Thursday, January 31, 2008

Poor Apple fans...

Steve Jobs serves up a pile of steaming crap to his fans, and guess what they do? Get in line for seconds. Apple TV has apparently jumped on the streaming movie rental bandwagon. Except that "Once you’ve started watching a movie, you have 24 hours to finish it or it self-destructs. And it does the same if you don’t watch it within 30 days."

As I was reading this article to my wife she laughed and said, "What are they scared will happen?!" Indeed. What ARE they scared of? I can rent a movie from Blockbuster, rip it, and burn copies whenever I want. Ripping the poorer quality streamed copy from the "sealed white box" Apple TV gives me more hurdles to traverse for a less than desirable outcome. From a pirate perspective, that is. And yet, I'm sure loyal Apple fanboys and girls will stay up all night with glasses of champagne in hand, waiting for their Apple TV firmware to update so they can pay $5 for a movie they've got 24 hours to watch. Maybe they deserve what they get.

Netflix, on the other hand, is hitting closer to the mark with their competing service. You can now stream movies on demand from their catalog, with ZERO time limit, and there is no extra cost other than a regular subscription. I'm still pissed that their service is Windows-only, but then again, it's a Windows world and Netflix is still a pretty cool company. The rumor is that they are partnering with LG or Samsung to create a set-top box to deliver content directly to TV's. As long as the price is right, I think Netflix will continue to dominate this market...

Pretty slick device!

So I finally got my hands on one of those Asus Eee PC's today. Weighing in at a whopping 2lbs, with a 6" screen, a solid-state flash drive, low-voltage Celeron processor and 512MB Ram, this thing is a bargain at $299. And did I mention that it runs Linux? I have to admit that I was skeptical about the Eee after watching the Linux fanboy stampede. You could install Linux on a microwave and those guys would go nuts. I figured that with a weak processor and limited memory, it would only be an exercise in frustration.

Was I ever wrong! I got to play with the Eee for three hours today and I was really impressed. It's designed to be sort of a small web browsing appliance, not an all-purpose PC. Thus the UI is very basic and task-oriented. You just click a button to "browse the web" or "make a call with Skype". The built-in wi-fi works reliably, the system boots lightning fast, and if you really want to use it as a true linux system with a full KDE experience, it's only a few apt-get commands away. Yes, the Eee is running Debian under the hood! Or rather a very polished variant. What really surprised me was the overall responsiveness of the system. Just goes to show you that you don't really NEED a muscle-computer to get the job done. Anybody else have any experience with this little gem?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Make's me wanna holler!

I was driving home today and listening to the radio. Yeah, yeah. *I* was actually listening to the radio. Oh how I fantasize about the day when Wi-Max brings internet radios to cars. Anyway, it was Marvin Gaye who caught my ear. Inner City Blues:

Inflation no chance
To increase finance
Bills pile up sky high
Send that boy off to die
Make me wanna holler
The way they do my life
Make me wanna holler
The way they do my life

Hang ups, let downs
Bad breaks, set backs
Natural fact is
I can't pay my taxes
Oh, make me wanna holler
And throw up both my hands
Yea, it makes me wanna holler
And throw up both my hands

Man, I was FEELING him today. I don't know what it was, but I was feeling him. Maybe it was a random remembrance of my youth growing up in the "inner city"? I had just come from the oral surgeon who finished the visit by giving me the dreaded news: the wisdom tooth has GOT to go. As we talked about insurance and dates, I flashed back to when I was 15. I had emergency surgery and a 2-week hospital stay for a burst appendix. My mother did not have insurance, and spent the next 10 years paying off the debt. My father overdosed the day after I checked out of the hospital, on my 16th birthday. It was a year that rippled forward throughout the remainder of my teenage years on through young adulthood. As Marvin said, "Bad breaks, set backs..." And now at age thirty-something, I get to cruise through my local hospital in Whoseville, Wisconsin, flash my corporate insurance card, and get the red carpet treatment. Things get better. They ALWAYS do. But you never really forget. And maybe you shouldn't...

And speaking of my favorite lyrics, I was also reminded of another unnervingly accurate one:

I dream filthy
My moms and pops mixed me with Jamaican Rum and Whiskey
Huh, what a set up
Shoulda pushed 'em dead off

--Notorious B.I.G.

Well then. On to more uplifting things! :-)

I knew they had something cooking

These Brits are about to bury they're competition:

"As of today, you can play full-length tracks and entire albums for free on the website.

Something we’ve wanted for years—for people who visit to be able to play any track for free—is now possible. With the support of the folks behind EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and Warner—and the artists they work with—plus thousands of independent artists and labels, we’ve made the biggest legal collection of music available to play online for free, the way we believe it should be.

Full-length tracks are now available in the US, UK, and Germany, and we’re hard at work broadening our coverage into other countries. During this initial public beta period, each track can be played up to 3 times for free before a notice appears telling you about our upcoming subscription service. The soon-to-be announced subscription service will give you unlimited plays and some other useful things. We’re also working on bringing full-length tracks to the desktop client and beyond.

Free full-length tracks are obviously great news for listeners, but also great for artists and labels, who get paid every time someone streams a song. Music on is perpetually monetized. This is good because artists get paid based on how popular a song is with their fans, instead of a fixed amount."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

When did THIS start?

The recent unpleasantness began two months ago when my good buddy Wxman asked me to grab a copy of Queen's "We Will Rock You" for him. I jumped over to the much-lauded DRM-free (giggity!) MP3 store.

Queen - Check.
"We Will Rock You" - Check.
Only $0.99 - Check.
Emailed to Wxman - Check.

Five minutes later, Wxman calls. "I don't know who the hell this is, but that's NOT Freddie Mercury." Hmmm, something was rotten in the state of 70's classic rock. Two hours of searching and a Pirate Bay torrent later, I had Queen's Greatest Hits on my hard drive. Just to make sure Wxman wasn't yanking my chain, I played both tracks for my wife in a blind test. "Who the hell is that? And why can't he sing?" she asked of the track. After some research, it turns out that was not licensed to carry Queen's stuff, but they did have some "great" cover bands. Ho hum, I thought. Seventies rock is not my bag. All I needed was my indie hip-hop from Emusic, and by the next day, I had forgotten about the whole thing.

Fast-forward to last weekend. I'm browsing through my local big box retailer when I "discovered" two box sets titled "Pure Disco" and "Forever 80's". The price? Ten dollars for each 3-disc set! Now I could work-out at the gym and listen to "Disco Inferno" and "Play That Funky Music"! (Yes, as I have asserted in the past, I am heterosexual. Yes, I love disco. Yes, I'm okay with people knowing this about me.) So, obviously I bought the box sets. Along with a brand new set of Skull Candy headphones so I could better hear Isaac Hayes's or Donna Summer's crooning. A few hours ago, I sat down to rip the discs and transfer them to my MP3 player. After the first disc, I noticed that the artist for each song was listed as "The Countdown Singers." Wondering what the hell was going on, I played a track. It was Kool and the Gang, "Celebration". Except, it wasn't Kool or his Gang. IT WAS THE FLIPPING COUNTDOWN SINGERS! A FRICKIN COVER BAND WHO COULDN'T CARRY A TUNE IF THE FATE OF THE ENTIRE HUMAN RACE WAS ON THE LINE! WHY???? Why wasn't there a HUGE disclaimer on each box saying, "THIS IS NOT THE REAL TEARS-FOR-FEARS, ONLY A BUNCH OF POSERS WITH FAKE BRITISH ACCENTS WHO CAN'T REALLY SING." Cover bands perform at birthdays and barmitzvahs, THEY DON'T SELL CD's!


Yeah, that's EXACTLY how I felt!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

This just in...

Joost may be dying! And in the words of the immortal Captain James T. Kirk (in reference to the Klingons), "Let them die!" For the noobs, Joost was this cool new application that let you stream TV shows (full screen) to your computer. Real TV shows from real networks! Initially, I was a big fan as they openly used open source technology and pledged to have cross-platform (i.e. Linux) support. Unfortunately, weeks and later months passed, and no Linux client was ever released. And when I did try out the Windows client, I was SORELY disappointed. Since then, the Hulu's and Miro's of the world have arrived on the scene to eat Joost's lunch. And with the recent firing of their CTO, it appears Joost has even larger problems. NewTeeVee has a more in-depth story...


This little bit of Tron (and Tony Hawk) was part of a really endearing ad campaign popular on the SciFi Channel when it was hitting it's stride about 7 or 8 years ago. The year was 1999 and Farscape was the jewel in SciFi's crown, along with little gems like Lexx (damn, that chick was hot), The Invisible Man, and First Wave. And let's not forget Star Trek, The Outer Limits (new and old), and the Twilight Zone. It was a good few years for geeks on SciFi. And believe me, it didn't start out that way. The network started out running old episodes of Land of the Giants and G-Force. How far we had come!

But by 2001, weird crap started to happen. SciFi sold off the rights to series' it had fought hard for. Star Trek went to TNT. And they cancelled Farscape, which was their number one money-maker at the time. By 2003, SciFi was all about it's self-made monster-of-the-week flicks, and all the good TV was just about gone. Why? Who knows? Personally, I think they were never willing to take any risks, and they failed to listen to their fans. But that's just me.

I always wondered if I was the only one to mourn the passing of such a conceptually GREAT TV network. It was OUR television network, and before it imploded, it was the BEST! Apparently, I am not alone in my hatred of what SciFi has become. Entertainment Weekly has an open letter. And Penguin Pete expands on some of the themes. I especially like his sample lineup if he were the exec in charge. So, let's hear it sci-fi fans! Where do you go for your fix? Or do you still think SciFi has a heartbeat?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Wake up and smell the proxy!

So, apparently, Hollywood has finally exerted enough pressure with the telecoms such that AT&T and it's brethren appear ready to cave in to their demands. According to the New York Times, "AT&T and Other ISPs May Be Getting Ready to Filter"! Scandalous! That means any content that your ISP's filter deems to be "pirated" or "copyright" simply won't load in your web browser. So what's a downloader to do?!

Absolutely nothing. No serious pirate worth their salt is downloading in the open anyway. Encrypted proxies (or VPN's for rent) are springing up all over the place. Giganews offers encrypted SSL downloads. Bittorrent client Azureus can similarly mask downloaded content, while also choosing to only download from others who similarly mask their content.

All filtering is going to do is PISS OFF HONEST WEB SURFERS! When your favorite website is blocked because it is using a keyword that your ISP happens to be filtering, it will piss YOU off, too...

Saturday, January 5, 2008

I'm Alive!!!

Honest, I am!!! The holiday season is over, and very soon the blogging will continue. The weekend is near!