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...