Thursday, March 31, 2005

Yahoo! News - Tai Chi Gaining Ground as Exercise for Elderly

Yahoo! News - Tai Chi Gaining Ground as Exercise for Elderly

As someone who has done tai chi for 10 years (in May) I must say it has done a lot for me. Depending upon how you work with it you can get a lot of benefits. For younger people I would not recommend making it your ONLY form of exercise, but in my opinion it should be a part of everyone's exercise regiment.

Yahoo! News - Mobile phones as blog tools

Yahoo! News - Mobile phones as blog tools

This will be an interesting watch, but I am wondering about its real affect among high end bloggers. For some of us Blogger is fine, but most of the really great blogs use other tools. I also think cost is going to be a big issue since most of us are broke or unwilling to dump a lot of money into more tools for blogging.

I have always been curious about the how much people really blog on the go outside of photo and the occassional audio blog. Maybe it is an old-fart attitude, but to me to do anything substantial on a mobil device would be a pain no matter how much thumb dexterity you have. Trust me, I LOVE most mobile technology. Maybe this is the "build it and they will come" attitude.

Also the searching technology mentioned reminds me a lot of what people want to do with Bluetooth. Most mobile devices do not do the web well, no matter how you slice it. Unless you have specially designed web pages most scrapes for smaller devices just suck. Again, maybe this is the technology to prompt that, but the whole market has a chicken & the egg problem.

Yahoo! News - Microsoft Launches Portable TV Service

Yahoo! News - Microsoft Launches Portable TV Service

I think at $20/year (no one is fooled by the $19.95 ploy) this is a good idea, depending upon what content will be available and what devices will be supported. This needs to get beyond Microsoft portable devices and I can see a real need for this on the laptop, particularly among the road-warrior businessman crowd. The biggest killer I can see is the content. People are going to want to catch the missed episodes of "Medium." What would be the ultimate is some kind of tie in with TiVo like devices, but that probably already exists.

Yahoo! News - Schiavo Dies 13 Days After Tube Removed

Yahoo! News - Schiavo Dies 13 Days After Tube Removed

Hopefully all the stuff surrounding this will end in a few days.

Neurotic Fishbowl: Burn It - The Spring 2005 Edition

Neurotic Fishbowl: Burn It - The Spring 2005 Edition

It is that time again. To on over and check it out. This is what got me to start blogging in the first place.

Yahoo! News - Supreme Court Again Denies Request by Schiavo Parents

Yahoo! News - Supreme Court Again Denies Request by Schiavo Parents

How many times does the Supreme Court have to say bugger off? IMO the last 3 times they have petitioned they should be charged for all court expenses.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Yahoo! News - Norway's 'DVD Jon' breaks through Apple's iTunes: report

Yahoo! News - Norway's 'DVD Jon' breaks through Apple's iTunes: report

Yet another round in digital rights management (DRM) and mere mortals.

My Take on DRM

I think both sides need to get their heads out of their asses on this. The content owners (who may not necessarily be the content creators) need to realize that the public will want to access the content in a variety of ways. We will want to play our DVDs on Linux machines, rip them to portable media systems, or who knows what in the future. Content consumers also need to realize that it takes money to make movies, music and art of all types and people need to be compensated. It is not that we are paying US $20 for a CD or DVD that only costs $1 or so in materials, we are paying for what is on the discs.

I am not against DRM. It is unfortunately the only way we content owners can keep at least some pirating at bay. What I am against is content owners feeling they can dictate what we can do with the content we buy. Many years ago, with the advent of the cassette tape and photo copier content owners realized that they will need to allow people to change the format of older media to newer formats. That is the basis of fair use.

Frankly, there are some people who will NEVER pay for any content, regardless of the cost. No matter what content owners do they will find a way around it, as is evident by this story.

What we need is DRM that allows us to move our legally purchased media around easily among various devices that we own. If I want to burn something I buy from iTunes for my own use it should be easy. When I move to a new computer the DRM needs to be easily transferable to a new machine. When my MP3 player craps out I should be able to easily transfer my songs to the new player. Likewise if I have multiple players (which many people do have) I should be able to transfer these songs. Again though the critical thing there is - FOR PERSONAL USE.

I think the content owners need to realize that the old model is not going to work. I feel that the movie industry did learn somewhat from the music industry and DVD prices are, in my opinion, reasonable. I have seen older movies available for under US $5, and I have seen where prices have slowly dropped the longer that DVDs have been available. The music industry still don't get it, I think.

Both industries need to get their act together or become irrelevant. The internet already allows musicians to easily distribute and promote their music with the need for a label. It is not easy, yet, but it can be done. The movie Star Wars: Revelations1 shows that the idea of a "freeware" movie is doable. Podcasts are minimizing the importance of radio. Could a "podcasted" TV show be too far behind? I agree with many who feel that Creative Commons could be the answer to copyright.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

T. G. I. F. ! Errr, TGIS?

I ran into this over at Gary's blog (the source is given below). Since I got in late last night and did not get a chance to blog it then I thought I would post it now because it is something I thought was interesting and opens up to a bigger blog entry.

1. In your opinion, how important is spirituality in a person's life?

For me it is very important, especially since one of my beliefs is that we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

2. On a scale of 1-5, how spiritual are you?

About a 4. We all express our spirituality in different ways.

3. If you could ask God a single question and get the answer now, what would it be?

The Platypus - what were you thinking? (Sorry, I have always wanted to ask and yes I would blow the question on that.)

4. Do you believe in miracles?


5. Ever experienced a miracle? If so, tell us about it.

Nothing I would especially chock up to a miracle, although I have had some weird occurences in my life that could be considered as such. The weirdest one was where I was on an ice street heading for a particularly nasty accident with a phone pole. Missed everything and I still have no idea how.

From T. G. I. F. !

This brings up something that I have not really talked much about here - spirituality. Now I am a student of metaphysics, which I found this defintion on the web that I like:

The branch of philosophy asking "what exists?" What entities form this universe? Metaphysical studies can concern difficult, perhaps unanswerable, questions bordering theology. Ayer, (1971) used the term "transcendent metaphysics" for proposals of existence beyond the observable universe. Like Kant, he denied them a part in logic. As used here, metaphysics includes any suggestion that something, not immediately obvious, does exist. From here.

I would say I fall more into the "transcendent metaphysics" area. I do believe there is more to reality than what we see. My ravings about the film What The Bleep Do We Know? is probably evidence of that. I do believe in life after death and in reincarnation, although I do not believe that the only reason we are reborn is becuase of bad karma. I believe we are here to learn, and once we learn all the lessons we can from being here on this planet we will no longer come back here.

I, in particular, have always been fascinated by psychic phenomena. Call it the sixth sense, extra sensory perception, gut instinct or whatever. Somewhere I read Sonia Choquette had refered to the whole thing as reading energy in motion. I like that definition, and the more I read the more I feel that each of us have that ability. Some of us may be able to do it better, just like some people have better hearing or sight, but I do believe we each can tap into that.

It has been shown in lab studies that the power of prayer works. Even in "What The Bleep?" they talk about reducing the murder rate in D. C. with meditation. The thing is there is no currently measurable phenomena going on to explain this. Now I personally believe there is something going on, we just can't prove it with our currently level of understanding & technology. There is a quote, and I don't know who it is from, that says "technology far enough removed from your own appears to be magic". In a way, this is all magic.

Now some might counter that prayer is asking for divine intervention. Ok, fair enough. However there have been other studies where people can guess the cards (we have all seen the test) with greater than expected results. Some of the mediums that contact "the dead" have details that through normal means they would not. Also, one thing I did not mention about prayer, is that results do not appear to be dependent upon the recepient belief in any god or even if the two people are of the same religion. That seems to be counter to what a lot of religions preach.

So there is SOMETHING going on. What, I haven't the foggiest idea. But that does not stop me from working with it and studying more.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Adventures In Babysitting

Tomorrow I am getting up early to go and watch my nieces & nephew. I intend to take my laptop and get some things done. Except for the youngest (18 months, roughly) the others just need a responsible adult around. I'm as close as my brother could find. My primary goal is to get my taxes done and ready to eFile through TurboTax.

Ripping Fun

I have been slowly ripping my CD collection to put on my Creative Labs Nomad Zen Extra. According to the player I have 521 songs on 98 albums. The album count is a bit high since I know I have some albums on there currently that only has 1 or 2 songs from them. I am only adding songs when I plug in to charge, and have maybe a dozen CDs stacked up that is waiting for me to move the MP3s over. I know that at least 1 of the CDs I already have one song on my player. So far this has taken up less than 10% of the available space. I'm guessing I have 75-100 CDs left.

eBay Fun

I may not have mentioned before, but even 2 years later I still have stuff from my mom's estate that I need to find a good home for. Most small stuff like VHS & DVD movies and a couple of CDs, plus a few things of my own that I want to get rid of like my old Handspring Visor (a Palm clone). However there is a law due to go into effect here in Ohio requireing people who put stuff out on eBay to get an auctioneer's liscense, which is $200/year and requires a $50,000 bond, not to mention all the training & testing.

As the law is currently worded ANYONE in the state of Ohio putting something for sale on eBay would require to go through this. Now to me at least, as a user of eBay, eBay would be the auctioneer in this case at the minimum. If someone is using eBay as an internet store then I would think they would be required to have a vendor's liscense, not an auctioneer's licsense. The article mentions that they are going to reword the law so that individual sellers are excluded, but they have given no indication as to what is going to be considered the difference between individuals and businesses.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Another interesting bit about Bush

In The Akron Beacon Journal (sorry - all articles require a log in so I am not posting a link) had an article about Terri Schiavo closed with the following:
Bush, now championing the right of Terri Shiavo's parents to decide their daughter's care, signed a Texas law in 1999 giving spouses top priority in making such decisions when a patient has not signed a directive about life-prolonging care.
The more I hear about this the more I feel that this is throwing a bone to the conservative religious voters. No one will admit it, but I think abortion is a lost cause for them and, really, I think everyone knew this was a lost cause in the courts. However this make it look like they are trying to do something.

Star Wars Revelations .. A Panic Struck Productions Film

Star Wars Revelations .. A Panic Struck Productions Film

I came across this today. This is a fan film that is being made and distributed over the internet for free. If the rest of the film has the same quality of the trailer, this is going to rock!

First it was blogs. Then it was podcasting. Could this trend be the future of entertainment?

Monday, March 21, 2005

Must. Blog. More. Regularly.

Bad blogger, no donuts. I have just been trying to get some things done around the old casa de Hill. I have decided to rename my office to my laboratory. I really like how some people call say their basement the dungeon, or Adam Curry's cottage. The idea of a laboratory seems more like what I want to do in that room - experiment. More creative sounding. Now if I ever get it cleaned out enough to actually work in. I have a picture that I intend to post (once I find my camera again) to shame myself into getting it cleaned. Ever since I have gotten my laptop I have stopped using the laboratory and it is piled waist deep in stuff.

Terry Schiavo

I was not going to blog on this because basically it is giving me a case of the red-ass. Without a living will we REALLY have no idea of what Terry's intent is. Both the husband's & congress' motive is tainted, although I feel that the the husband's wishes, as next of kin, should be honored without court interference. Truth is most of the debate around this, much like with abortion, are religious based and typically plunge into shouting matches. Personally once things get to that level I stop debating anything because when it comes to belief.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Spring In Northeast Ohio

Today was a hectic day. My feet are killing me because I have not been walking consistently, which is the key to me keeping my feet in shape. However I got a big scare today upon reading my local paper (which I could not include the link to). How do we mark spring here in northeast Ohio? Noting the longer daylight? Warmer weather? More rain? No to all the above. The buzzards have returned to Hinkley! Search

Yes, that's right folks, it cannot officially be spring in northeast ohio until the trukey vultures, AKA buzzards, have returned to Hinkley. The above story talks a little about the background. Yea, we could have swallows, or even cardinals, the state bird, but no we want a bird with more character!

Buzzards to serve a very important role in nature, and truth be told they remind me a lot of northeast Ohio. Not necessarily the prettiest, but it has character. Actor-wise I am reminded of Ernest Borgnine.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Yikes, 3 posts in a day!?!

Well, I promised another post today, and you get two. I did find a bad photo of myself from my web cam. I will try to get a better photo later.

I am downloading the South by Southwest file. Right now I am at 1.11 gig into the 2.6 gig file. I am going to take my laptop back to my router tonight and let it go all night long. Hopefully by the end of the weekend I will have it all.

Gimme 3!
It's Friday so over at 24 Knits they have their Friday Gimme 3:

* List 3 things you've done that I probably haven't
Lost about 12 hours of my memory after a bicycle accident (long before the big helmet push)
Direct dialed a BBS long distance
Ran an offset printing press

* Tell me 3 things in your life that make you happy
My friends

* Tell me the last 3 things you did to treat yourself
Bought my Creative Labs Zen Xtra
Went for a walking vacation
Bought a drum

More on podcasting and playlists

I talked earlier today about my attempts at playing with my iTunes smart playlists to pick up my unplayed podcasts at work. I use iTunes at work, even though I am a Windows guy, because I am on Windows 2000, which uses Window Media Player (WMP) 9.0 and smart play lists will not work quite right on it.

However as I have been working with playlists and I find them more and more useless. Now I will be the first to admit that I am probably a little more demanding than your typical user since I am a programmer. However I can't be the only person who gets frustrated. Here are a few of my pet peeves:

1) Sharing seems limited. Getting an iTunes smart play list into WMP? Yea, ok. I've not tried it, but my guess is it not easy, or more likely not doable. We need to be able to share smart play lists with anyone regardless of their playback software.

2) Can I have some boolean logic? One of my early complaints was about the multiple genres that natively come in. So what I would have loved would have been able to say "include (podcasts or other) and playcount is 0." Or how about both an include & exclude list so you don't get any audiobooks that may fall into other criteria?

3) We need to get the tempo of the music to come down with all the other info when we rip music. My Zen Nomad has a tempo tag, but nothing has come down when I rip a CD. This would be nice because then you could do a playlist of up tempo songs for workouts.

4) We need to have a way to prioritize a playlist. Things seem to get added somewhat randomly. It would be nice to have an option to shuffle with some kind of priority. For example I would like to do a random play list but give priority to any song that has a play count of 0. That way I would listen to the new stuff on my Zen easier. Again I could also see using tempo in a priority so that, say on Friday, you could play some more up tempo stuff.

5) We need to be able to build our own format. Adam Curry had mentioned that radio stations have software that allows the creation of a format that would randomly select music within select criteria. As an example, you might run an 80s song first, then maybe a current top 10, then maybe a 60s song, and so on. Wouldn't it be cool if we could do that? Right now I take and move things around in my playlist since some of the podcasts come in once a week, mix in some shorter stuff with longer stuff, or I may want to move the daily horoscope up to the top. It would be nice if I could have the playlist auto order, somewhat, for me. This could also tie in with the priority above so that you could get the podcasts to come up in the playlists in the right date order but not in a row. This would, essentially, give us the ability to create our own little talk radio stations.

A bad picture of me. Looking for a better one. Posted by Hello

An interesting and relavent quote

I am listening to some old podcasts from Dave Winer and he had a quote that hit me: "It is easier for users to become manufacturers than for manufacturers to become users." The idea is that as a user you have an idea of what something needs to do to meet the market needs, however it is tougher for someone who does not use the product to make a useful product. He offers no scientific evidence, but just an observation. (Note - this was an older podcast from 2/4/05. He recently changed his RSS feed and I got some older shows, some of which I had missed.)

Now I found that interesting because I was recently looking at iTunes at my smart play list at work to try and change it to automatically remove a podcast once it has played, however the list is based upon the genre and there are multiple genres which stopped my current playlist method from working.

Doing a quick analysis, it seems that people who listen to podcasts on a regular basis all used the same genre (podcast) yet the others who are doing this as an extension of their business and do not seem to listen on a regular basis. The result is multiple genres (or nothing setup at all) because, and sing along if you know the lyrics, "the manufacturers are not users."

Some other examples - Using the same name for the album title and not putting a date on it and making random file names that in no way relates to the album title.

Now there were 2 notable exceptions to this, both on the user side, however in one of those cases I would agree with the genre they have on their podcast.

Fortunatley my current client has the ability to change the genre to a consistent value and over time I will have the smart play list I want at work. However this is another example of where users have provided the needed things.

I am getting caught up on the above Dave Winer dump to my computer plus all my other regular shows. I will do a more normal post later today, but I thought this was interesting and required a quickie post.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Still here

Work has me busy and I have not had a chance to do anything useful here. My managing someone on a project is really outside of my comfort zone, and something that came up today is even further outside of my comfort zone. Plus all my other stuff. Right now I feel like I am going warp 10 through an asteroid field.

Interesting Comic

I just read yesterday's Non Sequitor in my "dinosaur blog". Thought I'd throw a link in for everyone.

Some cool music

Dave Winer of Scripting News has a link to a Wired magazine article about South by South West Festivals. This year they have a huge honking (an industry term) BitTorrent file that has all the donated songs from artists who are performing. They have a 2.6 gig (yep, gig) file that has 750+ full length songs from the 1300+ acts at the festivals. There is also a 345 meg file containing a 30 second clip of each file. Each file can individually be downloaded from the website.

More interesting is that the entire program from the conference can be downloaded to your iPod. This is one advantage the iPod has over other MP3 players - programability. What would be cooler is if iPod had Bluetooth and could pick up changes to the schedule as you move from event to event.

However the coolest thing this shows is there are some real uses for BitTorrent. I would be more than willing to get my podcasts through BitTorrent if it was integrated with Doppler that I use to get my podcasts. There are some great, legitimate uses for this kind of software, especially as more and more people begin to leave their compuers on 24/7. I just wish I had a computer I felt comfortable leaving on 24/7.

David Stands Off Goliath

There was an article in the Akron Beacon Journal (no link guys - requires registration :( ) about a local college student, David Zamos, who was sued by Micro$oft for a variety of things. The problem was David sold some software, unopened & unused, that he bought with a student discount but later did not want. He tried to return it to get his $60 back but to no avail. He put the software up on eBay and got, after getting the first lawsuit dismissed, $203.

Micro$oft then sued for a variety of reasons, but it all boiled down to David sold the software and made a profit.

The best part is David, a chemistry major and with no law experience, has acted as his own lawyer. Not only did he get the first case for copyright infringement dismissed but he also has Micro$oft tied up in court.

Now Micro$oft has admitted that fundamentally there is nothing on the packaging saying David was not allowed to sell the software, although it is at least implied when buying software with an educational discount. At this point all he really wants is about $40 he laid out for copies and an apology from Micro$oft to drop his case, which they seem unwilling to do. Unless one side says uncle in this there is a court date of March 25th.

Now to me it seems Micro$oft just needs to suck it up and apologize. Given that, as was pointed out, they made $38 Billion the year this was started and David made $3500 I think they could part with $40 for something that was their fault. Now I do not faulting Micro$oft from going after him in the first place - they have to maintain their rights and licensing agreements. However if they did not mark the software, and even if they did there should still be a way to return the software IF it had not been opened. Even if the stores will not Micro$oft should do it directly. Frankly I have seen first hand some serious abuses of the educational discount programs, so they should make it easier for someone to get their purchase price back on unused software, such as the case here. David did try to return the software. With $3500 in income all he wanted was to get his money out of the software.

This case also shows an interseting problem with eBay. Had David done this through the school newspaper he would not be bothered. However because someone saw this on eBay we are now sucking out all kinds of time from the court on a silly case.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Feeling better today

I am definately feeling better today, although my nose is still dry and tender. At work they were putting in some new carpet so there was some wonderful chemical smells floating through the halls. It even cut through my stuffed up nose so it had to pretty well reek.

Gimme 3

From 24 Knits

*List the last 3 things you spent more than $10 on
Outside of groceries & gas:
1) Creative Labs Nomad Zen Xtra (40 Gig unit)
2) DVD of "Hero"
3) DVD of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"

*If you were on Jeopardy, what 3 categories would you hope show up on the board?
1) Visual Basic Programming
2) Advertising jingles (damn I hate when they get stuck in my head, for years)
3) Original Star Trek

*If you could only choose 3 words to describe yourself to someone, what would they be? (and if you're really ambitious, give me 3 physical and 3 character words)
1) Funny
2) Intelligent
3) Easy going

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Quick Check In

I had intent of blogging about the Supreme Court's hearing the case of the 10 commandments and some other things, but my nose is about the color of a marchino cherry from blowing/wiping all day. Hopefully tomorrow I will feel better and can chime in on some things.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

More yucky weather

March is always an interesting month here in NE Ohio. Yet again we are back to winter with just enough snow/rain/yuck to make you think before going out to do anything. I think winter is starting to catch up on me since yesterday all I wanted to do was sleep. Just weird. Oh cool! I think this is the "That 70's Show" where they all go to see "Star Wars" for the first time. I love that episode because I remember that is how we all were when "Star Wars" first came out. Yep, I am old enough to remember seeing "Star Wars" in the theatres when it first came out.

Anyways it could be that I have been busy at work lately. In addition to all my usual stuff I get to mentor two different people on some upcoming projects. One is small and one is potentially big. I have avoided anything that is even remotely related to management my entire career and this is dangerously close. I almost want to mess it up so no one gets any ideas.

The honeymoon is over

Speaking of work, things are not as great as they were when we first moved in. I am not sure who does what, but I have noticed a number of small things. For me personally the worst part is there does not seem to be any caffinated tea. I drink all of one cup a day and I really like to have the leaded version. I hope that this is just because our usual facilities people have been busy and not had a chance to restock everything.

Speaking of work, I may have an actual photo id sometime soon. This has been comical. My first photo got lost somewhere, which was interesting since the guy who had his photo done before me, on a digital camera, got his id. So I had to go and get a second picture, which I love to have done. Then when that second round of ids came in, still no id. Then the third round I finally had an id with my picture on it - but the wrong name. Our main facilities guy is at the home office this week and promised to get it all sorted out for me.

What makes this even funnier is this happened with current id that I have. When we got bought out we all had to get photo ids. My first one was lost (again, digital photos) requiring a second photo. At least that is where it ended, however that photo never got uploaded to the company intranet, which they could have used on this new id had it been there.
this is an audio post - click to play