Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Neat School Resources

I'm pretty beat down exhausted right now from being on campus over 12 hours and spent a lot of my usual blog time chatting, so I'm going to have to race through this post to get some real work done tonight, which is easy because there's not really a whole lot to talk about today. Some friends of mine here at UT actually started out a site called Notemesh that they managed to get dugg dedicated to the community sharing of notes for classes. It works like a wiki, though it's brand new now so it needs a lot of users yet to be successful. It has the potential to be awesome though since then if you fall asleep for a part of class or don't understand something, maybe someone else did and can add to your notes for a lecture, or vice versa. Plus, if everyone contributed, it'd be easier to miss class when you need to. Another site called myNoteIT actually ups the ante a little with several features for college students including a calendar, notes, and more. It's not as collaboratively oriented as NoteMesh, but it's still a valuable site. The only problem with these sites, in my opinion, is that you're putting a lot of faith in these people's servers. There should be a way to export the notes to your computer in case you're going into an area without WiFi and need them or to protect yourself from the server going down. On the other hand, it's harder to lose your notes when they're online and you don't have to be at home to access them. So if you're a college student, you should at least give these services a quick try. I don't believe that either site will spam you anyway.

Yahoo has acquired the online video editing site JumpCut in yet another totally random addition to their family of services. I don't know what the value is in this site to their general strategy, but they probably have something up their sleeve that we're not seeing. Click to got its hands on the Optimus Mini Three keyboard (the one that has programmable, light-up keys), and they seemed to like it except that $160 is a bit pricey for just 3 buttons. Still, it looks nice, and the entire keyboard is much more expensive. Lastly, David Pogue put forth that he doesn't think the iPhone actually exists or will exist because of how strict the service providers are about accepting new phones with their ability to veto any features. I actually didn't know about that veto power and it's probably why so many phones today are so flawed. Could the rumors from Asia about manufacturers getting orders from Apple be false? I guess it could all be a big ruse, or a project that maybe never got off the ground. In any case, I agree with Pogue, maybe an iPhone isn't all that likely, unless Apple contracts out the service from someone else, which isn't a likely leap for Apple to make.

Ready for some speedy movie news? IGN found new pictures for Marie Antoinette while JoBlo picked some up for Harry Potter 5 and for Casino Royale. Only the Marie Antoinette ones are all that great though, in my opinion. An English version of the trailer for Clint Eastwood's Flags of our Fathers is finally up and just as good as the original in Japanese.

Now for a Wednesday Mind Hump:

Get out of your computer chair, get on the floor (if your family is looking at you like you're crazy, you can go do this in another room if you like) and see how many push-ups you can do in one minute. When you're finished, tell us on your blog how many pushups you did.
I'd do this if I had more time, but I know that I can do at least 35 or 40.

Off to homeworkland!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

More on Jobs

There's really not much to talk about in the articles I'm covering today, but since I found a couple of things related to jobs and I'd like to finish this post quickly I'll just start out with those things. If you're not satisfied with your resume, or having gotten much advice on it, you should definitely check out this great article explaining some of the worst mistakes people make with their resume. Though I think you should take the Times New Roman advice with a grain of salt, flash resumes are really bad ideas as are abnormal orientations and the like. I was actually glad that recruiters yesterday commented on how professional my resume looked just at first glance (thank you, emurse!). Another news site had a little article about tech jobs growing, primarily in software services and engineering. While these industries are lagging slightly behind the national average in employment growth, I definitely think that other factors are restricting it and it shouldn't deter people from exploring tech fields. Still, I discourage anyone from choosing CS or engineering solely for monetary comfort (not that the salaries are extravagant, but they're nice for fresh graduates) but rather for an interest in science or engineering (or you could be suicidal and do both).

I have another followup from yesterday: Apple only took action on one site in their so-called litigious attack on podcasters using the word "podcast," and that case was just because they used the word "mypodder" since it could be confused with the word iPod. So please, don't take to your pitchforks and torches. Click to enlargeEngadget got its hands on Sony's eReader and they seemed to like it, though they didn't give many details about it and the pricing doesn't really grab my interest yet. I see this as a product that could get big in the very near future given the right marketing and pricing (especially in the educational arena). I've mentioned Python a lot in the past because I've heard so many good things and some of what I've read about it has been really cool. This blogger actually speaks a little more about what's so great about it and cites some good resources too in case you're interested. Lastly, if you want to read a humorous, though explicit, story about Wikipedia, check this out.

There's only one notable item in movie news: Emma Watson may not reprise the role of Hermoine in future Harry Potter movies claiming that each production is very time-consuming and is not even sure if she'll continue to pursue acting. I think she's too firmly entrenched in the character for a good recasting to take place, and this is likely just to boost her salary since they make so much money off these movies.

I'll go for some TMI Tuesday action this week:

1. What's the longest you've ever gone without a shower?
Probably three days, but I was camping so it's not like I just hated showers for a while.

2. Do you use a q-tip? If so, how often?
At least once a day after showers, but if my ears itch it feels good to stick a q-tip in there.

3. Do you have any piercings, if so where? Any for sexual purposes?
Nope, and don't plan on getting any!

4. Oral sex... give or receive?
I don't see anything wrong with either ;)

5. Sex while on the period... ick?
I don't think it's icky unless they're actually bleeding during sex, which would be really twisted. In any case, I think it's up to the lady whether or not she's comfortable with it.

Bonus (as in optional): Tell me your fantasy: details!
Jessica Alba all over me on an empty beach at sunset. Ok screw the beach, just her penthouse is good enough =P

Monday, September 25, 2006

Are CS Jobs Out There?

The answer, overwhelmingly, is YES! I thought that this article was perfect for today given that I went to an honors CS brunch this morning and then the Career Expo in the afternoon. The brunch was kind of worthless, but the Expo was great. In fact, for the first time since I've been going to this thing (this is my 5th time now), companies literally grabbed me as I walked. It was like running a gauntlet trying to get out of there to make it to class on time because I was literally hit in the chest by a person from Citibank with one of their pamphlets. The demand for tech and engineering jobs is phenomenal, and it makes me sad to see students not jumping into those fields. I can't imagine that kids have gotten dumber and don't want to do it, but that article asserts, and I'd venture to agree, that they're afraid. I disagree with that article blaming all universities but the venerable Tennessee Tech for the failings of their programs. I'll admit that they need to recruit students better to come and study CS, but I don't think it makes any sense to teach just what's hot today or to suggest that people can be good programmers with a couple of certifications and some community college course. It takes a lot more than that to be a computer scientist: it takes a complete evolution of your mind that we go through for at least 4 years, including interning and co-oping, which melds us to be productive members of societies. That's what I love about this field: you grow so much intellectually from it. Not to say that we're smarter than other people, but I think our geek culture is what helps keep the world turning in a lot of ways, and I just hope that more people get involved in it. Spread the word to friends though: there are plenty of jobs out there. In fact, now I'm faced with the decision of where I should seriously look into.

One of the companies I saw today was Google, and I thought it was cool that their cafeteria (remember, free food) is manned by a 4-star chef who apparently used to cook for the Grateful Dead. Anyway, this article points out that they're probably not just a one-hit wonder with successful services like Maps and AdSense that have served them well. I know I've seen a lot of people writing them off as a fad, but I think they're definitely here to stay, especially with leaders who are tech smart. I was disappointed to not see Apple there though, which I thought made them look really bad. Still, I have to plug this collage of instances where Steve Jobs has said "boom" because it's so funny how often he says that. Lastly, one tech blog has put up what the consider to be the top 10 losers in Web 2.0, and I'd say that it's fairly accurate. They can't all be winners, but these guys really just swung and missed (I still use Technorati, but I agree that it hasn't grown much at all as a service).

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That is one of a few new shots from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (way too long, by the way, once again), and it's just so trippy to compare how they look now to how they looked in the first movie. We also have more design art from Transformers, but this one is an Autobot. It looks interesting now, but how will it look in the movie itself? AICN has another great review for Children of Men, so I hope that I'm pumping some of you up for what looks to be a must-see film. IGN found some more words from Christopher Nolan about The Dark Knight, and they do little more than reiterate his vision, but I'm too hooked on Batman to not report every little news item. Yahoo Movies has the trailer for Deja Vu and it looks great. I've only seen one Tony Scott movie, but I think he's a really unique director and I'd love to see what he does in this movie with Denzel Washington and Val Kilmer, two truly amazing actors. Lastly, we have a poster for Shrek 3 that shows us no new characters, but I assume that we'll see better posters early next year.

Now for some Monday Madness:

1. From jstar: Holiday in Europe or Asia?
Europe, but only because I haven't been there yet and I've heard it's a lot of fun.
2. From sherle: How do you try to change a behavior pattern you don't like about yourself... whether it's chewing fingernails, overeating, smoking, or picking your nose?
That's tough because I still can't shake cluttering. I think it takes some sort of external stimulus to motivate you into it.
3. From tricia: Have you ever successfully completed a Sudoku puzzle?
Yes, but I just wrote a program to solve them for class so it wasn't me sitting down and solving it, though I did use my knowledge to write the program that solved it =P
4. From caylynn: What website do you visit the most often?
Definitely Gmail and Digg.
5. From michael morgan: What was your favorite thing about high school or college?
High school: knowing practically everyone. College: so far, the kind of freedom you will never have at any other point in your life (in so many ways).

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Having to Understand Code

This post is going to go as quickly as I can make it go because I'm dead tired right now and really sad because I did embarrassingly bad tonight at TLD in trying to catch up with last week's lesson, which is bad because there's a party on Friday I want to go to. Anyway, what I was hoping to talk about was what programmers spend a lot of time doing, which this guy claims is trying to read and understand code rather than write it. I was quite apprehensive at first, but I think he's right. We like to think that we write a lot of code, but most good coders will review what they've written, and if there are bugs then they spend a lot of time reading to pinpoint the source while debugging, and if you ever go back to add a feature to add extra precautions or adjust for user requirements (at least one of which almost always happens), you find yourself reading code even more. The actual act of programming is quite short if you're truly proficient in a language. However, some problems are more complex and require more planning so this isn't always true, but it's quite common to read more than write. However, reading code can be quite grueling, which seems to lead to rewriting code. Is this a bad idea? I'd say that it depends. If it's just a component of your application and it's proven to be reliable, then it should be re-used even if the source is ugly. Otherwise, if you're in a direct role working with that source code, it may be more prudent to rewrite it because it's paradoxical in a way to try to understand a program the hardest way possible: by reading its source code. Can't we get more out of reverse engineering it? Maybe I'm just blabbering at this point, but I thought it was an interesting thing to ponder.

Have you stopped to wonder why sources say that Apple has committed to Blu-ray and yet they have not started putting BD-ROM in their machines? Some are arguing that this is because they'd rather drive up demand for iTunes movies, but I beg to differ. These drives aren't cheap and still don't have a wide selection of movies, so why drive up the price of your machines for a function that your consumers don't care about? It's not like they disallowed music CDs on Macs to drive up demand for iTunes songs. Speaking of iTunes, they're actually having trouble spreading iTunes U because colleges want more DRM and they want on-site storage of content. It's disappointing that universities are being so close-minded in the face of such a great opportunity for their students. Meanwhile, Apple's crusade against the term "podcast" has been a bit disgruntling also, and ZDNet believes that it's because they want to trademark the term iPodcast, which may actually be true. However, anyone else see the irony in them calling them podcasts in iTunes and then not letting them use the word? Sony's keynote at TGS was rather uneventful (quite contrary to the ongoing buzz for the Wii), but it was revealed that all models will include an HDMI port, which is nice given the bright future for HD television sets and long-term nature of a console purchase. Lastly, if you're looking for a fresh browser, you should check out Shiira. It is a Mac product, but it looks so cool that I couldn't help but plug it.

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The sleep is overcoming me, I'm just going to cover the box office for movies. Jackass Number Two claimed top honors at an amazing $28.1 million. For a totally mindless comedy in the middle of September, that's pretty amazing. Unfortunately, Fearless made less than half that at number two (though Jet Li was the only big name), and All The King's Men sadly made less then $4 million despite the star talent, though I suppose the reviews were less than stellar.

Now for some Unconscious Mutterings:

I say ... and you think ... ?

  1. Bell :: Saved by the

  2. Abuse :: Physical

  3. Relief :: Medicine

  4. List :: Grievances

  5. Concern :: Problems

  6. Absolute :: Truth

  7. Cling :: Relationships

  8. Dump :: Truck

  9. Terminate :: Fire

  10. Wine :: and Dine

Friday, September 22, 2006

Overvalued Web 2.0

Sorry about yesterday everyone, but it was a bad day and I wanted to at least get my Physics lab done. Today, I'm going to cover a hot topic: web site startups that everyone seems to want to buy. Namely, Facebook and Youtube. Facebook turned down a $750 million offer from Yahoo claiming that they're worth closer to $2 billion, and YouTube has announced that it won't take any less than $1.5 billion. Since both these things happened in the past couple of days, I just have to remark at how crazy I think these prices are. Facebook, to their credit, is actually thinking of joining Yahoo since Yahoo is willing to let them run their own show and just be under the Yahoo brand name. I personally think that Facebook is beginning to alienate their audience by evolving too much with features that no one really cares about. People love wasting time on Facebook, but once it gets too complicated people will lose interest. Youtube, on the other hand, has a site that everyone loves except for copyright holders. They haven't come under litigation yet so they're still alright, but when you take away copyrighted media, what do they really have under the hood that's so special? Yeah, a great fan base, but a fan base that depends on copyrighted content. They haven't proven their profitability yet, and they've already ceded that they don't want ads in the video, so what do they plan on doing? Why are they worth so much money? Trends on the Internet change quite rapidly, and what's big today could become old news tomorrow (like Friendster or Napster) given the wrong circumstances. I'm not saying that either company doesn't have the opportunity to grow and do really well, but who's to say that they're worth $1.5+ billion? I think they're getting a little too big for their britches and need to realize how lucky they are that they've grown to as big as they are now. Instead of pontificating about their worth, they need to make some money.

Do you feel that iPods are overpriced? Well, they're you're not going to be thrilled to know that the new Nanos cost half what it's sold at to manufacture. Of course, this doesn't take into account the R&D and salaries of the people who helped develop the new Nano, but they are still making a lot off the top. Even then though, it's frightening Microsoft who apparently were planning on selling the Zune at $289 before they saw the new iPod at $250 and pulled out of nailing down a price. I don't want to dog the Zune so much though because it does have some decent functionality and nifty social features to it, it's just not my bag. Meanwhile, Ars Technica believes that the iTV is backed by a Conroe-L chip, though I don't know what to think. It's definitely going to be something pretty cheap, but doesn't it need to be advanced enough to support HD at a fast rate? The Conroe-L probably does the trick, so I thought I'd pass along the news. Over at Google, they've quietly added some new features to Google Spreadsheets. I think the best change was the ability for anyone with the URL to view your spreadsheet rather than having to have a Gmail account and such. The founders of Digg may have something up their sleeves for Internet TV, so I just thought I'd give you guys a heads up about that. It's a steadily growing movement that still needs some more momentum. Lastly, I'm outraged that Olga has been forced to shut down because I used to love going there to pick up chords for popular songs. I think the MPA is full of greedy bastards because is clearly posing no threat to their sales since they're not even offering enough sheet music and it's not even accurate stuff! It's people's interpretations of popular songs! I hope someone will come to their rescue.

Just a few quick movie things. If you're interested in Fearless (who doesn't love Jet Li action flicks?), JoBlo dug up a couple of neat clips. Quint at AICN saw Jackass Number Two and, it's hard to tell, but I think he was saying that he thought it was hilarious and liked it a lot (in terms of a comedy, of course, not as good cinema). It looks like this one will be more offensive than the first! AICN also received a review for Children of Men, and it sounds as awesome as we were all hoping for. It seems like you wouldn't want to watch it more than once though because of the scary prophetic aspect of it.

I'm going to share a great PostSecret postcard with you all because I feel the same way! I love Banana Republic, but I just love buying clothes that make me look good in general. I had fun shopping at Katy Mills for my summer internship, and I know I'll be doing well when I can afford to buy clothes like that a little more often rather than wearing t-shirts (though it is to hot out here for collared shirts right now).

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Now for Friday's Feast, yummy!

Measured in minutes or hours, how much exercise have you had in the last week?

I'm going to ballpark it at 150 minutes of gym time, and at least 3-4 hours worth of walking around campus all week and at ACL.

If you had to change your blog title to something else, what would it be?

I don't know? The Wacky World of Elton?

Name one television show you watched when you were 9-12 years old.

I remember loving X-men and Spider-man for sure.

Main Course
If someone gave you $50 to spend with the one condition that it had to be educational, what would you purchase?

Probably some more guitar books. I like those, especially sheet notes for my favorite artists.

Do you tend to prefer dark colors, neutral shades, or lighter/pastel hues?

I'd say neutral shades. I don't like to be too bold in my color selection.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Is YouTube in Trouble?

Just a couple of days ago, Warner Music announced that they'd be giving music videos to YouTube in exchange for some ad revenue, which I lauded as progress towards their goal of having all music videos ever made. However, some people are not too optimistic about it, and Mark Cuban actually agrees with these naysayers (though I guess he's too annoying to be taken seriously any more). Anyway, they make a good point though: this changes the whole paradigm of the company. They now lose the status as a benevolent hosting site and become, in the eyes of their fans, profit mongers, even though they're just trying to grow the business, which I feel is only natural. Will this be the death of them though? I really don't believe that it is. Just because companies in the past have started seeking revenue from 0 profit situations and failed before doesn't imply that all businesses will, just that they sucked at it. Quite the contrary, YouTube has so much momentum that now is the time for them to move forward into a real business model before people get too comfortable with it and become offended when more companies start taking advantage of YouTube. Of course the question is: will companies then start charging for users to use their copyrighted music and images and such? I think that if they haven't started suing at this point, then they never will, and the key thing there is YouTube's cooperation to actively keep the site legit. To say that they're going to sell out in the case that users do have to pay to use such songs and images is ridiculous because it's not like the industries would sit under a rock and not realize what was happening and then actually go out on a litigious rampage, YouTube is just doing the smart thing and staying ahead of the curve. I think it'll end up paying off in the end, and if this is the wrong move for them then there really is no right move for them, if that makes any sense.

Apple has finally begun to address the bugs in iTunes 7, though of course most of them are for Windows users. No sign of a patch yet, but I'm sure it'll come soon enough. Click to enlargeIf you hate having to charge rechargable AA batteries with a bulky charger then you'll like these new batteries that charge via USB. They're not cheap, mind you, but a very good idea, and I suspect the price will go down over time. Bob Iger at Disney has had some hands-on time with Apple's iTV and claims that it has a hard drive built-in for storing and transferring multimedia to/fro your computer, and it has the ability to work as a TV tuner. I just wonder how the hard drive will be used. Will it be an extra buffer for the data or actual extra storage? Also, it's not capable of handling HD quality content yet, but he claims it will be soon enough. Lastly, if you're interested in learning Python then you'll like this.

We all enjoy multimedia so that's all I'm going to give you today. The first thing is a mindblowing teaser trailer (maybe it's not a teaser so much, but I don't think it's the theatrical trailer) for 300, which you may recall as Zach Snyder's adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel 300 about the battle of 300 Spartans facing a Hell of a lot more men. Once again, I really can't wait to see this movie now and it's almost cruel to show a trailer so awesome. Yahoo Movies pulled in some great content as well with a new trailer for Bobby and strange sort of promotional trailer for The Prestige that has very few new scenes but rather a different spin on it. The former is good, but not quite as spectacular as I was hoping, though I think the cast alone is enough to sell it as being bound for greatness. The latter was definitely weaker than the original trailer. Lastly, AICN uncovered the theme song of Casino Royale to be a Chris Cornell track, which I think was a bad choice. Don't get me wrong, I love Audioslave and Soungarden, but I don't think it's the right artist for a Bond flick.

Now for a Wednesday Mind Hump:

1. Are you a fan of board games?
Oh yeah, definitely. They're so much more social than any other type of game and they never seem to get old in the long run.

2. What's your favorite board game and why?
Cranium because there's so much variety in it.

Yesterday was Talk Like A Pirate Day, so lets answer a few questions about that. I can't think of any more board game questions.

3. Blackbeard, Hook, Sparrow - who's your favorite pirate?
Probably Jack Sparrow because he's so unique from the rest. Plus, Johnny Depp is just cool.

4. If you were a pirate, what would you name yourself?
Hell if I know! Techbeard?

5. Uh oh! Someone's gotta walk the plank! Choose a celebrity you want to throw overboard (all in good fun, of course. We're not actually advocating for the tossing of celebs in the ocean).
Definitely Paris Hilton. Not in good fun though, I want someone to throw her overboard so we can be done with her from stupid tabloids and burger commercials and reality shows and low-end pornography =P

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Google <3 Developers

I had the most Apple articles today, but I'm tired of talking about them so let's move on to Google instead. Forbes is running an article explaining why Eric Schmidt loves the little guy. And why is that? Because the little guys are who's keep him rich! It's unlikely that you've never encountered what's commonly referred to as a Google Mashup before. Maybe it was for gas prices, or to see your Facebook friends, or to view your StatCounter visitor locations, or a random poem generator, or one of many other things. When these things get big though, they share some of their profit with Google through advertising revenue, and Google has more great sites to crawl for. What I find funny about this situation is that the developers respect Google for releasing the APIs, and Google gets free labor in return. Who got the short end of the stick there? In any case, it's all in good fun, and the programmers who make these mashups just do it as a hobby (it's not like they're usually worth a whole lot of money anyway). While I'm talking about Google, someone claims to have seen an idea on one of their whiteboards to give free movie showing in exchange for audiences giving up their eyeballs for some ads. I don't think this idea would pan out all that well with the movie industry, but I'd definitely go for it. I don't mind even 10 minutes of ads for a free two hour movie, a value of like $9 by today's prices. Still, it could've also been a joke since those guys have crazy senses of humor.

I guess I'll get to the Apple stuff now. They've been doing pretty well in movie sales with 125,000 videos sold in the opening week of the movie store, which I'd say is pretty impressive given that people still can't easily watch them on their TVs unless they rig it up themselves. I'm sure they're hoping for a sales spike with the release of the iTV. Until then, they have to rely on newer iterations of their laptops to bring home the bacon with a likely 2.33 GHz Core 2 Duo in the MacBook Pros and probably something just a little toned down for the MacBooks. I wouldn't be surprised by a slight price increase on the MacBook Pros, but it'd probably be worth it given the great performance you'll be seeing. Click to enlargeWe all know that the release of the new iMac was pretty well received and one blogger put up his impressions of the new 24 incher and all its glory. I'd say that it's a pretty fair review, so give it a look if you're interested in getting one. uTorrent (I'm not looking for the ascii representation of mu, screw that) has come out with a web interface to allow you to manage your torrents remotely in case you're at work but want to start up a new download at home or something. This is something that I'd personally use, but I'm having issues getting it working (doesn't show up under Preferences). Tips, anyone? Lastly, it's finally here: a car that parks itself for you, which would be great for people like me who have to back out of and repark in spots like twice where ever they go.

Quint over at AICN saw Pan's Labyrinth and it sounds like he genuinely loved it. I know I've said this a lot lately (that's a good thing), but I'm now even more excited to see this movie, and I wish I had an English trailer to watch. Will Ferell has pulled out of Elf 2, and so New Line has decided to not move forward with its production. Instead, he's turning his sights to Old School Dos, which he sounds interested in since Todd Phillips, the original's director, will be aboard. Sounds like a fair trade off to me. If you want to see a really bad trailer, you should see the one for Eragon. I actually feel embarassed for having sat through the whole thing. The promotional video we have for Shoot Em Up is much better despite the gratuitous usage of firearms, and Paul Giamatti being in an awkward role given his past roles. Monica Bellucci does look hot in it though. Lastly, Warner is trying to combine HD-DVD, Blu-Ray, and DVD into a single disc, and I think they're crazy, but I like it. I can't decide whether this would hurt or help Toshiba or Sony, but it'd be great for consumers so I'm all for it (even if it cost more, the price would go down by the time these formats got big).

Now for the Tuesday Twosome:

List twoÂ…

1. Items in your purse/wallet:

My ID and my voter registration card.

2. Food items you crave the most:
Ice cream and chicken breast (I like the Tyson stuff you just stick in the oven).

3. Books you could read over and over again:
Catcher in the Rye and Plato's The Republic.

4. Events in the past 14 days that have made you laugh and/or cry:
I laughed at the Flaming Lips show on Sunday but cried (or nearly cried, rather) to learn of Ann Richards's death.

5. People you are missing a lot at this very moment:
My brother and this girl I used to be good friends with who always made me feel special. I do miss my parents, don't get me wrong, just not at this moment.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Being a Better Developer

I've got so much work still to do and so I'm going to keep this post as brief as I can here. Since it's been a few days since I've really geeked out, I might as well jump right into some CS stuff. A relatively new blogger has given five ways to become a better developer, and I liked it so much that I just had to discuss it here. I was already impressed with his first tip: learn Ruby/Ruby on Rails. I'd say that Python or even Haskell could probably fit in there also because we get so caught up in semantics nowadays that we forget how good elegant code looks and how fulfilling it is to not only be able to run it but to be able to read it. Learning something new every week is so very important, and is something that I was told way back when before the Internet was big and you had to read magazines to figure out what's hot and cool. Now you just browse the Net and keep your eyes on Digg, and it makes you such a better developer to be aware of your options. Customer needs and wants are something I experience first hand at TI, and they really do butt heads a lot. You have to be that interface between what makes sense and what the customer really needs. Passion is most important though, and is what wakes me up every morning. Going back to his first point, eWeek actually has a list of languages you may want to look into if you want to try out something new. I can personally vouch for PHP, C++, and Java being invaluable, and C and Perl gets you street cred among your peers.

Ars Technica has posted one of those reviews I love so much, but this one is for the 2G iPod Nano, and the best part has to be the stress test. I can't believe it worked after being thrown in a washing machine! Now that's durability. Do you remember the simpler days of the 1G iPod? If not, then strap yourself in for a ride in the YouTube time machine, which has the first introduction of the iPod. This is before the fancy presentation and excited audiences Jobs has come to know nowadays, and was a turning point for the company. Plus, it's pretty funny to hear him laud a 0.75-inch thickness and FireWire connectivity. We may talking about his last speech five years from now in reference to digital video distribution, and Google clearly believes in it because they're in talks with Jobs to produce video content for the iTV. Can you imagine watching "White and Nerdy" in your living room via an iTV? Google has released a new version of Picasa with some much needed updates, including a better screensaver generator, which I've used and love. Warner has struck a deal with YouTube to release its videos to them in exchange for a slice of the ad revenue, and so it sounds like YouTube is following through on its 18 month music videos plan! Lastly, I leave you with more great freeware utilities.

Gridiron Gang took top honors in the box office this weekend at $15 million with more lackluster sales. At least The Black Dahlia followed close behind, though they probably should've waited longer after Hollywoodland to release it. Paramount must be really mad at Tom Cruise because they're actually looking to Brad Pitt to fill the role of Ethan Hunt for MI:4. I almost feel like I would boycott the movie on principle alone. How can you recast Ethan Hunt after three movies?! Yahoo Movies has another trailer for Saw III, which doesn't show you much new stuff, but the horror geeks will eat it up. There's also a trailer now for The Invisible, which I love the story of for some reason and am intrigued to check it out. I haven't seen Blade: Trinity though so I have no idea how good Goyer is at directing. Lastly, the people who brought you Mr. Show and Reno 911 are coming out with a movie called Let's Go to Prison, and AICN premiered it so I thought I'd show it here. Oh how I crave even a teaser trailer for this one.

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Now for some Monday Madness:

1. How do you eat an oreo cookie?
Usually just bite it whole, but I'll lick the creme off sometimes.
2. How long does it take you to eat lunch?
Usually 10-15 minutes, but I try to stretch it to 20 minutes to relax some if I'm at home when I'm eating.
3. Caffeine or decaf?
Caffeine, though I don't drink coffee.
4. Chicken or beef?
Chicken, because you know it's better.
5. Pen or pencil?
Erasable ink pens are where it's at.
6. Autumn or spring?
Autumn, because it's typically a little cooler than the spring, which just brings the promise of the heat wave known as summer.
7. Baseball or basketball?
Basketball is so much better.
8. 'Survivor' or 'The Amazing Race?'
Survivor, though I don't care for either.
9. Come up with one question I can ask our Monday Madness participants in the weeks to come
How often do you pig out when you eat?

Austin City Limits: Day 3

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Welcome to the final installment of my adventures at the 2006 Austin City Limits music festival! A little shower in the morning didn't dampen our resolve to go to the show, but the muddiness convinced us to take a bus from Republic Square to Zilker, and so we actually made it to the park earlier than we had targeted (which hasn't happened before, not even last year). This gave us enough time to get great seats for K.T. Tunstall at AT&T at 2:30 PM, who's the interesting Scottish woman best known for "Black Horse and a Cherry Tree," as pictured here:

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She was just as awesome as I was hoping she'd be, and that made me glad. The great thing about artists like her is that they have something to prove, so they get out on that stage and do whatever they can with the one album they have out there to try to wow you. She just played well and the audience was definitely feeling it, though in a laid back way since it was still the early afternoon. She actually recorded herself tapping her guitar and another vocal of hers for "Black Horse and a Cherry Tree" and had it play in the background in a loop so that not a single part of the song was pre-recorded, and the way they performed the song was different from on the radio, so that was awesome, too. The other songs I remember her playing are "Other Side of the World," "Miniature Disasters," "Another Place to Fall," "Silent Sea," "False Alarm," and I think she also played "Universe & U." To close off, they did a great rendition of "Suddenly I See" that put me in bliss for its duration. Her music is just so good that it was so easy for me to get into it. Plus, she has a pretty face:

The sun started to peer its head in the middle of the show, and the AT&T Digital Oasis had free battery-operated fans, so my friend picked us up some. These things helped a lot more than you may think since before we were just fanning ourselves with those thick cards on sticks.

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We decided that we were hungry and didn't care about Jack Ingram all that much, and so we joined a group of other people camping out at the AT&T stage (best acts on that stage today), meaning that they helped watch our stuff while we went to grab some lunch. We returned to a large crowd of people around our chairs in time for Matisyahu, but I wasn't all that interested so I read/napped during the act. The show looked great, and the people there were really enjoying it, but I just couldn't get into the reggae that much. I give props to them for being in full Jewish attire though in that heat and putting on a really energetic show. I didn't take pictures of them because I was too lazy, but there was a butterfly on this guy's back for a long time who was near us:

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We were supposed to see The New Pornographers after this, except that our fans had mostly died out and it was so far away that we decided to hang out at the AT&T Digital Oasis for a while in the a/c and grab some new fans, and then we got back to our seats with time to spare for The Flaming Lips show. I'm going to spend a good amount of time on this show because it was quite crazy. So here's how the stage was set-up right at the start:

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That's right, there were people in Santa suits and alien suits, and it's hard to see but there were also people in superhero costumes (Wonder Woman, Superman, Captain America, etc.). But wait, that's not all. Before the show started, Wayne Coyne got in a big bubble and rolled his way into the audience, as depicted here:

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After their first song (can't remember the title of it, sorry), Coyne alludes to Ben Kweller's nose bleeding on stage and having to get medical attention and all that stuff, and decided that he needs to outdo Kweller by pouring fake blood on his face and asking the ladies to donate tampons to help him clean it up. If you think I'm making this up...

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And yes, several girls did throw tampons on stage, which he later collected and counted. I was uber excited when they went into "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" since that's my favorite song of theirs and since we didn't sing along enough the first time through he cut the background music and sang it acapella with us, which was really fun just because of how ridiculous the song is. Soon afterwards, he goes into "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song," and we kept screaming those magical words louder and louder to ironic questions about what you would do with power, which was a great introit to the song and built up so much momentum. Towards the end of the song he got so into it that he had a nun doll saying "yeah yeah yeah" as well.

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Then there was a song about a boy who only wipes his nose with magazines and a girl that wears tangerines as makeup, which for some reason justified him pulling out big hands.

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And for their finale, they did another one of my favorites, "Do You Realize," which is another one of those songs that put me in a blissful state. To start off a visual display of confetti, Coyne blew up a really big balloon until it popped and what looked like a bunch of smaller balloons came out of it.

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As you can see, I had a great time watching The Flaming Lips. Anyone who wasn't enjoying the show had to be pretty dead inside because the Lips worked so hard to make it entertaining and interactive. This was one of the shows that made coming to ACL worth it. My friend had gone to see Ben Harper midway through the show, and said it was really good (Damien Marley even came on stage, apparently), and so I had to hold the fort until they got back. I had wanted to see G. Love, but their return didn't give me much time to navigate out of the crowd, head to Heineken, and make it back, so I decided to just wait it out for Tom Petty.

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As you can tell, taking pictures at night from far away on my tiny camera is hard, but I was doing my best. I was surprised to find out that the audience was much better to Tom Petty this year than the crowd last year was to Coldplay! What's up with that?! Tom Petty put on a great show, but it was really only because the audience was so into it. Yeah, we did a sing-a-long to "Free Fallin," but Coldplay did so much more last year to get audience interaction and share their energy. He also played "Mary Jane's Last Dance" and "American Girl" among a host of songs I didn't know, but I was still digging the show. Then, we started getting lots of wind and lightning, but each time the sky lit up the crowd just yelled out louder, as if to challenge it. Well, the sky accepted the challenge and decided to pour down on us for like 10 minutes, at which point Tom Petty just finished a song and said they'd be taking a break to insulate the equipment better and then they'd play a really long set.

It's kind of neat to say that I was at the first ACL Festival it ever rained at, and that I've seen Tom Petty, who's been around for ages. When he came back on, he ended up playing until 10:20 PM, and then did a 3-4 song encore, all of which added up to at least 100 minutes. Quite a long set from him, so I'm sure the crowd was pretty pleased with it. I was just glad to be heading back home because my right contact was bothering me.

So, my overall thoughts? This was definitely my ranking of the top 5 acts:

1. The Flaming Lips
2. K.T. Tunstall
3. What Made Milwaukee Famous
4. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
5. John Mayer
Honorable Mention: The Raconteurs for rocking the house

I think we definitely got our money's worth ($120 something) seeing over 12 bands in all and being deeply interested in at least those 6. Also, the weather was much kinder to us (the rain wasn't that bad), and the newly planted grass staved off the threat of a repeat of last year's dust storm. While last year had a better lineup, I think this one had more surprise hits and was a more laid back atmosphere. Also, we were much better prepared. Our survival kit included: folding chairs (sooo necessary), 3-4 water bottles apiece (they didn't count this year for the typical 2 bottle maximum), suntan, hats, umbrellas, raincoats, fans (thanks to AT&T), a mini torch, my camera, hand towels, sunglasses, and I had a scarf in case of another dust storm. I think having the right gear is key to having fun, and I definitely had fun despite being dead tired right now. I actually have some work to get done so I'd better go now. Hope you all have enjoyed my ACL 2006 coverage! I hope I can find people to go with my for one last time next year!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Austin City Limits: Day 2

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Sorry, I just loved that picture too much to not share it with the world. That's the NSC Historian hard at work doing something. I had to stop off at the NSC new member retreat before heading to ACL. We took a more scenic route this time around across Town Lake.

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And here's our blurry 4:30 PM entrance into day 2 of ACL Fest:

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We started out with Los Lobos (at AMD) since my friend's mom really wanted to see them, and I was only mildly interested in The Shins anyway (playing at the same time, but at AT&T). They were pretty good and were one of the few bands where you could actually dance to them! Preferably with a girl though since it was the kind of music that you could easily dance in pairs to, and it was very light and matching their afternoon time slot. I hadn't heard much about them before, but I was impressed by the performance. I didn't get a shot of them, but this is just as good:

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We decided to head over to The Shins towards the end, and we noticed dark clouds on one part of the sky and blue skies on the other:

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It didn't rain though, and we couldn't get in a good spot for The Shins, so we decided to head over to Heineken instead to set up camp for Aimee Mann.

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I definitely enjoyed her performance, and she sounded like a really melo mix of Sheryl Crow and Fiona Apple. It was so melo that I actually ended up napping for a few minutes until people rudely started trying to squeeze between my chair and some people on the ground next to us and knocked me awake. I hate it when people get in the way of the crowd at the front or middle, who obviously actually care about seeing the artist. I did manage to get a good shot of her on the big screen though.

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Her music started to sound the same after a while though (she played a few tracks from Magnolia, by the way), and she was super melo, so we decided to see Guy Clark for a bit towards the end (her mom wanted to go, and we stayed for like 5 minutes) and take a bathroom break. Before heading out though, I noticed how pretty the sun looked when trying to peek out of the clouds.

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Our next stop was the Austin Ventures stage for half of What Made Milwaukee Famous (a local band) since they were competing with The Raconteurs and we wanted to see both groups. I hadn't heard much of them at all before, but I definitely got a good vibe from their music and really enjoyed what I was hearing. I especially liked "Sweet Lady," which I recognized as having downloaded for free off of iTunes and liking it (hence my driving force to want to see them).

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They were quite loud though (that soundstage seemed to have the volume too high in general), and so it wasn't too reluctantly that we ran off to the AT&T stage for The Raconteurs, which I was excited for because I wanted to see Jack White!

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We came in as they were playing "Store Bought Bones," which I love simply for the lead guitar. I don't know how you can't love that rhythm. Afterwards, he played a cover of Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)," which was made famous by Kill Bill, and I love that song so I was very happy to hear that. Then, after some strange instrumental song, he went into "Broken Boy Soldier," another great song from the album. His last song was a little slow and he ended up closing up the set early, which is sad because I wanted to see them play "Steady As She Goes"! They probably played another song or two in between there, but I just didn't recognize them as readily. Anyway, I liked their backdrop.

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That was all I really cared about seeing, but we checked out Explosions in the Sky, which had some nice ambiance music (all instrumental). I think it's great music for doing work in the background or for a really chill gathering I guess. We didn't have much of a view of them either since it was dark by then, so I won't show my shoddy picture of them. Afterwards, we grabbed some sausage wraps from Stubbs and headed to Willie Nelson, who was already but I wasn't compelled to listen to him so I did my Physics pre-lab instead. Plus, there was a ton of people out there to see him so we were in the back where it was tough to see the screen. We stopped by Massive Attack afterwards, but the only cool thing about them was the screen behind them with diodes that would display liberal political messages, and they were just more ambiance music (though a little more electronica).

Tomorrow we plan on seeing KT Tunstall (she actually has a great album), Jack Ingram (just to fill time), Matisyahu (I'm intrigued to see Jewish guys playing reggae), The New Pornographers (one of the earlier acts to sign on for ACL), The Flaming Lips, Ben Harper (competing with the Lips, and my friend will spend half her time there, whereas I'm just heading there after the Lips), G Love & Special Sauce, and, of course, Tom Petty. I'm not a big Tom Petty fan, but this guy has been around forever, it'll be interesting to see him live.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Austin City Limits: Day 1

It's been a long day, and it's so rare that I get to make completely original posts that I'm going to dedicate these three posts to my experience at ACL. Plus, I'm just too exhausted to scour the Net for news. Let me start out here with some pictures:

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After taking the bus downtown and battling traffic, I waited with my friend's mom at Which Wich for my friend to arrive, and there was a great view of the Frost Tower from there so I couldn't resist.

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When we walked in and I could see the Downtown skyline I knew that I had to get a picture of it. It's no NYC skyline, but I still like it.

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I was trying to give an idea of how many people are there when you turn in any direction, but I'll try to look for better shots of this tomorrow.

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I love these big lanterns they have scattered around, and this is one of the larger ones in a central spot. I thought it was definitely picture worthy.

I didn't get any other good pictures because we were only there for a few hours as it was. and only saw a couple of bands in that timespan. When we first got there we had to debate between Thievery Corporation and Los Lonely Boys since we had already missed Gnarls Barkley, and we chose Thievery Corporation since Los Lonely Boys were at the AMD stage, which was facing the sun. Thievery Corporation was pretty decent, but it was only good for people in our situation who were ready to just sit in the back and listen and just relax. I saw people reading magazines and stuff, too, which makes sense given that the music was all instrumental. I think it's great music to have on while like doing homework, and the dancer they had up there for a few of their songs was kind of cool, but not much else to praise them for other than that. I guess it's hard to get excited when you're not even singing in your songs. We left a little early from this show since they were at the AT&T stage, which was on the opposite side from AMD, where Jon Mayer would be playing an hour later.

When we got back there we ended up catching Los Lonely Boys in the middle of "Heaven" and after they played their last couple of songs a lot of people ended up leaving, so we go further up for pretty decent seats for John Mayer, though we weren't aiming to be at the very front or anything since I was just interesting in hearing more of his music and my friend, though a fan of his, doesn't like what his success has made him, so she was almost loath to see him live again (she's seen him twice before). We knew he came on stage by the high-pitched squeals of chicks near the front, and I almost didn't recognize him because of what almost looked like a Jew fro (not sure what the PC term for that would be, but it's what many Jewish men can grow out that looks like a fro except that its a little fluffier and is usually brownish). My friend was tempting to take to him with scissors, but I managed to hold her back.

I think it's notable that there was a nice breeze at this point and so it couldn't have been any more than the mid 80s, which was a welcome relief from earlier. The trek to Zilker from Downtown is not a short one (at least a couple of miles, I'd say), and the heat doesn't help things. Last year, the night didn't bring much relief weather wise, but it seems to be doing the trick this year. I was quite pleased with his show and loved the riffs on songs I hadn't heard before, which is a big deal because it's harder for me to enjoy songs live that I've never heard before. He definitely tried to bring energy to his show, though it didn't reflect much on his audience, which I suspect was because they were all tired from being out there all day. In any case, I liked that he put forth the effort, and he played all his most popular singles, including "No Such Thing" as one of the two encore songs, as well as several songs off his new album it seemed, naturally. The set was actually over an hour (probably close to 75 minutes or so), and so I was also glad that he didn't skimp on the time or try to skip out early. Not even Coldplay did an encore last year, so I thought it was cool for him to do it. He also tried to give a lot of props to his band, which was good because they definitely had some talent (including Austin's own JJ Johnson on the drums). The instruments were all just fantastic and his voice was pretty much what you'd expect out of it. He didn't go out of his way to make the songs unique from the album versions, but he did what he could here and there (minor lyric changes, extended improv riffs), so it was still fun to watch (especially while sitting out in that breeze).

We left in the middle of his last song to check out the end of Van Morrison's set, who was competing with John Mayer, which I didn't care much for since they played oldies and they seemed to be much softer and slightly less energetic, though they were older people. The people in the crowd at the front seemed to be really into it though, and at least they played "Brown-eyed Girl."

All in all, I'm kind of glad I didn't sell my ticket this year. I think that I'll have fun even though my favorite bands won't be playing. Tomorrow, I'm aiming for Ben Kweller, Nada Surf, The Shins, Aimee Mann, The Raconteurs, What Made Milwaukee Famous, String Cheese Incident (maybe, but probably not in the end), Explosions in the Sky, Willie Nelson, and quite possibly Massive Attack. Check back tomorrow night (or maybe early Sunday morning) for the skinny on my perspective of day 2 of this insane music festival.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Wii Shows its Cards

I feel like a zombie right now because I didn't even get 6 hours of sleep last night and I was on campus for 12 hours straight for classes, NSC interviews, NSC member choosing, and the first ACM general meeting. So, needless to say, I'm going to try to rush through this post so I can finish up my Physics lab and get to bed quickly. So anyway, Engadget has full coverage of Nintendo's press event where they revealed that the Will will be released on November 19 at just $250, which is less than even a PS2 cost just a couple of years ago. They're aiming at 4 million consoles in a little over a month, so they'll all be white, but I'm sure they'll sell like hotcakes. Click to enlargeThe launch package is going to be called the Sports bundle because it includes Wii Sports and the Wii remote plus nunchuk, and there will actually be 30 launch titles, including Zelda. I think that having Zelda at launch and including a game with the console will clinch the console launch war between the Wii and the PS3 for the Wii (I don't even have time for games anymore and now I really want one). Oh, the remote will be $40 with the nunchuk at $20, while games should be priced at $50, which is a relief compared toe PS3 and Xbox 360 games. But wait, there's more! Wii channels will offer your old games, and it looks like possibly the ability to use the other components of your home entertainment set-up, and you can put Opera on your Wii to browse the web, which I can see being useful for game FAQs and such. Overall, I think simplicity and reasonable pricing were their sticking points. In this day and age of inflation and ridiculous gas prices, people simply don't have the disposable income for a PS3, and kids genuinely look more interested in the Wii too boot despite the glamour promised by the PS3. I have to leave off here with this Wii vs. PS3 commercial that pretty much sums it up.

Microsoft has released a little PR video for the Zune that's not very impressive and yet isn't close-up enough for good impressions of it. However, Engadget has some pictures from the launch that look better, and the only big details are the FM tuner, 30 GB hard drive, 3" screen, and of course it supports WiFi (though its use still sounds stupid). Still no details on pricing and availability, and Microsoft isn't doing nearly enough to make this product a success and I have no idea why. The new Yahoo Mail is now in public beta and it looks really awesome. I'm so happy that they aimed to do more than just match the kind of functionality Gmail offers and do their own thing, and I think it'll work out well for them. Alright, all the rest of my stuff is Apple related. We have a rather grueling dissection of the Nano, and it's not for the faint of heart when it comes to the innards of cute devices. Apple will actually be having another press event on August 25, right before Photokina, but I'm guessing that it'll be Aperture and maybe a few other small things, but I can't imagine more big product releases, unless it's like a Mac Mini upgrade or something. Oh, and if you did get the new iTunes you should try downloading free finales of Desperate Housewives and Lost, or clips from Grey's Anatomy. Lastly, a tech blogger makes a decent point about why he thinks iTV will fail, but I respectfully disagree. The DVR thing not being included is weird, but I don't think people need another DVR, and I don't think that Apple could have such a service without paying royalties to like Tivo and driving up the price of the iTV. In any case, it's early enough that this product could really take over, and that's what I think it will do.

I don't really care about any of tonight's movie news, so let's go straight to the Thursday Threesome:

Onesome: Common-- Quick and easy: the most common name you can think of! Okay, let's make it a first (given) name...

Twosome: Household-- cleaners? What is your "go to" cleanser when you have to clean the place up? Are you a Lysol Junkie, an Orange Blossom Special or maybe a Bleach it to Death type? Come on, come clean !
Probably Mean Green, though I don't have much if any more.

Threesome: Products-- come and products go. What's on your list as a "wanna' have" for this Fall (no, not for Christmas; we'll save that for later).
I want a Wii!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Zune and the iTV Strategy

Tomorrow will mark the launch of Zune, officially, in the eyes of the press, even though Microsoft has already acknowledged its existence and features for a while now, which I think may have been a marketing problem. Now that we already know most of the story, do people care? Everyone is buzzing about the new iPods, and still will be even after tomorrow unless Microsoft has some really big surprise to reveal, which I somehow doubt. Don't get me wrong, I'd love a great competitor to the iPod, I just don't think that Zune has what it takes. Meanwhile, people are thinking about why Apple announced the iTV so early. I figured it was so that people wouldn't use Amazon Unbox and instead use iTunes in preparation for this device's release, but there's actually more to it than that, according to this blogger. The real reason they're delaying it is to wait for the 802.11n standard to be finalized, which makes sense since they were one of the first to utilize 802.11b and 802.11g. The n standard is really great offering more than quadruple the g standard's speed on average and maxing out at well over that. This would beat out any other wireless media delivery system on the market, and Apple will probably market it so well that they'd come out on top being the first to release such a device capable of HD-quality content. I look forward to hearing more from Apple on this device that should be called the Video AirPort Express (and who knows, maybe it will be).

Back to Microsoft for a second: they've finally pulled Live out of beta (which is commendable since Google keeps things in beta way too long), and it's actually pretty good. Their image search actually beats Google Images in UI and I even created a YubNub command to search it because I like it so much (the command is 'lim'). I'm afraid that all the other news is related to Apple. So a couple more good things about iTunes 7: you can now easily backup your music and you can maintain multiple libraries, both of which I can see coming in quite handy. However, Apple clearly didn't do their homework on the Windows version of iTunes 7 and quite a few users are pretty upset about the bugs, primarily the glitching in songs that occurs sometimes (and has with me). I'm hoping for a patch real soon. It sounds like the movies on iTunes are pretty great quality though and can be viewed within 10 minutes after you begin the download. I also like that they kept chapters in there, which was a feature that was snuck in months ago for normal Quicktime videos. Speaking of videos, Apple put up their really neat iPod Nano commercial, which was premiered at yesterday's event. If you want to see close-ups of the new Nano, you can check those out at AppleInsider.

The trailer for Mel Gibson's Apocalypto is now at Apple Trailers and it actually looks pretty good, but also like it's trying to be creepy for some odd reason. I'm curious to see how he'll be handling the language though, and I wonder how many people will boycott it because of what Gibson has said while under the influence? AICN got a pretty good review of Babel, and now I'm looking forward to it even more. I love it when movies make great use of music, and I think Kill Bill and Batman Begins are both fantastic examples of that. Lastly, we have this amazing image from Fanboys that I have to share with you simply because Kristen Bell is so hot:

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Now for the Wednesday Mind Hump:

1. What's in your junk drawer, and how many junk drawers do you have?
I have a couple of them here, and like four in Houston. I usually keep stuff I think could be useful but that I don't need immediately or regularly. I'll often find coupons that I wish I had used in them.

2. How often do you clean or rearrange your junk drawers?
Maybe once every four months or so? I'm pretty lazy about it.

3. Name one celebrity whose junk drawer you'd love to go through.
My brain is fried and I've been watching too much Veronica Mars, so I'm going to go with Kristen Bell here. Either her, or Kiefer Sutherland.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Apple's Special Event: iTunes 7 + iTV = Joy

Click to enlargeIf you didn't catch today's special Apple press event, you can see it over here, and it's back to the quality that we've come to expect from Steve Jobs. Of course not everyone has an hour to watch that thing, nor do most people want to, so you can get the full recap over here. After spewing out their normal figures, he revealed new iPods all around. The 30 GB one is down to $250 and there's an 80 GB for $350, and both have feature upgrades including longer battery life, brighter screens, new earbuds, gapless playback (tracks that shouldn't have dead space between them don't) and UI improvements (like searching). Oh, and you can get games for $5 also. That's pretty much what was expected, and it's all great stuff to tide us over until the touchscreen iPod. What's really nice are the new 2G Nanos, from $150 to $250, with aluminum bodies (goodbye scratchability), multiple colors, brighter display, full day battery life, gapless playback, thinner design, and also the newer earbuds. Even nicer though is the $79 2G Shuffle, which is like a third of its old length, has aluminum casing, dock, new earbuds, and comes with a built-in clip. What does this mean? Apple is going to start bathing in money because now they've hit all the price points with better products than before answering some of the biggest concerns from people: better casing, longer life, better brightness, and gapless playback.

But wait, that's not all, we have iTunes 7! You're going to want to download it over here because it is freaking sweet. The new features include better library organization, fancy new views, hidden controls for video playback, more intuitive iPod preference changing, more automated video updates for your iPod, nicer left sidebar, free album art for all your songs (not just those purchased through iTunes), games, and now the store has 640x480 resolution for all its videos. We also have movies on iTunes now in that same resolution in almost DVD quality with Dolby surround sound, and you can start watching it as it downloads. Click to enlargeWhy is this better than Amazon Unbox? Well, first of all, all old movies are $10 and all new movies are just $13, and then there's this little box on the right side here. This thing, codenamed iTV, is going to cause Apple to really lead the digital multimedia revolution with an easy, wireless, solution (without a power brick, by the way) to streaming video (including HDMI outputs), and it's just $300. Plus, it looks nice, and is even smaller than the Mac Mini. It won't be released until early next year, but I'm sure they'll have more studios signed on for the movie store by then. He even demoed it, and it looked pretty sweet. How much cooler would this be than doing Pay-Per-View with movies and only watching them within a day? Or having to go out and battle the elements to get a new release. And I'm sure it'll have movies you can't find in stores as well.

How has Apple become such a media mongul? This tech blog has a great explanation of how they're doing so well on all facets including barriers to entry, selling nothing more than what consumers want, and not being concerned with profits for media downloads thanks to their iPod sales. Have I mentioned how bad I want to work for them and be a part of all the cool new, innovative stuff they've been doing? Oh, and if you want to check out commercials and stuff from the past few years, you can get your fix over here. There's a new version of FoxIt Reader out now, and the coolest part of it is the ability to view your pdfs as text files so you can easily copy and paste text from them. Lastly, BMW will be making series 7 cars that run off of just hydrogen, but can take gas should you not be near a hydrogen station. It sounds pretty cool, and I applaud BMW for being a responsible luxury car maker.

Just a couple of movie items real quick. I think Michelle Yeoh is really pretty, so I'm obligated to break the news that she's signed on with Vin Diesel for an action flick called Babylon AD where she'll play a nun helping merc Diesel protect a young women victimized by a cult. I'm really just interested in seeing her though. The other thing is Latino Review's review of the spec script for Kashmir, an action drama about three ex-soldiers off on a bounty hunt, and they really loved it, which is why I mention it. I now really hope that WB does well with this script.

Now for some TMI Tuesday action:

1. Do you leave a tip at a restaurant? If so, how much? Do you double the tax?
I go for 10-20% depending on how good the service really was. Any less than 10% and I was actually insulted by how bad the service was.
2. What celebrity did you have a crush on growing up?
Definitely Katie Holmes. She was the reason I watched Dawson's Creek, as sad as that is.
3. Do you excuse yourself to “fart” or let it rip and blame the guy next to you?
The latter.
4. When entering or exiting a store, do you hold the door open for the person behind you, if they're relatively closeÂ… if they're more than 10 steps away do you pause and hold the door open?
I always leave it open, but more than 10 steps and it's not worth it. In that situation, you're creating tension and making them feel like they need to rush so that you don't have to keep waiting for them.
5. Ever had mono?
I don't think I do much that would make me susceptible to it though. I only share glasses and stuff with immediate family, but I definitely don't swap blood or spit with them.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Audioslave's Revelations

Click to enlargeI got Revelations last week and was holding off on reviewing it until I heard it a few more times, and now's as good a time as any to talk about it since the other news today is pretty quick and not very provocative. This is Audioslave's hardest album yet, and I'd say that it's the Rage Against the Machine part of the group really taking centerstage whereas I felt that Audioslave was probably more of Chris Cornell. This album is pretty masterful in that it was designed to be the music they wanted to perform, not the music they thought would sound nice on some Top 40 radio station, which is probably my favorite part about it. The first track, "Revelations", is a great opener for the album as it's slow for a bit before bringing out the real rock and making you yell out "Yeah!" Track 2, One and the Same, is also awesome simply because of the introductory guitar riff that you'll be sure to get stuck in your head. I guess I had a special liking for "Original Fire" since it's the album's first single, and it's definitely a toe-tapper that you'll enjoy jamming to, but it's not something you'll sing walking down the street, because I don't think Audioslave wants to be that kind of band. You'll recognized "Shape of Things to Come" and "Wide Awake" from Miami Vice if you saw that movie, and the latter is probably my favorite track on the album because it sticks with me more every time I hear it. The chorus is just so beautiful, particularly the background music that leads right into it so wonderfully. The next tracks, "Nothing Left to Say But Goodbye" and "Moth", are also quite memorable (probably because of just how Cornell sings it, but the latter is more because of the fantastic bridge). I think a friend of mine said it best when he said that he just likes hearing this album from start to finish and doesn't feel the desire to have to fast forward through them to certain tracks, which I think is a key sticking point of this album. I liked the other tracks a lot even though I didn't call them out by name, and I'd highly recommend this album to any fans of Audioslave, Soundgarden, or Rage Against the Machine. It's on Ruckus if you want to try it out before buying it.

While I'm on music, another Web 2.0 site to help you find new music has sprung up now called finetune, but its idea is to let you find other people's playlists based on an artist you like to find out what other artists people with similar tastes to you are checking out. It's really neat and even offers artists radio stations, much like Pandora. I'm probably going to be using that next week after ACL is over and done with. Another free multimedia tool is the Democracy player, and they've released version 0.9, which I've downloaded and am quite pleased with. The UI is more polished and things are a little more intuitive and organized, especially with playlists thrown into the music, though I wish that it would remember the pages you were at in the Channel Guide when you click to another part of the program like the Music Store in iTunes. Speaking of iTunes, the Apple special event is still going down tomorrow, and a new version of iTunes is expected, especially since it has been almost exactly a year since the upgrade to include TV shows and music videos. I'll definitely have a recap of what all is announced right here tomorrow night, so fret not if you don't want to look around for the coverage on your own. Any Christians out there will like this site, which allows you to search the Bible and bookmark passages. I think it's kind of neat and useful if you heard something that stuck with you in church, or after the first time you see Pulp Fiction. Lastly, it's important to acknowledge that today is the five year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks (it really doesn't seem like it was that long ago, does it?), and Google still has on record its front page on that very day. I think it's neat to look back on things like that now that we have better technology for preserving such freeze frames. Now we can look forward to the Freedom Tower, which Wired has more great shots of for those of you who are interested.

It looks like MGM is interested in releasing Terminator 4 and The Hobbit in the next few years, and yet Peter Jackson hasn't heard anything about the latter. I'm not sure how interested I am in either movie though, and I don't think that either one of them should be considered a surefire hit just because the dump a lot of money on them. Quint at AICN saw The Science of Sleep and seemed to like it, though he didn't like the ending so much. I can understand the ending not completing the story, but movies that execute that well are just so neat (ala Better Luck Tomorrow). Ang Lee's next movie will be called Lust, Caution and entirely in Chinese about students planning on assassinating an intelligence chief. Sounds pretty neat to me! Rachel Weisz has expressed interest in coming back for another Mummy movie, so it looks like it's even more likely to happen now. Lastly, I have some pictures for you. The first set is from The Departed, and the others are for Jackass: Number Two. One set is disturbing and the other set is pretty stylized, you match it up.

Now for some Monday Madness:

1. How long have you been blogging?
I'm a few months away from my 2 year blogoversary!
2. How many times have you taken a break from blogging?
Not very often. It's really just random days on random weeks if I'm really busy.
3. How long is the longest you've gone, so far, without posting on your blog?
Probably like four days.
4. How many fellow bloggers do you keep in touch with, through your blogs, on a regular basis?
At least three I'd say.
5. Have you ever met, in person, a blogger on your blogroll?
Don't have a blogroll.
6. How often do you update/change the 'extra' stuff on your blog?
I don't have extra stuff. I'm too busy with the NSC site!
7. Do you think you'll be blogging for years to come?
I hope so! And once I get a real job, I'll probably have more totally original posts.