Engadget’s Ross Rubin talks about ‘playforsure’

Recently Microsoft launched their answer to Apple’s iTunes music service, called ‘playsforsure‘. The word around the coffee machine is that Microsoft will fail in this endeavor, mostly because they offer nothing over what iTunes + the iPod has, save that their service will run on more devices.
Over at Engadget, Ross Rubin has a wonderful column that takes on this topic, and puts out some great commentary…

The only choice that consumers really care about in digital music is choice in content. After all, consumers don’t pick their cable or satellite TV plan provider based on what kind of set-top box they’ll get. They choose based on the kind and number of channels available. And here again, no Windows Media-based store offers a significant choice advantage over the iTumes Music Store; device platform market share means nothing since, unlike with software, there is practically no incremental cost to support a player with a particular piece of content.

One more nail in DeLay’s coffin.

Yes, the masses can make a difference. Apparently the GOP yahoos have bitten off more than they can chew. Three months ago, as I had mentioned before, the house Ethics committee republicans made a set of 3 rule changes that were basically designed to protect Tom DeLay from further investigations.
The Daily Kos points to a Washington Post article saying the GOP, realizing they had really pushed things too far, are rescinding one of the rule changes.
The rule being rescinded basically says “If the ethics committee is at an impasse, and cannot resolve it in 45 days, then the complaint is dismissed.

The proposal will include a reversal of the January rule that would automatically dismiss an ethics complaint after 45 days if the committee is deadlocked.
“It’s gone,” an official said of the automatic-dismissal rule as he emerged from the negotiations.

Since one of the other rule changes is that an ethics complaint can’t be moved into an investigation without a majority vote, this isn’t really a major victory, but it is a step in the right direction.

Animeboston Ho!!!

I’m gearing up for AnimeBoston, which runs this weekend at the Hynes Convention Center.
This is by far my biggest event, tripling the size of my next biggest event. We’re even renting hardware! This is the frist time I can’t provide all the equipment needed to make things work, so we’re working with Rent-a-PC to get a half dozen flatscreen monitors delivered to the hotel.
We start delivering things to the hotel tomorrow (Wednesday), with setup in the ballroom starting at 9am on Thursday morning. Registration opens at 5pm, and by that time we’ll have:

  • 3 Fargo Pro badge printers
  • 6 Operator terminals
  • 3-4 Administrator terminals
  • Server and console
  • Receipt printer for on-site registrations
  • 6-10 Kiosk terminals
  • Network and Power for everything.

Yay events 🙂

Show us yer desktop!

This is sort of buzzing about in blogland, sort of the equivelent of a Livejournal Meme.
I’ve been chattering about setting up my KVM and how things finally turned out. Thought it might be nice for folks to check out my digs.
This is where I spend untold hours a day either coding, browsing, chatting, gaming, but for the most part doing what I do.
The laptop is my IBM T40, which is basically my entire online life 🙂 I do everything on it, from development, to email, to browsing, to chatting, to some gaming.
The Shuttle box has no name, and is a Windows XP box whose primary purpose is running high end games and doing the occasional Windows thing that I can’t do under Linux. At the moment, I’m doing some work for a company that is all Windows based, so I have to test / transfer my things under Windows on occasion.
There’s a hidden KVM that lets me switch the flatscreen monitor between the two (but nicely, while gaming, I can still keep the laptop screen open and see chat on IRC while I game 🙂
BTW, the laptop is open because I run mostly wireless, and the antenna on T40’s is in the lid. If I close it, the signal strength goes down to where I start getting performance issues, not to mention randomly hopping over to the neighbors un-secured WAP.
And yes, that is in fact a Rokenbok stand that is holding up my laptop and power supply. Normally my printer is under there, but it’s getting ready to go to Animeboston.

Apple keeps messing with my head.

Once again Apple is using their SINISTER MIND RAY on me.
My mom gets back from Florida next week, so, naturally, I wait until THIS WEEKEND to complete prepping the new Mac Mini for her return. See this article for some of my chatterings about it. In order to make sure everything is in place, I needed to copy all her bookmarks, files, documents, and games off the old iMac gumdrop and onto the new machine.
Now, for a machine that has no removable writable media, this may be problematic. I suppose I could find the files in the directories, ftp them up to my server, and then down again. Or I could set up file sharing between the two, and copy across that way. I groaned at this option. Nothing makes me want to flee to the antarctic faster than “Oh joy! Lets learn aNOTHER way a company redefined network access!”
But several folks said “Wait, just firewire the machine.” “Uhh, what?” – I knew what Firewire was – it was that cable / bus system that USB was spanking six ways from Sunday. But I also knew it was tremendously fast, and that Macs used it. Okee, fine. “But the drive in the iMac isn’t a Firewire drive.”
“Nonono. Just hook the 2 macs together with a firewire cable. On the iMac, hold down ‘T’ when booting. It’ll come up as one big Firewire drive. Trust me.”
So I did. I borrowed a cable from Thud, cabled them up, held down the ‘T’ key on the imac, and hit the power. Lo, the mac turns on, and quickly starts bouncing the little Firewire symbol around on the screen. Going over to the Mac Mini, I see… an icon grinning evilly at me that says ‘Firewire drive’. Double-clicking it, indeed, it was the other mac’s drive.
Copying files over was trivial – just drag n drop.
Now, doing this procedure on a PC or a Linux box is… well, not possible. The hardware issues alone would cause anyone trying to write this to go quite insane. But Apple has the advantage of owning things top to bottom. Hardware, software, and most of the applications. So they can do magic things like this.
But… single-vendor-solution BAD! Non-free systems BAD! NnnnggggglL! Must resist!

Another great idea on ‘solar’ power

Saw this one over on GizMag

Want cheap, green electricity? The Australians have a simple answer. First, build a 20,000-acre greenhouse to trap and heat air. Then build a colossal tower 1 km (.62 miles) tall in the middle of it. The warm air from the greenhouse will rise through the tower as it would through a chimney, turning turbines and generating enough electricity to power 200,000 Australian homes. It may sound like science fiction, but the project is on track to get approved by the Australian government. If completed, the $800 million solar tower will be the tallest man-made structure in the world.

Time Magazine had it in their 2002 ‘Best Inventions’ category.
$800 million, powers 200,000 Australian homes, and uses up no fuels, and has very little maintenance. AND the greenhouses can be used for other things – all they have to be is hot. I’ll take it!

Summer, 1999.

In 1999, my dad rented a house out on Fire Island, and invited the family to come out for a week or so. Zach was less than a year old, and I hadn’t seen my sister in quite a while. They came out, and we all spent a week together on the island.

It was an important time for our family. Many of us thought it was the last time we’d see Dad – we knew his health wasn’t that great, and wondered if this was his way of saying goodbye. In some ways it was, but he slugged it out another 2 years, including another week out at the house the next summer.

This visit was rough because Zach was so young and needed 100% of both Cat and my’s attention, and it was ALMIGHTY hot there – that summer-in-New-England humidity-laden-heat that makes it impossible to sleep well, let alone with a clingy toddler.

I remember when I was there, we actually ended up leaving early (after 3-4 days) because of the sand, heat, and the bugs, and I don’t remember anything particularly inspiring about it. But looking back now, it was an opportunity to get a picture like this one, an option we don’t have anymore.

In the front is me with Rosie, my dad’s dog.

In the back, from left to right, are:

My dad died about 4 years ago now. I think about him all the time.

Music rhythm button smacked but hard.

I swear Stevie Wonder is one of the least acknowledged masters of modern music. Radioparadise just served up his beautiful mix of soul and gospel “As“. The pattern of… well, it’s not really a refrain. It’s a series of 12 measures sung gospel style with a female chorus, backing Stevie. The pattern just settles right onto you and you can’t help but start dancing to it…
Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky
Until the ocean covers every mountain high
Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea
Until we dream of life and life becomes a dream
Until the day is night and night becomes the day
Until the trees and seas up, up and fly away
Until the day that 8x8x8x8 is 4
Until the day that is the day that are no more
Until the day the earth starts turning right to left
Until the earth just for the sun denies itself
Until dear Mother Nature says her work is through
Until the day that you are me and I am you
Loving you…

Just dead on the spot for me tonight. Thank you RP!
Full lyrics are here.

Google toy du jour

Go to google, or, if you’re in Firefox, just click or select the Google search field. Type ‘define: something’ – something can be anything you’re trying to look up.
Google returns with a (usually fairly accurate) guess about the definition of that word, based on other lookups.
Since I’ve gotten totally annoyed with sites like Dictionary.com and the like (which regularly take 20 seconds just to come up with the input form), this is a great shortcut.

Yet another reason to abandon IE.

I spent another chunk of today (probably inappropriately) doing more tuning on the blog. This was inspired by a few articles I was reading on Google AdSense tuning, as well as some other tweaks I wanted to do with the page layout.
This turned into a fairly major series of fixes, including finally replacing the top banner with an appropriate background graphic. Doing so uncovered a problem with the ‘date’ tabs that I have over each days postings, so that image needed to be re-rendered.
Please do take a chance to visit it and let me know what you think.
I use The Gimp for all my graphic editing, and while it has a somewhat arcane interface, it’s undeniably a powerful tool. I re-rendered the tab (6 ways from sunday actually, but that’s another story), and posted it.
The problem is that the graphic used for the tabs is a PNG file, a vastly superior file format to GIF and JPG, but one not well supported by IE. Why not? This is still a mystery – it’s not like Microsoft hasn’t been informed of the problem since IE 5.5, but I digress.
Apparently, there is no fix for a transparent background on a PNG file, particularly when embedded in a stylesheet. I’ve decided that most of the readers coming to PG probably are using something more capable than IE, and if they’re not, the page does render, there’s just an odd shadow near the tab itself.
For a demonstration of the PNG fault in IE, here is a set of pages that walk through the problem with transparency support in IE.
I’m still waiting for a realistic reason people are still using IE over Firefox.

Ambient Dashboard – now THIS is cool

As mentioned on Boingboing, Ambient Devices makes a nifty retro-esque system for displaying realtime data in a traditional ‘analog needle’ mode.
The ‘Dashboard‘ consists of 3 analog meters with replacable backdrops. It receives it’s data via FM subcarrier, configured via a web browser. You can go to their site and tell your unit what you’d like to display. Current stock market values? Temperature outside? Amount of traffic to your website today? All of these can be represented in realtime.
The Wireless Weblog has a full review of the unit, including information on the subscription service and everything. Just plain neato.
[Edit 11:58am – Sorry bout that, bad tag in the image. Fixed. -dbs]

Web Developer Firefox Plugin

I do a fair amount of ‘web development’, meaning I tend to write things that are viewable via a web browser. Whether they’re posted on my blog, or on other sites I sometimes maintain, generally my preferred ‘user interface’ is a web browser.
I’ve been using a plugin for quite a while called “Web Developer Extension“. It’s a set of tools that integrates tightly with Firefox and lets you do all the things a web developer needs to do to make sure his or her application is displaying properly.
The most useful feature I’ve found is ‘Outline block elements’ and ‘Display ID and Class Detail’ – these functions change your displayed page and draw lines around all your block level elements (such as ‘div’ and ‘table’ and ‘span’), and can also label them with what class and ID they are.
When dealing with multiple nested CSS elements, this sort of display can save HOURS trying to track down what element belongs to what container, particularly when working with content management systems like Movable Type.
The plugin is non-intrusive, and is only triggered when you select it off the menu. I can’t imagine doing web development without it.

CSS noodling, PHP coding, and other geek fun.

I’ve just arisen from my death-like existence for the past 2 days, and it appears I’ve just about shaken off the evil cold that has had me in it’s grips since Sunday night. I wasn’t even able to read email for more than 5 minutes without getting woozy. Talk about tragic.
So, in a burst of “I’M BACK!” I’ve done a bunch of LONG needed updates to Planet-Geek and the MT Comments Counter:

  • Fixed the Comments preview function so it actually renders properly.
  • Revamped the color scheme in the individual archive view – so comments and their authors are no longer in that weird green tint. Not sure what I was thinking there.
  • CSS layout on individual archives and the main page were blocked wrong so it was very easy to have the ‘links’ sidebar disappear, relegated to the bottom of the page. This should be fixed so that sidebar will only move if you make your browser VERY narrow (comments on this please, I’m only evaluating with Firefox).
  • We still don’t have TypeKey support enabled, but we’re still working on it! Anyone who has suggestions on how to get it working properly in MT 3.14 I’d love to hear it.
  • On the MTC counter, I’ve changed from a single-image stream function to generating the graphic totally on the fly. This allows multiple-digit displays for very comment-heavy postings, as well as removing the need for a directory full of graphic images.

A good few hours of noodling. Check it out, let me know if anything needs tweaking, or if things just Look Terrible [tm].

So, let me get this straight.

In 1997, 2 years after the Republicans gained control of the house, they changed a key rule in how the ethics committee could start an investigation of a house member. The rule change was that if 50% of the committee requested a probe, then it would happen. That change was so that a single party could not ‘block’ the investigation of someone in another party.
Sounds good, right? Almost makes sense.
But Tom Delay just changed the rules again. NOW it takes a majority. This rule was put in place when, shockingly, the 10 member committee voted 3 times in 2004 to admonish DeLay, and talk of a probe into more ethics violations by him was rumored. DeLay took decisive action:

After the 10-member committee admonished DeLay three times in 2004 and talk of a possible probe by the committee grew, Republican leadership in the House changed a central rule. The committee can now launch an investigation only if a majority of members support the idea.

DeLay, of course, responded quickly with a rebuttal of these allegations:

DeLay has called himself the victim of “just another seedy attempt by the liberal media to embarrass me” and has lashed out at Democrats for a “strategy of personal destruction.”

I think Dianne Feinstein, Democrat from California, says it best:

“What bothers me is the Republicans, when things aren’t going their way, tend to try to change the rules.”

and Barney Frank continues…

“The Republican Revolution came in [and] changed the rules so that one party couldn’t block an investigation of its own member,” Frank told NBC. “And when that began to bite, they’ve changed them back again. That’s the pattern, by the way, that the Republicans have engaged in on a whole lot of things.”
Frank said he and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich were reprimanded by the committee.
“The difference between us and Mr. DeLay is, I think, we changed our behavior,” he said. “Mr. DeLay changed the Ethics Committee.”

We’ve seen this over, and over, and over again. We saw it in Texas with the totally idiotic re-districting.
What does it take to bring this man, and the rest of the Republican party, under control?