Tuesday, 25 August 2009

“I am on a mission”

The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs:

Will you write on a tablet, or just read from it? Or will you just buy it and put it on your desk and look at it a lot and never use it at all? Or will you maybe carry it around and put on the table in restaurants to show the other humanoids in your tribe that you are more advanced and wealthy than they are, and they should fear you because you have powerful magic that they do not understand? You see what I mean? What is the anthropology here? And what about the ergonomics? Can you mount it on a wall? Will it have a shiny surface so that Macolytes can adore themselves as they use it in public? (Yes. It must.) The tablet must look and feel not like something that was made by man — it must feel otherworldly, as if God himself made it and handed it to you.

I’m so glad Fake Steve came back.

posted by retrophisch at 5:24 PM -->in fun , quote , tech
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Monday, 02 March 2009

You can still buy XP

If Windows Vista is giving you fits, you can still buy Windows XP from Amazon. (And put a little coin in my pocket if you use these links.)

Windows XP Home Edition

Windows XP Professional

We used XP Professional on my wife’s PC before it gave up the ghost, and, having used Vista on the Dell we bought to replace it, I sometimes wish we’d stuck with XP Pro.

At least I spend the majority of my time in OS X

posted by retrophisch at 11:59 AM -->in tech
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Thursday, 18 December 2008

Um, yeah

MacJournals News:

Expert Macintosh users who see “MacWorld” in an article know you don’t know what you’re talking about, just as most technology-literate readers would laugh at “MicroSoft,” “QualComm,” or “LexMark.” Referring to a famous technology event without the correct name or spelling is a quick way to throw away your credibility. Saying “That’s how I always thought it was spelled, and besides, everyone knew what I meant” is saying “I didn’t bother to get the facts about my subject before I wrote my article.” Don’t be that writer.

posted by retrophisch at 9:48 PM -->in Macintosh , quote , tech , writing
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Tuesday, 09 December 2008

The awkward kid

Jamie Phelps:

If any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Windows is that awkward kid that can’t remember how the trick goes.

posted by retrophisch at 12:18 PM -->in quote , tech
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Monday, 10 November 2008


Michael Gartenberg:

Every time there’s a new OS release from MSFT they talk about the shortfalls of the current OS & how the new version will fix all problems.

Ever hear Apple dis a former version of their OS? Me neither. :)

posted by retrophisch at 3:56 PM -->in Macintosh , Twitter , quote , tech
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Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Some day…

posted by retrophisch at 5:22 PM -->in tech , video
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Tuesday, 27 May 2008

There must have been a lot of holes

An Upstart Challenges the Big Web Browsers:

Browsers have always been viewed as crucial on-ramps to the Web. Nevertheless, after vanquishing Netscape, the first commercial browser developer, Microsoft waited five years before releasing the sixth version of Internet Explorer in 2006. Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer group, says the company was focused on plugging security holes during that time.

[Emphasis added. —R]

posted by retrophisch at 8:19 PM -->in tech
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Monday, 31 March 2008

Two immature little kids

Thomas Brand:

“Engadget & Gizmodo are just two immature little kids attempting to reap the benefits of a journalistic profession neither truly understands.”

I couldn’t agree more. And yet I still subscribe to their RSS feeds…

posted by retrophisch at 12:47 AM -->in Twitter , quote , tech
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Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Macworld Keynote impressions

So the big news in the tech world yesterday was what Steve Jobs talked about during his keynote address at Macworld Expo in San Francisco. The annual technology conference geared toward the Mac OS, and all things Apple, Inc., is often used for the announcement of new products from my favorite fruit company. Yesterday was no exception. Here are some of my thoughts on what was announced:

Time Capsule

If I hadn’t bought an Airport Extreme Base Station last year, to replace a router that died, I’d be buying a new 1 TB—yes, that’s a T, for terabyte—Time Capsule right now. Merging an Airport Extreme Base Station with a “server-grade” hard drive, the Time Capsule allows for wireless backups from all of your Leopard-based Macs via Time Machine. Jobs called it a “back-up applicance”.

Time Capsule photo

Backing up your data is very important, and too few people do it, realizing the value of doing so only when it’s too late. Time Capsule is a dead-simple way, for most people, to ensure their Macs are getting backed up. Plug in and power on the Time Capsule, open up Time Machine on your Mac and point it to the Capsule, and you’re done.

Time Capsule comes in two sizes, the 500 GB version for $299, and the aforementioned 1 TB version for $499. That’s an amazing bargain, a terabyte of storage and a full wired/wireless router for five hundred smackers. As I said, if we didn’t already have the AEBS router, my credit card would have already seen one of these charged to it.

iPhone Update

Today was the 200th day the iPhone had been available for purchase, and Apple’s sold 4 million of them, an average of 20,000 iPhones sold per day. This means that in terms of United States smartphone market share, Apple has nearly 20% of the national smartphone market.

The rumors of a 1.1.3 update to the iPhone proved to be true. The home screen can now be customized, and the Maps application—the underrated killer feature of the iPhone in my humble opinion—is now even more super-powered. The new Location feature in Maps is great. Combining data from Google and Skyhook Wireless, your iPhone can now, without GPS on board, triangulate your position within a couple of blocks. It pulled up my location at home with no problem.

You can, finally, send a SMS message to more than one person, something my lowly Motorola v557 was capable of two years ago. The WebClips functionality is pretty neat; you can create a WebClip from any web page or portion of a web page and pop it on to your home screen, so it’s easy to just go to Google, or The New York Times, or whatever web page you wish, with one touch.

I’ve had quite some fun this afternoon playing with all of this new stuff, and it’s almost like getting a new iPhone for free. All in all, it makes the iPhone an even better communication device.

iTunes Movie Rentals

In addition to buying movies through the iTunes Store, you can now rent them as well. Library movies (viz: older titles) are $2.99, and new releases are $3.99. From the time you click “Rent Movie” in the iTunes Store and it downloads, you have 30 days to watch the movie. From the time you click “Play” on the movie, you have 24 hours to watch it. You can also transfer the movie to another device, such as your iPod or iPhone, and watch it there as well, before your 24 hours or 30 days, depending on where you are when you perform the transfer, are up.

The thirty days requirement is pretty decent, but I find the 24 hours one to be a little restrictive. It should be at least 48 hours, and 72 would be better, with 96 being the ideal.

Going hand-in-hand with the new rental service is an updated Apple TV, or as Jobs put it, “Apple TV Take 2”. Whereas the original Apple TV pretty much required you to have a computer to sync it up with, the new version acts as a stand-alone box. You can rent movies from the iTunes Store in HD through the Apple TV, for only $1 more than the standard resolutions. So library titles go to $3.99 and new releases are $4.99, and no trip to the mailbox or corner Blockbuster is required.

I’m still not convinced that we have a real use for this in our house, given our movie viewing habits. For now, Netflix will continue to suffice, but I’ll be keeping my eyes on the Apple TV, and I’m sure I’ll try out the new rentals even without the new box.

MacBook Air

This had all the buzz, and was the announcement I was most looking forward to. I was ready to pounce on ordering Apple’s new subnotebook, provided it met my personal expectations.

Apple has created the world’s thinnest notebook computer. At its thickest point, the MacBook Air is 0.76 of an inch, and it weighs only three pounds. It comes with a full-size keyboard, a 13.3-inch LED backlit display, and a 1.6 or 1.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor. Two gigabytes of RAM, an 80 GB hard drive, 802.11n wireless networking, Bluetooth, and a built-in iSight camera. A pricey option is to ditch the standard hard drive for a 64 GB solid state drive (viz: no moving parts), and when I say pricey, I do mean pricey: $999 on top of the base $1,799 cost.

You won’t find much in the way of ports on it, either: MagSafe power port, a single USB port, headphone jack, and a micro-DVI port which requires adapters to hook up to external displays. That’s it. The trackpad is larger than on previous MacBook versions, and features multitouch, so you can perform some of those pinch, zoom, and rotate gestures you may have seen with the iPhone.

MacBook Air photo

The downsides to this incredible piece of tech? For me, the hard drive size is the first. I put a 160 GB drive in my four year-old 12-inch PowerBook last year, and have gotten quite used to the extra room it gave me. I’d hate to step back down by half. Only two gigabytes of RAM? And no way to upgrade it? My two year-old iMac is maxed out at 2 GB, and some times I bump against that particular ceiling. I’d really prefer a machine that can handle up to four. The battery is also not replaceable by the user. This might be okay on an iPod or iPhone, but in a full-size computing system devoted to the ultimate road warriors?

Ultimately, I decided this was not the next notebook computer for me. It’s a really awesome system, and if someone were to buy one for me, I wouldn’t hesitate to take it, but that’s not happening. I think I’ll be better served ultimately by a MacBook Pro, and with seven and a half months since the latest edition of those came out, they’re due for a refresh, even a “silent” one like we saw with the Mac Pros last week.


In the end, it was what I would call a typical Steve Jobs Macworld Expo keynote address. There were the requisite ooohs and aaaahs, Apple’s making some evolutionary gains in all facets of its business, and there was a great new product introduced that has the entire tech world talking. It wasn’t a blow-me-away sort of keynote, as was last year’s with the announcement of the iPhone, but then they can’t all be like that. Still better than anything Bill does on stage.

posted by retrophisch at 12:46 AM -->in Macintosh , iphone , movie , tech
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Wednesday, 02 May 2007

For the waffle-loving geek who has everything

Ladies and gentlemen, do you ever find yourself worrying over what to buy the geek in your life for their birthday, or your anniversary, or Christmas? Wonder no more. Just pick up the waffle iron that makes keyboard waffles.

Oh, yes, you read that right. Keyboard waffles.

[Via Lee via IM.]

posted by retrophisch at 9:05 PM -->in food , fun , tech
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Wednesday, 28 March 2007

38 Pitches

Red Sox ace Curt Schilling is blogging.

(And for all the geeks, he’s using WordPress.)

posted by retrophisch at 12:53 AM -->in baseball , tech
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Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Time to switch to Yahoo! Mail?

TechCrunch is reporting that Yahoo! has announced unlimited storage for all email accounts, beginning May 2007. Gosh, just in time to be ready for all those new iPhone users…

[Via Michael Arrington on Twitter.]

posted by retrophisch at 8:30 PM -->in iphone , tech
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Friday, 16 March 2007

The newbie’s guide to Twitter

It’s been difficult trying to explain Twitter to some of my friends and family. (My wife just doesn’t get it.)

Thanks to Twitter’s “unpaid evangelist”, Robert Scoble, I came across Rafe Needleman’s great intro to the Twitterverse. Read, join, add me as a friend.

posted by retrophisch at 12:07 AM -->in Twitter , fun , tech
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Sunday, 25 February 2007

Don’t Ban Incandescents

From the 02.26.07 edition of Red Herring magazine:

California’s proposed incandescent bulb ban (see “Could California Ban the Bulb?” RedHerring.com, February 1, 2007) is ridiculous! Fluorescent bulbs may last longer (not in my house) but you have to include the cost of the ballast and the starter in both energy to produce and additional expense of the fixture. When these and the additional cost of installation are included in the equation, plus fixture replacement costs due to poor reliability, the cost of fluorescent lighting is vastly more expensive than incandescent lighting. Incandescent lighting is also better for the health of our eyes and sanity as that endless flicker fatigues the eyes and drives people nuts!

Fluorescent bulbs are also considered hazardous waste. The energy costs to clean up or keep the environment clean are not worth the few bucks saved at the meter. This ban is not a good idea. Neither is Title 24, which bans incandescent sockets in new-home construction. People just change out the fluorescent fixtures to incandescent after the house has been inspected. Then the fixtures just end up in the dump. I for one will just buy my bulbs out of state and stock up.

The best way to reduce energy waste is to educate people and business to not waste it. Turn the lights off when not in use!

—Roger Smith, Bishop, California

With the mass, recent push for everyone to switch to fluorescent bulbs, I thought a contrarian point of view might be good for discussion.

posted by retrophisch at 1:44 PM -->in liberty , rant , tech
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Sunday, 04 February 2007

Rex Defeatus Maximus

Well, the Rex Grossman Chicago fans have grown to fear and Colts fans have grown to love was the Rex Grossman that showed up for the Super Bowl™. And the Colts’ defense Colts fans hoped would show up did. Take away that the opening kickoff run back, and you have a blowout, ladies and gentlemen.

Had some fun geeking out on the technology used to show the American Professional Football National Championship™. (See NFL? Two can play the trademark game. Disclaimer: I graciously allow the use of this trademark by any and all persons in the United States and abroad except the National Football League™.)

Our church, like many others, decided to have a Party Which Shall Not Be Named™ to view the American Professional Football National Championship™ game. The kicker was this: said game would start whilst many members, notably the myriad teenagers who would be the prime audience for viewing of said game, were still in attendance of the 5 PM worship service. So, technology to the rescue.

Enter a church member’s TiVo, slaved to his Slingbox. This same fellow’s ThinkPad, with the appropriate Slingbox interface software, resides in the Dungeon, where the above-referenced game was going to be shown. The ThinkPad is hooked up to the Dungeon’s projector unit, resized to a viewing area of 55 inches to comply with NFL regulations. Voila! Kickoff for us was at 6:15 PM CST, and we didn’t have to endure Prince at halftime. (Much to the displeasure of some of the yoots in attendance; it was about a 50-50 split in the vote.)

It was a lot of fun listening to the cheers and jeers of the crowd for the commercials. For instance, the commercial featuring K-Fraud, er, Kevin Federline, was roundly jeered, until the end, when K-Fraud, er, Mr. Federline, is shown working as a fast food fry guy. The jeers quickly turned to cheers. Such is the opinion of most yoots, it would seem, of the former Mr. Britney Spears. (And sorry, Toyota, I can maybe buy that your new Tundra can haul that big load up that steep of a grade from a dead stop, but there’s no freaking way I’m buying it not sliding down the other side when the brakes are applied, anti-lock or not. Your commercial met with wide disapproval from our polled viewers.) Budweiser didn’t get any props from our yoots; apparently they don’t care how “old school” Jay-Z is, August Busch IV, you don’t show up Don Shula.

As a copyright holder myself, I wholeheartedly agree with Brent: the NFL was perfectly within their right to enforce their trademark against the church in Indiana. They just look like royal jerks for doing so.

The 55-inch restriction is a joke; if I had 300 of my closest friends over to my home where they, at no charge whatsoever, could consume beverages and food I purchased and cooked while they watched the Super Bowl™ on my 60-inch plasma (yeah, I wish), what’s the difference between that and the viewing at Fall Creek Baptist Church? (Trademark infringement and the church’s proposition to raise money for a mission trip aside.) That’s still 297 (or however you want to divvy up the households) Nielsen ratings the NFL and CBS aren’t going to get because these people are at my house, where the two are only getting a Nielsen rating of one. (And this is one they’re not even getting, because to have your home counted in the Nielsens, you have to sign your life away to get a little Big Brother Nielsen box.)

I’m not sure why the NFL chose this year to flex its muscle as it did against Fall Creek Baptist Church. I’m sure the NFL has been aware of churches and other non-profit institutions holding Parties Which Shall Not Be Named™ in the past. The American Professional Football National Championship™ has been around for too long, and Super Bowl™ Sunday (is that a trademarked phrase, too, NFL?) has become so ingrained in the American consciousness that I would be quite surprised if no one in the NFL hierarchy was aware of this practice. Again, they just look like royal jerks this go-around.

I, for one, had an enjoyable Super Bowl™ viewing this evening, even if we were limited to 55 inches when we could have gone to 72 or more. It was fun seeing and hearing the reactions of the teenagers, and watching my little phisch tear around the Dungeon while hocked up on watered-down—intentionally so—orange soda and cookies. I didn’t have to endure an obnoxious and overly lavish half-time show featuring a has-been artist. I got to hang out and joke around with Brent, and to a lesser degree, Nathan and Steve. I ate way too much pizza and way too many cookies.

I got to see Tony Dungy get the Super Bowl shot he deserved, and he led his team to victory. I’m happy that Peyton Manning will not become the next Dan Marino. I was glad former LSU Tiger Joseph Addai had a solid game, even if the rookie didn’t score a touchdown. No matter who’s playing, I’m looking forward to the Party Which Shall Not Be Named™ next year.

posted by retrophisch at 11:58 PM -->in football , tech
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Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Well, there’s something you don’t see every day

Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen an entire church moving down the road. Put your hands down; I don’t mean the whole congregation cruising caravan-style. I’m talking about the entire church building.

Well, thanks to the technological miracles of time-lapse photography and YouTube, now you can say you have:

A wave of the phin to Dethroner, and I have to agree with Joel that the video’s soundtrack totally makes it.

posted by retrophisch at 2:35 PM -->in God , music , tech
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Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Traveling through stats ain’t like dusting crops, boy!

Kudos to the gang at Feedburner for the gratuitous usage of Star Wars references in their Hackathon post. My favorite:

Traveling through stats ain’t like dusting crops, boy! Without precise calculations we could fly right through an aggregator or bounce too close to a subscriber and that’d end your trip real quick, wouldn’t it?

posted by retrophisch at 12:06 PM -->in fun , tech
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Monday, 22 January 2007

Isn’t technology sometimes pretty awesome?

I’d say 4D ultrasound has to be the coolest in pre-birth baby tech. I would have loved to have seen our little phisch this way. Maybe with the next one.

posted by retrophisch at 12:33 AM -->in parenting , tech
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Friday, 19 January 2007

Twittering just got easier with Tweet

Scott McNulty noted Tweet in his Twitter feed as well as on TUAW. I downloaded Ted Leung’s Growl-modified version of Coda Hale’s script. Coda has good installation and usage instructions in the original Tweet script, which you can use if you don’t care about Growl support.

Tweet combines the power of AppleScript with that of Quicksilver (you are using Quicksilver, aren’t you?) to make posting to your Twitter account easier and faster than ever. Sorry, Windows users, but all of this, except the Twitter service itself, is Mac-only.

posted by retrophisch at 10:42 AM -->in Macintosh , fun , tech
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Thursday, 18 January 2007

Tell me again why I should upgrade

Walt Mossberg reviews Windows Vista for the Wall Street Journal:

Nearly all of the major, visible new features in Vista are already available in Apple’s operating system, called Mac OS X, which came out in 2001 and received its last major upgrade in 2005. And Apple is about to leap ahead again with a new version of OS X, called Leopard, due this spring.

There are some big downsides to this new version of Windows. To get the full benefits of Vista, especially the new look and user interface, which is called Aero, you will need a hefty new computer, or a hefty one that you purchased fairly recently. The vast majority of existing Windows PCs won’t be able to use all of Vista’s features without major hardware upgrades. They will be able to run only a stripped-down version, and even then may run very slowly.

In fact, in my tests, some elements of Vista could be maddeningly slow even on new, well-configured computers.

Something tells me that the only Vista-running PC we’ll see in our home will either be my wife’s company-provided laptop, when their IT department decides the latest version of Windows is “safe” enough with which to conduct business, or if I decide to throw Vista on my Intel-powered iMac. The latter would, at most, be for web site testing, and pure kicks.

I’m pretty much done with Windows PCs at this point. The Mac does everything I want, does it better, does it more intuitively and elegantly, and the Mac is safer. Sure, you can argue this locks me in to a single company, Apple, but then Windows users are pretty much locked in to a single company, too, aren’t they? Oh, you can buy your PC from Dell, HP, Sony, Toshiba, or build it yourself, but you still have to go to Microsoft for the operating system.

(Linux zealots are not invited to this discussion, so pipe down already. Besides, most of you are fawning over Ubuntu nowadays, which still locks you in to a single distribution/company for that particular flavor of the OS. Or you like SUSE, or Debian, or Red Hat, for whatever your reasons may be. And most people don’t feel like hunting down drivers for their Sony notebook just so it can properly display all available resolutions or connect wirelessly to the Internet, things you still have to do with Linux variants.)

For the record, in his review, Mossberg does acknowledge that as far as Windows itself goes, Vista is the best version yet. Which isn’t surprising, since each version since the original has been successively better, with the exception of Windows ME (what a disaster that beast was).

When the desktop PC I built my wife two years ago outlives its usefulness, it will get replaced with either a hand-me-down iMac, or a Mac mini. It’s one thing to do Windows tech support for a living, but when it comes to home computing, that’s something I’d rather not have to worry about.

posted by retrophisch at 2:40 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Sunday, 14 January 2007

It’s Twitterrific!

I confess I’ve been sucked in to the world of Twitter. It’s kind of addictive, watching what folks like John Gruber, the Iconfactory boys, Maury McCown, and even Darth Vader, are up to.

I’d love to know if my friends have accounts, so I can add you as a friend to mine, and please feel free to add me as a friend to yours. Ping me via IM, drop me an e-mail, or leave a comment.

One cool thing Twitter did last week was they created a Macworld account. By adding this account as a friend, you could follow the postings of those at Macworld Expo as Steve announced the latest and greatest tech from our favorite fruit company. There were so many messages coming in to Twitter through AOL Instant Messenger that Twitter exceeded its allowable AIM traffic, and that service was unavailable for about a day. (To clarify, you couldn’t post to Twitter via AIM; Twitter and AIM were each unaffected.)

You can post to Twitter via your Twitter page, by instant message (Jabber or AIM), or by text message from your mobile phone. (Text message charges from your mobile provider apply, but there’s no charge from Twitter.) If you’re a Mac user, you can also use Maury McCown’s TwitterPost, or the just-released-today Twitterrific from those aforementioned boys at the Iconfactory. Both apps are freeware.

So the question remains, what are you doing?

posted by retrophisch at 2:33 PM -->in fun , tech , web/site
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Sunday, 31 December 2006

Doomed by the dish

So it’s the biggest college football weekend of the year.

And I’m missing all of it.

I am not doing so willingly.

Friday, we had some thunderstorms in the area. Nothing too bad, though the rain was intense at times, and we had a few lightning strikes here and there. But it’s rained much worse, and we’ve had lightning last longer.

Our DirecTV satellite dish system became inoperable at some point Friday afternoon. Two days later, still nothing. It would seem, after all the troubleshooting I’ve done, that the problem is the dish is out of alignment.

My bride thinks the disalignment began with the severe cold snap we got last month, which brought in some ice, and we lost the satellite signal for about a day. She thinks, and I can’t find any fault in her logic, the weight from whatever ice collected on the dish was enough to begin the process, and wind since has steadily moved it more until it’s just off enough that we’re getting nothing.

Except last night.

At midnight.

When we were turning in, and I just kicked on the satellite receiver for the heck of it.

This morning, nada. Nothing. Reset all three receivers. Zip. Zero. On startup, the receivers never get beyond 0% in receiving the satellite signal. I’ve checked cables on all the receivers. I checked the cables in the OnQ box upstairs. My friend Drew suggested I disconnect one of the satellite lines from the multiplexer in the OnQ box and hook it directly in to one of the receivers, to rule out the multiplexer as the problem.

So I lugged my JVC 13-inch television, and the attached receiver, from the study, upstairs to the OnQ box, and plugged it in directly. Still nothing.

So, having ruled out everything else, it has to be the dish itself.

This is what was determined yesterday afternoon, when, after 24 hours of no signal, I called DirecTV technical support. (Note: If you have to do this, never waste time with the first-line customer service reps. All of the ones I’ve spoken with have been pleasant, but they’ve got limited knowledge, and your best bet is to ask them to connect you to “second-tier tech support”, where more knowledgeable folks reside.) The tech rep I spoke with, after I explained to her everything I had done to that point, said it sounded like everything had been ruled out but the dish itself. So she scheduled a technician to come out to the house to get up on the roof to realign the dish.



Just in case you didn’t catch that, the tech is coming on Thursday.

Thursday, January 4th. After which there is only one bowl game of any significance, the BCS Championship Game.

So if I get to watch any of the big bowl games tomorrow, it will only be due to Brent’s generosity in inviting me over to his place. I’ll get to watch the bowl game I care about the most, LSU vs Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, over at Drew’s. (Which isn’t bad, since we all went to LSU, Drew and I were in ROTC together, and it’s always fun to watch the games with fellow alumni.) Still…Thursday?

Apparently the technicians don’t work on Sunday, and I can’t begrudge them a day off during the week. They’re not working on what is likely the second-biggest football day of the year (after Super Bowl Sunday, of course), since it’s New Year’s Day, and I can’t begrudge them having that day off, either. Likewise, no techs are being scheduled on Tuesday the 2d, as that’s the National Day of Mourning for President Ford. I can’t begrudge them that, either. And since Wednesday is the first day available after three straight days of unavailability, it’s booked solid when I called on Saturday afternoon. So I’m left with Thursday.

And while I can’t begrudge the techs the above three days off, I’m still left with the feeling that this all stinks. The timing absolutely sucks. At no point did anyone from DirecTV say, “Gee, you’ve been a customer of ours for nearly a decade. Let’s see how soon we can get someone out there.” Which would of course have made me deliriously happy, but we can’t always get what we want, which is someone out right now to fix the problem.

Because the problem is about twenty feet up, on the roof of our second-story home with a steep, pitched roof, and I have no ladder taller than eight feet. And while I don’t fear heights, the prospect of getting on the steep, pitched roof while it’s as windy as it is today—provided I had a ladder taller than eight feet—isn’t very appealing.

I know what those of you who know me are probably thinking: Why don’t you have Verizon’s FiOS TV, anyway? You have the fiber optic for Internet and phone, why not for television, too?

A good question, certainly, and the answer is this: because earlier this year, midway through January and before FiOS TV was available, my bride placed an order with DirecTV for two of their new satellite receiver/DVR units, and this locked us in to a new, two-year contract with DirecTV. Even though we were long out of our original contract. That’s why we don’t have FiOS TV. (And please don’t think I blame my wife in any way. The receivers these new ones replaced were old, and sucked, and we wanted DVR capability in the study and bedroom.)

I’m seriously considering looking into what it would cost us to break that last year with DirecTV. I’ve been looking at TiVo units direct from TiVo, because, despite the company’s problems, their product is still the best DVR available, and all others pale in comparison. There may be a hefty cost for a switch now, but I’m wondering if it would be worth it to never again have to worry about being doomed by a unaligned dish.

posted by retrophisch at 5:29 PM -->in football , rant , tech
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Saturday, 09 December 2006

OSC gets a dig in on Bill and Ballmer

From Orson Scott Card’s Empire:

“I’m not surprised,” said Cole. “What do you think it takes to build one of those? Two million? Six?”
“Real costs or Pentagon costs?” asked Reuben.
“Microsoft costs.”
“These are not a Microsoft product,” said Reuben.
“Developed in secret, though.”
“Yeah, but they don’t lock up.”

posted by retrophisch at 12:21 AM -->in fiction , read , tech
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Sunday, 03 December 2006

XP or Vista?

So I purchased a copy of Parallels Desktop a few months back, when they were offering it at a reduced price while still in beta. I haven’t gotten around to installing it since, mostly because I didn’t have a legit copy of Windows to go with it, and I’m not much interested in dinking around with any Linux variants.

Lately, I’ve been intrigued at the prospect of running Windows from a virtual environment on my Intel iMac, mostly for web browser testing. (My sites don’t look nearly as nice in Internet Explorer as they do in, well, pretty much every other browser.) And long ago I promised I’d help out with some of our church’s web stuff, and they use FrontPage (yes, I know—ick!).

The question then is, do I get the latest version of Windows XP, or do I jump in to the exploratory waters of Windows Vista? Let me know what you think.

posted by retrophisch at 9:36 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Tuesday, 03 October 2006

Today’s Gmail spam

Screen shot of spam in Gmail

Today’s Gmail phishing (as opposing to phisching, which is the attempt to hook a phisch) spam is more humorous than most. A lot of phishing emails one receives are for non-location-specific entities: Citi, Bank of America, eBay, PayPal, etc. This one is highly location-specific: Hawaii.

I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.

It amused me.


posted by retrophisch at 11:43 AM -->in fun , tech
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Monday, 18 September 2006

Are you a Windows user?

Windows has no users…

Warning: adult language on page linked above.

[Via the Fontosaurus.]

posted by retrophisch at 3:04 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Wednesday, 23 August 2006

And Sony wonders why they’re losing to Samsung and Apple

We have a Sony DirecTV/Tivo unit my mother-in-law gave as a Christmas gift to us several years ago. In techno-age, it’s ready to retire and move to Florida, but it still does the job, and the TiVo interface is still light-years ahead of DirecTV’s own DVR receivers, of which we have two.

Some of the buttons on the Sony remote have stopped working, however, and it’s finally gotten to the point where we need a new remote. A trip to Sony’s web site reveals they no longer sell the remote (shocker, I know), but there is an online form with which you can inquire as to parts. So I fill it out, noting we have the DirecTV receiver/TiVo DVR combo unit, as well as putting in the only part numbers I’m able to find any where on the remote itself.

This was a month ago.

Today, I receive a reply from Sony. Therein, I’m told:

I think you might have model SVR2000. If this is it, the remote is rmtv303 (147603612) which is nla. Please go on www.yahoo.com and type in either the part number of the model number of the remote and do a search. There still should be internet distribuors that carry it.

Fine and dandy, this was along the lines of what I was expecting. Except the genius got the model number wrong, and the part number for the remote wrong. I only discovered this after doing exactly what is suggested above, running a Yahoo search. On one page which listed several remotes, I discovered another part number for a Sony TiVo remote, and it turned out to be the correct one.

For the record, the SVR2000 is the Sony TiVo DVR; it is not the DirecTV receiver/TiVo combo. That is model SAT-T60. The remote part number for the SAT-T60 is RM-Y809. I found a new one for $55, with a 30-day, money-back guarantee (yay, Yahoo!). This is future reference for myself, as well as help for anyone else who may find themselves in a similar situation.

I just think it shows very bad form for a Sony employee to, (a) take a month to respond, and (b) when finally responding, providing the wrong information. I was very explicit in noting that we had the DirecTV receiver/TiVo combo, and not the TiVo-only SVR2000.

Sony has rested on its laurels, and formerly well-deserved reputation, for too long, and it continues to result in products no one are buying, and poor customer service after the fact.

posted by retrophisch at 10:10 AM -->in rant , tech
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Monday, 21 August 2006


  • Thanks to the folks at Xerox, with help from Layer 8 Group, you can send a postcard, with original artwork by a child, to a member of the armed forces serving abroad: Let’s Say Thanks. I sent one, how about you?

    [Via Susan via e-mail.]

  • About.com has some good advice in its Back to School section concerning backpack selection for students. The first tip they offer, to get a bag with two straps instead of just one, to help balance the load across the body better, is why I’m a dedicated backpack guy.

  • My new addiction is Armagetron Advanced, an open source 3D game of the lightcycle contest from Tron.

posted by retrophisch at 5:36 PM -->in armed forces , fun , helping , learning , parenting , tech
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Sunday, 13 August 2006


Michael has announced that C-Command now has forums for all of its products.

I helped him do some testing with the forum boards—which means we spent about ten minutes on it—and if you’re a SpamSieve or DropDMG user, I hope to see you around the virtual water cooler.

* * *

Messy networks.

Dear God in Heaven.

[Via Firewheel Design.]

* * *

Just when I thought there was never going to be anything interesting on Yahoo’s corporate blog, they have races with toy babies triggered by the licking of lollipops.

posted by retrophisch at 2:32 PM -->in Macintosh , tech , web/site
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Thursday, 27 July 2006

Stuff a calendar into your Backpack

So the calendar feature for Backpack launched today. I like how easy it is to add items to the calendar, and I realize this is a 1.0 release (Note to Google: it’s not a beta.), but I’m greatly disappointed it didn’t roll out with repeating events as part of the feature set. I was looking forward to using iCal solely as the desktop conduit between an online calendar I can access anywhere, and my mobile devices with which I would like to sync calendar events.

Sure, I can do that with Google Calendar, but I’m already in Backpack so much, and I like 37signals’ implementation and interface better. Besides repeating events, other features I’d like to see added in a future update, ranked in order of personal importance:

  • Events added to Backpack’s Calendar do not show the scheduled time within the calendar. Mark Gallagher notes this in the announcement’s comments, because to see an event’s time, you have to click on the event, instead of just being able to glance at the calendar and seeing all of the times in context.

  • The ability to toggle the time on the reminder. For some events, I need more than 30 minutes notice, my parents’ anniversary, for instance, which I need a few days notice so I can buy a card and put it in the mail to them. Yes, I know I can use Backpack’s Reminders feature for this, but it would be more productive to have this built in to the Calendar side of the house. It seems like overkill, and double work, for me to enter the event of my parents’ anniversary in to the calendar, then have to switch over and enter a separate reminder to buy a card days in advance.

    Commenter “D” notes: “Quick hack to get repeating events: enter them as reminders and then subscribe to your reminder feed within calendar.” This is working well for me, so far, but then you’ll get in to the situation of all of your reminders being in a single calendar, when you would like to have reminders in different calendars: Personal, Work, Pet, and so on.

    In the Backpack Calendar forums, 37signals’ own Jason Friedman notes that they weren’t happy with the repeating events implementation, and decided not to include it the 1.0 release. So at least for now, the best way to get this function is D’s suggestion, but it’s nice to know it is being worked on, and we can expect it in the future. I hope this upcoming implementation allows for the setting of a time other than thirty minutes before.

  • Single, all-day events should be displayed in the same way as multiple-day events. This was a suggestion by Ryan Christensen in the announcement’s comments. This would distinguish the all-day event, like my aforementioned parents’ anniversary, from a time-specific event, like “Give the dog his heartworm pill at noon”.

  • To-do list implementation for the calendar. Again, from the comments to the announcement, Jeff Croft asks about this, specifically that supported by the iCalendar format. Probably ninety-five percent of what I personally use Backpack for is some sort of to-do list. For short-term stuff, I would love to see this implemented in the Calendar, but have lived without it this far. I would much rather see 37signals devote developer time to repeating events and print styles, something they still need for Backpack’s regular pages.

All in all, the Calendar function in Backpack is simple and elegant, and on par with what I would expect from 37signals. It took them two and a half months to arrive at this point; I hope the next two and a half months result in usability improvements which put the Backpack Calendar over the top.

posted by retrophisch at 11:38 PM -->in gtd , tech , web/site
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Sunday, 23 July 2006

Server migration

We’re moving servers, thanks to the efforts of Jim, our sysadmin extraordinaire, so this site and its related entities will be unavailable for a while, beginning around 8 PM CST this evening. This includes e-mail, so if you try to send anything to my e-mail address at this domain after 8 PM, you may want to wait until tomorrow.

posted by retrophisch at 1:41 PM -->in tech , web/site
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Thursday, 20 July 2006


If only I had room in any of my bathrooms for one of these.

* * *

Just when you think there might be some hope in this world that the tide of sexual immorality would take a turn for the better, something like the Shame On You Kit pops up. How about never putting yourself in the situation to have to have a “Shame On You Kit”?

* * *

As a satisfied customer, I highly recommend KnowledgeNews, which today had a bit on the differences between viruses and bacteria. I loved this analogy:

Imagine it this way. If just one of the 10 to 100 trillion cells in your body were the size of a baseball park, the average bacterium would be the size of the pitcher’s mound. The average virus would be the size of the baseball.

posted by retrophisch at 7:34 PM -->in learning , rant , tech
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Thursday, 13 July 2006


The federal government is apparently looking at creating a national SMS alert system.

[Via MobileTracker.]

* * *

Congratulations to Kyle MacDonald, who, one year and fourteen trades later, bartered a red paper clip for a house.

* * *

Making sure you tipped the right amount after the fact doesn’t do your server much good, does it?

posted by retrophisch at 12:41 AM -->in Macintosh , fun , phone , tech
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Monday, 10 July 2006


John points to a 94x magnification of Velcro being pulled apart. Wicked cool.

You can also see Scotch tape being ripped, more Velcro, still more Velcro, and Equisetum strobilus, all worth a look.

* * *

How much do I love Default Folder? Its functionality should be built in to OS X.

(I was just using it quite a bit today, lots of saving in different locales, etc., and I thought a shout-out was in order.)

* * *

After months of waiting, I found it. Part of a pint was consumed this evening. It was yummy. Retrophisch™ Recommended!

posted by retrophisch at 11:15 PM -->in Macintosh , fun , tech
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Sunday, 09 July 2006

Tivoli’s latest iPod accessory

It’s a shame that at the time I reviewed the Tivoli Audio iSongBook, there wasn’t the black version. Such is life.

Now, Tivoli has the unusually-named iYiYi coming in the fall. Billed as a digital home entertainment system, the iYiYi doesn’t look to have many more features than the iSongBook, but it does have a deeper casing. This means it’s not as portable as the iSongBook, but will likely sound better, since the iYiYi will be capable of delivering deeper, fuller bass sounds, one of the areas in which I found the iSongBook lacking.

[Wave of the phin to Uncrate.]

posted by retrophisch at 12:08 PM -->in ipod , tech
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Wednesday, 05 July 2006

Adium 1.0b1

I note with amusement my pal Damien’s post on TUAW regarding the release of the 1.0b1 version of Adium, in which he writes, “Please note that this is still in beta, though I was using it last night without any significant problems presenting themselves.”

I realize TUAW’s audience includes many non-geek types, who are happily using iChat, and haven’t yet discovered Adium, but it still brought a grin to my face to see a somewhat boilerplate beta-warning line for software that, while technically still in development, has been very stable—for me, at least—over the past year I’ve been using it. This is the first version I’ve seen with the 1.0 moniker attached to it in any form.

If you don’t use the voice and video chat features of iChat much, you should check out Adium (new beta). It supports multiple chat protocols (AIM, Yahoo, MSN Messenger, Jabber (Gtalk), ICQ, IRC, and more…), has a logging feature I have found most useful in finding URIs or other bits of info I forgot to note elsewhere, and is open source, so there’s no proprietary lock-in, if that’s something you’re concerned about.

posted by retrophisch at 11:44 AM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Another Firefox benefit

Blake Ross gives yet another reason to consider Firefox over Internet Explorer:

People ask me, “Well, gee, if IE7 is starting to catch up to Firefox, and if they’ve got their hand back in development right now, and eventually they might actually catch up to Firefox in terms of features, what’s the benefit of using Firefox? Why are you guys still around if you say that your only goal is just to make the Web a better place?”

My answer to that is, how much can you really trust a company that five years ago completely left you abandoned? If they do, in fact, succeed in taking back some of the market share that Firefox has gotten back from them, who’s to say that they’re not going to disappear again? My issue is not so much at a product level, it’s at a company level. How do you trust a company that left everyone out in the cold for five years?

posted by retrophisch at 9:28 AM -->in tech
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Tuesday, 27 June 2006


Photojojo has a review of the Lensbaby 2.0, a $149 retro novelty lens for digital SLRs.

* * *

From the “Things That Make You Go ‘Huh?’” Department, Tom gives us Mr. Martin Heidegger. After reading Heidegger’s quote, I have the mental equivalent of wanting to get a bad taste out of my mouth…

* * *

In line with my smart-aleck nature, there are more good t-shirts I want, but I would need to perform a serious shirt purge first.

posted by retrophisch at 10:10 PM -->in fun , tech
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Lee is going to hate me for sharing this…

Just downloaded the 214 MB Mac OS X 10.4.7 Intel Combo updater at a rate of 1.6 MB per second. That’s a big B. As in megabytes.

Fiber optic rocks.

posted by retrophisch at 7:31 PM -->in tech
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Monday, 26 June 2006


I love the build names for Ubuntu Linux: “Breezy Badger”, “Dapper Drake”. Are they all alliteral?

[Via Paul.]

* * *

Though I don’t do nearly enough of either, I love hiking and camping, and could see myself as a flashpacker.

* * *

Stephen H. Wildstrom has the latest idiotic move by the recording industry, which is suing XM Satellite Radio over its Inno portable receiver/recorder. Even though there’s no way to get the XM-specific music files off the Inno (yet), and despite the millions and millions of dollars in royalties XM already pays the music industry, the Inno is obviously a threat to the future of music as we know it and it must be stopped.

In other news, consumers welcomed more artists as the latter left the major music labels…

* * *

Entrepreneurs should check out the WSJ’s StartupJournal.

posted by retrophisch at 12:20 AM -->in liberty , tech , web/site
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Friday, 23 June 2006

Reason #37 to Avoid Internet Explorer

Per Paul Stamatio, as if you needed thirty-six other reasons.

posted by retrophisch at 2:59 PM -->in tech , web/site
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Saturday, 17 June 2006

Killing .Mac, part 1

I renewed my .Mac subscription last year, though I did so with reservations. That was the last time I will renew, and come October, I will be .Mac-less for the first time since the service was the original, free iTools. With every feature “update”, I am finding less and less value in the service for myself. I am not alone in my feelings, and Khoi Vinh sums up a lot of how I feel. Your own mileage may vary.

I thought I would begin the process of replacing the features I use with .Mac, keeping in mind the sum total of the replacements not exceed .Mac’s annual price tag of $99.95. Steven Frank offers alternatives, and I will likely touch on many of those as well.

To begin the replacement process, I started with virus protection. When McAfee began to have issues with Virex 7.5, before and after the introduction of Mac OS X Tiger, I went looking for another anti-virus solution. Granted, we have yet to have a serious virus infection of the OS X community, but it never hurts to be prepared.

I now use ClamXav to fend off the nasties. The only downside to ClamXav is a lack of protection from Visual Basic-based macro viruses, which infect Microsoft Office documents. Personally, though I own Office, I use its components rarely, so this isn’t a showstopper for me. If the applications of Office are some of your mainstays, however, you might want to investigate Norton AntiVirus or VirusBarrier.

It should be noted that Apple no longer includes any anti-virus package with .Mac, so even if I were to pay for NAV or VirusBarrier, it wouldn’t be counted against the $99.95 cost of .Mac.

Besides the former use of Virex, another feature I’m using with .Mac is the @mac.com e-mail address. At the last revision of the .Mac feature set, Apple increased the default storage limit to one gigabyte. This is shared space; it is utilized by your .Mac e-mail, as well as any files you upload to your account.

Contrast this with Google’s Gmail, which gives you, currently, 2.7 GB of space, and counting. (Google slowly increases the storage amount each day.) My Gmail account has become my main e-mail account, with my account on my own domain coming in second. The Gmail web interface is much faster, for me at least, than the .Mac web interface, though with both accounts I use the POP protocol to route the mail to my local e-mail client.

So for now, I’ve replaced the anti-virus software Apple no longer offers, and I’ve replaced the e-mail service with one that offers more storage and a faster user interface, both at no cost. More on my personal quest to rid myself of .Mac in a future post.

posted by retrophisch at 3:57 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Thursday, 15 June 2006


Guy mentions the web telephony service Jajah, which looks interesting, especially when compared to Skype. Unlike the latter, Jajah doesn’t require you to download any software, and you use your own phone.

This is just about as dead-simple telephony as you can get. You enter your phone number, then the number you’re calling, then hit the Call button. Your phone rings, you answer, then it rings the number you’re calling. That’s it.

So, like Skype, you can call internationally really cheap. Unlike Skype, you can dial Guadalajara, then chat on your mobile with the golf pro who took three strokes off your game, all while you drive to your local course.

Personally, I’ve never had much use for Skype. I haven’t called internationally in ten years, easy. Calls within the borders of the U.S. are covered adequately by my mobile phone plan. And if I were calling internationally, I may not want to be tied to the computer when doing so. Should I have the need, I can certainly see myself favoring Jajah.

posted by retrophisch at 9:48 PM -->in tech , web/site
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Thursday, 08 June 2006

We were content to kick your BLEEP, but now you’ve made us mad

I love how my friends are able to succinctly sum up current events.

posted by retrophisch at 12:47 AM -->in ipod , tech
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Sunday, 04 June 2006


O’Reilly has a web site devoted to Lightroom.

[Via John.]

* * *

Though I do not speak, read, or write either, I still think it very cool that Gmail now supports Arabic and Hebrew.

* * *

The World eBook Fair is a month away.

[Via AWAD.]

posted by retrophisch at 3:49 PM -->in read , tech
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Friday, 26 May 2006


Leave it to a bunch of Brits to play football with automobiles. In this case, a small fleet of Toyota’s Aygos. There was plenty of rubbin’ going on, and as we all know, “Rubbin’s racin’.

[Via Autoblog, video requires Windows Media Player.]

* * *

When you go to see X3, sit through the credits.

* * *

It is amazingly quiet in my study when my wife’s Windows PC is powered off. My iMac Core Duo, PowerBook, external hard drive, and HP OfficeJet AIO (when it’s not actually printing) are all near-silent.

When I walked in a moment ago, and registered the quiet, being so used to the fans of the PC, I had a momentary thought of “What’s wrong?”

posted by retrophisch at 11:23 PM -->in auto , fun , tech
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Tuesday, 16 May 2006

More miscellany

Lee’s a bit hot under the collar over Skype’s new, supposedly free, SkypeOut plan, and understandably so. I’m not sure I get Skype’s argument; I thought the whole point of their service was to be location free, to the extent of remaining within the borders of the U.S.

* * *

Something tells me my sister would really dig these lamps.

[Wave of the phin to Firewheel Design.]

* * *

Congratulations to Aram Kudurshian, developer of High Priority, who has accepted a developer position with Apple.

posted by retrophisch at 12:51 PM -->in fun , tech
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Tuesday, 09 May 2006

Beleagured Dell Warns of Earnings Shortfall

Dell Warns of Earnings Shortfall: “Dell warned it would miss its earnings and revenue forecasts, blaming pricing actions aimed at reviving sales growth.”

Sorry, I just had to do it again.

posted by retrophisch at 10:18 AM -->in tech
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Friday, 05 May 2006

But I like being a member of the Cingular Nation


AT&T is torching their Cingular brand like a gang of boychiks igniting a hobo on their way home from the milk bar. From the ashes, phoenix-like, a new brand is to emerge: AT&T Wireless.

I used to be an AT&T Wireless customer. Not good memories. Cingular is such a distinguishable brand name, for good or ill, whereas for everyone I know and speak to on this issue, AT&T Wireless offers nothing but ill will. Unlike Consumerist’s Ben, I’ve had nothing but good customer service from Cingular. Yes, I realize the “new” AT&T isn’t really anything like the “old” AT&T, corporate-wise, but the bad connotations with the AT&T brand are apparently so bad, we all fear it is. Or will be.

[Wave of the phin to Tom, via IM.]

posted by retrophisch at 4:20 PM -->in tech
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Thursday, 04 May 2006

Beleaguered Dell defends stock decline

I just really wanted to use the words “beleaguered” and “Dell” in the same sentence.

How do you like them apples, Mr. Dell?

posted by retrophisch at 12:26 PM -->in tech
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Tuesday, 02 May 2006


I know Lee will be interested in Anil’s observations on web site comments.

* * *

Stop wandering aimlessly through that phone tree, and get a human on the line.

* * *

“This is hot.” New fan-created Firefox ad that’s really good.

* * *

Love coffee? Love cafes, but don’t want to support the corporate monstrosity? Then use Delocator to find local shops near you. And please, if you know of a local cafe that’s not listed on Delocator, add it!

[Waves of the phin to John, Paul, and John at FD.]

posted by retrophisch at 12:35 AM -->in helping , tech , web/site
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Friday, 28 April 2006

Good advice

Terry Pratchett:

Always be wary of any helpful item that weighs less than its operating manual.

posted by retrophisch at 12:21 AM -->in quote , tech
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Train the Brain

I so want a Nintendo DS just so I can play Brain Age. This would be great when I hit writers’ block or my ADD tendencies creep up, not to mention trips like our upcoming one to the Granite State. I could honestly care less about the other games. Think my beloved will go for it?

posted by retrophisch at 12:15 AM -->in tech
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Wednesday, 26 April 2006

Dvorak to Microsoft: Kill IE

For once, John Dvorak rants on a company other than Apple:

I think it can now be safely said, in hindsight, that Microsoft’s entry into the browser business and its subsequent linking of the browser into the Windows operating system looks to be the worst decision — and perhaps the biggest, most costly gaffe — the company ever made.

I call it the Great Microsoft Blunder.

His solution is for Microsoft to halt any Internet Explorer development, throw some cash to Mozilla, and invest in Opera. Works for me.

posted by retrophisch at 4:30 PM -->in tech
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Saturday, 15 April 2006

Let’s keep the phones off during flight

Word is that Air France is going to experiment with the use of cell phones at 30,000 feet. Leave it to the stereotypically rude French to encourage rude behavior.

One of the many reasons smoking was banned on most airplanes was that it was quite simply rude to your non-smoking neighbor seated two inches to your left or right. Talking on your mobile phone falls in to the same realm of common courtesy. It’s annoying enough that people are already on the phone while the plane is taxiing, much less popping them open the second the aircraft stops at the gate. I certainly don’t want to hear about the business deal you’re on your way to transact (and I’m quite certain your employer and/or client wouldn’t appreciate others knowing about it, either), and I definitely don’t want to hear about Uncle Rosco’s mole removal.

I think the current regulations regarding mobile phone use are fair and reasonable. Sometimes, it pays to have common courtesy enforced, and air travel is one of those times.

[Wave of the phin to inFlightHQ.]

posted by retrophisch at 10:20 PM -->in tech
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Thursday, 13 April 2006


Dan Wade has too much time on his hands.

* * *

Gavin Shearer:

If I were Sony, or Toshiba, or HP, I’d be freaking out right now.

* * *

I cannot begin to express how broken up I am over the fact that Michael Jackson has to restructure his debt. Oh, look, something shiny…

* * *

It’s about time. Pooh is certainly more deserving than most of the blithering glitterati that populate the Walk.

[With a wave of the phin to the Firewheel boys and John.]

posted by retrophisch at 7:00 PM -->in Macintosh , fun , tech
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Thursday, 06 April 2006

Boot Camp

When I was in ROTC, our drill instructor told us…

Sorry, wrong boot camp. And we didn’t really have a drill instructor, since the drilling was done by the uppperclassmen. And there was never something called “boot camp” for ROTC. Anyway

The web is ablaze with the news of Apple’s Boot Camp. (Not to mention Wall Street.) When I first heard the news—from my non-geeky wife, no less—I admit feeling a little sour. It’s one thing for hackers to find a workaround because Apple’s now using the same underlying hardware as the latest and greatest Windows machines, but to actually support it?

Blessedly, reason soon took hold. As I went about my day, mulling this over in the back of my mind, I came to look at this development as a good thing. Yesterday afternoon, looking through some of my feeds in NetNewsWire, I saw I reached conclusions similar to those of people I know and trust.

Michael sums it up perfectly:

[P]eople would have found a way anyway, so it’s better for Apple to make it work right and take the credit than to pretend it isn’t happening.

Amen. This is no third-party hack that could wipe out your entire system. This is a straight-from-the-source solution. (That could wipe out your entire system; but the odds are more in your favor with Boot Camp.)

Tom has a couple of theoretical examples of how the dual-boot nature of Intel Macs can benefit Apple.

I would have to agree with Erik, however, in that if I were to run Windows on my Mac, I would rather have it in the vein of Virtual PC, where I can switch in and out of the different OS environments with a keystroke. As Welch noted on the MacJournals-Talk list, having to quit everything in one environment and boot in to the other one gets old if you have to do it more than two or three times a day. Even then…

As for me, I have a XP box five feet away, on my wife’s desk in our study. It’s the PC I built for her, and I have my own account on it. The reason I have this iMac is so I don’t have to put up with such nonsense such as the USB driver we wrestled with earlier tonight on her machine for an IR receiver. Then again, why would I want to pass up the chance at something like seeing the blue screen of death on my iMac? That’s just aces.

posted by retrophisch at 12:41 AM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Wednesday, 05 April 2006


Waterfield Designs has a padded carrying case for the iPod Hi-Fi that allows the use of the system while remaining in the case.

* * *

Lost your iPod? Check craigslist to see if someone’s found it.

* * *

Further proof that RSS is everywhere.

posted by retrophisch at 1:15 AM -->in ipod , tech
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Monday, 03 April 2006


To get back at phishers (as opposed to a phisch), use PhishFighting. It’s certainly a much better use of CPU cycles than looking for aliens that don’t exist.

[Via IM from Lawson.]

* * *

Lee has no sense of adventure.

* * *

Memo to Skip Bertman, Director of Athletics, Louisiana State University: in the future, Final Four-bound teams are not allowed to come back to Baton Rouge prior to the semi-final game. Apparently, there’s something in the water that results in “chucking”, better known as “the shooting of bricks”.

It was painful enough watching the men’s team lose the game last night due to their inability to put the ball in the basket (as opposed to UCLA’s winning by making it difficult for the Tigers to do so), but the ladies seemed to have the same problem tonight against Duke, a team which was making it difficult for the Tigers to put the ball in the basket.

Two shots at a championship, two shots blown. Kudos to UCLA and Duke. There’s always next year.

And it’s baseball season.

posted by retrophisch at 1:14 AM -->in Macintosh , fun , tech , web/site
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Monday, 27 March 2006

Beatles, meet the Cluetrain

Damien Barrett:

Sesame Street taught me to understand the differences between similar things, but it also taught me that greed is bad and that underestimating people is a mistake. I would love to see the statistics on the little search box that Apple Computer includes in their iTunes program. How many people do you think are searching the ITMS every day for Beatles music to buy? I’m willing to bet it’s a very large number. Every day that Beatles music isn’t available for sale on the iTunes Music Store is a day that you lose. Get a clue and release your substantial and popular music library to the iTunes Music Store and stop beating that dead legal horse. Few, if any, of your customers care about the name of your record label or that it’s similar to the name of a popular computer company.

posted by retrophisch at 12:04 PM -->in tech
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Friday, 24 March 2006

They’re still around?

I’m sure some of you will respond to this revelation with a “Well, duh!”, but CompuServe is still around.

One of the ladies in our minichurch has a cs.com e-mail address, and suddenly curious as to what that domain was, I punched it in to Safari’s address box. Lo and behold, it’s CompuServe.

Which is now owned by Netscape.

Which is owned by AOL Time Warner.


posted by retrophisch at 2:30 PM -->in tech , web/site
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Friday, 17 March 2006


My favorite band contains big Apple fans apparently. Way cool.

* * *

I downloaded the new iChat icons for .Mac members, but I’m fairly certain I won’t use any of them.

* * *

Europe at night: a digital composite of archived satellite images.

* * *

If you have a Nick-N-Willy’s in your area, and you haven’t tried a pizza from them yet, I encourage you to do so. No, they won’t hold a candle to those from a real NYC- or Chicago-style pizzeria, but the pizzas are way better than any you’ll get from the typical fast-food pizza guys. I’m now discarding all of the Papa John’s coupons we receive each week.

posted by retrophisch at 5:30 PM -->in Macintosh , fun , tech
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Friday, 10 March 2006

No joining the Googleplex for me

Got my “Thanks but no thanks” e-mail from Google today. Not that I’m really surprised. What was surprising was getting a response from them to begin with. Given how Windows-centric the company is on the desktop, and given how Macintosh-centric my resumé is, I wondered why I even got a chance at a screener review in the first place.

posted by retrophisch at 7:48 PM -->in tech
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Monday, 06 March 2006

“But Macs are still more expensive…”

Winn Schwartau, on conducting a total cost of ownership (TCO) breakdown comparing a Windows PC to an Intel Macintosh, what he refers to as a “MacTel”:

The results of this TCO astounded me. For my small enterprise, owning a WinTel box for three years costs twice as much as owning a MacTel.

Somehow, this just seemed to go hand-in-hand with my previous post.

posted by retrophisch at 5:16 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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The greatest trick

John Gruber:

There’s a line in The Usual Suspects where Kevin Spacey’s character Verbal Kint says, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

The greatest trick Microsoft has gotten away with is convincing the public that the Wintel PC platform is open.

I think the familiarity John talks about in his piece is the main reason (coupled with the just-a-year-old PC they have) my parents haven’t switched.

posted by retrophisch at 5:01 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Monday, 27 February 2006


Fraser Speirs:

I have this theory that there is an ineffable quality to certain attractive consumer products, and I can only term it niceness. It’s the MSG of consumerism - you don’t know what it tastes like by itself but you know when it’s present and you know when it’s not.


It’s somewhere in the confluence of size, shape, materials, texture and that pleasant weightiness that lesser products don’t have. I said it was the MSG of consumerism. Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t more like consumerism’s crack cocaine. Jonathan Ive is my dealer.

posted by retrophisch at 11:10 PM -->in fun , tech
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Thursday, 23 February 2006

Clocky go crashy

Welch wants one, but I think if that thing was in my house, it would end up in pieces once I hunted it down.

posted by retrophisch at 8:58 PM -->in fun , tech
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Tuesday, 14 February 2006

It’s Official

Camino, which is fast becoming my favorite browser, has finally been officially released.

The RSS auto-detect feature, a la Safari, is what is keeping me from completely switching from Apple’s browser.

[Via Chris.]

posted by retrophisch at 9:43 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Saturday, 04 February 2006

Dell can’t compete with Apple

Dell has discontinued its sale of hard drive-baesd MP3 players.

John Gruber:

Someone should make a list of all the pundits and tech columnists who, back in October 2003 when Dell first introduced the DJ, predicted that it was the beginning of the end for the iPod.

posted by retrophisch at 11:58 AM -->in ipod , tech
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Calendar hosting

If you find yourself wishing you could have your very own online calendar to sync with iCal, but

  1. Have not the resources available to you, or
  2. Have not the desire to learn how to set up PHP iCalendar

then Tom can help you out with his new calendar hosting service. Just be sure to tell him the Retrophisch™ sent you.

posted by retrophisch at 12:25 AM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Tuesday, 17 January 2006

Drive capacity envy

Seagate is now shipping 160 GB laptop drives. These are in the Momentus line, and run at 5400 rpm, with an Ultra ATA/100 interface. The Serial ATA version is coming later in the year. What’s interesting to note is that the drives are shipping, but no pricing is available.

I had thought I would rather a 7200 rpm 100 GB drive, over a 5400 rpm 120 GB drive, should I upgrade my PowerBook. Depending upon pricing, I would gladly run a 5400 rpm 160 GB drive. Lee, who passed on the above link via IM, is hoping this announcement will drive down the cost of 120 GB drives.

Update: Lee, again via IM, points to OWC’s listing, with a price of cough, cough $399.00.

posted by retrophisch at 11:06 AM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Saturday, 07 January 2006

More miscellany

I would be more excited about Google Pack if (a) the Google-specific apps worked with Mac OS; (b) I didn’t already have some of these apps, or equivalents, installed on my wife’s PC; and (c) if she had any interest in the ones that are not installed.


I believe John is being very kind when he describes the latest shots of Windows Vista as “really ugly”. My reaction contained the type of words my mother told me were not nice to say aloud. Or even think.


Speaking of his Gruberness, it doesn’t sound as though he’s impressed with Kodak’s new logo either. I know I’m not. That font is hideous.

posted by retrophisch at 3:55 PM -->in tech
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Today’s miscellany

Ron Moore, creator and executive producer of the best show on television, shares his favorite science-fiction tomes.


From the “You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me” Department

“Hi, we’re Western Digital. Since our hard drives are slightly above average in performance and reliability, rather than making them top-notch, the industry’s best, we thought we would throw our research and development in to making clear cases for the drives, so you can see the inner workings…”

It actually is a rather impressive drive, specification-wise. I just prefer Seagates, when I can get them.


From the “You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me” Department: Part Two

The mail arrived at the house today at approximately one o’clock this afternoon. I know this only because I was walking down the stairs at that moment, and saw the postal worker depositing today’s mail in our box.

Within today’s delivery was my latest order from the BMG music club of which I am still a member. I don’t order from them very often, waiting for the really good sales they have from time to time, but that’s not really the point here.

The point is that at approximately two-thirty, an hour and a half after I pulled the order out of the mailbox, an e-mail from BMG hit my In box, informing me my order had shipped.

Way to stay on top of things, guys.

posted by retrophisch at 2:47 PM -->in fiction , fun , read , tech
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Friday, 06 January 2006

Google Apple’s best friend?

Tim Beyers ruminates that if the rumors are true, and Google is set to introduce either a low-priced computer running the “Google OS”, or roll out the Google Pack software package, or a for-pay video download service, or any combination of the above, this could drive more Windows users in to the open arms of Macintosh.

posted by retrophisch at 8:52 AM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Thursday, 05 January 2006

Calendar fun

In my pursuit to not renew my .Mac subscription this year, I decided to install PHP iCalendar. Since we use only SFTP on our box, and none of the the iCal FTP apps out there support that protocol, I was left with publishing from iCal via WebDav.

After I confirmed with him that WebDav was available on our box’s installation, Jim, our sysamdmin, walked me through setting up authentication for publishing and viewing. This was not without its little hiccups.

Not the answer I'm looking for

Being the brilliant guy he is, Jim soon figured out the issue, and now I am happily publishing my calendar to the web. A quick bookmark, named oh so originally “Cal”, in Safari’s Bookmark Bar, and I’m set.

posted by retrophisch at 11:59 AM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Wednesday, 04 January 2006

So much fun

100 lashes for bragging about FiOS

posted by retrophisch at 10:21 PM -->in fun , tech
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Monday, 02 January 2006

Smooth Guy

Do you want to know why Guy Kawasaki was made the head evangelist by Apple in the mid-1990s? Because Guy’s so smooth:

You should give your ten slides in twenty minutes. Sure, you have an hour time slot, but you’re using a Windows laptop, so it will take forty minutes to make it work with the projector.

Actually, the entire post is about Guy’s optimal PowerPoint presentation. (He sees a lot of them as a venture capitalist.) If you give presentations, it’s a worthwhile read.

posted by retrophisch at 3:33 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Wednesday, 21 December 2005

What’s in your Backpack?

So the gang at 37signals have launched an affiliate program for Backpack, and, of course, I’ve signed up. You will note the link graphic in the side bar, under the “Support” heading.

37signals is doing something a bit differently with the Backpack affiliate program: you don’t actually receive cash, but rather credit toward your own Backpack account. Theoretically, your own Backpack usage could be completely free if enough people sign up for a paid plan through your referral link.

You can use this link to sign up for and use the Backpack web service. The default plan is free, so it doesn’t cost you a thing to try the service out. Backpack affiliates don’t make a dime unless you upgrade from the free plan to one of the paid plans, which start at a mere five dollars a month. (This is the plan I am currently on.) Continued use of Backpack is one more reason I will likely not renew my .Mac subscription next year.

I just wish the affiliate program had been up and running last month, when I upgraded. Then Tom, who got me hooked on Backpack to begin with, could have earned some coin.

Backpack won’t be for everyone, just as with any other tool, but as with any other tool, you won’t know if you’ll like it unless you try it.

posted by retrophisch at 11:08 AM -->in tech , web/site
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Friday, 09 December 2005

del.icio.us joins y.ah.oo!

Now that Yahoo! has absorbed another social-software site, maybe del.icio.us’s import feature will get fixed. I’m hesitant to really dive in to the service, or Furl, until one of them can import all of the bookmarks I have loaded in my browser.

posted by retrophisch at 6:02 PM -->in tech , web/site
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Tuesday, 06 December 2005

How you know you’re a parent #1,487

While testing a new product for review, you set your iPod on shuffle, and hear Hootie & the Blowfish, dc Talk, King James (old Christian metal group), Petra (the Aerosmith of Christian rock), and then VeggieTales. Just kind of throws that whole rhythm off to have Junior pop in to the middle of the mix with “Come over to my house and play!”

posted by retrophisch at 4:55 PM -->in fun , ipod , tech
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Saturday, 26 November 2005

This is what is known as “hitting the nail on the head”

Jeff Harrell:

It kind of amazes me what shortcomings the people who buy Windows computers are willing to live with. It used to be the case that Macs were more expensive than other kinds of computers, pound for pound. This is no longer true, of course, and hasn’t been for some time, but even if it were, it seems like it would be only proper. It seems like people who buy Windows computers have to spend a lot of time finding and downloading (or buying) programs to make their computers do stuff my computer does all by itself.

posted by retrophisch at 10:14 AM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Wednesday, 23 November 2005

Michael Hyatt: Judge, Jury, Executioner

Relax, mouth-foamers, we’re talking about software. I like Michael’s system, sequestering apps for a specific amount of time to see if they’re truly needed or not. I need to do something along these lines, though I’ve already pared down to 110 items in the Applications folder from a clearinghouse earlier this year.

posted by retrophisch at 8:20 PM -->in Macintosh , gtd , tech
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Saturday, 19 November 2005


Today’s “Too Much Time On Their Hands” installment is again brought to you by TUAW:

Turn a classic Macintosh SE in to a 3 GHz PC.

What a waste of a SE case.

posted by retrophisch at 11:03 AM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Friday, 18 November 2005


Today’s “Too Much Time On Their Hands” episode is brought to by TUAW:

Stick the guts of a modern optical mouse in to a classic Apple ADB mouse.

posted by retrophisch at 2:51 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Wednesday, 16 November 2005

Today’s miscellany

And thus Apple’s plans at world domination were dashed.

Regarding HTML in e-mail: what Tom said. I’m not even an admin like Tom that has to deal with this crap on a day-to-day basis. E-mail is for text. The Web is for graphics. No co-mingling of the two. I realize I’m in a rapidly dwindling minority on this issue, Jeff, but that’s my area of Ludditism, I guess.

The Tetran doesn’t look too terribly comfortable to be sliding in to one’s front pants pocket. [Via Lee.]

I’ve noticed the severe lack of updates to Apple’s iCal Library section, too. Now I just get whatever I want from iCalShare.

Google continues to intrigue me. Really.

An excellent illustration.

I pronounce it like the peanut butter, with a hard J. [Via John.]

posted by retrophisch at 12:44 AM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Monday, 14 November 2005

Today’s miscellany

Yeah, it’s been up a few days, but I’m just getting to it, okay? John Gruber has come around, much as I have recently, to the notion of PowerBook-as-main/only-system, a concept Lee has been a proponent of for some time. John also has an in-depth review of the latest 15-inch PowerBook, outfitted just as I would like, with his usual attention to detail.

It’s Monday evening, and I’m still sore from the neighborhood tree planting from Saturday morning. Eleven ten-gallon trees to go in the neighborhood’s greenbelt area. Seventy homes, with an average of two adults per home. Seven people showed up, including myself. Yeah.

An interesting tip I picked up from No Plot? No Problem! shows an innovative use for all that spam that gets collected for me. This one writer keeps a list of names that show up in the From field of spam e-mails, so she always has a pool of character names to pull from. I really like this, since usually when I’m working on fiction, I can come up with two or three good character names, then I start really pulling stuff out of bodily orifices. A simple text document in BBEdit now has 305 names, one per line, and the built-in Kill Duplicates filter ensures I don’t have the same name twice.

posted by retrophisch at 6:43 PM -->in Macintosh , rant , tech , writing
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Sunday, 13 November 2005

Our school district is leveraging current tech

It’s nice to know the school district my son will enter in about three years is fairly hip to current technology. The district’s superintendent, Dr. Jerry Roy, has a blog, and in another attempt to get information out to parents, the district has a podcast.

In The Messenger, a small local rag, Roy says:

I’ve had a few folks talk to me and tell me they are happy that we are utilizing the technology. I wouldn’t say we are cutting-edge, but we are trying to find the best ways to communicate with the public. We are used to hard copy, but that is expensive. We are always looking for inexpensive ways to communicate our message, especially in these times when we are hard-pressed for funding. This gives us access to a lot of folks.

Dr. Roy and his staff need to be commended for their fiscal responsibility in leveraging these Internet technologies. Dr. Roy is using the free Blogspot service from Blogger for his weblog, and it is incredibly cheap to produce a podcast, which is one reason why the medium’s popularity is exploding.

Property taxes in Texas are much higher than they are in Louisiana, where we moved from seven years ago. One reason for that is, with no state income tax, school districts need to get their funding from somewhere. I’m not sure what the actual percentage is, but a very high percentage of the segment of property taxes earmarked for education goes in to your local school district, rather than disappearing in to some budgetary black hole at the state level. I see these efforts on the part of LISD to be a responsible use of my tax dollars when it comes to communicating with parents.

While my child is still years away from entering the school system, Dr. Roy and LISD have made it easier for parents like us to keep track of what is going on, and for that, I thank them.

posted by retrophisch at 1:28 PM -->in tech
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Friday, 11 November 2005

Today’s miscellany

I’ve been trying to send some e-mails with attachments via Gmail, from within Safari. Frustrated, I launched the 1.0b1 version of Camino, and it worked the first time I tried.

If Camino could mimic the easy subscribability of Safari when it comes to RSS and Atom feeds, there would be no looking back. Based on my own usage, Camino is consistently faster than Safari at rendering, uses less RAM over time, and remains more stable.

Then Tom has to go and remind me why Safari kicks butt when it comes to designing for standards.

An article in the latest Macworld has prompted me to look seriously at del.icio.us. My personal work habits have evolved to the point where I’m no longer worried about keeping bookmarks synced between two systems, but the prospect of an online backup of my bookmarks, that I could access from any where, is appealing. I’m coming closer all the time to my own personal death knell for .Mac.

Anthro’s eNook is so cool it almost makes me wish I didn’t have enough space to get one. Almost.

A happy belated to Tiffany.

Finally, my thanks to Tom. He knows why.

posted by retrophisch at 10:51 PM -->in Macintosh , fun , tech
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Tuesday, 08 November 2005

The more things change…

…the more they stay the same.

[Via Dan.]

posted by retrophisch at 4:25 PM -->in tech
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Sunday, 06 November 2005

Speed Test!

Erik links to the Speakeasy Speed Test, so I figured I would give the Verizon fiber connection a go.

Using the Dallas server:

Download Speed: 7400 kbps (925 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 1634 kbps (204.3 KB/sec transfer rate)

Los Angeles:

Download Speed: 6301 kbps (787.6 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 1599 kbps (199.9 KB/sec transfer rate)

New York City:

Download Speed: 7928 kbps (991 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 1637 kbps (204.6 KB/sec transfer rate)


Download Speed: 4436 kbps (554.5 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 1540 kbps (192.5 KB/sec transfer rate)

(What is it about sucky connections from the Dallas area to the Seattle metroplex?)


Download Speed: 8227 kbps (1028.4 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 1633 kbps (204.1 KB/sec transfer rate)

(Faster to Chicago than across town!)

Washington, D.C.

Download Speed: 8870 kbps (1108.8 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 1650 kbps (206.3 KB/sec transfer rate)

San Francisco

Download Speed: 5354 kbps (669.3 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 1577 kbps (197.1 KB/sec transfer rate)

(Silicon Valley sucking off the bandwidth?)


Download Speed: 7676 kbps (959.5 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 1619 kbps (202.4 KB/sec transfer rate)

posted by retrophisch at 8:14 PM -->in tech
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Thursday, 27 October 2005

Windows: neurotic

Jack Good, mathematician:

“My Windows 98 computer tells lies and often forces me to shut down improperly. Such behaviour in a human would be called neurotic.”

posted by retrophisch at 10:09 AM -->in quote , tech
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Monday, 17 October 2005

“I have overactive sweat glands.”

AOL is still a crappy way to Internet, in my not-so-humble opinion, but their latest commercial (“Too much information”) had me in stitches.

posted by retrophisch at 10:13 PM -->in fun , tech
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Sunday, 09 October 2005

New meaning to the term “flipping off”?

Need to send an e-mail to a loved one’s or friend’s mobile phone, but can’t remember the confusing phonenumber@anameotherthanthecompany.something e-mail address wireless services set up? Use Teleflip, a free service. You can use it from any e-mail client or web-based e-mail. Just send a message to phonenumber@teleflip.com, and that’s it. Be sure to use all ten of the phone’s numbers.

(Note that any fees your wireless provider charges for receiving e-mail/text messages to your phone will still apply.)

posted by retrophisch at 11:49 PM -->in tech , web/site
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Saturday, 08 October 2005

Markdown for Backpack & Writeboard

Backpack and Writeboard, two excellent services by 37signals, both use Textile for text formatting. I have nothing against Textile; I used to use the plug-in for Movable Type on my blogs.

When John Gruber released Markdown in to the wild, I was intrigued, and soon after, made the switch from Textile to Markdown, and I’ve used it for online formatting ever since. Like Merlin, I’ve found myself using Markdown syntax in other areas, but unlike Merlin, only while typing.

Now I want to have my cake and eat it, too: Markdown for Backpack & Writeboard.

After using the latter for a couple of days, I e-mailed 37signals with my request. I figured it would be something not-too-hard (I hesitate to use the phrase “fairly easy,” because I am, for the most part, totally clueless about backend web server type stuff) for them to implement Markdown formatting for Writeboard. My suggestion was to make it a preference a user could select, leaving Textile as the default.

The reply I received from 37signals honcho Jason Fried was encouraging. While he made no promise as to future implementation (not surprising, standard fare), it does sound like something they’ll toss around the conference table. A whiff of hope is better than none at all.

posted by retrophisch at 12:29 AM -->in tech , web/site
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Tuesday, 04 October 2005

More on the NetNewsWire acquisition

Tom’s not happy with Brent and Sheila’s sale of NetNewsWire to NewsGator. I’m going to chalk it up to the fact that he’s literally on drugs.

If you’ve spent any time on the Ranchero beta lists, exchanged e-mail with Brent, or read his blog posts on development, you know Mr. Simmons does not go off half-cocked with major business and development decisions. Despite Tom’s dislike of NewsGator, I’m sure Brent and Sheila were quite careful with whom they chose to sell NetNewsWire. After all, this company is Brent’s new employer. He would have to be convinced the company would foster the sort of development environment in which he would have the freedom to make NetNewsWire all it could be.

As he notes, there are things he’s wanted to do with NNW that he has been able to not get to, having to deal with the business and support aspects of being an independent software developer. By going in-house with NewsGator, Brent is now free from those other constraints, absent anything he may wish to do on the side with Ranchero’s other products that NewsGator did not purchase. With regard to NetNewsWire, all Brent has to worry about right now is programming. One would reasonably believe this is a Very Good Thing™.

I have no opinion about NewsGator, as a company or with regard to any of its products. They have never been on my radar before. Perhaps Tom knows something I do not, but again, I believe Brent would have done his research regarding the company before making such a commitment.

With regard to selling out to Apple, I don’t see that ever happening. Apple’s nod to RSS is the feature built in to Safari. I don’t see a standalone news reader in Apple’s future, nor do I see Apple devoting the depth of features you can find in NetNewsWire in to the RSS cabinet of Safari.

In the end, it appears this is a good thing for the Simmons, and a good thing for Mac users. NetNewsWire simply rules the news reader market, on any platform. No doubt this is the number-one reason NewsGator was interested in it, and I don’t see any other product, much less an open-source initiative, knocking it from that perch any time soon.

posted by retrophisch at 10:17 PM -->in Macintosh , tech , web/site
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Brent and Sheila sell out

Gruber points out that Ranchero Software has sold NetNewsWire to NewsGator. Big, big news in the Macintosh community it is. It appears this is a good move for Brent and Sheila Simmons, and will not affect NetNewsWire aficionados, yours truly included. I am a little concerned about MarsEdit, which Brent says, in the above-linked interview, they are searching for a new home for.

I’m sure Brent will take some heat from certain zealots in the Mac blogosphere and beyond, but he will get none from me. He and Sheila have to do what’s best for them, and by throwing in with NewsGator, it would appear the sky is suddenly the limit. Our best wishes to the Simmons, and we eagerly await the next version of NetNewsWire!

Update, 9:35 PM CST: Gruber notes the post in Brent’s blog regarding the acquisition.

posted by retrophisch at 4:53 PM -->in Macintosh , tech , web/site
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Wednesday, 21 September 2005

I’m thinking Cluetrain should be required reading for the Authors Guild

Note to self: do not join the clueless Authors Guild.

I echo Gruber’s sentiments regarding the decision of the Authors Guild to sue Google over Google Print. For one, an author can choose to exclude his work in a fairly simple process. Second, as an aspiring author, were I to publish a book, I would love to see it read by as many people as possible. If Google Print helped me accomplish that, so much the better.

posted by retrophisch at 2:12 PM -->in rant , tech , web/site
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Thursday, 15 September 2005

Yes, please stop

Many of my friends, acquaintances, and former co-workers may be shocked by this, but I agree with Lee: let’s stop talking about Windows.*

If for no other reason than that it’s the same old thing every time Microsoft releases a new version. It’s one thing if persons who have a thing or two invested in the whole usability thing rattle off the pros and cons of the latest Windows interface, but it’s a waste of time and energy to wade through the myriad blatherings by countless Macintosh enthusiasts who feel it is their duty to yet again remind everyone that Windows isn’t as good as the Mac OS.

My wife’s PC has Windows XP installed on it. (With Service Pack 2 and the numerous other patches installed, of course.) It sucks, okay? I don’t like having to dither around on it. But XP is better than Windows 2000, which has to have been the best version of Windows up to that point. No doubt after a bumpy start, Vista will be way better than XP, despite whatever usability fallacies it may suffer.

Microsoft has stolen from Apple. Apple has stolen from Microsoft. (Cool switching, anyone?) The Mac OS is still ahead of Windows in terms of design and usability. We get it. Can we stop talking endlessly about it now?

At least wait until the final product is released…

* (Please note, they’ll be shocked by the Windows part, not the agreeing with Lee part. Well, maybe some of them will be shocked by the Lee part, but likely most of them will just wonder “Who is Lee?”)

posted by retrophisch at 3:33 PM -->in tech
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Friday, 09 September 2005

Enough said, indeed

The Oz has spoken.

posted by retrophisch at 2:43 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Thursday, 01 September 2005

How do you reply in e-mail?

Erik and I are of like mind when it comes to e-mail replies. Unless my reply is one sentence or less, I never top-post. After all, it is common sense to reply within the relevant portions of an e-mail, especially if the e-mail is long and/or covering multiple topics.

So if it’s common sense, it only stands to reason that millions of Internet users have been trained by Microsoft and other software vendors in to top-posting. Grrrrr….

posted by retrophisch at 11:08 PM -->in tech
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Wednesday, 31 August 2005

The thrill is gone

So it looks like a week is all it took. Looking at my Contacts list in Adium, only three people are still bothering with Google Talk. Everyone’s back to AIM or .Mac on iChat.

posted by retrophisch at 9:14 PM -->in tech
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Tuesday, 23 August 2005


Jon reports that Google Talk has gone live. The IM product builds on Gmail accounts and the open-source Jabber IM service.

I’m already up and running on it with AdiumX, so I guess iChat will be taking a hike, and my fun balloons won’t be used in the future. (Can anyone point me to a reasonable substitute for Adium?) If you want to jaw via Jabber courtesy of Google, use my site name at gmail dot com, but you have to have a Gmail account to play along. Let me know if you’d like an invitation via the e-mail address noted in the previous sentence.

posted by retrophisch at 11:54 PM -->in Macintosh , tech , web/site
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Saturday, 20 August 2005


MacDevCenter recently featured an article about ClamXav, a free virus scanner for Mac OS X. ClamXav is based on the open-source, antivirus engine ClamAV.

With the loss of Virex as an incentive for purchasing .Mac, François Joseph de Kermadec’s article convinced me to download ClamXav and give it a whirl. I now have it configured to automatically scan my home account every night at 3 AM, after it checks for the latest updates. It also will scan, in the background, any file that ends up in my downloads folder.

The app is Java-based, so it’s a little slower than I’d like on my 1 GHz PowerBook, but hey, it’s free. It does appear to be put together well, otherwise.

We have very few virii to worry about on the Macintosh side of the fence, but it never hurts to be prepared.

posted by retrophisch at 11:07 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Thursday, 18 August 2005


Secure online storage and file sharing. Eight bucks a month gets you 4 gigs. No bandwidth charges, no contract. Nifty.

[Via Todd Dominey.]

posted by retrophisch at 9:16 PM -->in tech , web/site
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I have a soft spot for working dogs; I’ve always told my wife that if I were in law enforcement, I’d want to be a K-9 cop.

It’s important for working dogs to keep cool, as it is much harder for dogs to cool down than it is for humans. Military working dogs in Afghanistan and Iraq are especially at risk, but the Space Coast War Dog Association is working with Glacier Tek to provide Glacier’s ChillyDog cooling vest to dogs in those theaters of operation.

Regardless of how you feel about the politics of our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, remember these dogs have no say, and are just happy to do the job they were trained to do. If you can support the effort to get as many vests as possible to the dogs that need them, stop by the SCWDA web site and learn how to donate.

posted by retrophisch at 8:46 AM -->in armed forces , tech
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Buy your books like you buy your music

At least that’s what VitalSource is hoping you’ll do: buy eBooks from them in the same way people buy music from the iTunes Music Store. James Duncan Davidson just finished the new version of their client application, which looks pretty nice.

I, for one, cannot get in to the whole eBook thing. I have a few PDF-based books that I use for reference material, and I’ve read Cory Doctorow’s books in electronic format, but the latter is really because I’m unemployed and have to do what I can on the cheap. I much prefer the dead-tree edition of literature still.

posted by retrophisch at 8:39 AM -->in tech , web/site
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Wednesday, 17 August 2005


Not content to rest on his laurels, Jon’s decided to start GoogleRumors.com. I also can not believe there wasn’t a site like this already.

posted by retrophisch at 11:05 PM -->in tech , web/site
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Pod Squad

On my way to a doctor’s appointment this morning, I was listening to WBAP; the morning news crew is hysterical. During a commercial break, the station plugged it’s “On Demand” services, MP3 and WMA audio files of show broadcasts, nationally syndicated ones excluded, of course.

The on-air advertisement for the service had a line about joining the WBAP “Pod Squad,” a reference to dumping the audio on to your iPod. Everyone’s favorite digital audio player is the only such device referenced on the On Demand page, though it is misspelled as “iPOD.”

iPod, podcast, Pod Squad. Is it any wonder Gates and Ballmer have the willies over Apple’s digital music strategy?

[Leftist mouth-foamers beware: WBAP showcases those evil, twisted, right-wing neanderthals known as “conservatives”. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though I’m sure they’d appreciate any ratings bump they can get.]

posted by retrophisch at 1:14 PM -->in tech
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What should they do with the company, Michael?

The company Michael Dell said should be sold off and the money given to its shareholders is kicking his butt:

Overall customer satisfaction with the PC industry is unchanged from a year ago at 74, but changes within the industry give Apple a commanding lead. The PC maker maintains big improvements from 2003 and 2004, holding at 81 for a second year. Apple’s sales are up 33%, net income has grown 300% and its stock price has nearly tripled over the past year. A slew of product innovations and an emphasis on digital technologies and customer service have been very successful for Apple with a high degree of customer loyalty as a result.

Dell is a different story. Based on a strategy of mass customization, the #1 PC maker worldwide has been a leader in customer satisfaction for several years. This quarter, it suffers a sharp drop in ACSI, down 6% to 74. Customer service in particular has become a problem, and service quality lags not only Apple but also the rest of the industry. Customer complaints are up significantly with long wait-times and difficulties with Dell’s call-center abound. Still, competitive pricing as a result of Dell’s direct-sales business model keeps overall customer satisfaction slightly above other competitors, with the exception of Apple. Whether Dell’s declining satisfaction will have a negative impact on the company’s stock performance remains to be seen; however, ACSI history has shown that changes in customer satisfaction often signal similar changes in future financial performance. Apple’s stock price is up 35% for the year-to-date, whereas Dell’s is flat.

[Via MacInTouch, emphasis in quoted text added. —R]

posted by retrophisch at 12:59 PM -->in Macintosh , rant , tech
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Friday, 05 August 2005

Unreleased OS already has virus

This must be one of those things that keeps Bill Gates up at night. Windows Vista, the next version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system, already has its first virus.

[Via MacInTouch.]

posted by retrophisch at 4:10 PM -->in tech
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Wednesday, 03 August 2005

Gmail on Mailsmith

I finally attempted, once again, to set up POP access to my Gmail account in Mailsmith. I used all of the settings found on the Configuring other mail clients page, made sure to check “Leave Mail on Server”, and like any good technology, it all just works.

posted by retrophisch at 7:46 AM -->in Macintosh , tech , web/site
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Sunday, 31 July 2005

Cable modem, anyone?

For sale: Toshiba PCX1100U cable “modem,” with one 10BaseT port, one USB port, one 12V DC port, and one co-axial, aka, cable, port. Item is 3.5 years old, still in working condition as of two weeks ago, when it was taken offline. Includes AC adapter, and Ethernet patch cable for connecting to PC or router. Cheap. All offers considered.

posted by retrophisch at 4:23 PM -->in tech
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Saturday, 30 July 2005

Windows backup recommendations

Dear readers, I am seeking a personal backup solution for Windows XP that will allow me to back up a user folder to CD. Preferably cheap, preferably easy, though I would say of the two, easy is the higher preference. Retrospect is not in the running, please do not suggest it. Please leave your recommendations in the comments, for others to enjoy. Thanks!

posted by retrophisch at 1:15 PM -->in tech
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Wednesday, 27 July 2005

When a serial number really isn’t

I’m installing a new hard drive in my wife’s PC, to replace the 5+ year-old that has died. I dutifully noted the part number and serial number for warranty registration purposes, since this drive has a 5-year warranty itself. Calling it a “serial number” may be stretching it, however: Y2CJECZE.

Can you call a string a “serial number” when only one of the characters qualifies as a numerical value?

posted by retrophisch at 3:01 PM -->in tech
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Tuesday, 26 July 2005

A terabyte for less than a grand

OWC announced today it is now offering 1 Terabyte (TB) of RAID storage for $979.99. Wow.

posted by retrophisch at 8:44 AM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Monday, 25 July 2005


ATPM staffers lead glamourous lives, let me tell you. When we’re not unemployed (moi), running our own businesses (Michael and Evan), or working for others (Lee, Ellyn, and practically everyone else), you might find one of us interning for a popular magazine. I thought Wes had hit the big-time when he got to wander around Manhattan, challenging perfect strangers to lightsaber duels.

Now, in the August 2005 issue of PM (not yet online), Mr. Meltzer’s in print, taking part in the “Shred Reckoning” personal shredder comparison. For the record, that is not Wes’s photo used in the test document.

posted by retrophisch at 12:27 PM -->in fun , tech
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Sunday, 24 July 2005

Arlo’s revenge

What do you do when you perceive a major computer company has totally ripped off your software and tout their version as a major feature of their latest operating system?

Why, you sell out, of course.

MDJ publisher Matt Deatherage, ever the trooper, offers this bit of analysis on the MacJournals-Talk list, even though he’s laid up with an illness:

Kind of a “widget wow” moment. Anyone think there will be about six billion more new Konfabulator widgets in the next 3 months? Apple just got trumped on the “we’re making our widget format available for free to more users” strategy; now Dashboard may be the underdog in the long-term.

(Just for the record, my original notification of the sale came from Matt’s post to the list.)

posted by retrophisch at 11:43 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Still useful

From Merlin’s del.icio.us page comes a link to a Levenger 3x5 card How-To. The brief history of the index card is interesting, but I really enjoyed the tips. I know sometimes use the same card for more than one subject, and this is a habit that needs to be broken immediately.

posted by retrophisch at 1:25 PM -->in gtd , tech
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Saturday, 23 July 2005

Why bother with CC?

Unlike Jeff, I don’t hate Creative Commons. I just don’t see the point. I believe we’re much better off working with our legislators to getting copyright lowered, back toward something resembling what the Founding Fathers intended.

Update, 8:45 PM CST: In the August issue of Wired (archive not posted online at the time of this writing), in the “Posts” section, there is a little blurb on Creative Commons, targeted at the right-leaning talk show host the left loves to hate, Mr. Limbaugh:

Hey, Rush! Ever Heard of the Creative Commons?
“There are some things [from my show] that we can’t [podcast] yet, like music because of copyright problems. … But just want to tell you we’re continually working on it. … I know the Millennium Copyright Act is what this is all about, and until that’s changed, none of this is going to change.”
From The Rush Limbaugh Show
June 14, 2005
Rush Limbaugh, talk radio host

Now, unless I’m completely misunderstanding, I don’t believe, Wired writers, that the Creative Commons would be of help in this situation. Whatever music Rush is referring to, my guess it is of one of two natures.

First, he’s talking about music they use to lead in and out of the show from commercial breaks. This music is more often than not popular music from the last three or four decades, and is the copyrighted material of those artists. Creative Commons would play no role.

Second, the music referred to could be the parody songs some times featured on the show. More often than not, these songs are not the copyrighted property of The Rush Limbaugh Show or the Excellence in Broadcasting Network, parent company of the show. These parody songs are often the property of a third-party artist. Again, Creative Commons would play no role. So I’m not sure why Wired feels the need to slam CC on Rush…

posted by retrophisch at 3:37 PM -->in liberty , tech
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Thursday, 21 July 2005

Wherefore art thou, Bluetooth headset?

Great. After multiple usage so far today, it would appear the aforementioned problems with my Akono headset were not the fault of the headset at all. (Still, mucho kudos to SE for the replacement; at least this helps clear it up.)

It looks like the problem is indeed with my T616. The phone is out of warranty. This is, as the Fontosaurus would say, the suck.

posted by retrophisch at 1:16 PM -->in phone , tech
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Types of Windows users and I wish we’d bought a Mac Mini

Wil Shipley, in a DrunkenBlog interview:

The two types of Windows users I’ve identified at my café are:

a. I use Windows to run Word and Excel and browse the web (and read e-mail in my web browser), and b. I’m a programmer and I spend all my time in a Windows IDE or hacking around with my system.

I’m sure there may be a third category of user out there, but this has been my observation as well. My wife and parents clearly are the first type of users, and could just as well be served on a Mac. The SuperToad falls in to the second camp; he makes his living as a Windows programmer, but he does so with a Mac on his desk as well. Plus, he’s still getting mileage out of a decrepit, original orange iBook.

Since my switch to Macintosh over a decade ago, one of the reasons we have kept a PC or two in the house was due to my wife’s work. She’s a corporate attorney, and could always work from home, if need be. After our move to Dallas, the firm she worked for here had a VPN system set up, and she could work on items in the firm’s document management system from home, just as if she was sitting in the office.

Her new employer, however, being tied in to the stock market and the myriad regulations therein regarding insider trading, etc., does not have such a system in place. You work at the office, or you work on a company-provided laptop, or you don’t work. Also, my wife’s position also is not as intensive in outside-normal-business-hours work as her former firm life was. She doesn’t need a PC at home any more.

Last year, when her old desktop PC was giving up the ghost, and I set out to build her a new one, if we had known then she was going to change jobs, I wouldn’t have bothered. I would have milked the old PC until after she moved in to her new career, then replaced it with a Mac Mini. Hindsight is always 20/20.

posted by retrophisch at 12:40 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Monday, 18 July 2005

WallyPower 118 redux

Back in April, I blogged the WallyPower 118, beating the boys from Uncrate by, well, by a lot. Granted, Uncrate’s only been online since June 11th.

Looking at the trailers for The Island, it seems the WallyPower 118 is going to make a cameo. (I’ll save you some time: Trailer 2. Don’t blink.)

I still want one when I win the lottery. Jeff, you’re heading the list for crew. You’ve already got the uniform.

posted by retrophisch at 7:20 PM -->in tech
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Chat on iChat
posted by retrophisch at 1:14 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Sony Ericsson rocks

More than a month ago, my Sony Ericsson Akono HBH-602 Bluetooth Headset stopped syncing with my T616. I could get it to connect to the phone via Bluetooth, but the BT connection would drop out randomly, and often. I finally got around to calling SE tech support on this issue. I told them I was sure it was the headset, not my phone, as I had no issues syncing the T616 via Bluetooth to my PowerBook or Cube.

I was issued a RMA number, and given an address in the DFW metroplex to ship the headset to. “Just the headset, please,” is what the rep on the phone told me. No problem. Just the headset. This, of course, happened just before the long July 4th weekend, when we were traveling to and from New Orleans, so I didn’t actually ship the headset out until Friday the 8th.

Today, my replacement headset arrived, via FedEx. Not only did my replacement headset arrive, but I got the entire headset kit! In other words, they just pulled a retail box off the shelf and shipped it to me. So I got an extra AC adapter—that works with the T616 phone, too—and some more of the color plates, which I won’t use. (I stick with the silver.) Kudos to Sony Ericsson!

posted by retrophisch at 12:46 PM -->in phone , tech
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Sunday, 17 July 2005

Thoughts on a podcast

I will confess: I have not only thought about putting together my own podcast, but fantasized about what I would say, the music I would play, etc., etc. I have looked in to what tools I might use. I have had instant message discussions with a certain someone on teaming up to do a podcast, even discussing possible opening-theme music. My friend Richard has enthusiastically prodded me to do a podcast.

The more and more I think about it, however, the more and more I’m thinking this is one online fad I’m going to sit out. (Though I will not rule out guest appearances on someone else’s podcast, should someone ever wish to have me.)

First, there is the issue of “what would I talk about?” I thought about doing something Macintosh or technology-related, since that has been my professional, and personal, field of interest. Richard thinks I would be really good at doing something politically oriented, and I thank him for that compliment. However, there are a lot of people out there already doing podcasts in these areas, and frankly, doing a better job than I could hope to pull off. A case in point is that the certain someone mentioned above used to be a radio DJ, and would likely put me to shame.

Second, and more importantly, I’d like to stick to writing. Like Jeff, it would be a craft I would welcome to make a living at some day. As my family will tell you, I have long talked about being a writer, churning out novels. Normal blogging already cuts in to the time I should be devoting to such writing, and podcasting will only draw my attention further away. Reading Gruber and listening to Maciej has only convinced me this is the right course of action to take.

I’m not ruling out the possibility totally, but in the near future it seems highly unlikely.

Just in case you were wondering.

Which I know you weren’t.

posted by retrophisch at 8:50 PM -->in tech
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Friday, 15 July 2005

Backpack widget

Well, a widget I can actually get some use out of…

Chipt Productions has released a widget for the Backpack service from 37signals.

Darned if Gruber didn’t beat me to it.

posted by retrophisch at 11:25 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Wednesday, 13 July 2005

Eric rocks

I have been lamenting the fact that I did not go with a Flickr Pro account a few months back, instead opting for another service. At the time, it was probably the reasonable decision, as the Flickr Pro accounts didn’t have all of the amenities they do now.

So I had actually been considering anteing up for the Flickr Pro account, because I realized I would use it more than the other service.

Tonight, out of the blue, during an IM conversation, Eric offers me a free-for-a-year Flickr Pro account he was given as a in-beta Flickr Pro account holder. “Problem” solved!

However, even though I am filled with gratitude for Eric’s generosity, he doesn’t want word getting out. He’s trying for that curmudgeon rep, and if he appears all nice and everything, that will never happen. So make sure you don’t link to this post any where. Maybe you shouldn’t even be reading it. Maybe I shouldn’t be writing it. Maybe I should delete it…

posted by retrophisch at 12:45 AM -->in tech , web/site
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Tuesday, 12 July 2005

Reverse DNS Lookup

Not sure where I found this, as it was jotted on a card in my Hipster. A free service, you can perform reverse DNS lookups. If you don’t know what DNS is, don’t bother clicking.

posted by retrophisch at 9:47 AM -->in tech , web/site
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Friday, 08 July 2005

Fiber optic installation attempt: Day Two - Success!

The installation technician arrived at approximately 10:45 AM, with, as promised, a co-worker in tow. An hour and fifteen minutes later, with still no progress, reinforcements arrived. The original extra co-worker departed, and two more technicians joined. This would lead to there being a total of five different installation technicians which have worked on wiring us up to the new fiber connection.

The lead tech from the reinforcements had the wiring issues diagnosed relatively quickly, showed the assigned tech where he had screwed up, and they proceeded to punch down the wiring in to its proper locations. By one o’clock, we had phone and data coming over the fiber. Sweet.

Then I set to the task of dumping the free D-Link router provided for my Netgear WGT624 router, since it sports 802.11b and g wireless connectivity. Verizon FiOS, like a lot of DSL service, uses PPPoE. I made the necessary changes to the Netgear router, but still couldn’t connect to the Web, or check e-mail, on the PowerBook.

I had the Network preferences set to Automatic, and apparently PPPoE doesn’t like this. I had earlier set up a network location called Home-Wired VZ, and was able to connect on the new fiber connection with the PowerBook plugged in via Ethernet. So I duplicated that location, renamed it to Home-Wireless VZ, and changed the connection from Ethernet to Airport. Voila! Connected to the fiber wirelessly. C’est bon!

Michael urged me to test the speed. On the Upload Speed Test, I selected the Largest file size, and got the following results:

  • connection rating is 5 stars, the highest
  • upload speed was 1528 Kbps
  • the file uploaded at 187 kB/s
  • Testmy.net’s TruSPEED: 1635 Kbps
  • the connection, via Airport Extreme, is running 27 times faster than 56k and can upload 1 megabyte in 5.48 seconds

Then came the Download Speed Test, again, with the Largest file selected:

  • connection rating is, again, 5 stars
  • download speed is 3906 Kbps
  • connection downloaded the file at 477 kB/s
  • TRuSPEED 4179 Kbps
  • the connection, again via Airport Extreme, is running 70 times faster than 56K and can download a 1 MB file in 2.15 seconds

How do you like them apples, Lee?

posted by retrophisch at 4:19 PM -->in tech
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Fiber optic installation attempt: Day 1

Installation of our new Verizon FiOS service was to take place today (Thursday, the 7th) between the hours of 1 and 5 P.M. When the hour of three o’clock arrived, and not a word had I heard with regard to the tardiness of the installation technician, I inquired as to his whereabouts with the Verizon FiOS customer service department.

According to the English-is-my-second-language representative I spoke with, there was a “hold” on our account. Our installation order also failed to show that we were getting the voice service alongside the data service, despite the written verification of this we had received the week before. The English-is-my-second-language representative declared he would have to escalate this to his supervisor, and they would call me back with a new installation date. Also, he was unable to tell me why a “hold” was placed on the installation order. Needless to say, I was not happy.

At 4:37 PM, I received a call from the installation technician, whom also speaks English as a second language, stating he would be on our doorstep momentarily. He did just that at approximately 4:50 PM. Installation then commenced.

By 9:45 PM, installation was still not successful. The phones were working, but a data signal could not be detected by the free D-Link router provided with our order. Knowing that I would be dumping the D-Link for the Netgear wired/wireless router already in use with the Comcast cable connection, I tried it on the newly installed line, and it failed to register a signal as well. Signal detection did occur at the outside box on the side of the house. Signal was being lost somewhere between this newly-installed fiber optic connection box, the OnQ junction box in the house, and the newly-wired dual plate in the study. The dual plate sports both a RJ-11 and RJ-45 connection.

It was finally determined by the two technicians—yes, he had called for reinforcements in the past five hours—that there was some sort of wiring transposition going on. In other words, the already-in-place wiring they were dealing with was different from the Verizon-standard wiring they were used to, and they would have to determine where the changes were so they could make all the wiring play nice with one another and let me get to online life at five times the speed to which I have become accustomed.

They asked if they could come back tomorrow. With the supervisor in tow. Apparently, he has deeper experience, especially with “odd” wiring arrangements. I expect them first thing Friday morning.

Stop smiling, Lee.

posted by retrophisch at 12:15 AM -->in tech
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Tuesday, 05 July 2005

Browsing this site

I echo Jeff’s sentiments. In Windows-world, I recommend Firefox; for the Mac, Safari or Camino.

posted by retrophisch at 9:50 AM -->in tech , web/site
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TypeKey changes

Six Apart announced an update to the TypeKey service, one of which is that you can now choose to remain logged in to TypeKey for up to 2 weeks. For those of you who may have held off registering with TypeKey because you hated having to log in every couple of hours to comment on someone’s blog, now you no longer have that excuse.

I use TypeKey registration for my blogs, though it is not required. Should you choose to comment without signing in via TypeKey, your comment will simply remain in limbo until I approve it. TypeKey registration is simple, fast, and free.

posted by retrophisch at 12:09 AM -->in tech , web/site
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Saturday, 02 July 2005

Fiber line laid

This past Wednesday, a pair of Verizon FiOS line crews were at the house, physically laying the line from the switch at the street up to a new connection box they installed on the garage side of the house. The guys in the crew were super-nice, answering my questions and indulging my curiosity. I got a “tour” of the street-side box from the tech who was knee-deep in it, so my inner geek was satisfied. They did an above-average job on keeping the disturbance to my yard to a minimum. We should go live with our new fiber optic connection on the 7th!

posted by retrophisch at 11:56 PM -->in tech
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Friday, 24 June 2005

Mobile CD Lookup

Jon has provided a great way to look up CD info on Amazon. I’ve already got it bookmarked in my mobile.

posted by retrophisch at 11:41 PM -->in phone , tech , web/site
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Thursday, 23 June 2005

Fiber + phone = July 7

It is confirmed: a Verizon technician will be out on the afternoon of Thursday, the 7th of July, to install the required components for high-speed, fiber optic, broadband usage. We are going with the 15Mbps down/2Mbps up package, and we are cutting the cord with the regional ILEC, switching our local phone coverage to Verizon as well. We get to keep the same number, and will save a few bucks.

I know some people will wonder why we’re even keeping local, wired phone service, and the answer is simple: TiVo/DirecTV. It’s the only way to currently get service updates, etc., sent to the box. That, and our families still seem to call us at home, rather than on our mobiles, where a lot of the time, the calls would be free for either one or both parties. Go figure.

posted by retrophisch at 4:30 PM -->in tech
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Sunday, 19 June 2005

Rumor sites still costing Apple money

Matt D. and I don’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things outside the realm of technology. But when it comes to an intense loathing of the rumor sites, which continue to cost Apple money, Matt and I are blood brothers:

Any writer who believed that rumor sites were “cowed” into not reporting items that might adversely affect Apple should have checked the news from Friday, 2005.06.03 - the stuff everyone forgot that same night when CNet broke the Intel story as a done deal. The previous day, AppleInsider reported that Apple was “seemingly overstocked on most iPod models with about a month remaining in its third fiscal quarter.” Attributing the information only to “one source” and “reliable sources of information,” the rumor site said Apple’s sales “appear flat or declining” because none of Apple’s products appears constrained. Yes, read it for yourself - the site said that not having a shortage was, in itself, a sign of weak sales.

Despite both the flimsy sourcing and the site’s complete unawareness of the impending Intel transition, the market acted. To quote Reuters, “Shares of Apple Computer Inc. fell 5% Friday [2005.06.03], fueled by an Internet report of swelling inventory of its iPod digital music players.” When a rumor site can cost Apple’s shareholders 5% of their value in one day by printing an unsourced report based on specious inventory logic, it’s hard to call that being “cowed into silence,” and it just doesn’t have the same ring to say the rumor sites have been “cowed into incompetence.” (If your stock in trade is “inside” or “secret” information, and you have no sources on the biggest Apple-related story of the next two years before the mainstream media does, you’re losing your touch.)

A subscription to MDJ or MWJ isn’t cheap, but it’s the best money you’ll spend on Apple and Macintosh-related news you won’t get any where else. I’m not affiliated with MacJournals, just a happy subscriber.

posted by retrophisch at 8:41 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Saturday, 18 June 2005

Now I just need to find money to give to a broker

There are many reasons why I read Jeff’s blog as often as possible. Brother, I need to buy you a beer some time.

Does that mean that Apple will never go after the commercial-computing market? No, I don’t think so. I think that as Apple continues to own the creative-professional market, reasserts its dominance over the mobile-user market, gains momentum among home users and makes incremental moves into sci-tech, demand in the commercial-computing market will grow all on its own. Sooner or later, folks are going to start asking why salesmen or accountants or factory managers aren’t using Macs. And when that happens, Apple will be there, ready to make small advances with sure footing, working its way into the commercial market a little at a time.

But you know what? Maybe that’ll never happen. Maybe by 2010, Apple will own as much as 25 or 30 percent of the computer market, but still show no sign of making a move into commercial computing. Would that be seen as success or failure? I guess it depends on who you ask. Which brings us back to the three blind guys with the elephant. The guy who looks at the computer industry and sees only commercial computing would see an Apple that doesn’t compete in the commercial space as being a failure. Somebody who sees only the home market would see an Apple that dominates that space as a shining success.

Me? I just sit back and think about what it would be like for Apple to own thirty percent of a multi-billion-dollar global industry. And then I consider calling my broker.

posted by retrophisch at 11:16 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Wednesday, 01 June 2005

An Apple-Yahoo-Google future?

Robert X. Cringely:

So Apple takes over video and movies while Yahoo threatens with a low-priced music subscription service and Google threatens to take control of, well, everything.

And Microsoft? Microsoft kicks the dog.

[Via Jon.]

posted by retrophisch at 11:10 PM -->in tech
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Wednesday, 11 May 2005

Programming offshoring - literally

The Monster Blog:

…[T]alk about treading in murky waters, here’s one from the reality-trumps-fiction workplace annals: Two entrepreneurs have launched a plan to buy a used cruise ship, park it about three miles off the Los Angeles shoreline, hire 600 programmers from around the world and have them crank out code day and night.

posted by retrophisch at 8:25 AM -->in tech
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Tuesday, 10 May 2005

Hope it’s just the beta

I have to concur with John Gruber’s comments regarding the Longhorn beta screenshots. I never thought I’d say this, but if I had to use a PC, at this stage, I would stick with Windows XP. Let us hope Microsoft will do something to clean up the interface, because right now, it looks like a major step back.

posted by retrophisch at 9:01 AM -->in tech
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Friday, 29 April 2005

WallyPower 118

Don’t let the name fool you. This is the yacht to buy when you hit the jackpot. Just hope the jackpot’s big enough for you to hire a crew as well.

posted by retrophisch at 11:42 AM -->in tech
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Thursday, 28 April 2005

BlackBerry 7100t no like SE Akono

If anyone out there figures out how to pair a BlackBerry 7100t with a Sony Ericsson Akono Bluetooth headset, please let me know how you did it. So far, my attempts to get this to work for my wife have failed. The CrackBerry refuses to see the Akono set. It sees every other Bluetooth-enabled device in the house, but won’t see the headset sitting right next to it.

posted by retrophisch at 10:25 PM -->in tech
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North Pole Wi-Fi

Intel is responsible for the northernmost wi-fi spot known, with placement approximately 130 kilometers from the North Pole.

posted by retrophisch at 7:52 PM -->in tech
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Adobe’s markets

Gruber sums up quite well my feelings about Adobe’s acquisition of Macromedia:

Rather than expand into untapped creative markets, Adobe seems hell-bent on expanding into the jerks-wearing-suits market, a market that’s completely at odds with the creative market they’ve dominated for nearly two decades.

Which is what happens when you put a sales guy in charge of a company that makes creative products. Which is Gruber’s point.

posted by retrophisch at 4:08 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Sunday, 24 April 2005

Star Wars Aurora

No, nothing to do with that wonderful phenomenon in northern night skies, but rather with Alienware’s Star Wars special edition Aurora PCs. While no new PC is in our household’s buying forecast, the artwork on these things is absolutely incredible. Now, if anyone wanted to generously donate a box to our home for the sole reason of playing Star Wars-related games, I prefer the Dark Side…

posted by retrophisch at 1:06 PM -->in tech
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Tuesday, 19 April 2005

What’s in the Retrophisch™ Bag

Recently, Michael Hyatt revealed what was in his business carry-on, and posed the question to others of what is in their’s. So here’s the official inventory from the Phisch Bowl:

The PowerBook 1 GHz 12-inch rides in a Waterfield Designs Sleevecase (with flap). This is tucked in to a sapphire-blue, Tom Bihn Brain Bag. (Anyone want to trade me a black Brain Bag?) The Sleevecase replaces the original Brain Cell I got with the pack, as it is for a 15-inch PowerBook no longer in my possession.

In a WD medium Gear Pouch, I have stashed: my AC adapter for my third-generation, 40 GB iPod; three packs of iKlear Travel Singles screen cleaners; a Boostaroo for possible use with the iPod (it might came in handy while flying, so your mate can watch the movie on your PowerBook with you, instead of the in-flight entertainment—if there is any); a small voltage tester; and a wall socket circuit tester.

The rest of my cables—with the exceptions of 25-foot RJ-45 (Cat-5 Ethernet) and RJ-11 lengths—reside in a black Tom Bihn Snake Charmer. These include: the long AC adapter for my PowerBook; a Madsonline MicroAdapter (it’s good to have a spare); a Madsonline Auto/Air Adapter; a six-foot Ethernet crossover cable; a PowerPod; two Dock-connector FireWire cables; and a Fellowes Transient Surge Suppresser (a single-plug surge suppresser, complete with RJ-11 In and Out jacks).

Stashed elsewhere in the Brain Bag’s pockets and compartments, as well as in a Freudian Slip, also by Tom Bihn, are the following: a Kensington PocketMouse; a pair of Aiwa noise-cancelling headphones (the cans are actually more noise-reducing than they are cancelling, but for $50, they’re a great value); a pad of stickie notes; 4 ink pens of various colors; the one-foot FireWire cable I use with the portable FireWire hard drives I pick and choose from; the AC adapter for my mobile phone; the VGA and DVI video adapters for my PowerBook; the battery recharger for my digital camera; a deck of playing cards; and a pocket first-aid kit.

Part of my everyday kit that would also travel with me: Sony Ericsson T616, paired with a SE Akono HBH-602 Bluetooth Headset (silver plate, not the blue shown); the aforementioned 3G, 40 GB iPod; and a Canon PowerShot S500 with a 1 GB Compact Flash card. These tech toys ride in, respectively, a horizontal Krusell case, a Contour Design Showcase, and a Lowepro Rezo 20.

Whew! I think that about does it. What’s in your bag?

posted by retrophisch at 12:08 AM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Monday, 18 April 2005

Does this look like a monopoly to anyone else?

Adobe to acquire Macromedia.


posted by retrophisch at 8:46 AM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Wednesday, 13 April 2005

Reading your Gmail via Atom

I’ve been using GmailStatus to alert me when I get new mail to my Gmail account (anyone want an account?). On my 12-inch PowerBook, however, menu bar space is precious, and if I can eliminate a menu bar widget, I will.

This may come as old news to some, but Gmail has added Atom feeds. It was really as simple as the article states: I dropped the link in to my NetNewsWire subscriptions, it asked for my login and password to the Gmail account, and that was it. I sent a test message to my Gmail account, and a couple of minutes later, when the feed refreshed, there it was. Aces!

NetNewsWire is one of the applications I always have open, so it makes sense for my usage patterns to keep track of my Gmail account this way. I don’t use Gmail as a primary e-mail account, so there’s no reason for me to keep it open in a browser window, and I’ve yet to get its POP access working with Mailsmith. If anyone’s been able to do this, please let me know.

posted by retrophisch at 2:57 PM -->in tech
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Seeking VNC help

I’ve been futzing around with OSXvnc on my Cube and Chicken of the VNC on my PowerBook, and I cannot get the latter to connect to the former. Is anyone out there using this combination, and can offer guidance? Or recommend a different VNC client?

posted by retrophisch at 2:31 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Monday, 04 April 2005

Hipster Dock

For those of you with a Hipster PDA like mine, you can now have a docking station.

[Via the 43 Folders del.icio.us page.]

posted by retrophisch at 10:38 PM -->in fun , tech
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Frank-ly speaking on the Treo 650

Steven Frank is going to have me lusting after the Treo 650 again.

posted by retrophisch at 5:44 PM -->in phone , tech
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Friday, 01 April 2005

More on the Apple trade secret cases

If you’re not subscribing to MDJ or MWJ, you’re missing out on what is the very best and most comprehensive coverage of the ongoing Apple trade secret lawsuits. Matt Deatherage has worked to the point of failing health to deliver a knock-out of an issue this past Sunday that features the most intensive news of the cases I’ve seen. Matt & Co. deliver brilliant point after brilliant point, with so many good ones, I’d have to reprint the entire article to get them all in.

There is one example on why these cases are important for businesses, and why this is not about the political right to free speech as set forth in the First Amendment.

How many people would have looked twice at the original iMac if its Bondi Blue design had leaked out two months in advance, and competitors had already released similar-looking PCs? Apple actually introduced the machine at an event that everyone thought was for some of O’Grady’s long-rumored PowerBooks, and it was - plus “one more thing.” It’s said that only about 30 people within Apple knew what the machine looked like or that it would be announced that May day in 1998, and the press coverage conveyed the shock at Apple’s bold move.

The iMac’s design influenced everything from rival PCs to peripherals to pencil sharpeners, but because Apple kept its work secret until it was ready, all those products were rightly seen as iMac copycats. If Think Secret had leaked the iMac like it did the Mac Mini, would the world have seen those products are iMac knock-offs - or seen the iMac, the original idea that was stolen and released prematurely, as “just part of a trend?”

That sums it up. If the latter had happened, would Apple have recovered as quickly from its doldrums as it did? Would it have recovered at all? One could make the argument that the success of the iMac fueled the development of iTunes, the iTunes Music Store, and the iPod. Without the runaway success of the iMac, Apple as we know it today might not exist at all. That success could have been placed in serious jeopardy with rumors of the new machine leaking out.

If you could spend your money on only one Macintosh publication, I would recommend MDJ or MWJ. (I have no affiliation with these publications, or their parent company, GCSF, Inc., other than as a satisfied subsriber.)

posted by retrophisch at 8:44 AM -->in Macintosh , liberty , tech
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The Politics of Silicon Valley

Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard has an intriguing look at the politics of Silicon Valley. Hint: incumbents are despised, “disrupters” are loved.

posted by retrophisch at 8:29 AM -->in politics , tech
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Thursday, 24 March 2005

Comcast 2005 Customer Survey

Earlier in the week, we received a post card-based customer satisfaction survey from Comcast. We get ultra-basic cable and our high-speed Internet access from Comcast. I was looking forward to letting them have it, as we have been very displeased with their level of service the past few months.

First, bad Comcast, bad! for not having a way to complete the survey online. This would undoubtedly have led to my being able to write more than I was able to on your flimsy little post card.

Second, out of the four scores—Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor—Comcast failed to rate the top spot in any category, got a Good for it’s Field Tech experience, and rated a Poor when it comes to overall Customer Service experience.

My comment:

A way to speak to knowledgeable techs on the phone would be nice, since some of us know way more about how our high-speed Internet access works than the customer service reps. This would lead to faster problem resolution. Also, outages every other week are likely not winning Comcast many fans.

That’s all I was able to get on the card, because Comcast decided it needed to put its logo in the bottom right quarter of the card, eating up valuable writing real estate.

I have gotten to the point where I start out any phone conversation with a customer service rep with something like this: “Our high-speed Internet access is down. I’ve reset the cable modem multiple times. The cable television is much fuzzier than normal. It’s not a problem with the lines in my house, you have an outage.”

To which the customer service rep still insists I reset the cable modem again. Which I don’t, even though I tell them I do, since I’ve already done it, as I stated “multiple times.” In the past, well, ever, every time our access has been lost, it has been due to an area-wide outage. It has never been due to the lines in or connecting directly to our house. One would think this sort of thing would be noted in account notes. Then the customer service rep could see the outage history and reasonably conclude that I know what the hell I’m talking about when I call.

We have some new neighbors just down the block who reported that they signed up with Verizon for local phone and fiber optic, which VZ has been laying all over town. Many of us in the neighborhood have been waiting for some sort of notification from Verizon that they were ready to offer us high-speed access via fiber, so we could dump Comcast. Where’s that number?

posted by retrophisch at 2:58 PM -->in rant , tech
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I have joined the Flickr bandwagon. You can see my first set, from February of last year, “Winter Wonderland 2004”.

I am in the process of looking for a permanent residence on the web for my digital photos. I’m a little tired of the do-it-yourself routine I’ve been experimenting with, and I’m not looking forward to having to oversee yet another software backend, such as Gallery.

The photo set you can see at Flickr took me about five minutes to create. Granted, most of the hard work was already done in iPhoto (photo titles and captions). I used FlickrExport by Fraser Speirs to upload directly from iPhoto to my Flickr account. I uploaded the full-sized images, so my free Flickr account is currently full.

I had been looking at SmugMug, but now am having second thoughts, and am seriously considering upgrading to a Pro account with Flickr. More to come…

posted by retrophisch at 12:58 AM -->in tech , web/site
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Tuesday, 22 March 2005

Free tech support

Yes, really. Free tech support.

[Via hackaday.]

posted by retrophisch at 11:22 PM -->in tech
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Cylon on your desk

Maybe I’ve just been watching too much Battlestar Galactica, but does anyone else think that VKB’s Bluetooth Virtual Keyboard looks like some kind of Cylon infiltration unit?

posted by retrophisch at 3:15 PM -->in tech
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Baby’s first iPod

This is giving me all sorts of ideas, should we have another tyke.

posted by retrophisch at 7:38 AM -->in ipod , tech
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Monday, 21 March 2005

Camino’s new digs

Mozilla offspring Camino has a new site. I like the new look, and downloaded the latest nightly build. Maybe it will be more stable on my system than 0.8.2. I really want to use Camino more, as I feel it’s faster than Safari on my systems, but it doesn’t seem as stable when it comes to running out of real RAM and having to subsist on virtual memory.

[Via DF via Daniel Bogan.]

UPDATE, 10:30 PM CST: After downloading and installing the latest nightly build, I happened across the site again, and was greeted with this banner near the top of the main page:

Camino bleeding edge notice

Fun, fun, fun!

UPDATE 2, 11:30 PM CST: You can find all of Camino’s keyboard shortcuts on one handy page. And its hidden preferences, too.

posted by retrophisch at 8:13 PM -->in Macintosh , tech , web/site
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Sunday, 20 March 2005


I’ve been dinking around with the Brainboost Answer Engine. Pretty nifty. You’ve got to love the big ‘fro-spinning gears icon.

[Via Make: Blog.]

posted by retrophisch at 11:29 PM -->in tech
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Thursday, 17 March 2005

The too-quiet motorcycle

An interesting example of the law of unintended consequences: you design a hybrid motorcycle that results in zero emissions, but because it has no moving gears or other noise-making components, the cycle is too quiet. The designers are seeking a way to artificially add noise to the bike. They better look to partner with someone to provide more hydrogen filling stations while they’re at it.

posted by retrophisch at 4:27 PM -->in tech
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Do bikes grow on trees?

They do in Geneva. Too cool.

posted by retrophisch at 4:22 PM -->in tech
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The most color-accurate photographic system ever?

Tom Watson and his business partner, Rob Howard, have devised a 144-megapixel camera system. Watson claims it is “the most color-accurate photographic system ever deployed.” Utterly fascinating.

posted by retrophisch at 9:27 AM -->in tech
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Tuesday, 15 March 2005

Windows: The Bloated Cow

Michael Hyatt:

I understand that the code name for the next version of Windows is “Longhorn.” Note: this is not an improvement over “Whistler.” All I can say is that they must not have longhorns in Redmond. I went to high school and college in Texas where longhorns were a regular feature of the landscape.

Let’s start with the fact that a longhorn is a cow. Is that really the image you want people to connect with the newest version of Windows? What were you guys thinking!

But that’s not all. A longhorn has one distinctive feature that separates it from all other cattle—its long horns. On a Web page called Longhorn Country, the author, a longhorn expert, writes:

There was probably no meaner creature in Texas than a Longhorn bull. The slightest provocation would turn him into an aggressive and dangerous enemy. The bull’s horns usually measured six feet or less from tip-to-tip, but could measure over eight feet long. In addition, the sharpness of horns of any length, the speed and muscle power of the bull, and the ease with which he could be aroused and enraged, made him a dangerous and uncontrollable animal.

Sadly, some would say that this aptly describes what Windows has become. A bloated cow that, when provoked, can become “dangerous and uncontrollable.”

posted by retrophisch at 9:31 AM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Friday, 11 March 2005

On the Apple lawsuits

I have refrained thus far from commenting on the lawsuits by Apple against Think Secret, PowerPage, and Apple Insider, none of whom I will dignify with a link. There are others who are doing a far better job of shedding the real light on this issue, in that is has nothing to do with the First Amendment.

Notably, John Gruber and Jeff Harrell have gotten it right. Think Secret, PowerPage, and Apple Insider should have to reveal their “sources,” and they should suffer some form of punishment. I don’t think hefty fines or jail time is necessary, but something punitive enough to ensure they will discontinue this nonsense, because it is hurting Apple.

My disdain for Jason O’Grady’s rumor-mongering goes way back, and my thoughts then still hold true now. By combining real facts leaked by insiders and NDA-holders with utter speculation, these rumor-mongers set up false expectations for unannounced Apple products. This leads consumers, as well as Wall Street “analysts”, to be disappointed when the real product is announced, and downplay the significance of the product because it is not exactly what the rumor-mongers said it was going to be. These sites are hurting Apple by revealing sensitive and private corporate information, and it has to stop.

posted by retrophisch at 9:35 PM -->in Macintosh , liberty , tech
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Tuesday, 08 March 2005


I have succumbed to the Hipster meme:

Chris's Hipster PDA
posted by retrophisch at 9:02 PM -->in tech
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Tuesday, 01 March 2005

Mickey Mouse Musical Toaster

No, I’m not kidding. As if we needed another reason to lobby for copyright law overhaul.

posted by retrophisch at 12:36 AM -->in fun , rant , tech
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Monday, 28 February 2005

Mapping the tax man

Since Google Maps now works in Safari, and I had to get our property taxes paid today, I thought I would give the new service a whirl. I prefer it to the other map sites, since the interface is contained inside a single browser window. It’s also fast compared to the other sites; it’s snappiness reminded me of using Gmail, which is the fastest web-based e-mail system I’ve ever used.

posted by retrophisch at 8:53 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Wednesday, 16 February 2005

MT-TypeKey dual login?

So I just left a comment, in reply to one left by Raena, and a thought occurred to me: If I’m logged in to my Movable Type installation already, why can’t I already be logged in to my TypeKey account as well? It just seems silly to have to go through a separate login procedure to leave comments on my own blog.

Speaking of Movable Type, the web site has undergone somewhat of a makeover, and the old .org domain redirects to the link just noted. The new menu across the top left reflects all of Six Apart’s products, including the newly-purchased LiveJournal.

posted by retrophisch at 1:54 PM -->in tech , web/site
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Wednesday, 09 February 2005

Bayesian Logic intro

Computerworld has an article on “Bayesian Logic and Filters” in their QuickStudy section this week. This is the sort of logic behind many of the spam-killing applications out there, such as SpamSieve. If you’re using an anti-spam program that utilizes Bayesian logic, this article may help you understand a bit more how it works. Don’t miss the sidebar on the Reverend Thomas Bayes.

posted by retrophisch at 8:18 AM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Monday, 07 February 2005

Napster needs to do the math again

See Napster’s Super Bowl ads? Think you’ll remember them three weeks from now? Right.

Ashlee Vance dissects Napster’s supposed costs, which do not take in to account the fact that most people’s songs on their iPods are not from the iTunes Music Store:

From where we sit, the math doesn’t break down terribly well in Napster’s favor.

Let’s take a look at consumer A. This consumer goes to Amazon.com and does a search for Creative - one of the Napster supported music device makers - and picks up a 20GB player for $249.99. Let’s assume he keeps the device for three years, paying Napster all the time. That’s $538 for the Napster service, bringing the three-year total to $788.19.

Consumer B types iPod into the Amazon.com search engine and finds a 20GB device for $299. Apple doesn’t offer a subscription service, so this customer has to buy songs at the 99 cent rate or at $9.99 per album. Subtracting the price of the iPod from the $788, consumer B would have $489 left over for music. That’s roughly worth 489 songs or 49 albums.

We posit that during this three-year period both Consumer A and Consumer B will actually end up with close to the same number of songs on their devices. Customers do not, as Napster suggests, pay $10,000 to fill their iPods with 10,000 songs just because the capacity is there. They take their existing music, CDs and MP3s, and put that onto the device first, then later add iTunes songs as they go along. A Napster customer would have a similar mix of old music and new downloads.

The big difference here is that after the three years are up, Consumer B has something to show for his investment. He still owns the music. If the Napster customer stops paying for the service, his music is all gone. He’s paying $179 per year to rent music. This isn’t high quality stuff either. It’s DRM (digital rights management)-laced, low bitrate slop.

You could once buy a CD and then play that music on your computer or in your car at will. Hell, you still can. You own it. You can burn an extra copy of the disc in case it gets scratched or pass along the disc to a friend to see if they like it - just like you would with a good book. Five years from now, you will still own the CD. No one can tell you where and when you can play it.

This is not the case in the Napster subscription world. After six years, you’ve tossed away $1,076 for something that barely exists. Forget to pay for a month and watch your music collection disappear. (Not to mention, you’re betting on the fact that Napster will even exist two years from now. At least you know that a year’s subscription to the Wall Street Journal will still work in 12 months time.)

I’m a CD man, myself. I like the versatility of being able to do whatever the heck I want to with the music I purchase. I know it will run aghast of some, but I still use CDs in my Pilot. Most of the time, however, the CD arrives at the phisch bowl, gets opened, ripped to MP3 format in iTunes, and is loaded in to the music library (tunaphisch) and on to the iPod (phischpod). The only tunes I’ve downloaded from the iTMS are the free ones I occasionally will like. That may change a bit with the new Pepsi-iTunes promo, but other than that, I do not see myself purchasing digital music directly from Apple, much less from Napster.

[Via DF.]

posted by retrophisch at 8:46 PM -->in ipod , tech
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Thursday, 03 February 2005


Has the United States Postal Service installed one of the new automated postal machines in your local branch? They have in ours, and I wish they had about five more, so I wouldn’t have to deal with people at all.

Not that the Postal workers at our branch are rude or anything. They’re actually quite nice. It’s just that we have a busy branch, and only a single automated postal machine. Which is usually occupied by a lone individual with a dozen different packages, all a unique size and weight. I’ve taken to using the post office a bit more as of late for some of my minor shipping needs, and without fail, every time I go in, the automated system is being dominated by a person fitting the above description. By the time I wait in the eight-person-deep line to see one of the three desk workers, I’m getting to a live human the same time the automation-using yokel finishes. If there were more automated machines, I could have been out the door much sooner.

posted by retrophisch at 12:20 AM -->in tech
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Wednesday, 02 February 2005

Boingo for Mac

In case you aren’t a T-Mobile HotSpot subscriber, you can now use your Macintosh on the Boingo Wireless network. I can’t get the word “Oingo” out of my head now.

posted by retrophisch at 11:24 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Sunday, 16 January 2005

Can corporate IT mirror the Navy?

Frank Hayes:

…[T]he new Navy policy shows signs of being a remarkably sane model for what users should do with IT, at least the way it’s described by Robert J. Carey, the Navy’s deputy CIO for policy and integration.

The main principle is that if it interferes with Navy operations, users shouldn’t do it.

And if it’s illegal or a violation of regulations or contract requirements, users shouldn’t do it.

Otherwise, it’s probably OK.

Bet your appropriate-use policy can’t be summarized that simply, can it?

Here’s another key feature of the Navy’s policy: According to Carey, personal use of Navy IT equipment is good for morale. Sending personal e-mail, surfing the Web and shopping online during breaks are all fine — as long as they don’t hog bandwidth or otherwise interfere with Navy operations.

So if the sailors, Marines and civilians who use Navy-issued IT gear make sure the Navy’s work gets done, personal use isn’t just OK — it’s actually a good thing.

That’s a truly elegant core policy. Sure, by the time it’s officially issued it will probably be spun out into endless pages of milspec jargon. But because it’s clear and simple at its core, this appropriate-use policy will likely work anyway.

That’s fine for the Navy. But can you treat your users like sailors?

Answer: Maybe.

posted by retrophisch at 1:55 PM -->in tech
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Tuesday, 04 January 2005

Next-gen camou

So do you recall the sci-fi tales of the wearable, adaptable camouflage that reflects the wearer’s environment back on to the environment, essentially rendering the wearer invisible? Think Predator. The United States military and its civilian research units are already working on such a next-generation of camouflage for the troops.

posted by retrophisch at 12:21 AM -->in tech
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Sunday, 26 December 2004

New toy

Santa was very good to the Retrophisch™ this year. By way of Missus Phisch, the jolly old elf delivered a Canon PowerShot S500 Digital Elph, an extra Maxell battery for the new camera, and a Lowepro Rezo 20 belt case. The Rezo holds the camera, the extra battery, and an extra Compact Flash card perfectly.

We had Christmas dinner at the home of some close friends, and below is the second of the first two shots taken with the S500. Yes, it’s the little phisch, playing with their dog, Sam, and a toy lightsaber he discovered under the couch.

Davis having fun, Christmas 2004

I have had my eye on the S500 for quite some time. While I love my PowerShot G3, I have longed for a compact point-and-shoot digital that I could easily carry anywhere and everywhere, and now I have it!

posted by retrophisch at 7:07 PM -->in tech
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Thursday, 02 December 2004

Gear Lust and Loathing 2005

This time of year, everyone and their editor is churning out some sort of gadget list for their December issue. I have decided to share my comments on some of the items mentioned within the December issue of Wired, now on newsstands and in subscribers’ mail boxes, as well as Popular Mechanics. Since Wired wants to give its dead-tree edition a chance to turn a profit, the magazine being a business and all, it delays putting portions of the hard copy on its site for a few days, and the Wired Tools list is one of those delayed articles. This will in no way stop me from said comments.

The Philips LCD TV, “with Ambilight technology,” is intriguing, but even if I had the funds, the layout of my living room—or pretty much any other room, given the furniture we have—precludes my ever having a screen this large. Not to mention that the decades-old-design tube inside my flat-screen Sony 32-inch Vega gives a better picture than a plasma or LCD television. I’m still trying to think of why one would really want the Casio XFER-1000 Wireless Television. Sure, it’s “splash-proof” and floats on the water, but when I’m in the spa, I’m generally trying to do something other than watch television, as in, relax and not think about television—or much else.

I can see where Steve Jobs might be wrong on the whole no-video-iPod thing, with regard to Creative’s Zen Portable Media Center, but only with regard to a certain segment of users. A segment I am not sure is large enough to sustain such a market. If you are stuck on some sort of public transportation for half an hour or more each day, one way, then I can see having a Zen PMC. It would certainly be better to have the Zen snatched from you on the subway, rather than your iBook playing back the better-quality DVD of the same movie. Though at $500, I’m not sure if it would be worth it to have the Zen snatched, either. The Zen also appeals to a certain segment of power user who doesn’t mind ripping movies from DVDs or other digital sources, such as a TiVo, but I do not believe that devices like the Zen will have the same widespread appeal as the iPod, which is clearly what Creative is hoping for. Of course, if you simply cannot wait for a video iPod, you can at least look like you have one with AMA Technologies’ DVX-POD.

Why in the world would I want to spend $1,200 on the Samsung DVDL 1200 II portable DVD player when my 12-inch PowerBook has the same screen size, just as good battery life, and oh, in addition to being a fully-functional notebook computer, also plays DVD movies? Why would anyone want to spend $1,200 on a portable DVD player? Because they don’t know any better?

I do like Ace Karaoke’s K-Box, but since its 120 GB hard drive can only hold 12 DVD movies, you’re better off spending your $800 on one of those 100-disc CD/DVD changers and hooking that in to your home entertainment system.

If you’re the ultimate Star Wars geek and want to have speakers that look like they came out of Vader’s summer condo, you can spring three hundred smackers on Solid Acoustics’ Mini Speakers.

There is a part of me that wants to buy Damien a set of Pedestrian Turn Signals for his jaunts around NYC. I like the idea of the Energizer Quick Switch flashlight; slap in any kind of batteries you want, get the same brightness from the bulb. If you’re in the mood to depress yourself with regard to your personal finances, by all means pick up Discovery’s Amazing Money Jar. Right now, with a toddler running rampant, the LEGO Block-O-Dile might be a great way to get him to help pick up his blocks. And speaking of little ones, don’t worry about jagged edges the next time you open up a can of fruit cocktail for dessert, so long as you’re using OXO’s Smooth Edge Can Opener.

The D-Skin: are you freaking kidding?

I can see keeping bunches of the Pak-Lite LED Flashlight around the house, in the car, in my backpack… Pak-Lite should consider partnering up with one of the battery big boys and do a mass donation to our troops fighting overseas. This is just the type of utilitarian device the uniformed personnel would dig, and it beats the luggable issue flashlight on weight, packability, and quite possibly personal illumination.

If you absolutely must have your coffee stay hot, or your soda stay cold, throughout your entire commute, then get an Auto Can Cooler. Good luck with finding a place in the car for it.

I still want a keychain Wi-Fi sniffer of some sort. Not that I usually go any where were I’m actively seeking hot spots out, though the recent vacation to Arkansas was certainly high-speed-net-access unfriendly. Also on the keychain could reside the Iomega Micro Mini 1 GB drive. This little USB wonder is a third of an ounce in weight. Is the Kensington Microsaver Retractable Lock as easy to pick with a Bic pen as the rest of the Kensington lock line?

My wife is ready for a new Crackberry, and we’re eyeing the Blackberry 7100. It would be nice if there were a 7100c that would run on Cingular’s network; my wife could move her mobile number over to the 7100 and be done. Seeing as how her employer will likely be springing for the device and service, however, I guess she’ll just have two devices. The 7100 is an interesting departure for the Blackberry line, and I’m curious to see the Crackberry crowd’s response to the new keyboard layout. Blackberries are already insanely popular, and this new model could give serious competition to the current smartphone ubermensch, and object of my techno-lust, the Treo 650. Curse you, PalmOne, for being sucked in to an exclusivity deal with Sprint. I want my Cingular Treo now! With my birthday and Christmas both in the same month, this is the gift I crave!

Motorola is blitzing the airwaves with commercials of the Razr V3. I got to play with one at the local Cingular store when I went hunting for a case for my T616. Overall, I’m unimpressed. What is impressive is the slim compactness of the phone, but that’s about it. Motorola makes a big case over the keypad, “chemically etched into a single piece of nickel-plated copper alloy to take the place of protruding buttons,” according to Wired. I like my buttons to protrude, at least a little bit; it allows dialing by touch. Jon got a chuckle when I shared that observation with him, saying he can’t remember the last time he dialed from touch, making extensive use of his phone-of-the-moment’s address book and voice-dial features. Touche. My friends and associates know I am no Luddite, but I like having my options open. Give me the address book, voice dialing, and the ability to dial by touch, should I want.

Speaking of voice dialing, someone call me when the Jawbone goes wireless. I really dig the concept of the headset, but wired sets are so twentieth century. It limits what models you can support, from a hardware standpoint, and the current Jawbone is no exception.

For the price, you cannot not add a Pelican F1 flashlight to your photo kit. Plus, it’s guaranteed forever; in Pelican’s parlance, “You break it, we replace it… forever!” Just don’t take it diving…

The item I would love to add to my photo kit is Canon’s EOS 1Ds Mark II. Drool. At seven grand, sans lens, however, I don’t see this 16.7-megapixel, 35mm-equivalent digital SLR making it in to my bag any time soon. I have been extremely pleased with my PowerShot G3, and would like to add a S500 Digital Elph to the kit line-up. Maybe since the Treo 650 is currently unavailable…

Something tells me the Flybar pogo stick has “lawsuit” written all over it.

One might not think that a web site with the URL of www.stilettotools.com would sell, well, tools. One would be wrong, as Popular Mechanics has picked their Stiletto TiBone Solid Titanium Hammer as the “Hammer of the Gods.” I think the Craftsman model I use about once a month will suffice, and I’ll keep the two hundred bucks, thanks very much.

Finally, I think that Garmin’s iQue 3200 is the result of a backwards licensing deal. The iQue integrates Garmin’s GPS and mapping software with the Palm OS in a PDA-sized package. Personally, I think PalmOne needs to be licensing Garmin’s stuff, and rolling it in to the Treo 700, or whatever the next revision of the top-tier smartphone is going to be called.

posted by retrophisch at 10:26 AM -->in tech
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Tuesday, 23 November 2004

Pogue’s Posts

Macintosh author extraordinaire David Pogue now has a daily blog, courtesy of the New York Times.

posted by retrophisch at 11:04 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Saturday, 06 November 2004

Kalsey on Firefox

Wes points to this analysis of Firefox by Adam Kalsey, which I think is brilliant. I am an Internet power user, and I still see no compelling reason to use Firefox, though I heartily use its kissing cousin, Camino.

In the software requirements field there’s a problem called transference — transferring your understanding and world view onto that of the users. When you are dealing with understanding the requirements of a user, need to be very careful not to make assumptions about them. The easiest and most common assumption is that the user is in some ways similar to you or to other people you know. That’s because it’s a lot easier to identify with people with whom you have something in common. That transference of knowledge is what many of the commenters below are doing. Because of their advanced level of knowledge and the level of their friends and colleagues it is difficult for them understand and believe that there is such an enormous gap between them and the average user.

It’s not that these users are stupid. They just don’t realize that they have an alternative to Internet Explorer. Many don’t know that they have an alternative when it comes to connecting to the Internet. That blue E is the thing that they’ve always used. In order to switch they’re going to need to have a compelling reason. They’re going to need to be told not that they need a new browser or they should stop using IE, but that the way they currently use the internet is unsafe and that Firefox will solve that for them.

But before that happens, Firefox needs to be bulletproof enough that my 64 year old father in law can install it and manage it himself. He managed to install Weatherbug, Hotshots, Hotbar, and a host of other adware, so understanding how to install software isn’t the problem. The problem is that Firefox as it currently exists and is marketed isn’t as compelling as those applications. Each of the aforementioned tools provides some very real perceived benefit to the average consumer.

I convinced my wife to try Firefox after hearing her complain for the umpteetnth time about pop-up ads in IE. So I took care of the download, installation, importation of her IE favorites, and put a Firefox shortcut on her XP desktop.

The first mistake I made was not taking the IE shortcut off the desktop. She continues to use IE nearly as often as Firefox. My second “mistake” was installing Service Pack 2 for XP. Actually, that wasn’t the second mistake; the second mistake was telling my wife that SP2 enabled pop-up blocking in IE. In its current form, I’m not holding out much hope for Firefox’s continued use on our Windows box, because the biggest perceived value of Firefox to my spouse has been overcome by Microsoft.

Adware and spyware continues to be a concern, but we have tools installed to kill those. The problem I’m having with convincing my wife to continue to use Firefox is that it helps to prevent their installation in the first place. I need to begin by taking that IE icon off the desktop.

posted by retrophisch at 11:58 PM -->in tech , web/site
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Wednesday, 03 November 2004

Want a Rolex?

Everyone else out there seeing a huge load in Rolex-related spam? I swear, Rolex-related e-mail is between 1 in 7 to 1 in 10 of the spam I’m getting lately.

I already have a Swiss timepiece, thank you very much. It cost about a tenth of a what a typical Rolex does, and will last just as long. (For what it’s worth, my model, which is several years old, most resembles the “Regiment” blue-face stainless.)

posted by retrophisch at 10:08 PM -->in tech
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Sunday, 24 October 2004

The end of e-mail?

I know it’s ancient history as far as the Internet is concerned (19 July 2004), but I thought Mark Hall’s “The End of E-mail” was worth noting. I’m not saying I agree with Hall, but I totally understand his frustrations.

So-called realists out there will dismiss these lamentations by saying that despite all of its problems, PC e-mail is too popular to be abandoned. Perhaps. But those old enough to remember Usenet know that even a good, useful communications tool can be abandoned once it becomes overrun by hucksters, pornographers and other pond scum floating around the Internet. Usenet is still out there, but its popularity is near zero.

Well, the so-called realists will counter, e-mail is still far too useful for companies to abandon. That’s what these same folks said about IBM’s Selectric and the floppy disk drive. Technology is abandoned whenever cost-benefit evaluations determine it’s no longer worth keeping around. And we’re getting mighty close to the day when PC-based e-mail is determined to have a bigger downside than upside.

posted by retrophisch at 10:24 PM -->in tech
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Thursday, 21 October 2004

Our Mr. Gales in print

Hearty congratulations go out to Friend of the Phisch™ Jon Gales, who is featured in the November issue of Business 2.0! (The issue in question is for November 2004, just getting to subscribers, and hitting news stands soon.)

My favorite n3rdling is all grown up. Kudos to Jon for putting his nose to the grindstone, making his mark on the ‘Net, and living his dream job!

posted by retrophisch at 12:48 AM -->in tech , web/site
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Tuesday, 05 October 2004

Soyuz PowerBook Laptop bag

Dan rightly points out how wicked cool it would be to own a laptop bag made from parts of a parachute that has been in orbit around the Earth. Space junkies and NASA groupies will understand; all others need not apply.

Too bad I am so dirt poor right now due to unemployment. What are the odds of scoring one of these for a review, do you think?

posted by retrophisch at 10:12 PM -->in tech
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Saturday, 02 October 2004

Brain Bag trade?

Anyone out there with a black Brain Bag willing to trade for a sapphire (blue) Brain Bag? Mine is in like-new condition, was originally sent to me as a review item, and hasn’t been used in more than two years (mostly because I’ve been using other bags for review purposes).

I love the Brain Bag, but would like one in basic black, and cannot afford to buy a new one. If you’re interested in a trade, please e-mail me, and hopefully you’re savvy enough to know what to do with that e-mail address.

posted by retrophisch at 12:20 AM -->in tech
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Monday, 27 September 2004

Virgin Galactic

No, that’s not a typo. Richard “I-have-more-money-than-I-know-what-to-do-with” Branson is going to cater to his peers with the new Virgin Galactic, slated to rocket spaceward in 2007. As Dan says, the future is now. Well, almost now, at any rate.

posted by retrophisch at 9:55 PM -->in tech
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Tuesday, 21 September 2004

Gmail for Newties

I have some Gmail invitations to give away. All of my friends and online acquaintances already have accounts. It seems that Gmail4Troops has a surplus of invitations to give out.

So, here’s your chance to get in the club. These are the criteria, and you can leave them in the comments:

  1. You must be a current Newton MessagePad or eMate owner. Not a former owner, not a wanna-be owner. It doesn’t matter which model Newton you own.
  2. State your Newton’s model number, and provide a link to a picture of the device. A picture of your personal Newton, not a generic photo of your particular model. It can even be a crappy mobile phone shot.
  3. Let us know if you still use your Newton every day, or is it more of a novelty you tinker with from time to time (like my 2100).

Obviously, there is a certain amount of trust involved on my end, and a lot of honesty involved on your end. Don’t be a lame faker. The first six (6) respondents get a Gmail account.

posted by retrophisch at 9:52 PM -->in tech
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Tuesday, 14 September 2004

Bluetooth for Newts

Yes, those crazy Newton lovers have managed to get Bluetooth connectivity on a six year-dead computing platform. MacInTouch is reporting that Eckhart Köppen has produced Blunt, which has been tested so far only on MessagePad 2100s from the U.S. and Germany. All you need is Blunt and a Bluetooth PCMCIA card that matches with these specs: PCMCIA Type II card (no CardBus card), UART interface, and HCI protocol support.

I have an original Newton MessagePad, and, with many thanks to my New York connection, a MessagePad 2100, the first and last Newtons produced. I really like the Newton, though I confess to only bringing the 2100 out occasionally to play around with. For the amount of desk space the MessagePad and attached keyboard take up, however, I think I’ll just stick with my 12-inch PowerBook. If I was going to lug around the MessagePad and keyboard everywhere, why not just lug around the PowerBook instead? This is why the 2100 is just a cool toy and not in regular use. My tech gear lust is still firmly focused on the Treo 650.

According to Froogle, there is a wide price range for Bluetooth PC Cards, anywhere from US$33 to $125. With Blunt, you are currently limited to a narrow range of card types, and the two most popular brands, Belkin and 3Com, are not supported. Besides, if I was looking at shelling out $125 any time soon, it would be for an Airport Express

posted by retrophisch at 8:58 PM -->in tech
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E Ink technology

Peter Lewis explores the Sony Librié EBR-100EP electronic book reader for Fortune. (Sorry, paid subscription required to read the archived article.) What is really interesting, however, is not that this is the first electronic book reader to hit the market (currently Japan only), but the technology behind it.

Sony’s e-reader is the first consumer device to use a screen technology developed by E Ink, of Cambridge, Mass., and Philips, the Dutch electronics giant. Unlike earlier e-books that used bulky, battery-draining LCDs, the E Ink-Philips high-resolution screen is thin, energy efficient, and highly readable at any angle. Essentially it’s electronic paper, and it’s not hard to imagine all sorts of applications for it beyond future e-books. The screen in the Librié is rigid, but rollable and even foldable sheets of E Ink “paper” are already being developed. Imagine having the controls for your iPod or cellphone woven into the sleeve of your jacket, a wristwatch that’s almost paper-thin, a map that constantly updates itself, or a desktop-sized display for your wireless PDA that, when it’s no longer needed, folds up to fit in a shirt pocket.

Pardon me, I’m hyperventilating.

Technically, the electronic-ink screen is called a microencapsulated electrophoretic display. Millions of tiny capsules, some white, some black, are suspended in a thin layer of liquid. Applying a small electric charge to the white capsules (positive) and black capsules (negative) rearranges them to form readable text that has a higher contrast ratio than even newspaper print. Once the capsules are arranged, they stay in place until signaled to dance once again. That means the screen draws minimal power except for brief moments when “pages” are turned, and thus the book operates for days or weeks on just a quartet of standard AAA batteries. (However, the Librié requires a clumsy, external AC power brick when downloading books from its host PC.) The screen doesn’t generate any light of its own and can’t be read in the dark, but that’s a knock that applies to old-fashioned paper too.

posted by retrophisch at 11:31 AM -->in tech
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Monday, 23 August 2004

Microsoft patents sudo

Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

(With a wave of the flipper to Lawson.)

posted by retrophisch at 10:45 PM -->in tech
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Friday, 20 August 2004

iPods, Real, and real choices

John Gruber:

RealNetworks’ battle cry in the Harmony debate is “Choice!” Consumers demand and deserve “choice”, and despotic Apple isn’t offering it to them. (Microsoft has also played the “choice” card — cf. last year’s “Closed Is Open”. Look for Microsoft to reiterate the “choice” angle when their own music store platform launches.)

But when RealNetworks whines about choice, they’re only talking about choice between rival DRM platforms. And it’s true that Apple denies iPod owners this choice.

But what Apple provides is a larger and more important choice: the choice not to use DRM protected audio at all.

Harmony is not going to help Apple sell more iPods. Harmony is simply an attempt by RealNetworks to sell songs to iPod users. There’s no shame in that — but no benefit to Apple, either.

posted by retrophisch at 8:49 PM -->in Macintosh , ipod , tech
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Wednesday, 11 August 2004


Could this Berkeley project be coming to a future-soldier project near you? (Wouldn’t that just tick the lefties at Berkeley off…)

posted by retrophisch at 11:12 PM -->in tech
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Auto theft reducer

DataDots are reducing auto theft in Australia, but have yet to make it in to the U.S. other than on Nissan headlamps.

posted by retrophisch at 8:47 AM -->in tech
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Thursday, 05 August 2004

Pool tunes

I have an Onkyo SE-U55 USB Digital Audio Processor hooked up to my Power Mac G4 Cube. This allows me to run all Cube audio through my Aiwa shelf stereo system (which happens to reside on my desk instead of a shelf).

My wife and I have been wanting to get some speakers for use on the patio and by the pool, preferably wireless. We picked up a pair at The Sharper Image, and the set includes a 900 MHz transmitter. The transmitter plugs in to the headphone jack on the front of the Onkyo. This allows us to hear the audio on the Aiwa’s speakers as well. So, for the pool party this Saturday, we will have iTunes playing the party mix on the Cube, and getting tunes out by the pool, without having to have the beloved iPod within drenching distance.

(Yes, I know this could have been accomplished via Airport Express, but I would still have to have the speakers for outside, and in this instance, the transmitter was included.)

But we’re not done yet…

Now we have Salling Clicker installed on the Cube, and synced with my Sony Ericsson T616 via Bluetooth. I can now control iTunes remotely with my phone, so long as I’m within thirty feet of the Bluetooth adapter hanging off the back of my Cube. The study, where said Cube is located, is in the back corner of the house, just outside of which is the patio and pool.

Now I’m thinking of other possibilities. My clock radio has a crappy cassette deck built in to it, but I could put one of the speakers next to my nightstand. A cron job could start playing iTunes in the morning at the appointd time. And before you can say, “No snooze bar,” don’t forget about the phone! Just hit the appropriate control key for “Pause.”

This is how technology is supposed to work: enriching our lives, making it easier to accomplish a goal or dream, no matter how simple—or simple-minded—those might be.

posted by retrophisch at 11:46 PM -->in Macintosh , phone , tech
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Tuesday, 03 August 2004

Industry modeling

The bulk of Paul Graham’s essay Great Hackers is about dealing with and cultivating great hackers in the corporate environment. I found this very insightful as well:

I think what a lot of VCs are looking for, at least unconsciously, is the next Microsoft. And of course if Microsoft is your model, you shouldn’t be looking for companies that hope to win by writing great software. But VCs are mistaken to look for the next Microsoft, because no startup can be the next Microsoft unless some other company is prepared to bend over at just the right moment and be the next IBM.

It’s a mistake to use Microsoft as a model, because their whole culture derives from that one lucky break. Microsoft is a bad data point. If you throw them out, you find that good products do tend to win in the market. What VCs should be looking for is the next Apple, or the next Google.

I think Bill Gates knows this. What worries him about Google is not the power of their brand, but the fact that they have better hackers.

(With a wave of the flipper to Michael.)

posted by retrophisch at 1:07 AM -->in tech
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Monday, 02 August 2004

What’s your chat preference?

Totally unscientific, totally biased, comment-based poll:

What is your favorite chat protocol and client?

Here at Retrophisch™ Central, we prefer AIM, and use either iChat or AdiumX.

Leave a comment with your choices.

posted by retrophisch at 6:26 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Saturday, 17 July 2004

War of the worlds

Last month’s Wired has a short article with a lot of graphs and charts on the Free versus the Unfree worlds, as it relates to consumers and producers, IP registrations and pirates. It looks at four industries: media, medicine, agriculture, and software. Worth a look.

posted by retrophisch at 10:20 PM -->in liberty , tech
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Tuesday, 13 July 2004

On buying DVDs

So today at Costco I picked up The Bourne Identity: Explosive Extended Edition, Widescreen, of course.

I am seeing a trend in DVD releases lately. Release the movie as soon as feasible on to DVD after its theater tenure. Get the rental money back, then flood the retail market with copies. Nine months to a year later, release another version of the same DVD, only include myriad extras. This was done with the X-Men 1.5 edition, Black Hawk Down, and more recently with Saving Private Ryan.

I had been keeping my eye on The Bourne Identity at Target, waiting for it to drop from $19.99 in to their $14.99 or even $9.99 line-ups. The new DVD version was $18.88 at Costco.

So the lesson is becoming clear: if you really liked a movie enough to buy it on DVD, wait until the extras-filled DVD is released. Rent it from Netflix in the mean time.

posted by retrophisch at 9:06 PM -->in tech
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Zimmermann online

Cryptologists and cypherpunks will note Phil Zimmermann’s home page. For the uninitiated, Zimmermann is responsible for the wildly popular PGP, or Pretty Good Privacy. You can even purchase PGP on Zimmermann’s site, giving him a slice of the pie now owned by PGP, Inc., the company he founded but now only works at as an advisor and consultant.

posted by retrophisch at 7:48 AM -->in tech
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Scanner lust

Is it just me, or does anyone else notice that the prices for superior-technology scanners continue to drop? Take, for instance, Canon’s new CanoScan 8000F. It would be nice if the “F” stood for “FireWire,” but we can’t always get what we want.

(Via MacMinute.)

posted by retrophisch at 12:16 AM -->in tech
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Monday, 12 July 2004

A man’s scooter

Not that I’m in the market for a scooter, but if I were, the Scarabeo 500 would be it. In black and silver, please.

posted by retrophisch at 9:04 AM -->in tech
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gCount: menu bar application for OS X that tells you when new mail arrives in your Gmail in box. So now you don’t have to keep a browser window open all the time to see when you get new Gmail. Of course, if you’re like a lot of the Gmailers I know, you’re still trying to figure out how much you’re going to use Gmail…

I do like the menu bar icon, and how it lights up red when you get new mail.

When your three-thousand dollar suit can actually stop bullets

I love the retro styling of Tivoli radios, and they now have a Sirius satellite radio model. Their web site, however, needs a lot of help.

Ben Hammersley has been busy:

XHTML Validator to RSS
Google to RSS
FedEx package tracking in RSS
Listing Installed Perl Modules in RSS

Links from MacUpdate, Wired, and Daring Fireball.

posted by retrophisch at 12:24 AM -->in tech
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Saturday, 10 July 2004


If I didn’t already have my own server space for such usage, Dropload would be quite useful. Don’t ruin it for everyone else.

posted by retrophisch at 11:46 PM -->in tech
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Thursday, 08 July 2004

If you have to fly 14 hours

If you have to fly 14 hours, it seems Jimmy Grewal has found a great way to do it. I simultaneously would love to experience such a flight, and would dread doing so.

posted by retrophisch at 9:02 PM -->in tech
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Thursday, 24 June 2004

Has the privatization of space begun?

The big tech news of the week has to be the first step toward space privatization, with the successful launch of SpaceShipOne on Monday. Pilot Mike Melvill took the craft into a suborbital flight 62 miles above the Earth’s surface, and returned safely, landing at Mojave Airport, which Dan claims is the first certified and now operational civilian space port.

Melvill had the plane in freefall weightlessness for three minutes, releasing, in now-famous video footage, a bag of M&Ms to float around in the cockpit. He landed SpaceShipOne on the same runway it had taken off from, under the launch vehicle White Knight, an hour and a half earlier.

The venture is that of renowned designer Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites, and was financed by former Microsoftie Paul Allen for a cool $20+ million. The flight marked the highest altitude ever reached by a non-government aerospace venture, and proves what commercial enterprise can do when left alone.

Scaled Composites will now turn its attention to readying SpaceShipOne for another flight, as it pursues the Ansari X Prize, which will award $10 million to the first group to launch a resuable spacecraft with three passengers in to space, return them safely home, then do it again with two weeks. With the same reusable spacecraft.

Scaled Composites’ endeavor underscores some of what is wrong with NASA and the U.S. government’s continued interest in space. The space agency is greatly interested in the SpaceShipOne mission, and is in talks with Rutan and company. There is room for healthy competition and co-opetition in the space race. Our nation has greatly benefited from space missions in the past, and this week’s event could foreshadow greater government cooperation with private enterprise as we look beyond our own atmosphere.

posted by retrophisch at 11:15 AM -->in tech
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Thursday, 27 May 2004

Sterling at Microsoft

Bruce Sterling spoke at Microsoft last week, and someone was nice enough to transcribe it for him, since by his own admission, Mr. Sterling had no idea what he said.

posted by retrophisch at 4:14 PM -->in tech
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Friday, 21 May 2004


I’m not sure if it is really cool, or too geeky and too pricey.

posted by retrophisch at 11:38 PM -->in tech
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Thursday, 13 May 2004

World’s Fastest Man Remembered

The world’s fastest man has left this earth for the last time. William J. “Pete” Knight became the world’s fastest man on October 3, 1967, while flying the X-15 hypersonic rocket plane. He died of cancer on May 7. His record-breaking Mach 6.7 (nearly seven times the speed of sound) flight remains the highest speed ever attained by a manned aircraft.

posted by retrophisch at 10:34 AM -->in tech
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Wednesday, 12 May 2004

Welcome to the 21st century, Mr. Gates

Six years after Steve Jobs and Apple declared the floppy disk dead, with the release of the iMac, Bill Gates states the same:

In some ways, I think this is the first time I can say that the floppy disk is dead. You know, we enjoyed the floppy disk, it was nice, it got smaller and smaller, but because of compatibility reasons, it sort of got stuck at the 1.44 megabyte level, and carrying them around, and having that big physical slot in machines, that became a real burden. Today, you get a low-cost USB flash drive, with 64 megabits on it very, very inexpensively. And so we can say the capacity there for something that’s smaller, better connectors, faster, just superior in every way has made that outmoded.

So I suppose now that the tech industry pundits will proclaim Mr. Gates as a tremendous visionary for getting rid of the tiresome floppy disk, when in fact, Mr. Gates’ company is one entity responsible for extending the floppy’s life.

(via RAILhead Design)

posted by retrophisch at 3:01 PM -->in rant , tech
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Wednesday, 05 May 2004

Next Windows OS requires non-existent PCs

Microsoft Watch is reporting that the next verison of Windows, codenamed Longhorn, is going to require a PC that doesn’t yet exist. That’s okay, since Longhorn isn’t due until 2006, plenty of time for Mac OS X to steal market share as the Redmond monopoly struggles to catch up.

Longhorn will purportedly require “a dual-core CPU running at 4 to 6GHz; a minimum of 2 gigs of RAM; up to a terabyte of storage; a 1 Gbit, built-in, Ethernet-wired port and an 802.11g wireless link; and a graphics processor that runs three times faster than those on the market today.”

I’m sure Intel and AMD have 4 GHz CPUs waiting in the wings, but I wonder if we’ll see 6 GHz in 2006. Hard drive sizes are increasing expotentially, to be sure, and I can see a terabyte being available in the next two years, but I’m not sure if it will be available in such quantities as these specifications would assume. Gigabit Ethernet is a reality here and now, especially for Mac owners, as is the 802.11g wireless spec, so those aren’t any big surprises.

In a nutshell, I imagine you will see Microsoft having to blunt Longhorn for lower-end systems than what is currently called for. I simply don’t believe that those systems will be available, in mass quantity, by the time the OS ships.

(via MacMinute)

posted by retrophisch at 3:43 PM -->in tech
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Wednesday, 14 April 2004

Gmail privacy concerns

Declan McCullagh discusses his reservations about Google’s in-private-beta Gmail system. His privacy concerns are well-founded, but I’m sure a lot of people are willing to give up a bit of privacy for something that would have as much perceived value as a free gig of e-mail space.

Should Gmail open to the public as is, I can still see myself signing up for it, though my usage of it would be limited to a certain scope. In other words, I would be my own privacy protection, and that may be the best users can hope for.

posted by retrophisch at 8:19 PM -->in tech , web/site
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Tuesday, 13 April 2004

VZW to carry Treo 600!


So perhaps I won’t switch wireless carriers after all. It’s not like I can do anything right now anyway, being unemployed and all…

posted by retrophisch at 10:44 PM -->in phone , tech
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Thursday, 01 April 2004

Gateway closing all retail stores

The beleagured computer maker announced today that it would be closing all 188 of its retail stores, putting 2,500 people out of work.



Maybe if Ted Waitt stopped talking to cows and buying rivals that Dell was going to put out of business anyway, he wouldn’t be putting 2,500 people in the unemployment lines.

posted by retrophisch at 10:04 PM -->in tech
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Who needs satellite radio?

Lee linked to the Alpine iPod Ready in-dash receivers in a recent post. I must say I am very interested, though I will probably hold off on anything like this until we figure out my vehicle situation later this year.

posted by retrophisch at 5:41 PM -->in ipod , tech
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Thursday, 25 March 2004

Perfect PDAs

Still leaning toward the Treo 600 myself, I wholeheartedly agree with Steven Frank’s latest perfect PDA ponderings.

posted by retrophisch at 6:25 PM -->in phone , tech
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USB micro/mini drives

It seems like more and more vendors are jumping in to the USB micro/mini-drive game these days. Iomega has a hip-looking USB 2.0 version, but for the money I think I would prefer the versatility of Victorinox’s USB Swiss Army Knife. With my total mailbox currently over 600 MB, it’s not like I can take my e-mail around with me on either one anyway. And it is just me, or does anyone else think that USB flash memory drives are still too expensive for the capacity you get? Especially in light of what you can get in the form of SD or CF cards. I know, the USB drives don’t require a reader like the aforementioned cards, but I still think they should be cheaper for what you get in storage space.
posted by retrophisch at 5:50 PM -->in tech
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Wednesday, 10 March 2004

Memory on your wrist

Get your Dick Tracy on with the new LaCie Data Watch, which jams 128 MB of flash memory in to a decent-looking, black analog watch for 70 bucks. Works with Mac OS 9 and up, but the only version of Windows you can use is XP. I’m tempted. (via MacMinute)
posted by retrophisch at 12:10 PM -->in tech
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Marginalizing IE

The Mac Marginalization report at MacInTouch has seen a spurt of activity in recent days, notably about certain web sites not working with Safari or other non-IE browsers. In today’s postings, MacInTouch reader “Steve” suggests:

Safari users often are subjected to annoying web page redirection to inform them that their browser is not supported. Microsoft’s subversion of web standards deserves a similar tactic: “Your browser does not adhere to international web standards. Please contact Microsoft support to request standards compliance so that we can provide a better web experience for everyone. You will be redirected to our non-standard pages momentarily…”

If every web page handled MSIE this way, the stream of customer support inquiries might eventually annoy Microsoft enough that they would clean up their act.

While I highly doubt the latter would ever happen, it is amusing to consider the former nonetheless. Windoze users reading this, and other web standards-composing web sites, would do well to look to Firefox/Mozilla.

posted by retrophisch at 11:16 AM -->in Macintosh , tech , web/site
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Monday, 01 March 2004

iPod mini thoughts

I stopped by the Willow Bend Apple Store last week for two reasons. First, I needed to pick up a couple of extra FireWire-to-Dock cables for iPod use. Second, I wanted to see how the Genius Bar LCD retrofit turned out, since that has been my principal project at work for the past month. While there, I also played around with the new iPod mini. If I didn’t already have the 40 GB iPod, and was still using the original 5 GB one, I would jump on the mini. I love how they’re using Espy Sans for the screen font; I hope that carries over to the next-gen full-size Pods. Likewise, I hope to see the combination mechanical/capacitance-sensitive scroll wheel with the built-in buttons on the next-gen full-size Pod. It make navigation so much simpler. Of course, with my 40 GB iPod, I use it 50-50 as a music player and as an external hard drive. Every day, I back up my Mailsmith and Entourage mail folders to it to shuffle to and from work. Between the two, I’ve got about 1.3 GB of stuff, not to mention anything I may have downloaded during the day that I want to take home. So from that usage standpoint, a mini is not in my future. Then again, by the time I’m ready to upgrade again, the mini may just have the storage capacity to suit my habits.
posted by retrophisch at 9:32 AM -->in Macintosh , ipod , tech
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Sunday, 22 February 2004

Your very own spy drone

Sweetie, can I have one? I promise to use it and my other powers only for good…
posted by retrophisch at 7:47 PM -->in tech
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Monday, 16 February 2004

Google your flight info

Last month, Aaron Swartz noted some new features of Google, a few I was not aware of. Is it any wonder that Apple has a Google search field built right in to Safari?
posted by retrophisch at 9:13 PM -->in tech , web/site
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Bye-bye, Palm

So PalmSource has decided to discontinue Mac support in upcoming versions of the Palm OS, despite the fact that they have a larger market share percentage-wise in the Macintosh side of the computing world than out. Mac users will be left to third-party solutions to sync future Palm devices with their Macintosh systems, costing us more money. Palm Desktop (which Palm bought from Apple as Claris Organizer) will no longer be updated. Last night, I migrated all of my Palm Desktop data to Address Book, iCal, and BBEdit-created text files. I then proceeded to use iSync to sync my contact and calendar info,first on my iPod, then to my .Mac account, the latter of which was a first for me. I then synced my new-to-me, work-provided 1.42 GHz dual-G4 to my .Mac account, so that my Address Book info and Safari bookmarks matched with those on my Cube. All syncs worked without any problems, just as they should. I have been debating over what kind of phone to move to. My wife’s law firm makes extensive use of the Blackberry RIMs amongst the attorneys, and she will be getting one soon, with service through T-Mobile. I had been considering the Treo 600, but now I’m not so sure. I may go with the Sony-Ericsson T630 when U.S. providers begin carrying it over the next month or two. I don’t think Address Book and iCal will fill all of my PIM needs; I already feel like I’m going to butt against the limits of the applications, and am looking at alternatives. For now, however, Palm no longer has a place on my systems’ desktops.
posted by retrophisch at 10:19 AM -->in Macintosh , ipod , phone , tech
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Saturday, 31 January 2004

Too digital too fast?

In the Feburary 2d issue of BusinessWeek, Robert D. Hof has a column on why the latest technology isn’t always the best (paid registration required). No Luddite, Hof is just worried that our culture may be on so much of a digital kick, that we push too soon to the wayside analog technologies that are time-tested and, in some cases, still superior. The latter example Hof focuses on is photography, and film. For most people, there isn’t much difference between a 4x6 print from a digital camera versus a 35mm camera. Not much of a difference, that is, unless you’re shooting for detail, where even the top-of-the-line digital cameras still can’t match up against their film counterparts. My wife and I still tote a 35mm camera with us on vacation, as sort of a backup to our digital. On our first trip to Kaua’i, I took two shots of the Kalalua Valley, the most widely photographed spot in the South Pacific. One was with my digital, the other with Kelly’s 35mm film camera. I’m so glad I took the second picture with the film camera. For one, it came out much better than the one from my digital, as some of the clouds in the area had moved out (the trade winds there move those clouds in and out pretty quick). Second, I have plans to get the print blown up, courtesy of a friend and his plotter. I couldn’t do the latter with the digital photo, as its resolution limits its print size. Hof’s point is well taken. He also mentions the audio realm, which hearkened me back to a discussion we had on the ATPM staff list. We have several audiophiles on staff, notably Evan, whose latest audio fetish is reel-to-reels dubbed from the studio masters. While most of us couldn’t tell the difference between a MP3, the CD it was ripped from, or the master, guys like Evan, David, and others won’t touch the compressed digital stuff, especially when it comes to genres like classical, jazz, blues, and other non-mainstream music. Like Hof, I still have a battery-powered, non-digital timepiece, which, unlike my Mac, has never gotten out of sync except when the battery actually died. There are some analog things worth hanging on to, as the digital world still has a long way to go. Nothing Luddite in using what still works the best.
posted by retrophisch at 7:39 PM -->in tech
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Friday, 30 January 2004

Pogue on Gateway plasmas

If you’re not subscribing to the NYT’s Circuits e-mail list (free registration required), you’re missing out on some classic Pogue, who this week talks about Gateway’s big-screen plasma displays:

Cut to last week. I saw a TV ad for Gateway’s plasma flat-screen TV, trumpeting its success as the “Number 1 bestselling plasma in America.”

Well, duh — the thing costs $2,500 for a 42-inch model (after rebates). No wonder it’s so popular, considering that most 42-inch plasmas are white-hot even at $6,500.

So how does Gateway get away with it? As I wrote when I reviewed this screen last March, the Gateway TV’s are not, in fact, HDTV sets. “Instead of composing the picture from 1280 by 720 tiny square pixels, as a 42-inch HDTV screen does, these screens offer only 852 by 480 pixels, a lower resolution that the industry calls enhanced definition (EDTV). If you stand four inches from any plasma set, the coarse EDTV pixel grid does a convincing impression of a screen door.”

In short, Gateway is selling the cubic zirconia of plasma screens: a cheap imitation that will fool your family and friends. You’re getting all the status and that Bill-Gates’s-house chic of a plasma screen at less than half the price. Only you need to know that you didn’t actually bite the big bullet and blow the big bucks.

You know your computer company is in trouble when (a) you feature ads where you talk to a cow, and the cow talks back, and (b) when you have to move beyond selling computers to selling lame plasma displays that aren’t as good as the real thing. To quote Michael Dull from about five years ago, “If I were in charge, I’d shut it down and give the money to the shareholders.”

posted by retrophisch at 11:33 AM -->in tech
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Friday, 19 December 2003

Wal-Mart music store

Jeff Knapp writes in to MacInTouch with his experience with the new Windows-only Wal-Mart music store. It seems that one can use a Mac to view the store, register, and even download files. The no-Mac clause comes in the form of the DRM being used by Windows Media Player, as Mr. Knapp was unable to play any of the songs he downloaded. He summarized:

The user experience (non-compatibility issues aside) is OK, not great, but OK - certainly not the smooth, fluid experience iTMS is. Even if it were Mac compatible, I would be reluctant to use it because of this intrusive, “phone home” thing that appears to be happening. Otherwise, I see no reason to want to use it over the iTMS other than price.

That, and it is Wal-Mart…

posted by retrophisch at 12:01 PM -->in tech
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Thursday, 11 December 2003

Microsoft’s next monopoly

MDJ has a dead-on assessment in today’s issue of how Microsoft is seeking to co-op the online music market:

Nonetheless, even more companies are jumping into the fray, helping Microsoft’s attempts to portray its completely proprietary and highly-restrictive Windows Media format as “standard” and QuickTime as “proprietary.”


The proliferation of “music stores” pleases Microsoft greatly. The company wants to point to about a hundred different services, all selling songs at US$0.99 each, and say that 9 of them use Windows Media and only one does not - iTunes Music Store. This is how new monopolies are born, and Microsoft doesn’t even seem to be leveraging Windows to do it. The company simply added capabilities for highly restrictive and revocable rights into Windows Media, and content creators are flocking to it, pleased at being able to keep purchasers from using their songs or video how they please.

Fortunately, Apple has all the bulk of the mindshare right now when it comes to buying music online. Magazines, polls, sites, et al are lining up to declare the iTunes Music Store or the iPod as product of the year, or including them in some sort of Top 10/20/50/100 list. Not to mention that while files downloaded from the iTMS do contain a form of digital rights management (DRM), said form isn’t anywhere near as restrictive as that of the Windows Media format. Not to mention that what some of the other online music services are peddling are nothing more than revamped subscription formats.

People who buy digital music don’t want to subscribe to it. They want to buy it, download it, pop it in to a MP3 player, burn it to a CD, and get on with their lives. They don’t want to keep paying for the same song again and again. This is the life those services trumpeting WMA are trying to lock consumers in to.

Personally, I haven’t bought anything from the iTunes Music Store. I like my CDs, with a physical item that contains the mastered AIFF files. I like my liner notes. I like being able to rip my CDs at any rate I wish, rather than have to take the rate an online service delivers in. The dirty secret of the iTMS is that you can pay just a couple of bucks more for a full album from Amazon and get all of that. Michael and I have had variations of this conversation on more than one occasion, and he is of like mind.

That said, if I were an online music buying fiend, there is no doubt it would all be from the iTunes Music Store. Best selection, even if it’s not complete. For a DRM system, it’s pretty fair. Quite simply, it’s the best, Chairman Gates can’t stomach that, and Matt D. & company take Microsoft to task over it.

posted by retrophisch at 10:02 PM -->in tech
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Wednesday, 10 December 2003

You want to jack in to my what?

Unlike Lee, I don’t think I’d appreciate this new trend of non-verbal, can-I-listen-to-your-iPod-for-a-moment “communication” with perfect strangers. With someone I know, even on an acquaintance level, I’d feel much more generous. I’ve known my new boss less than two weeks, and we’ve already listened in to one another’s iPods. But we’re the only two people in our department, both total Mac heads, both love our iPods, he’s a major music geek, etc., etc. We have a lot of stuff in common outside of our work relationship. But I would likely balk if someone just walked up to me on the street and wanted to plug in…

posted by retrophisch at 5:47 PM -->in ipod , tech
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Jobs: Rolling Stone

A good interview with Steve Jobs over on RollingStone.com. Having had discussions about the music biz with folks who have worked in it, including my new boss, I have to say that I think Steve’s remedy for the music biz to increase its profits is dead-on.

posted by retrophisch at 10:48 AM -->in tech
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Saturday, 06 December 2003

Back to space

It will be interesting to see if the President issues a call to go back to space later this month, or next. This is very sobering:

Every American who has died in a spacecraft has done so within one calendar week: The Apollo 204 fire on January 27, 1967; the Challenger disaster on January 28, 1986; and the loss of Columbia on February 1, 2003.

Perhaps NASA should take note of the above dates and scrub that portion of the calendar from any future misisons.

Naysayers should take note of a myriad of advancements in their daily lives that would not be possible without the United States’ involvement in space exploration. And I’m not talking about Tang…

posted by retrophisch at 1:14 AM -->in tech
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Wednesday, 03 December 2003

The real reason behind IT purchasing

In the most recent Macintosh Daily Journal, Matt Deatherage & Co. take Information Week to task over their recent PC Vendor poll and rankings. MDJ correctly points out what’s really behind the buying decisions of most corporate IT managers:

IT buyers list many important factors, but when Apple meets them, they ignore them because Apple is not the “standard.” The most important consideration for IT buyers is not cost, customer service, quality, reputation, or proven technology, even if the magazine’s survey said so. The most important factor is that the PCs be Intel-compatible so they can run Windows, but no one wants to say that because it makes them look inflexible. Windows is the elephant in the middle of the room, and rather than talk about it, InformationWeek made up reasons why Apple doesn’t meet criteria when it obviously does. It’s hard to see how that is information, even if it does come out weekly.

posted by retrophisch at 10:20 AM -->in Macintosh , rant , tech
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Tuesday, 28 October 2003

Dell product “designers”

Have you seen the commercial being plastered across the airwaves by Dell featuring the interns and Dell’s product “designers”?

The thought that Michael Dull employs product designers in the first place is tremendously laughable. It becomes more humorous when you notice the products said “designers” are handling:

  • a PDA—designed and produced by an OEM, with Dell’s logo planted on it
  • a printer—Dell has never made printers, does not make printers, and won’t make printers, so there’s no need to employ a printer “designer”
  • a flat-panel display—designed and produced by an OEM, with Dell’s logo planted on it
  • Inspiron notebook computer—the only item featured that actually is designed by Dull’s product “designers,” and is about as inspiring as a Michael Jordan Hanes briefs commercial.

Truly pathetic. Unfortunately, I’m sure Joe Consumer has no concept of how Dull operates, and is buying this hook, line, and sinker.

You want truly innovative product design? Come on over.

posted by retrophisch at 12:36 PM -->in rant , tech
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Saturday, 25 October 2003

Content Search on Amazon

How do you know you’re the father of a three month-old? When you don’t have much time to read your favorite blogs, and note what you read.

Lee posted on Amazon’s new Book Content Search feature, and this is just a bit of all-right, as Austin P. would say.

I’m not so impressed with the new feature in an of itself—I doubt I will personally use it much—so much as I am by the technological feat of processing 120,000 books, not to mention the man-hours Amazon put in to the project. Kudos, Bezos and Company!

posted by retrophisch at 12:10 PM -->in tech
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Friday, 29 August 2003

iStockphoto praise

iStockphoto saves the day for Eric. Though I haven’t had much use for it lately, I have been a registered member since late last year and think it’s a wonderful service. I have even thought about contributing photos myself, though I don’t believe a majority of mine are at a high enough resolution to warrant inclusion. (via Michael)
posted by retrophisch at 12:00 PM -->in fun , tech , web/site
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Wednesday, 27 August 2003

Font fights cancer

Speaking of Dan, he has hooked up with one of my favorite cartoonists, and all-around nice guy (have met him twice now!), Michael Jantze, creator of The Norm, to produce the Jantze font. The font is the handwriting Michael uses in The Norm comics.
Jantze font graphic
Not only is it a great font, but Dan & Michael have decreed that all royalties earned from this font’s sales will go to the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which “provides financial grants to researchers working to improve our odds against the disease, individuals stricken with cancer, and survivors of the disease that are advocates for survivorship issues in their communities.”
posted by retrophisch at 9:15 AM -->in Macintosh , fun , tech
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Friday, 15 August 2003

East, West, Texas

“Now see here…you gotcher East power grid—you know, the one that danged near blew up yesterday—and you gotcher West power grid—you know, the one with all them rollin’ blackouts and brownouts—and then you gotcher Texas grid, which has been hummin’ along since we went on our own after our energy crisis in the ’80s…”
U.S. power grid graphic
“And you people think we’re just jokin’ when we say Texas is like a whole ‘nother country. Heck, we did it twice before…”
posted by retrophisch at 2:55 PM -->in tech
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Tuesday, 29 July 2003

Truth in advertising?

This is now posted outside my cubicle.
posted by retrophisch at 9:17 AM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Friday, 25 July 2003

More BuyMusic.com madness

Bob Levitus rips in to BuyMusic.com: bq. Simply put, while iTunes Music Store is the Rolls-Royce of online music, BuyMusic.com is a Yugo. Jon shows how to use Safari to get around that nasty Windows-only business BuyMusic.com has decided to shovel…
posted by retrophisch at 3:13 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Thursday, 24 July 2003

Second-rate from the Windoze world once again…

By now everyone has heard about buymusic.com, the Windows answer to Apple’s iTunes Music Store. Don’t be impressed; don’t be worried. According to a few reader notes from yesterday’s MacInTouch, buymusic.com is not all it’s cracked up to be:

Buymusic.com claims tracks cost “from $.79,” though I found most popular music to be either $.89 or $.99. The DRM is also complicated, varying from track to track. Some tracks can only be burned 1,3,5, or 10 times. Others can only be downloaded to an MP3 player a limited number of times. Some can be stored on 3 computers while others can only be stored on 1. (Ryan Greenberg)

Dominic Mazzoni writes:

BuyMusic isn’t nearly as price-competitive as the AP article would have you believe. First of all, their lowest song price is $0.79, not $0.70 as the article claimed. But if you browse their site, you’ll discover that the vast majority of songs are offered at $0.99—the same rate as the Apple store. I found a few songs available for $0.89, but in a few minutes of searching through a number of genres, I only found one song available for $0.79.

Not only that, but quite a few of their songs aren’t even available for purchase. That makes me wonder how their catalog size (which they claim is 300,000) actually compares to Apple’s if you only consider songs that you can actually purchase and burn to a CD.

Apple does need to get its act together with getting iTunes and the Music Store ready for Windows users. The iPod is already burning up the sales charts in Windoze-land, and Apple has a huge advantage over any music-selling competitor. Strike while the iron is hot, Steve.

UPDATE: 9:20 A.M. More from MacInTouch’s Thursday report, as Greg Orman shows that BuyMusic isn’t actually letting you buy music…

The fine print clearly states that you’re only licensing the music, not purchasing it, and furthermore that the license is tied to the computer used for the transaction. If you replace your computer, you lose access to everything you’ve licensed and downloaded (though you’ll still have any copies you burned to CD or transferred to a portable, assuming that the DRM on the songs you licensed allowed you to do that in the first place).

So there you go. The Apple iTunes Music Store remains the only place one can actually buy music for their own personal, pretty much unrestricted use, online.

posted by retrophisch at 8:57 AM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Monday, 14 July 2003

Treo 600

So forget the Kyocera 7135, and the upcoming Samsung SGH-i500 Palm OS smart phone. Jon has turned me on to Handspring/Palm’s next beauty, the Treo 600. Mobile Burn has more on the 600’s appearance at CeBIT America. Best news: Palm OS 5, something the other two Palm OS smart phone contenders don’t currently have access to. Yeah, I’ll have to wait until November, maybe December to get it, but I believe in the end, it’ll be worth it. Even if I have to drive to Florida to beat Jon senseless for his review model…
posted by retrophisch at 9:27 AM -->in tech
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Sunday, 29 June 2003

Comcast woes

So at some point yesterday morning, our broadband connection died. We both had been using it in the early morning, checking email, pulling up web pages, that sort of thing. But when I went back to do the same around 10:30-11ish, no connection. Checked the cable modem; no connection with cable. Now, we’ve been experiencing drop-outs left and right for the past few months on a seemingly regular basis. I’ve chalked it up to the Comcast buyout of AT&T’s broadband business, and the switching over, but it is getting a little ridiculous. Not to mention that even before the buyout happening, we had more broadband dropouts in any single month than a I did in a year and a half with Verizon DSL at our old house. Spent about two hours on the phone with a Comcast tech yesterday. The guy was very competent, I’ll give him that, and we tried a myriad of things. I had even gone out and bought a new cable modem, just in case that was the problem. It does not appear to be. Other friends in the neighborhood still have their connections, and there’s no reported outage for our area. So the tech and I are both thinking that’s something’s screwy at the junction box. We’ll find out later today; an on-site tech is due between 2 and 5. The past year and couple of months with broadband cable as soured me on it, however. Especially when you’re trying to run a server on that connection. Said server has now moved, however, to the more reliable business-class DSL line of a friend. DSL was never available in our area when we first moved here, which is why we had to go with cable for broadband. I have begun research on if I can get DSL now, even though it will be “slower” than the shared 1.5 Mbps of the cable connection. The Verizon DSL web site claims that we’re “pre-qualified,” which you would think means that our line checks out for it, but we’ve been pre-qualified before, and then I spoke with a live CSR only to be told that we’re not in an area serviced by Verizon DSL. Which would leave me the small local telco, Advantex, which does offer DSL service, but for $10 more a month than what I’m paying for cable. (We get $10 knocked off our bill each month for providing our own cable modem.) The question again would be is Advantex’s DSL offered in our area. I’ll follow up with the two DSL providers on Monday. All I know is that dial-up sucks these days for most everything but email…
posted by retrophisch at 11:18 AM -->in tech
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Thursday, 26 June 2003

How pathetic am I?

So I’ve spent part of last night and this morning, off and on, installing Fink, FinkCommander, and X11. Why? Why, to play XGalaga, of course, the open source clone of my favorite childhood video game. Geez, you didn’t think I was going to go through all that trouble to do work or anything, did you? ;-)

posted by retrophisch at 10:02 AM -->in Macintosh , fun , tech
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Wednesday, 25 June 2003

Pen tech

James Lileks:

A few minutes later I have a fistful of Bics, including the new nevr-dri-out highlighting pens with a clear reservoir tank. You can see the lovely yellow ink sloshing around. No more wondering how much highlighting you can do - just check your tank. Highlight with confidence, friend. Across the room, a Sharpie salesman who, true to the name of his product, had the manner of Chris Finch from “The Office”, was handing out the new bleedless acid-free silver-ink Sharpie. Got two. At the Uniball table, the new magic pen with invisible ink that turns purple when it hits the page! And it has - drumroll - a clear reservoir tank. All your old pens with their inscrutable interiors are old and busted, and I sneer at you from my position on the clear-tank paradigm verandah, where I have a lounge chair and an umbrella and a drink. It’s clear but it tastes purple.

posted by retrophisch at 11:52 AM -->in fun , quote , tech
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Isn’t technology cool?

1. Buy the Baby Einstein CD set. (Mozart, Beethoven, Handel, and Bach) 2. Rip all 4 CDs to MP3 with iTunes. 3. Copy all 4 sets of MP3s to your iPod. 4. Now you can use your Aiwa noise-canceling headphones plugged in to the iPod and situated on the wife’s abdomen to let your developing little son listen to the classics, proven to beneficially stimulate neural development.
posted by retrophisch at 11:25 AM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Tuesday, 17 June 2003

DNS Primer

If you’ve ever been interested in how your email gets from your computer to someone else’s, or how your browser knows how to load up a web site, you need to read Dan Benjamin’s excellent DNS primer at MacDevCenter. It’s geared toward Mac OS X users, but anyone can learn the basics of DNS, IP addresses, routing, and all that other techie stuff that makes the Internet work, boiled down in to simply terms by Mr. Benjamin (of Hivelogic/Hiveware fame). Oh, and hire this dress-code-aware guy, if you have the need. Too much talent to not be getting paid well by someone, somewhere.
posted by retrophisch at 3:35 PM -->in Macintosh , tech , web/site
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Monday, 16 June 2003

More blogging coverage

Business Week Online has a good article on the growing pervasiveness of weblogs, and what they mean to mass media and consumers. I like Nick Denton’s term of “open-source media.”
posted by retrophisch at 9:08 AM -->in tech , web/site
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Friday, 13 June 2003

Death of PNG?

Ric notes a News.com story about the impending expiration of the patent that controls the GIF file format, and what that may mean for the PNG graphics format. See, LZW compression forms the basis for the GIF format, and Unisys owns the LZW patent. A few years ago, Unisys began to flex its muscles in enforcing the LZW patent, and this basically meant the death of free and cheap shareware GIF creation/manipulation software. To compensate, the PNG graphic format was created, and a movement to rid sites of all GIFs was born. Well, Unisys’s patent expires in the U.S. later this month; in the rest of the world, next year. The PNG format, despite many advances over GIF, has not caught on heavily outside the geek community. And it doesn’t do animation, which GIF does. Personally, I like the PNG format, and use it when possible over GIF. (Unless I’m using someone else’s graphic, though I have converted them in the past.) Most modern browsers support it, though perhaps not fully (viz: IE). So after the patents expire, are we going to see an explosion of activity in the GIF creation/manipulation software market? If so, you may see the PNG format remain a second-class graphic file citizen, or worse.
posted by retrophisch at 4:44 PM -->in tech , web/site
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The Samsung Way

The current Business Week’s cover story is about Korean tech company Samsung, and its ascendance from third-rate copycat to bleeding-edge envelope pusher. Apple gets quite a few mentions throughout as well; Samsung’s MP3 player line is third in the market worldwide, behind Number 2 iPod. Good article, showcasing how Samsung defies the conventional wisdom with its old-school processes, though it begs the question of how long the company can keep that up. Speaking of Apple and Samsung, Jon pointed me to this article, wherein they discuss Apple’s threatened lawsuit over the Korean tech-maker’s latest revision of their Yepp series MP3 player. Seems it looks just a little too much like the iPod. Samsung’s agreed to go back to the drawing board. Seriously, though: I love my iPod, but how many different ways are there to design a good MP3 player? Cool your jets, Steve-o. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. As long as it’s not an exact, specification-for-specification, look-by-look copy, let’em go. The iPod will still spank’em.
posted by retrophisch at 2:03 PM -->in tech
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Wednesday, 11 June 2003

7135 first impression

As I stated previously, I went on my lunch break to the nearby Verizon Wireless store to check out the Kyocera 7135 SmartPhone. I was suitably impressed. Yes, it’s a little thicker and bulkier than most phones out there, weighing in at 6.6 ounces. But playing around with it, I didn’t find its size to be a deal-breaker. We are, after all, talking about a phone with a Palm PDA jammed in to it. Personally, I didn’t feel that it was too much bulkier than my current Motorola StarTac, once it’s folded over and in its belt clip/holster. Decided to do a little checking on the web. Walt Mossberg likes it, but doesn’t like it. Walt’s gripes do not overly concern me, especially the email issue. Call me old-fashioned, but I just haven’t quite grasped the concept yet of checking my email on my phone. I like to stay connected and in touch via email as much as the next guy, but I honestly don’t have the type of professional or personal life that would warrant such immediate need. Mike Wendland loves his 7135, and has had little problems with it under OS X. Since I’m no longer using iSync, I doubt I would encounter the same issues as Mike. (Said issues may have been fixed with iSync 1.1, but I haven’t come across the post yet on Mike’s site that may say so.) Reading through one forum on Palm Boulevard sounds like there was a lot of pent-up demand for the 7135 from November of last year to just this April. There’s even an entire site devoted to Kyocera SmartPhones. I’m waiting to hear back from our VZW corporate rep, but I think I’ve found my new phone…
posted by retrophisch at 3:28 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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So today I de-iApped a bit. Viz: I had moved all of my contact and calendar info out of Palm Desktop, into OS X’s Address Book and iCal. Then I set up iSync to sync my Palm m505 with my TiBook. The thought was that I could then sync this info with my iPod—which I’ve done once in about six months—and whatever new mobile phone I get when my current contract expires (end of this month). Seeing as how I’ve never used iSync to sync to my iPod (did it all manually the one time), and now I’ve got my eye on the Kyocera 7135 as my mobile phone replacement, I’ve ditched Address Book and iCal and moved everything back over to Palm Desktop. Syncing is *way* faster now. I think Apple is doing some really cool stuff, but the iSync Palm conduit just plain sucks. Address Book and iCal are now gone from the Dock. Yeah, I may opt for another phone, and that might mean that I’m doing all of this again. The m505 actually is provided by my employer, so if I went with the 7135, I’d have my own Palm, with a phone wrapped around it. I’m going to look one over during my lunch break.
posted by retrophisch at 12:32 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Tuesday, 03 June 2003

Microsoft targets Google

Is there anyone that Microsoft doesn’t see as a competitor? bq. “We do view Google more and more as a competitor. We believe that we can provide consumers with a better product and a better user experience. That’s something that we’re actively looking at doing,” said Bob Visse, director of marketing for Microsoft’s MSN Internet services division. What’s wrong with the Google user experience? I think it’s great. I love the simple, minimalist interface on the main page. If you need more advanced features, they’re a click away. If I want a bloated, crufty, way-too-much-happening-at-once search engine, I know where to go already, thank you very much. But I’m sure Microsoft is doing some sort of “innovating” in the search engine sector.
posted by retrophisch at 8:44 AM -->in tech , web/site
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Friday, 23 May 2003

TypePad screenshots

There are now some screenshots of the TypePad interface up at the main site, including the photo albums feature. Having just recently moved over some of my own photos, this is interesting. I may hold off on any more conversion/moving until after TypePad pricing is announced and/or it goes live.

posted by retrophisch at 9:20 AM -->in tech , web/site
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Thursday, 22 May 2003

PNG petition

IE/Win doesn’t fully support the PNG graphics format, and Zeldman points to an online petition that is now just shy of 7,000 signatures. (Yours truly is #6977.) Every modern web browser with the exception of IE/Win has full PNG support built in, including beta browsers Safari and Camino. Please sign the petition and let’s hope Microsoft will listen; they’ve only been promising this since IE 4.

posted by retrophisch at 3:56 PM -->in tech , web/site
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Tuesday, 20 May 2003


Seems our parent company is going to be installing a “next-generation tandem soft switch” in Dallas as its first step in providing nationwide Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VOIP. You may have already begun to see tv ads about this technology from Cisco, who is the leader in VOIP hardware.

Theoretically, because VOIP is faster and less expensive than conventional circuit-switched transmission, your long-distance phone bill should go down as well. VOIP works just like the various Internet applications you use daily, in that the packet-switching technology breaks down voice and data messages into many separate “packets” that can share the same line.

Plans call for these next-gen soft switches to be deployed in Chicago and Pittsburgh next, with VZ using all three to process VOIP calls.

posted by retrophisch at 8:57 AM -->in tech
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Thursday, 15 May 2003


Ben and Mena’s latest venture sounds intriguing, especially if the basic service is something that runs only $7 a month. I’d be interested in something more advanced, as I like putting up photo albums, which is an advanced feature/option. No firm pricing information just yet, and no other details, like how much space you get, how many email addys, etc. Ben Hammersly got a sneak peek: bq. The features are remarkable: there is a very powerful, but extremely simple, template builder. Users can redesign their weblogs and create fully compliant XHTML pages, with out knowing what that last phrase means. There is a built-in photo album, built-in server stats, so you can see who is coming to visit you and from where, built-in blogrolling (listing the sites you like to read), and built-in listing for your music, books and friends, producing a complete friend-of-a-friend file for every user. Final judgment pending until full details are disclosed, but it sounds promising.
posted by retrophisch at 4:36 PM -->in tech , web/site
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Tuesday, 13 May 2003


Can’t keep all of that techno-computer jargon straight in your head? Ever wonder what a PNG is? You need Jargonary, a shareware product for both Mac and Windows.

No affiliation with the product or author; just thought it was nice (though I think it’s overpriced at $20).

posted by retrophisch at 1:38 PM -->in tech
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Wednesday, 07 May 2003

One million in one week

Yeah, I know everyone has read how the Apple Music Store has sold more than a million songs in its first week.

But Lee has broken down what that means, and the results are impressive. Better than one-and-a-half songs sold per second. I can’t wait to see Apple’s financials on this as the year progresses. My stock has already gone up about three bucks a share in the past week.

posted by retrophisch at 11:12 AM -->in Macintosh , fun , tech
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Tuesday, 06 May 2003


I wish I was making this up. From the idiot savants at Microsoft UK. (Note that the emphasis is not on “savants.”)

(Thanks, Ricky.)

posted by retrophisch at 2:36 PM -->in fun , tech
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Thursday, 01 May 2003

Apple’s music Fortune

My lovely bride pointed me to this Fortune article on the new iTunes Music Service. Obviously written for publication before the service was officially announced, it provides a great look at Jobs’ vision behind the service, and the inadequacy of the music industry in its previous and current efforts at online distribution.

A few items I’d like to address:

One thing’s for sure: If ever there was an industry in need of transformation, it’s the music business. U.S. music sales plunged 8.2% last year, largely because songs are being distributed free on the Internet through illicit file-sharing destinations like KaZaA.

I take issue with this statement, since it’s impossible to prove that illegal file sharing has had this much impact on the U.S. music biz. There is a ton of physical piracy (blanket CD copying) going on overseas, especially in Asia, that eats in to the music industry more than a bunch of geeks swapping songs online.

I have downloaded a lot of music from peer-to-peer networks, as well as some centralized sites I have access to. Some of it was digital copies of CDs and cassettes I already own. The rest was stuff I wanted to listen to before I went out and bought it. A lot of that got trashed when I realized it wasn’t for me.

I know I’m not the only one who probably spent more on music (albeit looking for sales and good prices online) because I was pulling music off the net.

Second, it seems as though hardly anyone in the music business thinks that the problem with falling sales may be attributed to the product itself. Elsewhere in the article:

For years they have been able to get away with releasing albums with two or three potential hits bundled with ho-hum filler cuts. That has been wonderful for the industry, but it has made a generation of consumers who pay $18.99 for CDs very cynical. “People are sick and tired of that,” says singer-songwriter Seal. “That’s why people are stealing music.”

Amen. That’s it right there. And we see further evidence of the music industry’s slow-to-catch-on attitude:

But MusicNet users still can’t download songs onto portable players. “These devices haven’t caught on yet,” insists MusicNet CEO Alan McGlade. Never mind that U.S. sales of portable MP3 players soared from 724,000 in 2001 to 1.6 million last year.

Hmmm. I would think a better-than-two-times annual growth, in a year, in any segment of the tech economy would be cause for consideration of said segment.

As for the service itself, I think it’s great. I haven’t actually bought and downloaded any music yet, but that’ll change any day. I’ve spent quite a bit of time searching through it and listening to samples. It’s going to change the way I buy music. It’s going to change the music business.

posted by retrophisch at 11:40 AM -->in Macintosh , fun , tech
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Tuesday, 22 April 2003

Vindigo 2.0 is 1

A year ago Vindigo 2.0 was launched. I’m a happy customer, with the software humming away on my Palm m505.

posted by retrophisch at 3:57 PM -->in tech
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Tuesday, 15 April 2003

New York Office Space

I don’t live in New York. Don’t work in New York. Plan to never, ever live or work in New York.

Yet I found this article by Joel Spolsky, on searching for office space in NYC, fascinating. (via Glenn)

posted by retrophisch at 5:07 PM -->in fun , tech
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Tax Day Desktop

Not sure what compelled me to suddenly share what my desktop looks like, but here it is:

desktop thumbnail

Click on the above pic for a full-size image.

That’s Zane, atop one of his former favorite napping places: my 20” CRT, now replaced by a 15” Apple LCD. That shot is about two years old. The PowerBook has four partitions, appropriately named for an avowed Star Wars nut. iTunes is ripping The Elms’ latest to MP3.

The one thing I miss about that incredibly massive Radius CRT, was Zane plopping down on top when I was in the room.

posted by retrophisch at 4:05 PM -->in Macintosh , fun , tech
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If having high-speed ‘net access while traveling is extremely important to you, then Geektels is a resource you must use. (via Damien via Dave)

posted by retrophisch at 10:09 AM -->in tech
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Thursday, 10 April 2003

Fun with spammers

This isn’t necessarily an anti-spam measure; it’s more along the lines of revenge. From the latest Dilbert newsletter comes this reader gem:

Here’s a fun hobby of mine: When I get e-mail spam that includes an 800-number, I save the number for later. Then when one of the hundreds of Nigerian scam e-mails hits my e-mail box, I reply enthusiastically and give the 800-number of the spammer as my own. I feel that people in the DNRC have a responsibility to introduce A-holes to each other.
posted by retrophisch at 2:19 PM -->in fun , rant , tech
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Monday, 07 April 2003

Embedded PowerBook

Thanks to Mark for the pointer to this photo gallery of USA Today photography Jack Gruber, who is using his PowerBook G4 12” to send pictures to the main office.

I still want one!

posted by retrophisch at 2:49 PM -->in Macintosh , liberty , tech
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Wednesday, 02 April 2003

Mobile mobile numbers

All I can say is, it’s about freaking time.

I wonder if I could push this issue in June, should I change mobile providers after plan/phone shopping. (Thanks, Jon!)

posted by retrophisch at 9:16 PM -->in tech
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Monday, 31 March 2003

SmartyPants 1.2.2

I know I’m half a month late in noting this, but Gruber confesses to why such a quick update to the 1.2.1 release of SmartyPants was necessary:
See, back in 1998 I became the owner of a South American woolly monkey, whom I named Paco, with the intention of training him to assist in my freelance graphic design work. Everyone told me this was a terrible idea, that it would not work, that at the very least I would need a chimpanzee or orangutan, that a mere monkey would never be able to do graphic design. I was unswayed. Do you know how much food chimpanzees and orangutans eat? And for chrissakes, an orangutan can beat you up—I’ve seen those Clint Eastwood movies, those [BLEEP]ers can pack a punch. I do not need to be coldcocked by my lower-primate assistant. What I wanted was a monkey, a loyal friend who, when otherwise unoccupied, could sit on my shoulder and pick crumbs out of my hair.
posted by retrophisch at 3:52 PM -->in tech , web/site
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Monday, 24 March 2003


Now this is something I could have used last year, when I lost pictures of my grandmother’s visit to Dallas.

posted by retrophisch at 10:51 AM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Friday, 21 March 2003

WiFi in rural Iowa

Rod Keller documents the external expansion of his home LAN via WiFi. Very cool.

(Thanks, Ric)

posted by retrophisch at 4:35 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Tuesday, 18 March 2003

Beleaguered Gateway closing stores, reducing work force

I figured it was high time that a computer manufacturer other than Apple had the word “beleaguered” in a headline or story about them. According to a c|net story, Gateway is closing 76 stores and laying off 17 percent of its work force. If this were Apple, stories and editorials on the company’s imminent demise would be rampant.

Maybe if Ted Waitt stopped talking to cows, people would take his company more seriously.

posted by retrophisch at 7:39 AM -->in tech
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Tuesday, 11 March 2003

Hilton, Borders, & McDonald’s go WiFi

MacMinute notes a c|net report that Hilton Hotels, Borders Books & Music, and McDonald’s are partnering with Intel to deliver WiFi (802.11b) wireless network access in various hotels and stores around the country.

Though I’m sure they’ll try to charge separately for something they should simply build in to their costs, the latter of which would help attract consumers, the only mention of pricing thus far is from McDonald’s: one hour of free access when you purchase a combo meal.

posted by retrophisch at 12:02 PM -->in tech
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Monday, 10 March 2003


My new favorite n3rd reports that his mobile phone weblog has a new and permanent home: MobileTracker.net.

Jon also shares this insight on the T68i, which is fast becoming my next mobile of choice!

posted by retrophisch at 11:47 AM -->in tech
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Wednesday, 05 March 2003

World’s Smallest Combination Lock

From the Your Tax Dollars At Work Department:

Sandia Labs had developed the world’s smallest combination lock, and hopes to have a commercial partner lined up for distribution within two years, after they have completed refinement and reliability testing. Each of the six gears is only 300 microns across, about as big as a period in standard newspaper text. The lock will be marketed at the computer industry.

(via Gibson via Sterling)

posted by retrophisch at 4:10 PM -->in tech
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Monday, 03 March 2003

n3rd Cell Station

Jon Gales has spun off from his regular blog a new weblog devoted to mobile communication technology. Seeing as how I’m four months away from the end of my current mobile phone contract, this new site of his is of great interest to me…

posted by retrophisch at 4:48 PM -->in tech
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On passwords

Thanks to JG & Co. at MacMerc for the link to a CreativePro story on safe password creation and usage. Good stuff here. Read and implement. (This means you, sweetheart.)

posted by retrophisch at 4:16 PM -->in tech
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Friday, 28 February 2003

Newton still going strong

Yesterday marked the 5th anniversary of Apple’s discontinuing production of the Newton, the forerunner of today’s PDAs. Speaking of today’s PDAs, some are still trying to catch up, in terms of features and speed, to what was offered 5 years ago in the Newton MessagePad 2100. To this day, the Newton’s biggest shortcoming is still its size.

Michael notes how Newton users are continuing to extend the life of the original personal digital assistant. I can’t wait to reacquaint myself with Newton when a 2100 arrives in a couple of weeks, courtesy of a pal in NYC.

posted by retrophisch at 1:29 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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Thursday, 27 February 2003


More gear lust, this time courtesy of Steven and The Register. With our current mobile contract up in June, I’ll be shopping around for the best plan, and a new phone. I’ve had my sights set on SonyEricsson’s T68i, and may still pick that up, depending on P800 pricing in 4 months. Both the T68i and the P800 would allow me to dump my Palm and have just one device. Currently, my mobile is a low-end StarTac.

posted by retrophisch at 10:48 AM -->in tech
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Wednesday, 19 February 2003

Stolen Computer Registry

Lose or have stolen your laptop—or desktop, for that matter? You can register the serial number with the Stolen Computer Registry. That great system you just picked up on eBay for next to nothing? Check it against the registry; if something seems too good to be true…

posted by retrophisch at 10:32 PM -->in tech
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Tuesday, 18 February 2003

When you’re really paranoid

The DVD/CD Shredder from Alera Technologies destroys the data layer on DVD and CD discs, making the data unrecoverable.

Pretty much any size DVD or CD is handled, including 120mm, 80mm, and even Business Card size. It’ll set you back $39.99.

I’ve been saving quite a few CDs to send off to be recycled, and for the CDs that actually contain old personal data, this might not be a bad idea.

(via Macintouch)

posted by retrophisch at 11:19 AM -->in tech
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Wednesday, 12 February 2003

CRT-free household

As of this morning, our household is free of computer CRT monitors. Last night, we purchased a NEC 17” LCD for my wife’s PC. With just a slightly smaller viewable area than the 19” CRT she was using, she now has more desk space, along with the LCD’s crisper, easier-on-the-eyes view, and low power consumption. The NEC joins my Apple 15” LCD as the household desktop monitors. All other systems in the house—PowerBook G4/500, iBook/300, and IBM ThinkPad—are laptops.
posted by retrophisch at 9:54 AM -->in tech
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Monday, 14 October 2002

PGP 8.0 Public Beta

Earlier this year, the email encryption system known as Pretty Good Privacy was rescued from the nincompoops at Network Associates, and will soon be available from the PGP corporation.

The best news is that we will finally have an OS X-native version. You can try it out now through PGP’s public beta program. Highlights include: Full support for Mac OS X 10.2; full PGP Disk interoperability with PGP Disks created by all prior PGP Disk products for Mac OS, as well as with PGP Disks created with PGP Disk for Windows 7.0 and later; AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) support in PGP Disk; significantly expanded Unicode support; built-in support for Apple Mail and Microsoft Entourage X; PGP encryption and digital signature features are accessible as a Mac OS X service from Cocoa applications and Carbon applications that support services; PGP features are also accessible from the PGP’s Dock menu, providing a second ubiquitous method for accessing PGP.

This may actually get me back into the crypto game. You may very well have to finger me for my public key soon!

posted by retrophisch at 9:30 AM -->in Macintosh , liberty , tech
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Sunday, 13 October 2002

FireWire film scanner

SmartDisk has announced two new film scanners, one of which, the SmartScan 3600, is FireWire based. Now I have something else to add to my wish list as I get more into digital photography.

posted by retrophisch at 3:39 PM -->in Macintosh , tech
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