Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tis the season

And Akshun J is pretty dang busy. Ridiculously busy, actually. Thus, the blog is a little slow right now. But don't worry! I'll fire off a few posts in December, and I'll be back on the blogroll come January.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Please Stand By

Remember that line from the Outer Limits? I was not a fan of the 60's series, but Showtime did it up right in the 90's with great writing and underpaid Canadian actresses that were willing to go topless. Yes, I'm just a tad intoxicated. But drunk or sober, I swear there's nothing better than scifi and boobies. For me, it began with Elvira on KHJ Channel-9 Sunday afternoons in Los Angeles in the 80's. Movie Macabre had two hours of campy sci-fi and horror, interspersed with comedy bits starring "The Hostess with the Most-ess." Observe her appearance on the Tonight Show, with a really young Jay Leno filling in for Johnny Carson.



What was the point of this blog? I forget. Anyways, The New Outer Limits (on Showtime and later on SCIFI) is being released on DVD, slowly but surely. Netflix has got it, as well as Amazon if you want to purchase. This was the most cutting edge sci-fi on TV for about eight years. No sh*t. It tackled social issues head-on without batting an eyelid, and there was cursing, violence and boobies in almost every episode. Oh yeah, *that* was the point of this blog. If you're a fan of the Twilight Zone, you MUST see The New Outer Limits. Let me know what you think. Giggity.

Here's a clip of the intro:


And here's a clip from one of my favorite episodes with one of my favorite actresses, Jennifer Beals (A TRAGICALLY underused actress, IMHO.)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

FIGHT! FIGHT!

In this corner, the challenger, weighing in at 105lbs and standing 5'2" in his Cuban heels, the front-man for The Family, The New Power Generation, and The Revolution, the only man to take an unpronouceable symbol as his stage name, the man who only wants your extra time and your uh uh uh uh uh kiss, PRINCE Rogers Nelson!


And in this corner, wielding multiple high-capacity servers with more internet bandwidth than they know what to do with, the Swedish torrent-website that publicly flipped the bird to the collective American entertainment industry, with a litigation record of 5-0, the reigning heavyweight champion of filesharing, THE PIRATE BAY!



DING! DING!

"Continuing an aggressive campaign to defend his copyrights, pop star Prince is preparing to file lawsuits in three countries--including the United States--against The Pirate Bay, CNET News.com has learned."

I love both Prince AND The Pirate Bay, so this is particularly fascinating for me to watch. My first impulse is to say that Prince's sentiment is valid but grossly misplaced. Up until a year ago, he had embraced a business model that cut out the record industry as the middle-man. If you wanted Prince's music, you could go directly to Prince and purchase it. He seemed to really "get it" in terms of an internet distribution model. But now, the website is dead, and much like George Lucas a few years ago, Prince seems to be on a rampage to crush his fans. Check out the first thing you see at prince.org (an unofficial fan site):

"Some facts for the media:

* We have not been sued (yet). We have been served "cease and desist" letters which threaten that we MAY be sued. These C&Ds also ask for monetary damages, and even threaten criminal prosecution.
* prince.org has never engaged in bootlegging of his music. We won't link to any eBay sales of bootlegs. We don't link to YouTube videos of his music. We don't post his lyrics in full. We always give credit, including copyright, on every image we post when the information is available.
* If Prince himself was not involved in the cease-and-desist letters we received, someone new must be running Paisley Park Enterprises, or the lawyers are misrepresenting themselves. According to records as recent as 2005, Prince is "the sole owner of" Paisley Park Enterprises, which is one of the three entities listed as clients being represented in the C&D letters.
* "prince.org" is not capitalized. It's "prince.org" NOT "Prince.org".
* Direct inquiries about prince.org (specifically, not the PFU) to the founder, Ben Margolin."

Wow. I was honestly surprised. For months now, I have talked about how the industry doesn't understand it's customers, but in reality, plenty of artists don't get it either. Sure it sucks to have people download your works for free over the internet, as opposed to paying for them. Especially if you're a consistently quality artist like Prince. But you can certainly minimize the collateral damage by EMBRACING your fans. Bring them in, observe their discussions, and listen to their ideas. Don't threaten them with "cease and desist" letters. If you make it easy and cheap for your fans to get your music, and maintain some sort of dialog with them, you are the winner. Radiohead recently did this, asking their fans to pay whatever they wanted for their new album, including zero. And although 60% of people downloaded their album for free, 40% paid about $6 for it. This was a statement, to be sure. I imagine if they had priced the album for around $6 instead of the optional free, the same number of people would have downloaded it.

And picture me, last night, scouring the internet for "We Will Rock You" by Queen. It was a special request from Wxman. I went to Rhapsody, Amazon, Napster, Walmart, iTunes and Emusic, and either they did not have the song, or I needed to install a bunch of extra software and jump through a bazillion hoops to finally get it. And I was willing to PAY for it!!! I had $1 all queued up and ready on my debit card. But I could not go to a single web site, and just give them a buck and download the song. So, guess where I ended up? The Pirate Bay.

My wife hit the nail on the head when she said it was all about control. And I would argue that the artists who will successfully transition to the new Web 2.0 business model will be willing to give up some of that control. After all, these are FANS doing the downloading. Fans who LOVE Prince. Isn't time for Prince to show them some love?

In terms of the law suit, all I have to say is, this is going to be goooooooood.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Broadcatching on the cheap

As an avid TV-show broadcatcher who doesn't own a single actual television, I'm always looking to tighten up the process. I use an old PC as my server ($20 from SWAP for a 600Mhz Compaq with 384MB of RAM) and a light version of Linux to keep things snappy and responsive.

Therein lies my problem. The most popular broadcatching software is not exactly made for old hardware. Azureus is an awesome swiss army knife of a program, but on my old server it's a HOG! After about 4 or 5 weeks of continuous use, RAM and swap memory run out and Azureus actually comes close to crashing the whole system.

So, this evening I began my hunt for a low-resource alternative. I ended up with a two-program solution. The first is TED, the torrent episode downloader. Unlike most RSS readers, it is specifically designed for broadcatching TV shows. Written in Java, it's cross-platform, easy to use, and feature-rich.



TED grabs the torrents as they become available, and then hands them off to Transmission to do the actual downloading. Transmission is the lightest bittorrent client with a GUI that I have ever seen. One config screen, one display screen, and done.



Both programs are open-source (of course) and cross platform for you Windows and Mac users. Give them a try and let me know what you think!

UPDATE:

So, the Transmission is a POS. It's got some ridiculous memory leak that makes it as unusable as Azureus. So, I tried the console/curses version of BitTornado. Basic interface using minimal resources, but I can't figure out how to change any settings. So, I ended up at Deluge. Much better solution for low resources...

So, the gPhone is really an ANDROID

I think it's a smart strategy. Instead of releasing a single, branded gPhone, the plan seems to be to get mobile carriers to release phones that run Google's Android platform. That's seriously clever. You end up with hundreds of gPhones, and an open platform for developers to create neat applications. Apparently Sprint/Nextel and T-Mobile have already signed up. AT&T has been iPhoned, so count them out. That leaves Verizon. I have a love-hate relationship with the "Can you hear me now?" company. On the one hand, they have phenomenal customer service, they usually have the latest and greatest phones, and I can actually understand my bill. But on the flipside, they are ridiculously expensive and their phones are all locked down with the same proprietary "Brew" software. I doubt Verizon will sign on to the Open Handset Alliance, but if they do, the ENTIRE game will change.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The PC or MAC debate has moved to a whole new level

Please, please, please watch this. If for no other reason than it's really funny to watch white people with no rhythm try to rap. I laughed out loud.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A SERIOUSLY geeky moment

I'm a stealthy uber-geek. Stealthy because you don't know I'm a geek until I confess to it. And uber because.... well, I'm fun, social, good-looking, and chicks dig me. Find me another geek with all those qualities.

So, anyway, I'm all alone on Halloween and I decide to do what any self-respecting uber-geek would do on a night like this. I logged on to FEARnet.com and watched a live, original horror movie. Uh, correction. A live, original horror movie WITH a geeky chat room. And do you know what? It was really fun! I mean, the movie was absolutely rotten. So bad, it was funny. And that was the beauty of the experience. If you've ever watched Mystery Science Theater 3000, then you know what I'm talking about. I think I might do it again sometime.

For those horror fans whose tastes extend beyond Halloween (or Dia De Los Muertos on 11/1), run on over to Fearnet.com. There's some good stuff going on over there.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I'm back at home...

And it's cold. Boo.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Hiatus

UM: Reloaded will be on hiatus for a week. I'll be out of town, and my internet connection will be limited. So, dear readers, have fun with the new gadgets on the page and I'll see you all in a week!

More changes

This place is starting to feel like a real live tech blog. I got my tech chick to the right, my updated headlines below her, and I'm feelin' pretty good about it...

That Webb Alert tech video is pretty sweet, actually. Very much in line with topics I cover. Check it out.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Music You're Not Listening To: The Brand New Heavies

Somewhere in the middle of high school, I decided to expand my musical horizons beyond hip-hop. One of the first groups that captured my attention was The Brand New Heavies. Although technically classified as Acid Jazz (huh?!), they are an electrifying soul ensemble, with vocals by the incomparable N'Dea Davenport (on and off through the years). I rediscovered them last night on last.fm. I thought they had disappeared in the mid-90's, but now I find that they've done a PILE of albums since them. Man, I've got some downloading to do...

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Page changes!

I've changed the layout of the blog a bit. Gone is the weather vid-cast. I thought it was cool, but not really keeping with the theme of the blog. And Wxman thinks Accuweather is crap.

Now I've got my favorite headlines on the right including Richmond, Curlykid, and my new favorite, the SciFi RanterGirl. I also laid out the Last.fm widgets a little better. For your reading pleasure, I present UM: Reloaded version 2.1.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Somebody's giving them booze!

Or so you'd think after watching the movie industry attack anyone who shows even the grainiest of bootlegs. Their latest target is the online video sites. It's all a game of Whack-a-Mole to them as the MPAA smacks one, and another pops up. Such is the ferocity of their assaults, you'd think they were starving in the streets.

Somehow, I don't think so. In fact, I think they've had a record summer. To the tune of $4.1 Billion. I can't freaking believe it! They raise ticket prices, produce a record number of crappy movies with astronomical budgets, have a banner year in revenue and profit, and try to tear anyone who touches their content to shreds. The slimy bastards are having a non-stop drunken orgy and we're footing the bill. Reminds me a scene from Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. It's hilarious that Youtube has it. I post it because it's appropriate, and to thumb my nose in their general direction.



"I was in the middle of a f*cking reptile zoo, and somebody was giving booze to these goddamn things!" Man, I love movies, but I hate the industry something fierce.

Monday, September 17, 2007

High Def commercials?!

As I don't have a TV, I don't get to see many commercials. Even when I'm at Wxman's house watching the season finales of 4400 and Dead Zone, we still fast forward through all the commercials. However, after the shows, we were watching the Eagles/Redskins game, and I finally saw one. An HD commercial. A television commercial in high definition. The industry is WAILING about piracy, but they're springing for 30 fricking seconds of 1080i of a gecko walking around talking about............whatever. All I've got are crocodile tears for these fools.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Apple is biting the hand that feeds it

Apple cuts us off

"So, it's finally happened. Unhappy with other media players being better than iTunes, Apple have apparently decided to stop them from working with the new range of iPods.Who does this affect?This affects Linux users - there's no iTunes for Linux, so popular Linux iPod management tools like gtkpod and Rhythmbox will not work with the new range of iPods.Windows users who just plain don't like iTunes and perfer an alternative like Winamp, Ephpod or many of the other iPod management applications out there."
ipodminusitunes: Apple cuts us off

Blogged with Flock

I love it when a girl gets messy!

"BUFFALO, New York (AP) -- When it comes to wolfing wings, Sonya Thomas is a whiz. The 105-pound competitive eater who goes by name "The Black Widow" bested a dozen beefy rivals Saturday night, scarfing 173 wings in 12 minutes to win the wing-eating contest at the National Buffalo Wing Festival."That's 5.17 pounds of wings," said Brian Kahle, spokesman for the annual Labor Day weekend event in the city where Buffalo wings were born. Thomas, 40, of Alexandria, Virginia, also held the festival's previous record of 161 wings in 12 minutes, set in 2004. "She's the crowd favorite," Kahle said. "It was 12 huge guys and her." Thomas has set numerous records in competitive eating events, including 37 hot dogs in 12 minutes; 35 bratwursts in 10 minutes; 11 pounds of cheesecake in 9 minutes; 44 lobsters in 12 minutes; and 250 Tater Tots in 5 minutes."

CNN REMOVED THE ORIGINAL PHOTO. THAT SUCKS!

I think it's the string of saliva from the water-bottle to this chick's chin that really makes this photo precious. I love a woman who's not afraid to get a little messy with chicken wings. And yet I married a vegetarian. Hmmmm, I must think on this...

UPDATE:

It looks like CNN removed this story, but here are some additional photos of the "Black Widow". She's awesome!

Apple takes one on the chin

Yeah, I know it's old news. But it still brings a smile to my face. NBC decided to pick up their toys and leave Apple's playground. Very Cartman and Southpark-ish.

Embedded Video

People are speculating which party was more injured by the deal. Well, the last time I checked, NBC still has television as a distribution channel. And Apple doesn't produce a lick of content on it's own. But then again, I think they both suck for continuously giving consumers the shaft.

Blogged with Flock

Are Mac users smug and arrogant?

As someone who's been called "smug and arrogant" to his face by a former employer, I can certainly identify.  But, I hesitate to use the phrase for Mac owners.  I think the term "blissfully ignorant" better describes Jobs' cult.  And some of them are my best friends!  My own sister owns a Mac!  Observe the Mac-dude below.  Arrogant?  Or wide-eyed and misguided.  You decide...

» Are Mac users smug and arrogant? | The Apple Core | ZDNet.com

Blogged with Flock

Stocks & Humor meet the video-blog!

As I get more and more into stock trading, I realize how much I actually don't know. About the companies, and about the mechanics and legality of trading. So, over the last year or so, I've immersed myself in stock and finance stuff. Marketplace Money, The Motley Fool and Money Magazine have been just a few of my resources. Then I found Wallstrip, "where stock culture meets pop culture." Good humor and good information. Give it a spin and let me know what you think.

Blogged with Flock

Why Libertarians Should Celebrate Free Software

I often find myself identifying with the libertarian end of the political spectrum.  Especially as I get older and more "dug in" in the family & kids sense of that phrase.  As an open-source/free software addict, I often find myself in debates with my conservative-minded friends about whether or not open-source equals communism or some wacky erosion of capitalism or democracy.  The article below sums up the concepts pretty well.  It's from the CATO institute, I believe.  A modern-day bastion of libertarianism.  Read on...
"There's no reason that free software should make libertarians uneasy. To the contrary, it is precisely the kind of decentralized, voluntary cooperation that libertarians should be holding up as an alternative to the coercive power of the state. Free software is produced by volunteers donating their time, without a government program in sight. If that's not a libertarian success story, I don't know what is."
Why Libertarians Should Celebrate Free Software

Blogged with Flock

GOOD COPY BAD COPY

GOOD COPY BAD COPY - a documentary about the current state of copyright and culture



I've been meaning to post this for a while. It's a documentary about the collision between today's infinitely available digital media via the internet and the old-school politics of copyrights and intellectual property championed by the RIAA and MPAA. And the film is from Denmark, which is hardly surprising. The Danes and the Swedes are waaay progressive with copyright law. And weed-smoking. And prostitution. I'm KIDDING! The documentary is very well-done, informative, and surprisingly funny. Give it a watch and let me know what you think.  Did I mention that almost all of the examples in the documentary are hip-hop?  Oh yeah!

Blogged with Flock

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Private or public?

That's the question that Marketplace Money asks Andy Taylor, CEO of Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Every year, there were rumors that Enterprise would go public, but it never happened. And in this interview, Andy talks about the value of staying private. In a nutshell, you have no reactionary shareholders to contend with. Sure there are downsides to not being publicly traded, but Enterprise gets to do some things that other companies just can't get away with. Enterprise is HUGE now, and has changed from the old "value-driven" company that I grew up with. But I still think they're cool. And I'm sort of glad that I can't buy they're stock...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Google has a phone?!

That's the rumor. And I hope it will put the iPhone in it's belly. Here's the Wired article, and a link to a blog entry with some details:

"Other tidbits that I'm trying to recall based on questions I've recieved from readers:
  • It's a modified Linux kernel
  • There is integrated GPS and GoogleMaps
  • (there were other things, I'll probably update this list once my memory is jogged by conversation during the show)"
And the GPhone is a cool-ass name...

UPDATE:

Laptop Logic has a brief article which brings all of the rumors together and pieces together what may (or may not) be in store for the cell phone market in the next few months. The key words here are open, cheap, and Google. I'll be first in line!

Artists you're not listening to: El P

aka El Producto, aka Jaime Meline (his real name). He's the front-man for my new favorite record label, Def Jux. But first, let me provide some background...

Around the 4th of July of this year, my wife and I were visiting our good friends, Richmond and Wxman (actually it was a Richmond-sponsored bloggerfest). We were walking back to their house from the fireworks show, when one of the local "wiggas" drove by with their stereo system pumping out the deafening beats of........whoever was currently rapping on KISS FM. Richmond, knowing that I am a hip-hop aficionado, asked me who the artist was. I was at a loss. I had zero idea about who was currently popular, with the exception of those videos and songs that loop every few minutes at my Big Box store (and I have learned to tune those out). I haven't listened to the radio in five years. So, how can I call myself a hip-hop expert if I'm not up-to-date on current events? Hip-hop currently dominates the airwaves! Supposedly...

In reality, true hip-hop fell off the radar screen right around the turn of the millennium. Just as mainstream music began to absorb hip-hop, a splinter faction broke off and began to innovate in a new direction. These neo-oldskoolers found refuge in a new kind of record label: Definitive Jux. All indie hip-hop, all the time, and with a producer that really understood the culture and the music. So while the radio was obsessed with "ridin' dirty" and Lil John, indie (or underground) hip-hop thrived in live venues, and later proliferated over the internet. In fact, I would say that it found it's true home on streaming radio stations like smoothbeats.com.

So, while I have no idea what the wiggas next door are listening to, I am still a hip-hop head. And thus, I listen to almost every Def Jux artist, especially to their resident producer, El P.

"The son of jazz pianist Harry Keys (born Harry Meline), El-P (born Jaime Meline) became involved with the hip hop culture of New York City at an early age. After being expelled from several schools for problems with authority, Meline decided to whole-heartedly pursue a career in music. At his 18th birthday party, he met Mr. Len, whom he had hired as a DJ for the night. The two quickly became friends and formed Company Flow in 1992. They released their first vinyl single, "Juvenile Technique", in 1993. Bigg Jus later complemented the group and in 1996 the trioEP, Funcrusher. Subject to a major label bidding war after the success of the EP, Company Flow waited until they could get a contract on their own terms. They eventually signed to Rawkus Records, and released their debut full-length album, Funcrusher Plus (1997), which is now widely recognized as one of the most ground-breaking and influential alternative hip hop albums of all time."

What makes El P an innovator? It's the beats AND the lyrics, baby. His tracks are utterly absorbing in their originality, although he's not ashamed to sample when he needs to. And his lyrics reflect the soul of a true poet. No sh*t. Here are his lyrics from TOJ (Time Out of Joint). Any guy who has loved and lost.......and matured, will understand this. As will the woman.

"And you can tell that maybe time is out of joint my love
So this is maybe just a SOS shrapnel, an echo of dead sentiment
Measurement across the nothing for no one awaits that effort to shrug
Or maybe resident incurable romantic defunct in the face of fact
Blackboard formula waits by the next class
with the outlines still intact, and I see it
And I'm still not sure of the meaning
But I'll say it, write it down, and read it for you

No protective leathery flesh of emotional chain-mail
(No running shoes) no running, no locking doors, no anger
(No e-mail) no voicemail communicational strangulation
Or distortion of purity sentiment
No fantasy of reconciliation or delusion of no revenge
(No bullshit) no culture hidden agendas, no preaching
(No pedestal) no standing on the pulpit, no ego, no new speaker freakish lingo
(Here I go...)

I haven't loved many people
I grew up afraid that I was crazy
And one time when I was deep inside your body you purred
And I was sure that you were gonna have my baby

And you can tell that maybe time is out of joint my love
So this is maybe just a SOS shrapnel, an echo of dead sentiment
Measurement across the nothing for no one awaits that effort to shrug

And you can tell that maybe time is out of joint my love
So this is maybe just a SOS, shrapnel, an echo of dead sentiment
Measurement across the nothing for no one awaits that effort to shrug

I used to be in love...

Everything you said I took it all to heart
And you spurred a change in me
Before I could become a new sun I had to fall apart
And I can see that now
And I wish you well
Cause you saw what was good in me
And I'll be god damned if I didn't see that myself
And everything you are
I know you got to cry
Before I could become a man I had to lose my mind had to lose my mind

And I see that now
And I wish you well
Cause I see what's good in you
And I'll be god damned if you can’t see that yourself"


(Here's the mp3. Download, listen, and discuss. It's that deep.) Incidentally, Time Out of Joint is also a short story by Philip K. Dick. That's another cool thing about El P. He's a huge fan of both sci-fi literature and cinema, and it ends up reflected in all of his works. Give El P a listen. Try last.fm or Pandora. Let me know what you think...

Monday, August 20, 2007

I'm VUZED!!!

At this point, I'm ready to tell Joost what I really think of them. Linux is in the midst of a renaissance amongst geeks, and a revolution within the mainstream of computer users. But Joost thinks it's okay to ignore us. (For those of you just tuning in, Joost allows you to watch full-screen TV shows on your computer. As long as you run Windows XP or Vista.) So, until I see a linux client, I'm done blogging about them. On to the alternatives:

Vuze is the most promising. This is the Azureus bittorrent client with a makeover. Well, it's really a tightly integrated Firefox web browser grafted onto the bittorrent client. Or at least that's what it looks like to me. I'm running version 3.0.2.0 for linux. All the Java and Flash slows the program down, even on my desktop (AMD dual-core 4400+ X2 64 with 2 GB RAM). But it's still usable, just a bit sluggish. The interface is slick and easy to use.

The innards are still accessible for geeks. And it seems pretty stable!

Basically, there's a bunch of downloadable content on different channels. Click one, and wait while it downloads via bittorrent. Then watch it. Easy, eh?

Mostly it's a lot of promos and trailers, but most everything is in high definition! And there are even a few stations like Stage 3 Media that are producing some independent content that is pretty good quality. Also, Showtime and HBO have made some shows available for paid download like my personal favorite, Dexter. So far, I like...

The second alternative is Miro. I used it for a while when it was called Democracy Player. It's good for video and regular podcasts, but the interface is still pretty flaky on linux. Lots of crashes and such. Clearly not my first choice, but I wanted to mention it. And I'm sure it will evolve.

The race will be for content. Whoever gets the most content agreements will win this deal. Joost is waaaaay ahead of the curve here, but Vuze is not far behind with Showtime and HBO in their pocket. If you've got the hardware, give some of these a spin (yes, they all support windows). Let me know what you think...

I just popped a Mint

A Linux Mint, that is! Ordinarily, I would have a "non-geek disclaimer" for a post like this, but this time, I invite my non-geek readers (if I actually have any) to read on.

My premise is simple. Choice is a good thing. For the consumer, and for the economy as a whole. So why do 90% of all computers run Windows? Is that choice? Not really. And I'm not a Microsoft-hater. Seriously, I'm not. Bill Gates, in my opinion, is a genius and an innovator. But, his company took some wrong turns with their company values. In any case, 20 years of an operating system monopoly has given us Windows Vista as the high water-mark of Microsoft software development. Here's what the editor of PC Magazine (a noted Windows fanatic) recently said about Vista:


"I could go on and on about the lack of drivers, the bizarre wake-up rituals, the strange and nonreproducible system quirks, and more. But I won't bore you with the details. The upshot is that even after nine months, Vista just ain't cutting it. I definitely gave Microsoft too much of a free pass on this operating system: I expected it to get the kinks worked out more quickly. Boy, was I fooled! If Microsoft can't get Vista working, I might just do the unthinkable: I might move to Linux."

The real tragedy here is that few people know that there are REAL alternatives out there today. Yes, Mac is one of them. If you want to pay 30% more for the same hardware and join a cult, then, sure let's put Mac on the table as a choice. Um, let's look at some others before I start another rant. How about linux? I think I heard some groans from the audience. Yes, linux has been a geek's wet dream for the last eight years. But I swear to you that it has matured. Yes, there are 1001 different flavors, but like every other competitive environment, the cream has risen to the top. Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS, and Suse are polished, easy to install, and give you tons of free software. They're even pre-installing Ubuntu on Dells! (I swear pigs are flying somewhere.)

After a few weeks of cursing Vista on my shiny new Acer desktop, I decided to give Ubuntu a whirl. Specifically, a Ubuntu offshoot (there are several) that gives the desktop some beautification, and adds some conveniences. It's called Linux Mint, and it's simply the best out-of-the-box linux experience I've ever had. I spent the better part of 8 hours getting Windows "secured" and customized. And all the software I had was Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player. (Yes, the fruity version that wants to hog all the resources.) I had Mint installed in 20 minutes with more software than I knew what to do with. All my hardware worked, and as an added bonus, I got some wicked eye-candy that seriously put Vista's Aero to shame. Take a peek at my desktop:


Yes, that's a transparent window on the right.

Yes, my desktop is on a 3D cube that I can rotate.

Yes, that's my web browser doing a weird peel-away effect so I can see the window below it.

Did I mention that Mint was free while Windows Vista retails for $199? And you can run it as a LiveCD (without installing it) first, so you can see all the cool stuff firsthand with zero risk. No viruses, no spyware, no adware, no problems! Are you game? I'm thinking of having my wife try it. That will be the true test...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

In-flight elites

First of all, I was drunk. That's the only way I fly. Don't know when it started, but it's pretty much mandatory at this point. So, perhaps this fact colors the story a bit.

Second, I hate the way that airline classify passengers. 1st class. Perks. Air-miles preferred. Elite. Admiral club. What, in the name of all that is holy, is going on with airlines?! I paid a crapload of money, and I even have a stupid miles card, but I'm just *coach*. Thus, I have to sit b*tch in row 47 for a 4 hour flight to the west coast. And some slob who paid even more money gets to sit up front, sip a free fruity-ass cocktail in their marginally roomier seat, and have somebody take their coat. I'm going to go on-record by saying there is something fundamentally flawed with this concept. As a retail manager, I pride myself on the fact that I treat all of my passengers the same (like kings) whether they spend $10 or $10k. But the airlines don't see it that way, and this breakdown is even MORE insidious for *their* industry. Let me clarify what I mean. Regular air-travel is not possible for today's working-class families. It's too expensive. Thus, for every person on the plane, they feel as if they've spent *a lot* of money, regardless of their socio-economic status. And when the vast majority of the passengers board the plane, they are made to feel like second-class citizens, while those few who can afford the 1st class are granted special courtesies. Utter garbage. They have now started to charge for EXIT FREAKING ROW SEATING!!! Excuse me?! I am now responsible for saving everyone on the plane in the event of an emergency, and I have to pay extra for the privilege? It's why I hate flying anything other than Southwest. Their model is based on when you book. If you're last-minute, then it's expensive. Book in advance, it will be cheap. No 1st class, all the seats are roomy, and the staff is a lot of fun. After all, if there is that mid-air disaster, everyone's going to be barbecued. Even 1st class.

End of that rant. On to the new one. So, I'm drunk and sitting b*tch in row 47. Some guy sits down next to me and breaks out his video iPod. After we take off, he starts listening to music and reclining. I pull out my Insignia MP3 player and do the same. After an hour, he loads up some video and starts watching Leno. I watch him glance derisively at my little Insignia MP3 player. I laugh to myself knowing what he paid for his iPod, and I load up "Masters of Science Fiction" episode #1 on my Insignia. That shut him up. So after a bit, Mr. Bourgeois pulls out his Mac Life magazine. Just as *I* was pulling out my Linux Format magazine. Grrrrr. Perhaps this is why I hate the Mac and all things Apple. There's a whiff of elitism about owning them, and it makes me grind my teeth. Bourgeois Mac-owners... Grrrrrr...

Monday, August 6, 2007

On hiatus...Again

For two weeks this time. Company travel, personal travel, f*cking around... All that. I leave you with a youtube. The Transformers, redubbed by a fan. He spices things up with some real-world dialog in a classic episode, The Return of Optimus Prime. So, the new leader of the Autobots (Rodimus Prime. Yeah, I know. Give me a break, I was 12.) brings the old leader (Optimus) back to life so his wisdom and leadership can save them from a plague.

That's when the funny starts. You see, no time has passed for Optimus, so he needs to ..... get back up to speed on current events. And he curses a lot. This is clearly rated R, but watch it for a few laughs. It's the Transformers for a more mature audience. Giggity.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

The open-source iPhone killer will be here soon

The Neo is coming for you, iPhone. It's a Daywalker of sorts. All of your strengths (touch-screen, intuitive UI, app integration), but none of your weaknesses (no 3rd party apps, cell phone vendor lock-in). Perhaps the Neo should have been called the Blade.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Th Cult of Jobs (Tongue firmly in cheek)

Macs, macbooks, Apple TV's, iPhones, and all different types of iPods STINK! And I hate 'em!

(For all those paying attention, that was a terribly clever Chappelle Show reference to Clayton Biggsby, the black White Supremist.)

I am an open source enthusiast. Not a fanatic or a purist, just an enthusiast. For example, I use Linux Mint instead of Ubuntu. Most casual readers of my blog will have no idea of the distinction, but suffice to say, it means I am solutions and results-oriented rather than being obsessed with the open source "cause". Five years ago, I ditched Windows because I realized at some point that it was keeping me from doing what *I* wanted with *my* computer. I never looked back. But over time, many friends urged me to give "Mac" a try. "It's Unix under the hood", they would say. "It's linux with a makeover." "They support open source." Yadda yadda. So, I decided to give Apple a closer look. And what I found after careful research was ..... a cult. Not Jim Jones-style Kool-aid and cyanide, but a cult nonetheless. "The Cult of Jobs," in fact. It is a group of fanatically loyal consumers who pay 30% more for hardware that gives them zero choice and absolute vendor lock-in. Why do people do it? Because they get a FANTASTIC end-user experience. And I do mean fantastic. Reliable hardware, awesome programs, tons of eye candy, great customer "care". What's not to love? As long as you *like* what it is that Apple is serving up, you're golden. If you don't..... Well, I don't think the cult talks much about those people.

Take the iPod, for instance. Specifically the nano. It is small, looks cute, and plays music and pictures. Retail price for a 4GB, $199.99.


Look below and observe the Insignia 4GB MP3 player. Plays music, video, ebooks, FM Radio, and pictures. Records voice, line-in, and radio. Has two headphone jacks. Expandable to 6GB with a micro-SD card. Doesn't look so cute, but it's small. Retail price, $114.99.

And the nano will sell over the Insignia, all day every day, twice on Sunday. Why? Because Apple has so enraptured the world with a consistent and gorgeous end-user experience that anything else is considered uncivilized. Shocking, but true.

And now, the iPhone has taken the world by storm with all the hallmarks of a typical Apple product. Upside - Beautiful UI, awesome features, intuitive design, seamless application integration. Downside - Limited features (you get what they want you to have), no 3rd party apps, vendor lock-in, and did I mention it's EXPENSIVE??? This is why I believe that Steve Jobs is Satan. Soooo appealing, but when you partake, it just sucks you in!


In fact, it recently sucked in one of my favorite open source bloggers, Steve Carl! And poor Steve, much like those who are born into the Matrix, has no clue what's really happening to him. If he doesn't stop now, things will end up for him much like they did for poor Mr. Valentine in this classic Twilight Zone episode...

Monday, July 30, 2007

A cheese rant

Disclaimer: This is not in any way a tech-related post.

So, I had a bad supermarket experience a little while ago. I went with a list and things should have gone smoothly. In fact, they did not. At least 11 things went wrong, and I'll share the biggest issue with you.

First let's air Wisconsin's dirty laundry. The cheese in this state sucks. And THEY ARE KNOWN AS THE CHEESE "F*CKING" STATE! Why does the cheese suck? Two reasons.

1. Although most Wisconsiners are strong in their European heritages (German, Irish, Danish, etc.) they seem to have forgotten their ancestors' cheese-making secrets. They are obsessed with making duplicates of their fathers' cheeses, but much like an aging Xerox machine, the copies are all wonky compared to the originals. Havarti, Gouda, Edam, Brie, Irish cheddar, Goat's milk, you name it, Wisconsin's got a sh*tty version of it. They all taste like bland, dirty water.

2. Wisconsiners have, in fact, contributed some originals to the cheese continuum. Two, actually. Limburger, the manufacture of which is banned in most Wisconsin counties. And Brick. Yes, Brick. A tasteless, sticky, mild, odorless and altogether bland cheese that is best compared to Wonder bread. Why did they create such a worthless cheese? No one knows...

So, while shopping today, I decided to stop at that little station near the deli with all the imported cheeses. You know the one. Expensive, but damn tasty. But, to my horror, I found that all of the imports had been replaced by local versions. Wisconsin Havarti. Wisconsin Gouda. And so on. And there were weird flavors like Jalapeno Havarti! WTF?! Are you sh*tting me?! Morons, first try to get the Havarti right, then start experimenting. That means YOU, Dofino! As I looked further, I got another shock. The Brick had spawned!!! Blocks and blocks of it were everywhere! I literally stepped back in horror. Question:

WHO IN ALL OF GOD'S CREATION DECIDED THAT CREATING BRICK CHEESE WAS A GOOD IDEA?! THAT PERSON DESERVES A FATE THAT ONLY THE LONGBOTTOM'S CAN ATTEST TO. THE CRUCIATUS CURSE!!! I WOULD F*CKING DO IT MYSELF IF I HAD A WAND AND MAGIC WAS REAL. I WOULD ALSO ENJOY IT.

Wisconsin has sh*tty cheese. Don't forget that. If you want to try some good copies as well as good originals like Monterey Jack, try California's central coast. Or try Denmark. Just not Wisconsin...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Music you're not listening to #2 - I'm on a ROLL!

DJ Dieselboy. He does an offshoot of techno called Drum 'n Bass. I call it "fight music." Good for the workouts, although I'm sure it would be entertaining to whoop someone's ass while listening to it. I should not be drinking in the middle of the day. I've heard it enhances violent tendencies.


A real f*cking DJ with real f*cking vinyl. That's what I'm talking about. A true B-boy. I think I curse more when I drink...

Below is a link to similar tunes. I actually hate that there's only a "similar tunes" thing at Last.fm. Sometimes I don't want similar, I want actual. And I subscribe to those f*ckers! Maybe I need to convert to Rhapsody. They are more expensive, but I can stream anything I want instead of rolling the dice. I love Last.fm, but damn. They're killin' me, Smalls.


Everybody was Lap-Dancing!

Well, at least that's what my buddy Curlykid was doing a while back in Vegas. She apparently took some lap-dance lessons from the pros. She wrote an article about it. Want read it? Here's a pic to give you an idea. Too bad there's no video...


That's a move I've never seen before. And it doesn't look much like a lap-dance. Maybe this is what happens in the high-class strip clubs... :-)

Giggity!

The right idea...

Fairtilizer is a site I recently stumbled upon. Apparently, their goal is to unite artists with listeners, given the new internet landscape. It seems interesting, but apparently I need an invite... Hmmm...

What is Fairtilizer?

Fairtilizer is an online community for people who care about music.

Our community combined with our unique tech tools defines a new generation of music media. A kind of media at the crossroads of music recommendation, music distribution and music services for labels and artists. Traditional music media (tv, radio, print) are losing credibility. Young people are now discovering new music through mp3 blogs, p2p and word of mouth.

No matter how many ways people have to find new music these days, what they really need is a trusted filter.

No matter how many ways artists and labels have to promote new material, what they really need is a DIY amplifier. And because we believe the album format is dead, our platform is track-centric.

We’re currently in early development and working hard to bring you all the tools you’ve been dreaming of. We’d love you to help us strengthen our community of tastemakers.

As we’re carefully building a community favoring quality music, registration is currently possible through invitations only.

So much stuff, so little time...

It's my birthday and I have the day off! That's a first in 12 freakin years!!! And it was just luck of the draw. Weeeeird. Even stranger is that I have NOTHING to do as everyone else (wife, friends) is working today. Bummer.

Let's me catch up on the blogging, I guess...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Artists you aren't listening to - #1

So, as internet radio gasps for air, I would like to entice you into realm of online digital music with a few offerings. Much like Tivo did for TV, internet radio has completely changed the way music fans listen to their tunes. I can't imagine going back to FM. Not in a million years.

And before you say anything, yes, these choices are clearly influenced by my own musical tastes. I do have broad tastes, but there are places even I will not go. The fun part is that I *stumbled* across all of these artists. Once you open your mind to new stuff that hasn't been fabricated by radio payola, there's a LOT of stuff to listen to. Disclaimer done.

#1 - Jennifer Charles. This chick sounds like she's a crooner from waaaay back. Her current band is Elysian Fields, although she's collaborated with a TON of people. I ran across some of her indie hip-hop compilations, but her band is closer to eclectic rock. I really dig her.
#2 - Dan the Automator. You've probably never heard of him, but his work is virtually legendary. From his bio:
"Dan "the Automator" Nakamura is a and most known for his work in the mid to late 19 and early 20. Nakamura is a major figure in the somewhat higher-brow rap that developed while integrated its successful image with the also-popular Miami Bass party-jam style, with heavy borrowing from its ignored music roots. Avenues of rap which pursued more introspective, creative, and esoteric angles became brushed aside, admired by fans with more eclectic musical tastes and appreciation for dense lyrical constructions and obscure or off-beat musical inspirations. Nakamura's work tends to integrate significant amounts of overlooked 19 and 19 kitsch, cult classics, and B-grade 1990s television material. His work also tends to make heavy use of music and science fiction overtones and references, the latter with hip hop roots in the space jams of Parliament. Sci-fi also pops up in the hip hop oeuvres of RZA and Jedi Mind Tricks, among others, both in and out of collaborations with Dan the Automator. Trained in classical as a child, Nakamura was more attracted to early and hip-hop. After dabbling as a DJ, he gave up on the skill and instead worked on musical production, taking on small gigs until getting his major break working with Kool Keith. Nakamura's most well-known production work includes Kool Keith's commercially successful Dr. Octagon project, and the widely successful / project Gorillaz. He is also renowned in underground circles for spearheading the critically acclaimed underground projects Handsome Boy Modeling School with Prince Paul; Deltron 3030 with Del tha Funkee Homosapien; Head Automatica with Daryl Palumbo and Kid Koala; and Lovage with Mike Patton and Jennifer Charles."

Yes, that last name is the same Jennifer Charles mentioned above. That's how I originally ran across her. I was digging for more Dan the Automator tracks and it turns out that they collaborated on a one-off band called Lovage.

Anyways, here's an imbedded link that will get you started on music similar to the artists listed here. It will connect to last.fm. Tell me what you think?


Reprieve... For now

So, at the 11th hour, it would appear that internet radio may yet survive. Apparently some of the larger companies, plus the CRB and Sound Exchange (the Sopranos of the RIAA) all got together in front of a congressional subcommittee. The committee was less than impressed with the rate hike proposal. Their message to both parties, "work it out amongst yourselves or we'll legislate it." Clearly their words struck fear into the hearts of everyone present. Sound Exchange agreed to hold off on breaking kneecaps as long as broadcasters were in legitimate negotiations with them. Internet broadcasters rushed to the bargaining table pushing for a compromise deal that will have them paying out a percentage of their revenue. That way, both large and small companies will have room to breathe. We'll see... Check out this article to bring you up to date on the fast-developing issue.

"On Monday, the music won’t die. But those involved in this fascinating issue should look beyond this week to think about the future of a democratic Web app many people take for granted. It’s not enough to clink glasses and cheer the temporary reprieve; it’s more important for Net radio companies to work closely with Congress to find the right way to pay musicians in this increasingly digital age."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

It ain't over...

Till the fat senator sings. Or so it would seem in the struggle for net radio to survive. Quick article updates. One about the ongoing industry "talks", and the other is a primer to the whole freakin' mess. Check 'em out and tell me what you think. Today is Saturday, 7/14 and 1.fm is still online and streaming. George Michael is crooning about "Calling You". Ah, the 90's. My college years. Man, I'm getting old...

Friday, July 13, 2007

The death of internet radio

A moment of silence if you please. On Sunday, July 15th, the Copyright Royalty Board's new rates for internet broadcasters will go into effect. And hundreds of streaming radio stations will pass quietly into the night. The impact will largely impact smaller broadcasters who were barely breaking even in terms of revenue vs expenses before. But now, they will essentially be paying more out to the record companies than they are taking in from ad revenue. This article from the good folks over at P2Pnet gets at the heart of the issue. Here are some quotes to give you some background:

"On March 2, 2007 the CRB hiked Net radio royalty rates, and not by a few points. They’ll rocket up by between 300% and 1,200%."

The rate hike was then postponed in court while a group of broadcasters appealed the decision. On July 15th, the rate hike goes into effect even while the appeal is still on-going.

"At the request of the Recording Industry Association of America, the CRB ignored the fact that Internet radio royalties were already double what satellite radio pays, and multiplied the royalties even further,” says macadavy on pogge.ca, going on:

The 2005 royalty rate was 7/100 of a penny per song streamed; the 2010 rate will be 19/100 of a penny per song streamed. And for small webcasters that were able to calculate royalties as a percentage of revenue in 2005 – that option was quashed by the CRB, so small webcasters’ royalties will grow exponentially!

Before this ruling was handed down, the vast majority of webcasters were barely making ends meet as Internet radio advertising revenue is just beginning to develop. Without a doubt most Internet radio services will go bankrupt and cease webcasting if this royalty rate is not reversed by the Congress, and webcasters’ demise will mean a great loss of creative and diverse radio. Surviving webcasters will need sweetheart licenses that major record labels will be only too happy to offer, so long as the webcaster permits the major label to control the programming and playlist. Is that the Internet radio you care to hear?"

The article has a distinct "down with corporate fat cats" bent to it, which I couldn't disagree with more. Corporate greed is not what's killing internet radio. It's our complacency with government over-regulation that's put broadcasters in a choke-hold. Corporations will always be greedy and try to throw a knee in the groin of their competitors. That's Hobbes at his best. And that's also the beauty of the free market. Alternatives will evolve, and the best thing the government can do is LEAVE THEM ALONE! But that's not what the CRB and FCC did in this case. They caved to corporate interests, and we let it happen. Why? Because the level of political dialogue in this country has dissolved into Michael Moore vs. Ann Coulter. There is no longer a substantive debate over issues, so much as a name-calling shouting match about who loves the troops more, and who's more patriotic. Meanwhile issues like immigration reform simply vanish in a puff of smoke and artistic finger-pointing. And we're letting it happen. We are letting the Michael Savage's, Bill O'Reilly's and Randi Rhodes' of the world frame our political debate. I can't think of a slower and more painful death for a democracy than to having a growing populace that does not understand the importance of civics; a populace that increasingly turns to sound bites, talk radio rants, and you-tube clips as a primary source of news and information.

This is why internet radio is dying. And a lot of you will read this and say, "who gives a sh*t. I don't listen to it anyway." Do you listen to satellite radio? What makes you think the CRB will stop at internet broadcasters.

“They hated the cassette recorder,” said Hodges. “They hated the CD Burner. Soon they’ll hate people who hum songs.”

Just you wait. Do nothing for long enough and they'll eventually over-regulate something that you DO like. Or need...

Check out Save Net Radio and DO something. I have.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Okay, I admit it...

I'm a Netflix cheater. No point in denying it. Either watch the movie or send it back. Whether we've watched it together or not is irrelevant. The queue is huge and it must be appeased. Period. However, my indiscretions are minor compared to my wife's. She CONSPIRES to watch things without me, claiming that she didn't think I would be interested, or it was boring anyway. She's the BIG Netflix cheater! Hilarious article over at the Washington Post:

"Adam Cuthbert, confessed Netflix cheater, blames his infidelities on his and his girlfriend's disparate Netflix drives: "She lacks stamina," he says. "I'm trying to work down the queue. She has no respect for that."

Women. They never get it when we're on a mission...

Monday, July 2, 2007

Prince is still an innovator

Prince offers his music for free and music retailers scoff

From the article:

"In a move that has drawn criticism from music retailers around the world, the hit artist Prince has decided to launch his upcoming new CD for free, including it in the newspaper, The Mail on Sunday."

I don't know what the hell The Mail on Sunday is, but I wish I got it. Prince has always been pretty flippin' cool in my book, not to mention the fact that FOUR former girlfriends AND my wife are in love with him. And still I like him. Hmmm, might have to rethink my position. Anyways, here's one of my favorite Prince vids from the 80's...


Prince-kiss
Uploaded by djoik

HYDE!!! (and Tyler)

As in Dr. Jekyll's alter-ego. The show is actually called "Jekyll" and it's a new series airing on the BBC. I must confess to always being fascinated with the Jekyll and Hyde story. It was an old BBC dramatization of the original book that made me a fan. I think Jack Palance played the titular character. The most frightening part of it (for me) was that you never fully saw Hyde until the end. And when you did, the revelation was that he looked EXACTLY like Jekyll! Well almost; Hyde was smirky-faced, with slicked hair, and hunched over, etc. Certainly not the completely different person he is described as in the book, and far from the monster that he evolved into with creative retellings ala the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It's a rebut to anyone who ever says, "well, he didn't *look* like a killer". Although nearly identical to the mild-mannered Jekyll, Hyde was capable of doing things that Jekyll's conscience would never allow the good scientist to do. But in the end, they were just opposite sides of the same person.

This show is a fusion of both book and legend. Jekyll and Hyde look similar enough to be mistaken for each other, but there are differences that put Hyde squarely in the supernatural realm. Like his fangs, taste for human flesh, and ability to scale walls. Uh, yeah. Scale walls. So far, the pilot episode has piqued my interest. Hyde is a bit over-the-top, but still watchable. Also, their assistant is a babe-a-licious, and if the BBC is true to form we might well see some boobage in a future episode. Hey, I can hope! Even better is that this Jekyll has a family which he tries to hide from ..... Hyde. But not for long...



The core story is timeless, and that's part of why I like it. And at the end of the book, it is a caustic reminder of the personal cost of refusing to be true to oneself. Even as Jekyll tried to convince himself that his experiments were an effort to drive the evil part of himself away, it was the lure of BEING Hyde that drove him to repeatedly take the potion that would ruin both his lives. It was his refusal to embrace both sides of himself as a whole that killed him. And that brings me full-circle to Tyler Durden. (Most movies lead back to Fight Club, by the way.) For those who don't know, go read about it. GREAT book and movie. Anyway, Jack as the classic 21st Century "30-year-old boy" constantly feels incomplete, but can't bring himself to really change anything about the life he hates. Thus Tyler, the alter-ego, is born.

"F*ck off with your sofa units and strine green stripe patterns, I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let... lets evolve, let the chips fall where they may."

Tyler is everything Jack secretly wants to be. "All the ways you wish you could be, that's me. I look like you wanna look, I f*ck like you wanna f*ck, I am smart, capable, and most importantly, I am free in all the ways that you are not."

And that's the essence, or rather the *core* of Jekyll and Hyde. A kind of freedom that's been stripped naked and laid bare. As Tyler said, "It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything."

Here is a couple of my favorite scenes:



As an aside, there's a scene in the movie where Jack dreams that he is watching himself screw Marla. Later, he sees Tyler screwing Marla. He loves her, but somehow he's totally 3rd person whenever he's intimate with her.

Jack: You're f*cking Marla, Tyler.
Tyler Durden: Uh, technically, you're f*cking Marla, but it's all the same to her.

The dream scene is awesome and alone is worth the price of the DVD. VERY surreal. Very David Fincher...

Any other Jekyll/Hyde movies or shows out there worth watching? Let me know!