Wednesday, October 22, 2008

To Zune Or Not Zune

Let me start out by saying DRM is evil. This is the biggest point to this post than anything else. So much so that I feel it needs to be gotten out right away but we will get back to it after I explain the situation.

A few weeks ago my beloved iPod finally bit the dust. After a little more than a year of the hard drive making horrible noises and needing to be held upside down and smacked to get it to boot it finally just refused. I mourned it's loss and went through a grieving period. Now as I sit at work frustrated with my inability to listen to exactly what I want to listen to when I want to listen to it I am frustrated. I want a new player so I can get through my day easier.

Right at the same time as it died Apple announced it's new line of iPods and left me feeling unsatisfied but still interested. The classic lines seem to be riding off into the sunset with nothing but the expensive bigger than I need model left. While the flash based players are either all screen(touch) or barely screen(nan0) and a bit on the small capacity side. After checking my music library and figuring it out I think I can cram most of what I have into a 16 gig to get me through for a while.

Then I start thinking outside the apple box. I know to some of you this is a mortal sin but too bad I want the best features for my dollar. What about a Zune. Microsoft makes a 16 gig flash based zune. This is the right size for me and it's flash based so I can avoid the dreaded "wheeeee crunch" that my iPod started makeing. Zunes can access wifi and download podcasts and music on the go. Zunes have built in FM radios so I can listen to NPR during the day or what ever else my catch my interest. Wow this all sounds so great. I mean genius sounds interesting on the new iPonds and the adjusting screen based on which way you hold it sounds nice. Really though those are just novelty to me, wifi mobile downloads make me drool.

So why even hesitate why take the time to right this post. DRM!!!
I like many iPod owners fell into the well of iTunes and it's allure of getting the music you want with out leaving the house or waiting for it to be delivered. Now the chains of DRM are pulling me under when I try to leave the platform. I bought my music, I paid for it, it should be mine. But it isn't I can't take it with me if I move to a Zune. All of my recent purchases have been through Amazon's MP3 store which is DRM free and cheaper than iTunes but I do have a good bit of music through iTunes that I will either loose or let it force me to stay with an iPod and dreaded iTunes (no I do not want to install Safari you piece of shit).

Now I debate. I lean towards just moving away from iTunes and Apple just as a move against DRM. But I did like my iPod, I did love how everything is made to work with it because of it's popularity. I wish Microsoft and Apple would both allow me to try their players and let me go with the one I really liked the best after trying them. I wish if they lost then that Apple would strip the DRM from my songs and set me free to what ever player I want. This is a silly dream though I know.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Websense and web filtering

Quick post on how I hate Websense and web filtering software in general. So I at the company I'm working with right now they use Websense to filter the internet content that the employees have access to. This is the same software commonly used in schools and many other over controlling institutions. It sucks. I know that it's largely how it's configured but it's out of control. is blocked for "entertainment". Yes it's entertainment but come on. is blocked as "tasteless". Tasteless!!! What? To top it I received an email notifying me that I had exceeded my limit on access pages labeled adult content. This was caused by them suddenly deciding was an adult site too and it being part of my iGoogle page. Digg is adult content. I feel like the place wants be to not know what's going on in the outside world when news is tasteless and adult. I hate it, I really do.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Desire To Mingle

I live in Pittsburgh, it's an odd place and this opinion strengthens the longer I live here. It's a city full of great universities but yet clings desperately to it's long dead industrial blue color history. This seems to me to almost create a them and us feel to the city. You are either a working resident of this city or you are part of the schools and the two don't seem to mix well. This becomes a problem for me because of my interest and hobbies. I spend my free time tinkering and playing around with technology of all forms: programming, networking, robots, electronics, the list goes on. I would love to find people to work on this kind of stuff with and trade knowledge. I read about the goings on in other cities with Make groups, the NYC Resistor group, the 2600 meetings, or Dorkbot. But look at what Pittsburgh has, from what I can find we have Dorkbot and that's it. But the events going on at Dorkbot here have yet to peak my interest into going and they have been few and far between since I moved here. They even took off the entire summer plus because apparently most of the attendees are connected to the universities. Now if there are any Pittsburgh Dorkbot alum reading this I'm not dissing your group and have no right to since I've yet to go to one of your meetings, I'm just saying that while other groups are doing circuit bending labs you are having lectures on how to get funding for your software start up. Useful and interesting but not as much fun or hands on.

So why is it that the city that has been dubbed Roboburgh doesn't seem to have a group of people looking to work together and share ideas?

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Leprecorgi

"Shhh I'm in disguise so the wee folk will stop riding me"

Thursday, March 13, 2008

C# and .Net

I have been a software developer for 10 years now. I started with VB5 spent a good amount of time in VB6 and eventually moved on to .Net. I have worked in multiple mixed language houses around Cobol and C++ developers and found some commonalities in the attitudes of these other programmers. Cobol guys tended to be just biding their time to retirement and just were just duct taping their apps long enough to be someone else's problem. The C++ guys all thought they were better and smarter than everyone else and especially the VB programmers. Granted VB6 had it's problems and wasn't always the right answer for the task you were working on, but to say it never had it's place is just crazy. Most of the time an app could be written in half the time in VB than in C++ because it did so much of the work for you. I know this also caused some of the problems with VB6 but it still got stuff done and done quickly which in the business world often is seen as better than right.

Then the .Net framework came along. This finally gave VB some real teeth. They fixed a lot of problems and made it really powerful. They also created C# which I think was a genius idea. C# allowed all the C and C++ guys to create .Net code without really needing to learn a new language syntax and still giving them a lot of the short cuts that .Net allowed you (memory management, easier error handling, ...). The funny thing was thought that the VB guys went flocking over to C#. Why? Why would you learn a new syntax and switch to a language that is more difficult to read, more difficult to code (case sensitive and those damn semi-colons), and compiles to the exact same thing because it's the exact same framework. My answer: Pride. I think VB programmers have had years of being treated like second hand devs by C++ guys that when C# came out they had a chance to toss off the bad VB name and move to something that had a little bit more "cred".

I'm now working in an entirely C# house who is entirely staffed by ex VB programmers. They funny thing is all of them miss VB they all stand around and talk about how much easier VB was to work in than C#. The only people who I find are ex VB guys who prefer C# are the same guys that have the too cool and better than everyone else attitudes that we all loved so much on the jocks in high school.

All this being said I wanted to learn C#. I wanted to get to a point where I was very comfortable in it. Not because I wanted to be a C# developer and stop being a VB dev but so I could expand my knowledge and be able to work in any environment. In the end they are all tools though. They get the job done. Does the carpenter who uses a nail gun look down on the guy who uses a hammer or vice versa? Probably not they are both tools they both get the job done and they both have their purposes. If C++ guys were so great and were worried about having the most efficient working code possible they would write in assembly instead but hey who wants that headache. So I say when it comes to programming pick the right tool for the job and stop letting your ego get in the way.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Biz

So we've all known for a long time that the music Biz and their model of operations is about as healthy as an Ebola patient who has started bleeding from the eyes. Artists not getting paid, fans being sued, albums costing too much, radio stations being bribed to play their music, and let's not even talk about the negative effects of rap music on the African American community. So it's no shock that everyone is looking for a different way of doing things.

I think something big has happened though and it brings a lot of questions to mind. In Oct of 2007 Nine Inch Nails announced that they were ditching their record label and were going to self release their music. This probably isn't too much of a surprise after Reznor called out to fans in Australia to steal his albums because they cost too much there and we have to assume that the label wasn't a big fan of that call to arms. And I know Trent isn't the first to self release to the internet or make his own CD's without a labels help. I listen to a lot of punk and have CD's that range from being burnt on the artists computers to bands starting their own small labels and getting the CD's pressed themselves. I just think NIN has done it the best. They made a release for every fan out there. In my opinion there are three kinds of people a band can target:
1 The In Crowd
These people don't really care about music or the artists. They listen to what ever is popular right now, then when the next trend roles through they buy that next big thing and might as well just go out and throw away their old CD's because they aren't hip anymore. Bands will get big on these kind of people but if they can't get real fans they have no longevity. These people are the record industries bread and butter as well as the advertising worlds and old navy's. They are also probably the largest file swappers out there because they can't afford to keep buying CD's all the time and keep up their Starbucks habit.
2 The Music Fan
These people like music all kinds of music they will follow the trends to some extent but will dive further into an artist that really peaks their interest. They will buy their back catalog maybe and possibly even check out some of the bands that are associated with a band they like. Chances are though they aren't going to invest a lot of time or money into it, music is the back ground not the subject.
3 Hardcore Fans/Collectors
I lump these two together even though they are different beasts because for a band trying to market their music they are pretty close. A Hardcore Fan loves the band. I mean really loves the band and will keep loving the band for a good long time. They have every CD by the band. Magazine articles about them. The rare demo tapes they bought off eBay. Maybe tattoos from the band. These people straddle the line of sanity when it comes to the band and I'm allowed to say this because I'm one of them (I own 4 different copies of Less Than Jake's "Hello Rockview" album and I'm still slightly upset that I don't own every version they put out). Collectors are really into the band too but not as obsessive. They want every version of every album put out by a band but that's because they want every version of every album put out by any band or at least a genre of music. Both of these type of people will make the band a lot of money because they will probably buy other stuff too like T-shirts (which are the real way artists make money), stickers, patches, and other schwag.

NIN have catered to all three of these types of buyers/downloaders with their new self release method. They made 5 buying options:
1 Free for the first 9 songs. Which is great for the In Crowd and the music fans who just want a taste.
2 $5 to download the full CD. Affordable for the In Crowd who didn't get the single they needed from the free stuff or the Music Fan who has gone completely digital.
3 $10 to download and get the physical CD's. Music fans and mild collectors get the put their mits on it.
4 $75 for the CD's and a ton of other stuff. Great for collectors and hardcore fans who haven't sold enough blood to buy...
5 $300 limited edition signed copies with both CD and Vinyl and a ton of other stuff. How can we see this system looks like a good idea. All 2500 of these packages were sold out in the first day available.

So what does this mean to the industry? NIN is making it work. They should make a good deal of money off of it further enabling them to continue doing this and probably convincing others to do the same. So if all the major artists who are real artists left their major labels and went to a self release model like this what would happen to the industry and music as we know it? Would the industry die and take crap pop with it or will the mindless pop become the only thing (even more than it is) that we hear on the radio? I don't know yet but I think Trent and his buddies should pat themselves on the back for what they are doing and I think this maybe the shot heard round the world in the music industry revolution.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Need For A Connection

So it's day two of this blogging experiment and today my brain has wondered in a direction it does often for a desire that has yet to be filled, mobile computing. Engadget posted the pics of the Asus 9" EEE PC and the shot of the guy hold it just makes me want one in my clutches as well.

I have been discussing the EEE PC's for a while with PixelGirl2dot0 because of her need for a more mobile plat form than her current gigantic desktop replacement Sony laptop. She needs something small and simple to be able to take with her when she travels for work and for the days when she ventures out of the home office into the real world to actually socialize with flesh and blood people. Not to mention that she can't go on a real vacation with out fretting about needing to check her email to make sure that the online keyword marketing world isn't falling to pieces without her there.

I on the other hand don't have a straight forward need. I rarely will work from home now. I won't travel much for work. I have a nice laptop provided for me by work that's not too terribly over sized or heavy, not a carry around all the time laptop but still I don't need a pack mule to carry it around for me either. The EEE PC fits a different niche for me, the desire to always be connected. I have an Ipaq PocketPC that I keep with me a large percentage of the time. It can get on the net over WiFi and I can get a net connection over Bluetooth dial up on my cell with it. But it's so limited. The dial up connection is slow and flaky so downloads are a pain. The browser does not support flash so no YouTube or flash based sites. Not to mention that the formatting on the small screen for most sites in Pocket IE is terrible. Verdict: it will suffice to fill the spur of the moment need but doesn't really fit the bill for the true desired experience.

So let's talk about what I'm looking for and the devices out there that wet my appetite for the features that come close.
1 The device needs to be small so it can be with me all the time.
2 Connection WiFi is good but EVDO (or similar cell based tech) or WiMax is better.
3 Flexibility, I don't want a one trick internet browsing pony.
4 A real connected feel (a browser with flash, Skype, googletalk...)
These are the main features that a device for me really needs to have.

So lets talk about the devices that have peeked my interest and how they work and how they don't based on that list.

1 The EEE PC
This device for anyone who might read this and doesn't know about is a small laptop built by ASUS and by small I mean they have life size profile picture of it with the screen open on the cover of magazines. It has a solid state hard drive and can run either on Linux or Windows XP. They come in different screen sizes and with varying amounts of storage. They have built in WiFI and could take a USB EVDO adapter. They have a suite of built in applications and could easily have new ones added just like a standard laptop. They also have real browsers since they are running full real operating systems. Built in webcam is a plus. The negative is that it's still a laptop even though it's small it's not pocketable small. It's maybe pursable if a girl wants to try to carry it but that is even stretching it. Still the device is getting great reviews and looks like the tops for filling all the requirements. Will I need to go shopping for a new man bag if I get one? Probably.

2 The Nokia N800 and N810
These are small internet tablets running custom Linux firmwares. They can browse the web with a full functioning web browser and a host of other apps. The Linux OS allows a ton of flexibility and potential. The device has already been modded to be used as a mobile PEN testing device. Size is just a little too big for your pocket but a guy could squeeze it in if they needed to. The built in cams and skype make communication easy. Connected with WiFi and can dial up over Bluetooth. The battery is great on these with a long runtime. The 810 has a built in slide out keyboard and a built in GPS receiver too. The downside, I wish the hardware was a bit more expandable. I'm not asking for much but a USB port would be nice to get a flash drive hooked up or an EVDO adapter. The whole thing does have me very tempted though I must say and I would love to take one for a test drive.

3 The HTC Touch
Nice PocketPC phone with windows mobile 6. Great interface even without a keyboard. EVDO connection and very pocketable for a windows mobile phone. Downside it's still a pocket pc without a real browser. If Verizon would hurry up and get this thing it will probably be sitting in my pocket but sprint who has it now doesn't have the coverage area I need.

4 The IPhone
Upsides it has some nice apps, it's pretty, it's clean. Downsides Apple, ATT, apple fan boys. That's all that needs to be said there.

5 The Kindle
You say "Hey that's an Ebook reader not an internet device" I say hold on a minute. Amazon teamed up with Sprint to put EVDO in this device so it could download books on the go. That's really cool. Even cooler is that they added a web browser in that still hooks up to that free yes I said FREE EVDO. Downside not that expandable and the browser is going to be awful basic on a digital paper device. Oh and look on the plus side is the battery life of this thing, wow. Oh and Amazon if you can hear me, get these things in a brick and mortar somewhere so we can feel them before we drop $400.

So that's my list of devices. My ups and downs. I really would love to try some of these things a bit more to have a better opinion on them but some are hard to find (EEE PC, Nokia's) and others are just down right unavailable (kindle).

I think the tech world has really become like a good stripper to us nerds. They show you all kinds of nice things but tease us so we will keep dropping down cash in the hopes that we can get it all one day.

It looks like some people have gotten USB host mode working on the N810.