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Showing posts from 2008

Can computers *really* predict the music I will like?

In my neverending quest to find great music on the internet, I ended up moving beyond the simple streaming services. Not that I have anything against the staple of internet radio. In fact, as I've said before, I'm an avid listener of stations like smoothbeats.com and beatbasement.com . But sometimes I want to hear music that fits my mood. A playlist that goes beyond embracing a certain genre, and maybe goes two or three sub-genres deep. Usually that would mean firing up my own music collection. That is, until I discovered a site called Last.fm a few years ago. Their famed audioscrobbler is actually a computer algorithm that gathers info on the music you like, and matches it up with music it "thinks" you should like. I was addicted for a while until I figured out that the scrobbling game had some competition around town. I'll break a few of the major players down for you. Last.fm Ah, the apple of my eye. Last.fm was my *first* music recommendation si

I am a techno-pimp

I just bought a bluetooth speaker with a built-in FM transmitter . Now, I can take mobile phone calls in my car and hear the other person through my car speakers. But more importantly, I can stream LIVE internet radio through my car speakers from my mobile phone. And there's NOT A SINGLE WIRE to get in the way! WhooHaaa!!! (GI Joe-style - see below)

What are YOU watching?

The last seven or eight years have sort of been a renaissance for genre television, especially when I reflect back on my formative years in the late 80's when Star Trek: The Next Generation was *the* only sci-fi on the tube. And even more recently, some of the greatest television EVER has been sci-fi themed, occasionally escaping the confines of its genre niche. I think......and don't quote me on this.....but I think it all started with Buffy. There was a year, perhaps '02 or '03 where EVERYBODY was either quoting or talking about the Slayer. It had crossed over, however briefly, into the mainstream, and Joss Whedon had achieved television god-hood status. Today, genre television has an embarrassment of riches (haven't heard that phrase for years, and I was dying to use it). And in a way, those shows owe their existence and acceptance to Buffy. Whedon created "the formula" for a genre television show that could attract men AND women of all ages. An

And you don't stop!

So, I went back and forth on this latest entry for my Urban Thought Collective blog, Check The Tech-Nique . First I was going to review some netbooks (Asus EeePC, Acer One, HP Mini-1000, etc). But a few days later, fresh from setting up my Home Theater PC, I was all set to talk about Boxee and the new online TV options that are cropping up (Hulu, et al) . And in the end, my focus for the next few entries *will* be online media, but I have decided to start with music rather than TV or movies. My reasons are primarily selfish. :-) I tend to blog about the tech issues that are having the most impact on my life at the time. And right now, I am spending four days a week driving and living out of hotels. With so much windshield and hotel downtime, my music has gone from an important part of my life, to CRITICAL to my sanity. So, today, I am going to talk about the online music options that are available, some of the differences between them, and which ones are the best of breed re

Boxeeeeeeee!

I was going to review netbooks for my next Urban Thought Collective blog, but screw that! I just installed Boxee on my HTPC, and although it's got a few bugs, I am FEELIN IT! Boxee is an internet startup that continues to get millions in venture capital, even *with* the current economic downturn. (That should tell you something.) The software is a quick download that, once installed, turns your PC into a TV that streams programming (youtube, hulu, Apple movie trailers, etc.) from the internet, your harddrive, your home network, or whatever. Sound like Apple TV ? Well it is, except you BYOH (bring your own hardware). There are a few other competitors in this space, but even as alpha-level software, Boxee STILL outclasses them all! At least it does for me, in the 15 minutes that I've played with it. We'll see how I feel in 24 hours...

STEP OFF!!!

And I mean YOU, all you Blackberry Storm haters! No it is NOT the iPhone, so quit talking about how it's NOT LIKE the iPhone. Yes, some crappy review phones were released into the wilderness. That does suck. But I have used ACTUAL consumer units and I have not experienced the much talked about lag. I LOVE the click when you type or intentionally open an app. How tough is that concept to understand??? Touching highlights or selects, clicking opens or executes. And after using both the iPhone and the Storm, I have to tell you that my typing was 1000% more accurate on the Storm! The iPhone is a toy that some people are trying to convince themselves is a business productivity tool. The Storm is a business phone with some eye candy on top. Feature comparisons are stupid as the target audiences for each phone are different. And for the record, I think the Storm is WAY cool. (Couldn't you tell from my tone?)

ABC is showing it's true (Apple) colors

"No, I don't have television." That's when I get the really weird looks. The response is usually, "Seriously? How can you not have a TV?" Well of course I have a TV (a 42" LCD, to be exact), but I don't get television. No cable, satellite or rabbit ears. My LCD is hooked up to a home theater PC. And my TV content comes from various sources, including bittorrent, usenet, and increasingly from a website called Hulu . You name it, Hulu has got it. My favorite TV shows are mostly available on-demand, with minimal enough commercial interruption as to still be watchable. I said mostly. ABC doesn't seem to want to join the party. If you want to watch Lost or Pushing Daisies (the only good shows on ABC), you'll find a Hulu link pointing to ABC's own site. And while Hulu shows are watcheable on all versions of Windows, Mac and Linux computers, ABC's TV viewer ONLY works on Windows XP or Vista PC's. What's worse is that th

Pandora's basement

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As many of you know, I am a big fan of last.fm . My fascination with the site began a couple of years ago. During my quest for new and interesting music, I stumbled upon last.fm. It billed itself as a music recommendation service, so I decided to give it a listen for a while. I was not initially impressed. It played some random but bearable music based on an artist I suggested (Prince, I think), but then quickly lapsed into heavy metal and then country, after which I promptly turned it off. Days later, I read that there were two ways for the audio scrobbler that powers last.fm to recommend music that I would like. Either I could listen to it's recommendations based on an artist, giving each song I heard a thumbs up or down, or I could let the scrobbler "listen" to my music collection. Basically, if I wanted to speed things up, I needed to play *my* music in my audio player of choice, along with a plugin that would feed that information to last.fm. After last.fm

The Blackberry Strikes Back!

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So there I was, standing at the very center of the Obama celebratory hurricane at a club called Sugar Hill in Atlanta's Underground. A couple of friends and I were crowded around a table, drinking cold light beer, talking about the electoral math, and watching Wolf Blitzer on a 300ft projection screen, along with about 150 other people. As the moment approached, you could feel the electricity in the air. When CNN would break for commercial, Earth Wind and Fire would crank through the speakers around us. Everyone was talking at once, sharing their personal stories about the significance of this election with complete strangers. It was awe-inspiring and beautiful. And as I tried to live-blog the event on my Palm Centro's TEENY TINY KEYBOARD, all I could think was, "I'm going to choke the life out of that Sprint rep for not getting me my demo Blackberry!!!" Needless to say, my blog entry was limited to a few emotional phrases, tersely typed using my frickin

Candidate Dance-Off!

Joost: A Eulogy

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I know, I know. I swore I would never mention Joost again. But they made some rather radical changes, which I thought merited a *new* final blog. Joost launched a year and change ago, promising to revolutionize television over the internet for ALL computer users (read: Windows, Mac and Linux). Unfortunately, their freshman effort produced a Windows-only client that was a disappointment even for it's target audience. The program, which utilized P2P technology similar to Skype, was plagued by stuttering video and audio, frequent crashes, and sometimes you couldn't even connect! All the meanwhile, Mac and Linux users waited patiently for a promised beta-version of the client, so we could have..... something. Multiple broken promises and disappointments later, Joost has returned to the internet TV game with a flash-driven browser client. This time, Mac and Linux users can join the party. But there are still problems... First off, Joost still sucks. I click on 30 Days o

On a roll tonight

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I had to post this .  It's too funny!

More internet radio choices

Caution: There's some geek-speak ahead.  Skip ahead if you're a noob.  I'm too tired to translate right now... *********************************** Man, sometimes I wonder how Windows users tolerate the lack of good media players for their operating system.  I mean, seriously, you've got Windows Media Player which is a complete pile.  Then you've got Winamp, which only marginally sucks.  After that you're on to iTunes, which is only useful if you pledge allegiance to the Cult of Jobs.  Your only truly good media player is VLC, but that's only good for videos.  I have yet to find a really robust audio/music solution for Windows.  Thankfully, Linux has some really good choices.   Banshee and Exaile are absolutely top-notch for Gnome users and they are both installed on my laptop.  Depends on my mood as to which one I'll use.  But for my KDE desktop, AmaroK has clearly distinguished itself as the best of breed.  It's polished, intuitive, fast, and exe

World's finest airport

As an avid traveler, I am disappointed in our nation's airports, from a tech-head perspective. LAX is tore up from the floor up. Ohare and Midway are in the same state of perpetual construction. Milwaukee rolls up after 7pm. Cinci and Nashville are overpriced and under-equipped. My current faves are Las Vegas and Atlanta. But today, they were unseated by the mighty Charlotte. With rocking chairs, a great restaurant selection, cheap drinks, wi-fi, strong mobile phone reception, and friendly staff, a tech-head can't go wrong.

Do you...... Hulu?

Man, who says that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. The recording industry was torpedoed around the turn of the millennium because it CHOSE not to deliver what its consumers were asking for. Consumers asked for a cheap and easy way to download music. When the recording industry turned up its nose, the market delivered a solution: Napster. When a legal solution was finally made popular by Apple years later, the genie was already out of the bottle. The music industry is now in free-fall having missed its opportunity to course-correct. Over the last couple of years, Hollywood has been feeling some of the same market pressures. As mobile devices have become more popular and laptop prices have fallen, consumers have increasingly demanded a cheap and easy way to watch TV online, and on-demand. Until now, broadcatching via usenet or bittorrent has been the only option. An illegal option, I might add. But one that has become increasingly easy using programs like Vuze an

The gPhone Cometh!

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Well, folks, the other shoe has finally dropped. Google has entered the mobile phone space. And the iPhone has it's first serious competitor. Allow me to introduce you to the HTC G1. What's that you say? You haven't seen or heard anything about it? Not surprising, as Google is easing into this market. If the iPhone was the shot heard 'round the world, the G1 release was the equivalent of a BB-Gun. First of all, they launched with T-Mobile, the bastard red-headed adopted and later abandoned step-child of the mobile phone industry. Second, they partnered with handset manufacturer HTC, which is not exactly a household name these days. And finally, Google itself is not really promoting the phone. If there is such a thing as under-hyping a product, that's what Google is doing. Critical error or clever tactic? To understand Google's angle, we first need to look at what Google has invested. Unlike Apple, who branded their entire phone as an Apple produ

The bandwagon I'm NOT on, but that's okay...

So, it looks like Google went out and wrote themselves a web browser. Chrome is the official name, and like all things Google, it was rushed to market with bugs, flaws, and no support for Linux or Mac. As I am a self-professed Google-groupie, I can forgive these things. I know that soon, Chrome will support all platforms, and the bugs will be ironed out. I actually like the fact that Google pushes out beta-class stuff. Plenty of software toys for a geek like me to tinker around with is a good thing. But will I use Chrome? Probably not. Yes, you heard me right. As a Linux user, I have about a dozen web browsers to fool around with including Firefox, Mozilla, Opera, Konqeror, Epiphany, Flock, K-Meleon, Amaya, and even Internet Explorer (yes, you can run IE on Linux). Firefox is clearly the best of breed for a few reasons: Marketshare - With 25% of the market, 99% of all websites FINALLY support Firefox! So, it's a rare day that you run across a website that demands Inte

Nashville airport sux!!!

Nashville airport sux!!! No cell phone reception, so the aircard won't connect. Their wi-fi is through Boingo for $4.95 an hour, and Boingo can't even seem to take my frickin money! And they are making me install some ridiculous Boingo connection manager. And my connection stength is VERY LOW! Give me a freakin break! Did I mention that there are only two restaurants in my gate area and both are jam packed? So, I am typing this blog from my phone that's got a half bar of signal strength, just so I can rant and let Nashvillians know that they should not accept this crap! This is worse than LAX and that place is a pit! Out...

Online streaming music continues to grow!

I am well aware of the fact that Satellite Radio is the current media darling. In fact, after six weeks of traveling across the country for my new gig, I have fallen passionately in love with Sirius Radio Channel 43 - BackSpin . All oldschool hip-hop, all the time. Driving out of Atlanta airport in my rental car a couple of weeks ago, I tuned in randomly to BackSpin only to hear the almighty Kurtis Blow introduce the next track: Public Enemy - Night of the Living Baseheads. He had me at hello. Now I can't live without it. Great DJ's, no commecials, and no edits!!! Seriously, life doesn't get any better. Or does it? After being suitably impressed by my alternative music options in the car, what's a guy to do when he's sitting on the tarmac for an hour on a delayed flight to Baltimore? Streaming internet radio on my trusty Palm Centro, that's what! I didn't even know the Centro *did* internet radio! As a consummate underground hip-hop fan, I was m

The two faces of Apple

I would like to extend a heartfelt "thank you" to all of my new readers from Urban Thought Collective! I am sincerely proud and humbled to be a part of this community. Now, on to the tech! Last week, I gave you an overview of the major players in the coming mobile-phone slugfest that's about to hit the market. Apple vs. Google vs. the handset manufacturers (Motorola, Samsung, et al). If I were to portray this market conflict in terms of a boxing analogy, I would invite you to recall the Tyson vs. Spinks fight circa 1988. I was all of 14-years-old and I vividly recall watching the pay-per-view event at a friends' house. We were glued to the screen as my buddy's mother got up to fix herself a drink in the kitchen about 30 seconds into Round 1. When she returned ONE MINUTE later, the fight was OVER!!! Iron Mike had knocked Michael Spinks into dreamland at 1:30 in the first round. I remember seeing Spinks' eyes roll up into his head and thinking, "

The coming Mobile Phone Wars!

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Sounds ominous, right? Well, it should. Most tech shootouts do more harm than good to the consumer. Anybody remember Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD? Lasting for over two years, this Hi-Def DVD format face-off split the entertainment content community and left consumers standing on the sidelines scratching their heads. And Blu-ray's eventual victory earlier this year surely tasted of ashes. They were left with either angry customers who had spent hundreds on HD-DVD boxes and its respective media, or hopelessly confused customers who still didn't know that simply owning a Play Station 3 had put them in the winners' circle . What does that mean for the looming Mobile Phone slug-fest? More of the same consumer confusion. Perhaps I should explain. Recently, in a test market, smart-phone owners were asked about the capabilities of their phones and how they used them. It was determined that, although the smart-phone owners confidently claimed to use 100% of their phones' feature

Where we're headed...

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My company is launching an entirely new business venture, and one of the test markets just happens to be.... you guessed it. Hotlanta! And I just found out that I get to be on the team!!! It worked out really well, as my wife just accepted a post-doctoral fellowship to the CDC. So, we've both got brand new adventures ahead of us! Cool, hey? (Ugh, I still sound like a Cheesehead. I wonder what I will sound like after a year in the ATL?) Here's where we're going, courtesy of Google Maps. Click on the image to blow it up. Have I fessed up to being a Google-groupie??? Man, Google apps are like crack. You can't stop using them! Maps, Calendar, Email, Blogger, Documents, etc. And they've got a mobile version of EVERYTHING! And they support open source and linux. And they are launching an open cell phone O/S in the very near future. Wait, was this blog about me and Atlanta or Google? I forget. In any case, I'll be in the ATL in t-minus 30 days. In hono

On to warmer climes

Well Cheeseheads, it's been real. Yeah, REAL COLD!!! (At least from November to May, that is, 'cause right now it's 90 degrees outside and I'm roasting like a pig on a spit.) I'm headed south to....... the South. Yeah, as a sidenote, I'm re-thinking this whole "anonymity" thing. I was paranoid about my employers finding out about my blog and raining wrath down upon me, but then I found out that they really embrace the whole social networking thing, as long as I don't really talk about them. So, I guess I really don't care anymore. I don't even use uncensored expletives in my blog, so I don't think I have much to worry about. But, I waaaaay digress. Circumstances have changed in a really good way, and the wife and I are departing Milwaukee in the near future, bound for the ever-growing Atlanta megalopolis. Hmmmm, cheap property, more money, good public transportation, mild winters, and I get to live in a big city again. Not a

Loving the Centro

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Well folks, I have finally decided on a new smartphone. But first, I'll expand a little on my quest. It began with the En-V, LG's Frankenstein monster of a cellphone. Candybar scheme on the outside, flippy full-keyboard and widescreen goodness on the inside. And for a few bucks more, I got the GPS add-on. Life was good for a while, but over time I began to discover what I really *wanted* out of a cellphone. Surprisingly, the voice/phone part was really a small part of it. I wanted a full qwerty keyboard for texting and IM, a decent camera, a good picture viewer, and a decent web browser so I could connect with Google mobile and view things like my calendar and email. Most of all, I needed a more robust platform so I could later add on programs depending on how my needs changed. What I needed was a smartphone. As replacing the En-V was not an emergency, I took my time shopping around. Even though I was with Verizon, I was willing to break the deal and jump to another ca

Getting the Flock out of here

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Sadly, after a couple of weeks using Flock, I have to say I'm not too impressed. Sure it's nice to have a media bar at the top with your chosen Picasa or Flickr pics. And yes, it's cool to see Facebook updates in realtime on a sidebar. But when it comes to anything akin to real browsing, Flock fails. It's based on Firefox, but the experience only leaves you wanting for the real thing. In fact, I think it's overkill to design an entire browser to do some things that a few Firefox extensions could probably take care of. Too bad, as I thought it sounded like a cool idea. But over the course of two weeks, all I did was fire it up, watch the Facebook updates load, say, "Cool" and then load up Firefox to get my real browsing done.

Ugh.

I just found out I'm the same age as Mark Shuttleworth , the creator of Ubuntu. He's also worth north of $500 million. I'm not. Damn.

A Flock of what?

So, I'm experimenting with different web browsers these days.  Not that I'm unhappy with my default Firefox 3.  On the contrary, Firefox 3 is the BEST I've ever used (despite the occasional crashiness on Flash 10 sites).  No, the decision to experiment came when I saw an article on alternative browsers and how they have matured.   Opera, Epiphany, and the like.  Ho hum.  But then I saw Flock , the browser expressly designed for social networking .  Hmmm, as my life has recently become CONSUMED with the social network sites, I figured this must be a "good thing", so I decided to give it a spin.  And it's based on Firefox, so how bad could it be? In fact, I'm blogging from within it right now.  And I have sidebars with Facebook, Picasa, and GMail updates.  It takes a little getting used to as the UI is quite a departure from Firefox, but it certainly enhances the "immediate gratification" effect.  It converts a "pull system", whereby I

Who knew Kid Rock was funny?

Or that he "gets it" with regard to downloading and the music biz. Most blockbuster artists (cough) Prince and Madonna (cough) are content to label their fans as thieves and distribute their content according to how the RIAA sees fit. They do a few public service announcements about how downloading is stealing, and stealing is wrong, and as far as they are concerned, the discussion is over. However, for the majority of NON-blockbuster artists (aka, the musicians who have a small but passionate following), mp3 distribution has allowed them to reach an audience far wider than they would have been able to reach without it. Thus the industry is seeing the rise of tiny local groups to more mainstream visibility. Kid Rock recently took the argument one step further . He's boycotting iTunes, the #1 online music retailer, because of the DRM'd chokehold they have on the industry, and how it's simply a replay of the old system where the rich artists get richer, and t

The new Firefox is THA BOMB!

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I started using Linux back in 2002. In those days, a good web browser for my O/S of choice was tough to come by. Linux browers were in a sort of "wilderness" phase. We had Mozilla (the open source version of Netscape), which had just reached version 1.0. But it was HUGE, slowed my system to a crawl, and rendered some web pages poorly. There were no plugins for flash or video, and overall the experience was crappy compared to IE on Windows or Mac. There were a couple of alternative browsers around like Opera and Konqueror, but the experience was similar. But something happened a few months after that Mozilla milestone release. It spawned an experimental fork, codenamed Phoenix. The goal was to create a fast, lightweight but extensible, cross-platform browser that would render pages at least as well as IE. Six years, three name changes, and three milestone releases later, Firefox 3.0 has achieved that goal. And in a world where Windows is on 98% of ALL PC's and I

Windows or Linux, which is easier?

I am a participant in an on-going debate with a colleague of mine. He's a Windows loyalist who happens to believe that Windows is a far superior O/S than Linux or Mac. He knows I'm a Linux user, so he takes a few digs every time he sees me. Usually, I just smile and joke back with him. Until a few days ago. That's when he crossed the line. J: Dude, Linux is so much more complicated than Windows. How can you stand it? Me: ??? More complicated? Noooo. Did you just seriously say that? You only THINK Windows is easier because the whole world's been using it for 20 years. J: No, man. It's way harder to use. Me: You're on crack. I'll tell you what's hard. Windows wireless networking. How in the HELL do you tolerate it? J: Networking? What are you talking about? Windows is soooo easy to get networked wirelessly. Me: Let me paint you a picture. I turn on my wife's Vista laptop, and I am greeted by the network card's sh*t wireless app

I LOVE the geek girls!

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I guess that's why I married a sci-fi loving geneticist, right? Well, that and she brought a couple of other assets to the table. {ahem} But, I digress. Apparently, I was an "early adopter" of the geek-girl worship trend way back in the 90's, because the mainstream media is only now figuring out that scientist chicks can be both smart AND hot. Newsweek wrote this article , and there are some follow-up blogs . Pictured above, the "Nerd Girls" of Tufts University. Engineers. Yeah. THIS is why the cheerleaders never caught my attention...

I'm baaaack and I'm MINTY fresh!

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Whew! Vacation, illness, and a hectic work schedule have kept me away, but no more. Today, I want to introduce everyone to a good friend of mine. Her name is Elyssa. And she's the BEST! The best OPERATING SYSTEM, that is! Now, I know most of you suckas out there are using Windows XP or Vista, and I am certainly not here to evangelize to those of you who are happy Microsofties. But if any of you are feeling adventurous, there are some O/S alternatives out there that you should seriously consider. Yes, I am talking about Linux . It's core written in 1991 by Linus Torvalds, Linux has been a geek's wet dream for the better part of 15 years. Linux comes in MANY different flavors (called distros), all presenting competition to a market that was monopolized for too many years by Microsoft Windows. However, it's only been in the last two or so years that a few distros have made Linux accessible to the unwashed masses. Novell's Suse Linux, Mandriva Linux, Fedora, an