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Published: 2008-10-21T20:51:10-08:00




And... genius.

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iTunes 8 was released to the world today, and included in its myriad upgrades and changes -- but not even mentioned by Sir Steve in his presentation, sadly -- is a new visualizer that looks suspiciously familiar to yours truly.

At any rate, for those of you out there who enjoy staring at swirling globes of light, dancing ribbons and gaseous nebulae all waltzing together in loving harmony to your music of choice, I thought I'd let you know how to get the most out of iTunes Visualizer.

Plus, I'll let you in on the Super Secret Undocumented option! Whee, you're special!

When you start it up, it dances and flings and sparkles, but you can also control some of the aspects of it if you want to.

To open the options menu, click ? on your keyboard. In the upper left, a magical menu appears with a few options:

M - Change mode
P - Change palette
I - Display track info
C - Toggle auto-cycle (on by default)
F - Toggle freeze mode
N - Toggle nebula mode
L - Toggle camera lock

Here's what they mean, though you can discover these yourself with a little experimentation.

The visualizer uses globes of gravity around which smaller sparkles and clouds of gas and ribbons swirl and dance. C is on by default, so the visualizer will Cycle through all the modes continuously as long as that's on. If you find a specific mode you like (by hitting M) hitting C again turns off auto-cycling.

The different Modes (M) alter the appearance of these pieces. Keep hitting M to get them all.

The palette also follows the auto-cycle mode, but you can change the palette yourself if you don't like the one you're looking at by hitting P.

Track info (I) is self-explanatory, I assume.

Freeze mode (F) will stop the action immediately, but the camera (P.O.V.) will continue to circle the frozen tableau unless you also lock the camera in place with L.

Nebula mode is what adds the swirling clouds that emit from the gravity globes. On older computers that may, shall we say, lack modern graphic cards, turning this off may speed everything up and stop any jitters you may be experiencing.

But, if you want to see what your computer can do on its own, hit E. This is the secret Extreme mode that sends the nebulae into overdrive, and the particle effects at full screen on a slower computer will cause it to cough and hack and get a terrible, terrible headache.

Death to IE6


I'm in the midst of exploring redesigns to all my personal sites for a number of reasons, chiefly that it's been quite a while since the last one and that the current design has one or two "show stopper" problems that I simply didn't consider when creating the design.

What I'm hoping to do is to keep the aspects of the design that I think work, discard the ones that don't, simplify everything a great deal and... drop support for Internet Explorer 6.

It isn't an exaggeration to state that I loathe IE6. It is a 7-year-old browser and it shows. Its support of current web technologies and capabilities is, to be kind, lacking, and I find that in my freelance work the one browser I am constantly adjusting for and making exceptions for is that one. IE7 isn't altogether perfect, and I look forward to IE8 now in public beta, but IE6 is a disaster of enormous proportions and deserves to die.

37Signals began to drop support for IE6 in its many tools starting this month. Salesforce is going to continue to support IE6, but any new interface tools and capabilities won't work. Looking around the web, I note that usage of IE6 is still at a minimum of 25% and goes all the way up to 50%, the larger numbers mainly at those sites used primarily by large corporations that rely on a centralized tech department to move its users up to IE7, and it just hasn't happened in the two years since it became available.

I know my site has a very tiny audience and I also know that most of you are using Firefox and Safari rather than any flavor of Internet Explorer, so there's no need to poke you in the ribs to please remind you that it's past time to update your browser. But for the rest of you, if you're still using IE6, I can guaran-damn-tee you that when the redesign hits, you're going to be slightly unhappy campers.

If you're using IE6, please update/upgrade/change to something else ASAP. If you're on windows, I recommend Firefox. Frankly, if you're on a Mac, I also recommend Firefox. Although Safari does a lot of things right, the whole "Flash makes my browser freeze up," no matter who is to blame, is a headache that can be easily avoided.

The Film Library Project: Part Three


This past weekend I achieved a minor milestone: all my DVDs — every film from Airplane to Young Frankenstein and every television episode from "Absolutely Fabulous" to "Strangers With Candy" — have been ripped from their silver disc prisons and enshrined on a 1 terabyte hard drive, using up precisely 706,153,332,736 bytes of data storage. I can now use my Logitech Harmony One universal remote to access the Apple tv and scan through every film or tv episode and watch them in Dolby 5.1 surround sound (for those encoded as such) on my 42" high definition television.

I can also stream any movie or program via iTunes wirelessly over my 802.11n home network to any other computer in my apartment (being just the one MacBook Pro sitting on my work desk) and play "Find the Fish" with Monty Python's Meaning of Life while coding and design web sites for clients.

I can rent DVDs from my local store and rip the ones I like to my library. I can await receiving one the 145 movies and tv shows I added to my Netflix cue to arrive and add those, too. Every Thin Man film. The complete "Extras." Curse of the Golden Flower. Every Kurasawa film. "Cowboy Bebop," the complete sessions in 5.1.

It's kind of amazing.

Creating a digital video library presents a few new worries as well. What if the hard drive fails? Should I buy another huge drive just to back everything up? Is that overkill? Maybe it's more cost effective to just load it all up to Amazon's S3 service? At 15¢ per Gig per month, it'll cost me $108 a month, so that's... silly. Another drive is about $400, so that's something to consider in time. Not right now, though.

As the library grows, the lack of a good, easy to maneuver Apple tv interface grows more acute. I can break them down by genre, but it's still just a big long list of titles to scan. I've only got around 160 movies (and the same number of individual TV episodes) right now, but that's going to grow fast.

And unlike CDs, there's no album cover art to download, so the thumbnails for every movie tend to be freeze frames of studio logos or blackness. iTunes just grabs the first thing it sees about 10 seconds into a program. Not a lot to go on from that. And, yes, you can add artwork for every film if you want to go hunt them down and manually add them, but at the moment I'm not inclined to do that.

On the plus side, iTunes keeps track of any film's progress as I'm watching, so if I have to stop or pause or watch something else, when I come back it always asks if I want to resume where I left off or start from the beginning.

Having access to everything via my home network is also incredibly cool and convenient. And of course it'll multicast, so if there's something playing from the library in the living room on the big screen, I can still watch something on my computer in the bedroom.

That said, I'm also having one small, but irritating, problem. Front Row on my MacBook Pro in the office/bedroom can't see the iTunes shared library. This is the same MacBook Pro that can stream movies and everything else from that library, so why Front Row refuses to see it is a quandary. Of course, I can watch the movies from iTunes full screen on the monitor, but it would just be nice to be able to lie in bed with the little white computer remote in my hand and run everything via Front Row, which is like a mini Apple tv on its own.

But all in all, this is a very agreeable way to manage the wealth of digital entertainment we all deal with. I can even download TiVo broadcasts onto my Apple equipment using Toast Titanium. Pity TiVo doesn't provide an easy method one doesn't have to pay extra for, but I suppose that when we leave Windows behind (gladly) there will always be a few inconvenient bumps in the road.

I phoned up Comcast this morning and cancelled all my premium channels,[...]

The Film Library Project: Part Two


It's been a few weeks so I thought I'd let you know how things are progressing and what I've learned in this process so far.

  1. Ripping over 300 DVDs consisting of both films and television show episodes takes a 1-for-1 rip-to-program length amount of time on my Mac mini. That means that a 2-hour film takes about 2 hours to get from disc to drive, and then I need to add it to iTunes and annotate the entry so it ends up being sorted correctly (more on that later) so this isn't at all like ripping your CD collection, which flies by in comparison but also means you're constantly feeding your disk drive when ripping music, and ripping video is a set it and go about your daily routine and check on it in two hours. I work from home so I have time to do that. Most people, probably not so much. So if you go this route, it will pay you to realize that it may take weeks or months to get a big collection off the silver discs.
  2. Handbrake has some really nice features built-in, particularly support for 5.1 Dolby Digital audio, but you have to make sure you're ripping the correct version of your material to your iTunes library or you'll end up wasting a lot of time.
    • I was ripping everything using the normal mode, which is .MP4, but typically of Apple they decided to support .MP4 only sporadically and prefer video with an .M4V on the end. Sometimes you can simply alter the file type in the Info panel and it'll work, but not always and there have been occasionas when I had to discard a ripped file and re-rip it using .M4V. Simply be aware of what you're ripping before you rip it.
    • Secondly, always check the video aspect ratio output by clicking on the "Picture Settings..." button. This opens a new window and you can cycle through a few screen captures that show exactly what your finished video will look like. Weirdly, not every film uses the exact same settings for anamorphic (16x9) presentations. Handbrake lets you adjust the edges pixel-by-pixel, or you can select "Strict" and that usually works, but make sure you check this or you could end up with a widescreen movie presented in squishscreen fashion. Handbrake doesn't always recognize the correct settings automatically.
    • Also check the audio setting every time. There are several audio tracks on DVDs, and on older ones the Dolby 5.1 setting isn't the default. If the DVD has a Dolby AC3 5.1 setting, you also have to change the codec dropdown in Handbrake from "AVC/H.264 Video / AVC + AC3 Audio" to "AVC/H.264 Video / AC3 Audio" which will pass-through the Dolby 5.1 encoded audio so that's what you end up with on your file, otherwise you could end up with Dolby Digital 2-channel, which isn't bad but certainly 5 channels and a dedicated subwoofer are better than stereo.
  3. A commenter asked in the first part of this article about the choice in audio/video receivers. And there are a lot of them. How did I settle on my Denon 3808? Firstly, I have been using Denon equipment as the platform for my audio/video set-up for a very long time (this is my third Denon, and I upgrade about every 6 years, depending on the changing audio climate) so I looked at them as my first choice, holding up their price and features as the tent pole around which any other equipment would need to contend.

    I looked at Sony, Pioneer Elite and Onkyo equipment, mostly because at the time of purchase they were the only ones supporting Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio, the newest 7-channel pure digital standards used in Blu-ray discs. It came down to Onkyo versus Denon. The Onkyo had a distinct price advantage, but commenters in some of the audio forums around the web, particularly the AVS Forum, said that the Onkyo was running very hot (not a good sign) and that it had some clicking issues.[...]



When I moved from Windows to Mac (and I'm one of those cited in the study that blames Vista for that switch) one of my worries was about finding a good mouse. I know, sounds silly, but having checked around for suitable Apple-friendly input objects, I found that Windows had a lot more choices than Mac did.

After some trial and error, and the purchase of not one, not two, but five different mice, I think I've finally found the right combination of ergonomics, button choices, attractiveness, and non-buggy operation. Before I jump to my conclusion, I'll provide the path that got me to The Perfect Mouse.

I started out with a keyboard/mouse combo from Logitech, the Cordless Desktop S530 which has been designed specifically for Macs and is Logitech's only non-Windows keyboard-mouse combo. As it is, they only offer one other Mac-capable desktop, while offering ten Windows solutions. So you can see that we're already off to a poor start.

The S530 is a great choice for anyone switching from Windows to a Mac, because the layout of the buttons, particularly the backspace and delete buttons, is exactly like a Windows keyboard. The accompanying mouse has a nice feel and the whole thing is done up in shiny white and matte silver so it fits right it with any Apple hardware.

Ultimately, I abandoned the keyboard for one reason only: Logitech's support for its Mac drivers is woefully inept. Once I moved over to Leopard, the S530 started acting peculiarly, and even after a "Leopard compatibility update," it just wasn't worth the aggravation.

Keyboard-wise, I went with Apple's own slim and sexy aluminum keyboard and moved over to Microsoft for a mouse, which I had heard through the grapevine would prove to be more robust and happy living on OS X.

Perusing Microsoft's hardware site proved a bit difficult at first since they don't seem all that excited about promoting someone else's platform. So figuring out which mice would be supported on OS X was a hunt-and-peck frustration, but I eventually found the Wireless Laser Mouse 8000 that I selected based mostly on three criteria: its model number suggested it was the most recent mouse available, it was wireless, and it was "man-sized."

I started using it and after about a week I determined that it sucked, mostly because it's a Bluetooth mouse. Something about Bluetooth sucks, and that something is "almost everything." It was constantly cutting out, fluttering all over the screen, and woulnd not awaken my computer no matter how I flung it about. It also came with a fairly huge recharging station that I though I'd like, but decided that in real life usage it was stupid.

But I was thinking perhaps that it was just Bluetooth that sucked, because otherwise the Microsoft Mouse had it all over the Logitech solution, even Microsoft's Intellipoint drivers were much better and more stable than Logitech's Control Center. It may have been an illusion, but it was a worthwhile one.

I went back to MS again and looked a bit more and decided to get a bit radical in my mouse choice and bought a Natural Wireless Laser Mouse 6000, which was, one assumes, 2000 times less good than the 8000, but it didn't use Bluetooth and it was "designed to conform to your hand in its most relaxed position."

This is one weird-ass mouse. You kind of have to The Film Library Project: Part One


Some time ago, I decided that it was dumb and a waste of space to keep my library of around 300 DVDs in their plastic boxes stacked on shelves inside two rather large cabinets. So I purchased a Sony 400-disc DVD jukebox, transferred all the silver discs into it and discarded all the boxes and booklets, leaving me with a simple way to manage, sort and view my movies and TV shows on DVDs.

Then I went Mac. The Apple platform is more suitable to digital media storage than Windows. It just is. Believe me, I tried it both ways and the whole Windows Media solution sucks. They layered too much crap over it all, and even though it will record and store television broadcasts, I'm too tied to my TiVo to have ever abandoned it, particularly after succumbing to Comcast's attempt at digital TV recording in Hi-Def which capital-S Sucked.

Initially I tried to copy my DVD library to a Mac mini with 750Gb of attached external drive space, but that mini simply wasn't up to the task. Using Handbrake to extract a 2-hour film from disc to drive took all night long. Plus, Handbrake previously had some bugs that chopped off the final few seconds of a film (not a big deal when talking about end credits, quite a big deal when talking about the 2-disc Lord of the Rings extended editions) and it wouldn't support Dolby Digital tracks in 5.1 arrays. And even if it did, the Mac mini didn't have a Dolby license to be able to interpret it into 5.1 tracks.

The advent of Apple tv 2.0 has altered the landscape considerably.

I already had all my music sequestered on the Mac mini external dives (which I named in my glassdog network) and was enjoying the ease with which I could share my entire music library -- currently consisting of 12,000 tracks on over 1,000 albums covering 40.2 days of continuous music streaming -- on my laptop in my bedroom as well as my hi-fi set-up in the living room. I could even, if I chose, plug in another Airport Express in any room I wanted to and use it as another hub on the to stream music into another room, all from a centrally located music hub discretely housed on the cute little mini in the living room.

When I started trying to transfer my DVD library, I ran into the aforementioned problems. They weren't necessarily huge problems, but they were annoying nonetheless, so I stopped trying to use my mini as an all-in-one digital media hub and kept using the Sony Jukebox, even though its interface wasn't nearly as clean and simple to use as Front Row to figure out what was where.

I purchased an Apple tv after Robert, my boyfriend (for those not keeping up) purchased his own and had remarked that he was using it "more than (he) thought" to download rented movies from iTunes. The Apple tv has a few distinct advantages over a plain and simple mini when you want to stream digital entertainment, and a couple of drawbacks as well.

Apple tv Advantages:

  1. HDMI out

  2. Dolby Digital support

  3. HD rentals via iTunes

Apple tv Disadvantages:

  1. Limited storage capacity

  2. No keyboard or mouse support

  3. No DVD/Blu-ray or any other media drive

  4. No access to the operating system

  5. Dead USB port

In essence, Apple tv is a hobbled Mac mini, but it's the only mechanism that will get you 720p video from the iTunes store, and it's the only way to get Dolby 5.1 tracks from your digital library to your amp.

Luckily, the Apple tv can see and share iTunes libraries. So now all I had to do was rip all my movies and television episodes from my 300+ [...]

I Made This


Blu-Ray Über Alles!


So, Toshiba has given up the ghost, thrown in the towel, jumped the shark and called it a day. HD DVD is dead, officially. Blu-Ray is the de facto winner in the Hi-Def format stakes. So can you finally buy a Blu-Ray player without regret?

Well, yes and no. Blu-Ray is still an evolving standard. As such, a player you buy today may or may not support discs you buy in the future, which sucks but there it is.

I already own an HDTV LCD from Westinghouse (that, unfortunately, suffers from some HDMI 1080p bugs that produce blue sparkles whenever I send those signals to it) and just upgraded to a new Denon 3808ci that supports Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio for lossless 7.1 surround, so I'm mostly set to start watching Blu-Ray movies. After some due diligence, I have ordered the Panasonic DMP-BD30K, the first stand-alone player to fully support Blu-Ray 1.1, the "final standard profile," the main benefit of which is BD-J (Blu-Ray Disc Java) for picture-in-picture video playback, meaning you can do things like compare two different versions of scene, or watch the director give his commentary in addition to listening to it.

For what that's worth to you.

Why didn't I buy the PS3, which is pretty much what anyone recommends when considering a Blu-Ray player? Two reasons, mainly. First, it's really noisy. Not as noisy as an Xbox 360, but noisy enough that watching quiet passages in a movie would be hampered by my knowledge of that annoying fan noise coming from somewhere. Secondly, the PS3 uses Bluetooth to receive remote control commands rather than infrared, so you're forced to either use the game controller to figure out how to watch a movie, or buy their cheap plastic Bluetooth remote instead of being able to simply program your handy-dandy universal remote, which I find ludicrous.

If you're thinking of getting a Blu-Ray player, and those two idiosyncrasies don't seem like a bother, the PS3 is kind of a no-brainer. It has an Ethernet port on it so Sony can send it regular updates to comply with the evolving changes in the Blu-Ray standard, and it has copious internal memory so anything you want to download as part of the upcoming 2.0 standard (mostly involving online toys like "play a video game based on Alien vs. Predator against your friends! (who also own a 2.0 compliant Blu-Ray player)") will be able to find space.

Or, simply wait until around June when Panasonic issues the DMP-BD50, the upgraded and likely more expensive version of the BD30 that will include 2.0 support natively.

I'll let you know, once I have the Panny 30 plugged in, whether it's worth the trouble.

A High Definition Choice


I am an early adopter, when I can afford it. As such, I have experienced my own personal disappointments when a format or platform I selected under-performs in the market and is judged a failure by every measurement except quality, because I think I usually judge these things rationally and after a good deal of research about which is the better option.

Those of us with big digital monitors for our home entertainment centers, AKA the living room TV, know that there are two competing platforms to replace DVDs for high-def video on a little silver disk. They both offer similar audio and video quality, and use exactly the same read/write method to pull the copious amounts of data off the platters for delivery to your screen and speakers.

Until recently, the major differentiations have been "We're bigger!" and "We're cheaper!", and historically the "We're cheaper!" camp usually wins the contest, because the general public can't be bothered about the details and what it comes down to, in the end, looking at a side-by-side comparison is "If I can get the same picture and the same sound for less, why would I buy the other box?" The good tech-heads at c|net have assembled an excellent table that accurately demonstrates the similarities between the competing standards, and the differences are minor.

The battle between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray has been going on now for more than two years. Attempts to rectify the differences in the two camps and provide a single, undisputed, optimized standard fell apart in 2005 and since then we've been faced with making a decision.

I didn't make one. First off, I own about 300 DVD disks and the idea of replacing even half of those with a new format that might not last wasn't very attractive. Secondly, I was in no hurry to do so because it seemed to me that the cost of the players was prohibitive, and there were reports of problems -- particularly with Blu-Ray -- getting movies to just show up, let alone getting all the new special interactive features functioning. Thirdly, I have a DVD jukebox that holds all my DVDs, so I can just scan through an on-screen menu and select a movie to watch without bothering with boxes and disk changing, and a single-disk player didn't fill the convenience factor. Sony has since come out with a not-inconspiculous multi-disk tower, but it currently retails for $3,500 and I'm not in the financial position to spend more on a video player than I did on all my other A/V eqipment combined.

Lastly, and most importantly, I wasn't content to make a judgment for either platform while the other existed. It's weird to me that there are camps on both sides with religious convictions about their format of choice. I can almost understand the PS3 vs. Xbox churches, since the companies behind those consoles are both capable of eliciting strong emotional responses both positive and negative. And in a way, the hi-def video platforms are similarly divided, since Microsoft is backing Toshiba's HD-DVD format, while Blu-Ray was developed by Sony. And there are certainly extended circumstances surrounding a preference for either that goes beyond mere titles, however I must admit that I prefer HD-DVD as a format name more than Blu-Ray, which sounds like it was cooked up by a marketing department bent on selling some sci-fi inspired laser pistol or a way for Dr. Evil to destroy the moon.

One big sticking point between the two is the use of Digital Rights Management software, or DRM. In particular, Blu-Ray discs institute a layer of con[...]

What's Up, Apple?


Now that I've traded in my dirty old Windows box for a shiny matte silver Macbook Pro, I've become one of those sycophantic Apple cultists dredging the rumors sites for every drop of hardware and software news I can swallow.

With MacWorld 2008 coming up in two weeks and Uncle Steve giving one of his patent-pending "One more thing" keynote speeches to kick off the event, I've come up with the following list of potential product updates, upgrades and introductions for Apple.

Macbook Pro super portable notebook
Chances of appearance: 90%

Almost every site and prognosticator by now has dredged up some evidence that Apple is going to introduce a small, lightweight, high-end notebook that will likely not include an optical disc reader to save space, and include a smallish LED-backlit LCD screen. No one's said anything about the keyboard, far as I know, which remains the one hindrance as far as I'm concerned about any smaller than small notebook. Chicklet keys are no one's friend, and the removal or "reimagining" of the digital 10-key spread has been historically problematic.

In addition to ejecting the CD/DVD reader/writer, it's been suggested that the internal memory will be entirely Flash-based rather than using the usual hard drive, helping to further reduce weight in addition to making battery life last for a North American transcontinental flight. While I find the idea very agreeable and sexy, I tend to doubt that it's practical from an expense-to-development ratio to rely solely on Flash memory while alternative laptops can offer huge hard drives with little extra overhead.

Redesigned Macbooks and/or Macbook Pros
Chances of appearance: 80%

Credence has been added to this possibility based on MacRumor's recent revelation that this is exactly what's coming. Adding fuel to the fire, the current MacBook Pro design is now almost exactly two years old (having been introduced at MacWorld 2006) with little having been done to keep it fresh and new other than processor upgrades and the addition of LED-backlit screens on the 15" version earlier this year.

The current MacBook is slightly younger, birthed in May 2006, and still incredibly popular. Still, the plastic shell of the iMac was recently jetisoned in favor of a curved aluminum casing ala the Cinema Displays (now almost three years old!) so why not make the whole family line adhere to the same 'ecologically friendly' designs?

Mac Mini replacement, AKA the Mac nano
Chances of appearance: 70%

This rumor has been hanging around for months, with some sites suggesting that a pre-Christmas introduction was likely. The Mac Mini is one of my favorite computers. I hooked mine up to my 42" HDTV and added in a big-ass external hard drive from LaCie in matching dimensions and design and it sits under the AirPort (old version, non-Gigabit) and holds my entire iTunes library. I recently downloaded Handbreak and am in the slow, laborious process of ripping several of the 300+ DVDs I have so that I can use the Mac Mini as my digital entertainment server of choice.

The redesigned Mac nano is said to be somewhat different in appearance to the current Mini, though with everything in the Apple line turning into aluminum-clad rounded edges like the Mini, I can't see it altering too much. I imagine it becoming much slimmer, and if I had my druthers I'd make it little more than an engine for the uses I'm already putting my Mini to, with much improved video capabilities [...]

Santa Claus, et al


Because nothing says Xmastime to me like robots, Martians and a tiny little Pia Zadora.

"Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" in which Santa Claus conquers the martians:


Slightly more palatable: Mystery Science Theatre 3000 presents: "Santa Claus"


Another Day, Another iPod


Apple -- or more precisely, Steve Jobs, announced a complete revamp of their iPod line-up this morning, and as usual they've managed to one-up the competition on all fronts in the battle for your digital pocket, creating new products too sexxay to keep hidden (though too pretty not to fear being mugged for) and dropping the prices at the same time.

I already own a Shuffle, a Nano, and an iPhone. I had an iPod "Classic" (as they're now called) but it died recently, and would not hold a charge no matter how hard I tried to make it do so. It was a v3, I think, pre-video version with a line of buttons along the top and a monochrome screen, so it was horribly out of date and had I pulled it out at SXSW next year, people would have laughed at me derisively and pointed out that I was so behind the times that I shouldn't even be there. So it was time for an upgrade anyway.

The dilemma: which iPod is right for me?

I love my Shuffle. And it didn't change at all, save for a new coat of paint. It's still a relatively cheap $79 for a Gig of music and no way to tell what the hell you're listening to unless you already know. It's like a game to carry around a collection of songs from my collection of over 11,000 and wonder just what will come up next. It keeps a charge forever and it's really durable with its all-metal skin, so it's a keeper.

The Nano isn't seeing as much action as it used to now that I'm no longer going into an office, or working out, or doing much more than sitting on my ass at home managing my new Apple-centric digital lifestyle. The new Nano, dubbed the Phatty in various blogs, is a squat, thin little cracker of a media player that now supports video on a larger screen with a buffed-up interface. My black Nano is now 2 versions behind, an original slim wonder I rewarded to myself when I quit my old full-time job. It was handy to take to the gym and to slip into my pocket for MUNI excursions and bike rides. And though its small memory size had me worried at first and thinking of it as a back-up to my "big iPod," I used it more and more and simply refreshed the songs in its memory, though that does get trying.

The reason I loved the original iPod was that I could (nearly) fit all my music onto it, so I never had to fret that I didn't have that one song I want to listen to right now because it was all on there. But as my song library grew, it outgrew the iPod.

The new iPod Classic swells all the way up to a ginormous 160 Gigs of portable hard drive space -- and that may be its biggest advantage. It's not so much a digital media player anymore, it's a pocket-sized easily managed portable hard drive. You can use it to carry around music and movies and whatever else your heart desires to entertain your head, but all that space also makes it easy to transport files and docs and huge gobs of data, too. And the new design is slimmer than ever and comes in an all-metal case, so it even protects that data better while looking slim and sexy at the same time.

But what's sure to get the attention of the press is the newest iPod in the family, the iPod Touch. It's basically a phoneless iPhone (which is also now $200 less than it was only a couple months back) in a radically slim 8mm thick design. It comes with WiFi built-in for web surfing, and Safari is already there, too. It uses the same form factor as the iPhone with the same screen and the same interface, so it's the iPhone for people who don't want a phone messing up their iPod. It's very lovely, at least on screen since it won't be available to mere mortals to "Touch" for a few weeks yet, but as I already own an iPhone I'm n[...]

Magnetosphere Beta Available


I must admit I'm a little bit jealous of all my friends being suddenly pregnant. I know at least four lady womens who have buns in the oven, and they are all about the "it feels like this!" and "I can't wait until it's out there!" and "I pee a lot!"

Well, I've been living the life of the dude who watches the mommy going through the birth pains thing on my own, sort of, and can now proudly announce the birth of a 319Kb bouncing baby application saddled with the mouth-twisting name of Magnetosphere.

What is it? It's an iTunes visualizer that snaps into your music library and turns all your songs into wildly gyrating points of light that swell and recede and grow tendrils and change color and pretty much make you wish you were high as a kite while you watch it. My boyfriend Robert coded up the bedrock of the thing and his company, The Barbarian Group, fiddled with the plug-inning-ness of it and now you can have it for your very own, whether you're on Windows or Mac.

They launched it yesterday and it was enjoying a little Digg action before the whole HD DVD code blew up in their faces so I was afraid it might get lost in the white noise, so feel free (if you're a fan of it) to spread the link far and wide. It's free!

Have at it!

The Big Fat Open Directory in the Sky


My boyfriend, Robert, is very smart and very creative (and, you know, sexy) and makes very beautiful stuff out of pixels and sound. He uses Processing to program up these amazing interactive screen toys that respond to anything they hear, and you can use your keyboard to change the way they interact with those sounds, too.

Lately, he's been building very complicated and extremely processor-intensive media toys that the average -- or even the above-average -- computer has a hard time dealing with in real time, so he sets them up to render overnight and then he creates a Quicktime movie out of the results and has been posting these rather large and rather beautiful creations to his blog, and everything was going along fine and dandy.

Then, suddenly, everyone started to discover what he was doing and wanted to see his art first-hand, so one of his fat bandwidth creations got blogged and delicious'd and linked to from all sorts of places, and all sorts of people were downloading the movies and he was very, very happy.

Until he received his bandwidth bill from his not-so-understanding ISP and discovered how much popularity costs in this new video-centric Web world in which we live.

Luckily for him, there's an answer that all of us can use right now, and it's not a Flash-based video site that compresses your beautiful movies to the point that you can't tell your daughter from your dog.

The answer is really, really simple. In fact, that's what it's called, and it's provided for you by your favorite supserstore, Amazon. It's called Amazon S3 for Simple Storage Solution and if you have an Amazon account, you can have an Amazon S3 account in a matter of minutes, and start to upload your multi-megabyte videos and MP3 podcasts and family portraiture immediately.

The advantages of using Amazon S3 are numerous.

  1. You get unlimited storage space. Unlimited.

  2. The size limit of any single uploaded file is 5Gb. That's Gigs.

  3. You only pay for what you use, and the rates are very affordable. (15¢ per Gig of storage per month, and 20¢ per Gig of data transferred per month, all charged to the same credit card you already use at Amazon)

  4. You can specify which of the files you upload are public and which ones are private.

  5. You can access your stuff from anywhere you can access the web.

Here's what you'll need to make the whole thing simple and easy:

And does it really work? Of course it does!