Archive for June, 2009

Credit Where Due

June 26th, 2009, 5:39pm by Mike

I’m sure we’re all saddened by the Michael Jackson news yesterday, but it was the seed for the funniest thing I’ve heard from one of us in a long time — and since it was in a phone conversation between Jake and me, I’ll have to post it here:
(Background for future generations reading this: people are changing the background on their Twitter avatars to green in support of Iranian protesters…)
Jake: I decided not to tweet anything about Michael Jackson dying, since it seems like everyone on Twitter has already posted the news.
Mike: Yeah, I agree. I wonder what color you’re supposed to change your Twitter avatar to in memory of Michael Jackson.
Jake: (without a pause) It doesn’t matter if it’s black or white.
Still laughing just re-reading it.

Live from 35,000 feet!

June 26th, 2009, 2:32pm by Jake

Hey guys nothing to report… except I’m posting from my flight to the east coast! Virgin America wireless is VERY speedy, I tested it 1146kbps download & 210kbps upload. Pretty neat. Now, I think I’ll do some stock trading then waste a few hours on Flickr. A bargain at $12.95, and I can even plug if the battery wears down.

Indy Lucas

June 24th, 2009, 11:38pm by Kelvin

Lucas recreates the classic scene from one of Daddy’s favorite movies.

Test post from the Pre

June 20th, 2009, 2:31pm by Jake

A test post to see if I can recreate the error Kelvin encountered.

iTunes 7.6 is fully Pre compatible

June 20th, 2009, 10:29am by Kelvin

One of the features of the new Palm Pre that Jake and I have is the ability to masquarade as an iPod and connect with iTunes to sync music, podcasts, video, and photos. A few niggles aside, it seems to work quite well. Here’s what I discovered as the major deficiencies:
1) no podcast bookmarking. The music player on the Pre doesn’t remember where you left off in the podcast file after you quit it, let alone transfer that bookmark back to iTunes.
2) on a related note, there’s no bidirectional transfer of data whatsoever… No updated playcount, star ratings, etc.
3) Pre can’t play HD video podcasts.
4) Pre can’t recognize the “optimized” photos that iTunes creates, as they are not simply jpgs. To see pictures, you have make iTunes “Include full resolution” photos, then the Pre will ignore the optimized files and work with the full-res folder like it would any other folder of jpgs.
Overall, it’s a pretty seemless experience if you have music and podcasts in iTunes. The album art support is more reliable than using something like WMP to transfer music. On the downside, music from iTunes is still stored in Apple’s odd obscured folder format, making it harder to get music off the Pre at another computer. You can email mp3’s as attachments, and unlike any real iPod, you can add music to your Pre from any computer and it will show up alongside your other music from iTunes.
So, is this a big selling point? Would it be worth it for Apple to disable this compatability for competitive reasons? Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with iTunes, so while this is a feature that’s nice to have, it wouldn’t kill me if it weren’t offered.

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Perfect

June 19th, 2009, 12:30am by Kelvin

The song played after this was Slide Away by Oasis.

Pandora Vs Slacker

June 18th, 2009, 12:42pm by Mike

I’ve been using Pandora for quite a while, but have just discovered Slacker, and decided to do a quick head-to-head. First, a quick summary:
Slacker has pre-programmed stations as well as allowing you to “seed” stations with an artist. The stations (either pre-programmed or user-created) allow you to “fine-tune” the stations by saying how old the songs should be (e.g., “current,” “older,” but not precise years), how popular they are (e.g., album vs single), and how often it plays tracks you’ve identified as favorites when it’s played them before. It plays a 30-second commercial every 5 songs. No info on how it chooses songs, and it’s available on the web, Slacker-branded portable music players, and many phones (but the Pre, at least not yet).
Unlike Slacker, Pandora emphasizes their use of the Music Genome Project to choose similar tracks, and says why it chose the tracks. For example, on the Oasis song “Slide Away” chosen on the Stone Roses station below, it was chosen “because it features electric rock instrumentation, a subtle use of vocal harmony, repetitive melodic phrasing, extensive vamping, and major key tonality.” There are no commercials in Pandora, but if you don’t pay, it stops after an hour (but can be restarted). Pandora is also on the web and lots of phones, including the Pre and iPhone.
In my experience, Slacker has better quality when I’m driving — fewer drops and better quality sound. Pandora seems to scale the quality based on how good the connection is, so if you connect over a slower connection, the quality is pretty bad and stays that way.
So, for choosing songs: I seeded both Slacker and Pandora with “The Stone Roses,” and here’s what it came up with:
Slacker:

  • Stone Roses: She Bangs The Drums

  • Morrissey: November Spawned A Monster

  • The Verve: Judas

  • Stone Roses: Love Spreads

  • Ian Brown: Keep What Ya Got

  • Oasis: What’s The Story Morning Glory

  • Doves: Friday’s Dust

And Pandora:

  • Stone Roses: Shoot You Down

  • Oasis: Don’t Look Back In Anger

  • The Smiths: Cemetry Gates

  • The Cure: Close To Me (the crappy remix from Mixed Up)

  • Stone Roses: I Wanna Be Adored

  • Oasis: Slide Away

  • The Cure: Push

Pretty darn similar. Based on my experience with Pandora before, I thought it would give more random bands that “sounded like” Stone Roses based on the Music Genome Data, but that wasn’t the case (strangely, I don’t think that these bands really “sound like” The Stone Roses, but they are definitely in the same genre — making me wonder how much of this Music Genome Project is BS). I own or have owned 7/7 of the Pandora songs, and 5/7 of the Slacker songs.
So, no huge difference there.
The other thing that’s fun about Slacker is the pre-programmed stations, like “80’s alternative,” which can be fine-tuned to just popular songs, and is a lot of fun. It would be hard to build this station in Pandora.
It would be fun if I could feed all of my >6500 iTunes tracks into something and have it generate a station for me that way — playing both music that I have and other stuff it thinks I’d like — sort of automating the Pandora process, and serving as a background against which I could further customize (for example, I could say “Britpop,” and it would interpret it as “Britpop, considering the bands that he likes, so don’t play too much other stuff.”)

The High Cost of Health Care

June 12th, 2009, 1:22am by Jake

Now for something completely different. I’ve been meaning to read this New Yorker article for over a week about the high cost of health care in McAllen, Texas. It really is worth spending the 30-40 minutes it takes to plow through– probably easier on a Kindle than MacBook Pro. Lots of good stuff, here’s my favorite excerpt:

Providing health care is like building a house. The task requires experts, expensive equipment and materials, and a huge amount of coˆrdination. Imagine that, instead of paying a contractor to pull a team together and keep them on track, you paid an electrician for every outlet he recommends, a plumber for every faucet, and a carpenter for every cabinet. Would you be surprised if you got a house with a thousand outlets, faucets, and cabinets, at three times the cost you expected, and the whole thing fell apart a couple of years later? Getting the countryís best electrician on the job (he trained at Harvard, somebody tells you) isnít going to solve this problem. Nor will changing the person who writes him the check.

The thrust of the article is simple– medicine is more expensive in some places because of over utilization. But it’s definitely worth reading to better understand why this has happened.

First Palm Pre sighting in the wild

June 10th, 2009, 11:07pm by Kelvin

At Maruichi. Still trying to get my own. Excellent ramen here, by the way.

iPhone and MiFi

June 9th, 2009, 5:14pm by Mike

Interesting discussion on TUAW about dropping your iPhone plan and substituting Verizon’s Mifi 3G hotspot as your cell network connection. Basically, the idea is to access Skype over wifi connected to the Mifi wherever you are (for phone), and enjoy faster net access thanks to Verizon’s EVDO. Not to mention better coverage, and “tethering” your laptop (in quotes because, techinically, you’re also tethering your iPhone). Oh, and it would cost less. There are obvious downsides — like having to carry it around with you, and the data transfer limit (5GB/month for $60).
The basic arguments would hold for other phones and networks, but since Sprint already has a faster network, the value proposition is a little less attractive than for AT&T. Still, interesting idea!


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