the iPod. It turns out there are two generally accepted standards: iSquint and Podner. Here’s a quote from the iSquint FAQ page:

Q: Windows version? Please?

A: Sorry, can’t help you there. Doesn’t feel very good to want a piece of software you can’t have, does it? iSquint is a reflection of the type of software that is created for – and expected from – the Mac. Simple and powerful. I’m sure someone out there can make a .NET frontend to ffmpeg.exe, but it won’t be me.

So much for cross platform compatability, huh? On to the other option, Podner. Here’s what their FAQ says:

Q: Is Podner available for Windows?
A: No. Podner is very dependent on the Mac OS X operating system and cannot easily be made to work on Windows.

Dependent on the Mac OS X? But I thought OS X was all about open standards, and what could run there could run anywhere. No? Well, thanks for nothing folks.

The happy conclusion to all this is a group of software packages I was told about that accomplish the job:

HiDownload: Downloads streaming video from the web and stores it in its native file format, including support for multiplexed (“muxed”) files like MPEG1 and MPEG2. (Cost: $35)

URL Helper: A very neat little program that scans your internet connection looking for streaming video and displays the URL of the source file (even files hidden behind ActiveX or Javascripts). I can play a video, wait for URL Helper to find the source file, then right-click on the URL and select “Download with HiDownload.” (Cost: $20)

Videora IPod Converter: A more robust “Export to IPod” tool than QuickTimePro – it allows you to queue multiple files and convert them all in batch mode. Also, it runs a little faster than QuickTimePro. And best of all, it’s freeware, so you don’t have to spend the $30 unless you want to (assuming, of course, that you haven’t spent it yet, as I have…)

So, I’m all set now – multiple videos of all kinds (well, not all kinds, although I couldn’t resist downloading Janet Jackson’s “Wardrobe Malfunction” just for posterity’s sake, so I guess that sort of fulfills the pr0n requirement), working well on the iPod, sound and all.

Now if only there were a way to get my $30 back from Apple…

Categories: Tech Talk | 6 Comments »

The Incredible Disappearing Lawsuit

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

Via John Scalzi:

A company called KinderStart.com is suing Google because their page rank dropped dramatically, causing a 70% drop in their viewership.

Scalzi has a lot to say about the merits of the suit, which I’ll skip over here. But check this out: the lawsuit will likely get a lot of press, including online press. You’ve gotta assume that some portion of those articles will include hyperlinks to both Google and KinderStart. Depending on the popularity of the news sources that provide those links, KinderStart’s PageRank will increase, due to the presence of hyperlinks from well visited sites. So basically, as the story gets more coverage, the content of the lawsuit itself diminishes.

Now, what happens if all this attention raises the PageRank to the point where they drop the suit? Then the articles get archived, life moves on, and the PageRank drops. What does KinderStart do then? Sue again?

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Categories: News and/or Media, Tech Talk | Comments Off on The Incredible Disappearing Lawsuit

Deck Blogging!!!

Sunday, March 19th, 2006

Well, what a day this has been! I’ll post a much longer (rant-filled) essay on all the technology woes I went through today, but here’s the long and the short of it: I’ve got the wireless network setup the way I want it now (full, or near full signal everywhere in the house *AND* on the deck in the backyard. I even walked to the woods in the back, and the signal was still fair. I’m typing this right now from my deck (according to Yahoo, it’s 34 degrees), just to prove that I can. Really, it’s been that kind of day.

For the geeks (but, as I say, much more later): I bought a Linksys Range Extender to go with my Linksys Wireless Router. I also caved in and bought the Video iPod. Not only that, but our color inkjet printer up & died on us this week, so I had to buy another one of those. It’s been a very expensive & frustrating day, but now that it’s done & everything’s working, I’m very psyched.

OK, I gotta go. My wife is looking at me through the dining room window & pointing out to me just how cold it is…

Much more tomorrow…

Categories: Tech Talk | 1 Comment »

More Google gems…

Saturday, March 18th, 2006

Again, from Jeff Porten:

Google’s decent into evil.

Categories: Tech Talk | Comments Off on More Google gems…

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