Wed - January 25, 2006

Portable Profs


Out of the blue, Stanford University has made over 500 lectures, speeches, and other bits of university content available via iTunes. For free. This is extremely cool, and one would hope that it is the start of a general trend in these sorts of things. Kudos all around.

Posted at 01:36 PM     Read More  

Sun - January 22, 2006

Dackita dackita dickita dit dit dack.


Yeah, so I am a complete sucker for retro tech. Especially cheesy 50s and 60s "gee whiz" stuff with lots of dials and groovy logos. So I am 100% unable to resist this retrofit of an iPod into a vintage "Duck and cover, the commies are coming!" civil defense geiger counter.

Posted at 11:55 PM     Read More  

Mon - January 16, 2006

Some People Seem To Have The Wrong Idea


Some people are apparently of the mind that I spend too much time and burn too much space writing about iPod-related things. This, obviously, is patent nonsense. If I was guilty of that sort of bias, then I would probably post something about the new iPod compatible jeans from Levis. I might even go on to talk about the control pad embedded in the "change pocket" (a legacy feature if ever I have seen one) and the built-in 4G/5G/nano docking cradle.

But, since I didn't do any of those things, those aforementioned people can all just shush up.

Posted at 10:49 PM     Read More  

A Fashion Statement


The iPod clickwheels are startling beautiful things. They work as well as they look ... unless you happen to be wearing gloves. In that case, forget it. The 'wheels work by reading fingertip capacitance, not (as many assume) by detecting pressure on the wheel. Most gloves are effective enough insulators to screw this up royally. Makes it kind of tough to be both groovy and warm when it's January north of the 49th.

Enter the Tavo Gloves ... they have conducting fingertips to let you shuffle and scan and still keep your digits from freezing. They look ridiculous, of course, but that is the price you pay in these trying times.

Note: Some poor souls who have shitty internal bioelectrical systems just can''t use the iPod wheels at all - their fingers just dont register. Apparently, the conductive powers of these gloves will even overcome that. But they probably look even dorkier if you wear them inside.



Posted at 06:49 AM     Read More  

Podcasting How-To


Podcast this, podcast that. Everyone is on and on and on about it, including me. It's this great communication tool, everyone can play, power to the people, grassroots media, blah blah blah. That's all great, but nobody stops and takes the time to actually tell you how to do it.

I was going to correct that little oversight ... but then I realized that some french maids are a far more entertaining collection of tutors than I am.

Pay attention, you might learn something.

Posted at 05:50 AM     Read More  

Mon - January 2, 2006

King-Sized Desperate Housewives


Tired of peering at your iPod video on the wee screen? Take heart - you will soon be able to watch your favourite chunks of video with a hi-def wearable headset display that shows an image with the same size and clarity as a 105-inch display viewed at a distance of 4 meters.

The fact that this will be a porn-lover's dream will probably have nothing to do with the sales figures. No siree.

Posted at 01:07 PM     Read More  

Fri - December 16, 2005

Wireless iPod?


Once in a while some hapless media type manages to get an interview with my man Steve Jobs and invariably they ask him about the possibility of a wireless iPod. Being tech writers - and therefore being given endless swag by every company with a product to sell - these mopes usually have Bluetooth headsets on their phones, and they wonder why they need to have a cord running to their ears so that they can listen to music.

Steve then proceeds to rip them a nice shiny new asshole, pointing out a couple of things:

One, the bandwidth of Bluetooth is way too narrow to stream music. It might be fine for voice over cell, but listening to music through a BT link would be akin to listening to music with Windoze Media Player ... way too lo-fi to bother with.

Two, nobody wants to be recharging their headphones all the time.

For the most part he is right on target with both of these objections. But ... and we are entering the realm of some pretty tenuous conjecture here ... there is still some reason to believe that the idea of a wireless iPod is not completely stupid. There is a company that most people have never heard of called "PortalPlayer" ... they make a fairly large chunk of the custom silicon that you will find in the guts of any iPod. PortalPlayer makes about 95% of its fairly healthy revenue this way, so you would be safe to assume that any major decisions or announcements that they make would have something to do with the 'pod. The connection? They recently confirmed the addition of a bona fide wireless bigwig to their Board of Directors. Doing the math here is fairly simple - some part of their product line is going wireless, and the only real product line they have is iPod hardware.

Stay tuned.

Posted at 12:03 AM     Read More  

Thu - December 15, 2005

Got Gitch?


iPod-compatible underwear.

Really, what else can I say?

Posted at 08:01 AM     Read More  

Wed - December 14, 2005

Got Movies?


If you are lucky enough to own a video iPod and are getting tired of back episodes of Law & Order, here is a chance to stretch your QuickTime wings. Public Domain Torrents now has about 500 B-grade and pod-compatable movies available for download. This is mostly stuff that is bad enough that no one ever bothered to renew or maintain the copyrights, so "B grade" might actually be pushing it ... but there are some gems for the discerning maven of kitsch. Plan 9 From Outer Space and Night Of The Living Dead leap immediately to the fore here, but you would be cheating yourself big time if you passed up Voyage To The Planet Of Prehistoric Women.

And no, you don't have to watch them on your pod - you can enjoy them right on your desktop at work (I assume you wouldn't want to watch these clunkers on your own time) but it just might not have quite the same cachet.

Posted at 11:33 AM     Read More  

Fri - December 2, 2005

Rock And Roll


Everyone seems to be trotting out an iPod-compatable car, and that particular functionality is no longer much of a status symbol. If you want to be really cool, you need an iPod-compatable bed.

I assume that this would be the ideal place to enjoy your iPod-driven sex toys.

Posted at 08:59 AM     Read More  

Mon - November 21, 2005

Buzzwords Unite!


Add one more item to the list of cool things that your iPod can do: A groovy new utility from Carnglas lets your 'pod aggregate and display your RSS feeds, for browsing on the go. It's small, it's free, and it works very well. For obvious reasons, you need to have an iPod with a display - the Shuffle isn't going to work here.

Oh - OSX users only, please. If you use Windoze, you are out of luck - which is pretty much status quo anyway.

Posted at 08:58 AM     Read More  

Tue - November 15, 2005

"Super-fun"


From across the pond comes the world's first iPod sex toy. The iBuzz plugs into your 'pod and vibrates to the rhythm of your music. Adding the his and hers attachments gives a whole new meaning to "shared tastes in music".




Really, you can't make this shit up.

Posted at 12:03 PM     Read More  

Thu - November 10, 2005

Frag Your 'Pod


A few months ago, in These Very Pages, we explored a fun 'n' easy way to use Linux as the OS on your iPod. We also noted that it was fun, and interesting, but not terribly useful as of yet.

Sadly, that last part hasn't changed ... unless you are doing some voice recording (has anyone else noticed how many iPods are now showing up in media scrums?) Linux on the 'Pod is still just a diversion. That diversion, however, just got a whole lot more "diverting" with the release of iDoom. Be like The Rock and frag space creepies with giant guns, all from the comfort of your click-wheel. It runs on pretty much any 'pod with a screen, but (for what should be obvious reasons) looks a lot better on a colour unit. It works especially well on the nano - you could probably hold it in your hand and blast away in a meeting, and no one would be the wiser.

Odd note: There was an April Fool's story about "Doom on the iPod" that was picked up as gospel by a lot of media outlets, leading to some reddened faces and a couple of notable retractions (New York Times, come on down!). Some inspired hackers saw the hoax and thought "Hey, hang on here, that would be cool" and the project was born. Six months later, the hoax is no longer a hoax ... but the Times people still look like fools.

Posted at 01:39 PM     Read More  

Mon - November 7, 2005

One-handed Pod


Ever since the release of the fifth-generation iPod - with the delightfully big and bright video screen - there has been a wailing cry that echoes across the land:

"How do I get my porn on my iPod?"

Ah, priorities. If you are one of those tragic souls, sitting on a veritable treasure-trove of hardcore footage, you might find Podner to be just what the doctor ordered. It's cheap, seamless, and even does the sync work for you. Just drop a video clip on the translator and everything is taken care of - resizing, sampling, even the insertion into a playlist and transfer queue. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am, indeed.

NOTE: Of course Podner also works for non-porn, and I assume that most users would be using it for things like baby footage and the like, but playing the "porn card" makes the post a lot more interesting ...

Posted at 08:17 AM     Read More  

Fri - November 4, 2005

Xpod


The Xbox 360 hype continues to creak along, as Microsoft keeps trying to lure back all of the people they drove away with that horrible MTV "launch" special. The latest foray was a demonstration of Project Gotham Racing 3 - a game that most of the press in attendance immediately shrugged off as nothing more than a port of the current version. Apparently, last-gen ports and unplayable renderware are quickly becoming the hallmark of the 360.

However, that is old news and not what this is about. Instead, this is about the fact that at the aforementioned demo, some Microsoft drones revealed that you can plug your iPod right into the 360 and immediately browse and play your songs and playlists - the new Xbox recognizes the 'pod for what it is and deals with it accordingly.

This is not terribly surprising when you consider that Microsoft is trying to see the Xbox as a "home media console" and not just a game slab, but very surprising when you remember that the trolls in Redmond have spent the last 4 years trying to convince consumers that they will more or less get leprosy if they even think about touching a 'pod.

Posted at 05:57 AM     Read More  

Tue - November 1, 2005

Hi, Bob


A number of enterprising podcasters have secured rights for old-time radio shows and are sending them out into the ether as "new" 'casts ... offering the repackaged shows for free and hoping to make a few bucks by inserting new commercials in the already-existing station breaks. Fair enough - some of those old shows (Jack Benny is one that immediately comes to mind) are worth another listen, and the price is certainly right.

What we really need, though, is for some rights holders to take this one step further, jump on the video iTunes bandwagon, and start offering old, lost, and generally unavailable TV shows in the same manner. I might not want to watch the new episode of Craft Corner Deathmatch on a video 'pod - sorry, but some things just beg for a big screen - but it would be the perfect platform to be able to see something like F-Troop or The Munsters or (be still my beating heart) The Banana Splits ... shows that you literally cant see anywhere else.

Hell, I would pay two bucks an episode for that ...

Posted at 02:17 PM     Read More  

Fri - October 28, 2005

And The Groove Came Upon Them ...


When I first saw this, I kind of threw up in my mouth a little. Cheese, I thought ... total half-baked Pat Robertson cheese. It took me a while (I'm slow, it's a boy thing) to realize that this is actually some seriously hot social commentary, and a way for an artist (which the purveyor of this creation is) to make a statement with some real reach.

When John Lennon said that the Beatles were "bigger than Jesus" he was probably right.

Oh - as an aside, the quote at the top of the page is not quite word for word from the King James. But I won't quibble with the paraphrasing here - it works.

Posted at 01:37 PM     Read More  

Mon - October 24, 2005

Spiffy New Brix


The latest "Brix" creation from Tomi goes on sale this Thursday at 9:00 pm EDT. The brick wizard has really stretched out this time, with a seriously cool hand-built housing for your iPod Shuffle. Check it out:




Once your Shuffle is fully inserted, you can plug in your headphones and go. The Shuffle's controls are fully operational even inside the PodBrix Classic, and there is an "eject" slider on the back to get your Shuffle out for charging and syncing.



Full details and a FAQ are online now at PodBrix. Enjoy!

Posted at 08:23 AM     Read More  

Fri - October 21, 2005

Hidden Agenda


You see strange things late at night on television. Usually, it's just best to not subject yourself to the kinds of things that air in the deep wee hours of the morning. However, there are times when you just can't help it. Case in point: I was at a lengthy and at times tedious management seminar for the first four days of this week, and there was much working through the night, which meant (at least in my case) much leaving on of the TV for background noise and occasional moments of distraction.

One of those moments of distraction was CNBC show called "On The Money" that was being aired as some sort of filler at 3:30 am on the closest NBC affiliate. It was the usual sort of "panel of mopes in suits and hair gel" roundtable show where they all took turns being smarter-than-thou. Totally ignorable, for the most part. But ... things took a bit of a twist near the end with the twit hosting the show went on a rant about "stock value being based on over-rated products" and as his "case in point" he pulled an iPod nano out of his pocket. He claimed that he got this "fancy new iPod" and the first time he tried to use it while jogging, it "skipped like a scratched up 45". He claimed that the technology was so bad he could make it skip my "nudging it", and went on to say that "no one from Apple was willing to talk" to him about it.

Hmmm. Could the reason that be that they didn't want to talk to the type of complete and utter moron who would actually think that a flash-based music player could skip? Could it be that the jerkoff was making the whole thing up since it is impossible for a nano to skip? Could it have anything to do with the fact that CNBC is now part of MSNBC and the "MS" there stands for "Microsoft"?

Could it?

No, of course not. Really, this is respectable journalism at it's finest. Really. I mean it.

Posted at 06:30 PM     Read More  

Wed - October 5, 2005

One more thing ...


Apple has invited the creme-de-la-geek to a somewhat hasty "Apple Event" in San Francisco on October 12. They are calling it the "One More Thing" event, a reference to the self-effacing Steve Jobs' catchphrase that always seems to precede a groundbreaking announcement. This is virtually guaranteed to be an iPod announcement of some sort since the venue is the same as the one that hosted the debut of the original 'pod, the iPod Photo, and the U2 special edition. More intriguingly, the invitation graphics feature a red "old-school" theatre curtain. Could this be the announcement of the long-rumoured and much-denied video iPod?

The smart money says no - but there is the specter of the new downsized nano clickwheel being grafted onto a standard 'pod, allowing the display to reach much further down the face for an expanded video area. Stay tuned ...

Posted at 12:41 PM     Read More  

Tue - October 4, 2005

An opposing viewpoint


In an attempt to balance out the "dog-heavy" nature of the recent posts, we are proud to present the iKitty. No word yet as to what happens when you plug your iKitty into your iDog.

Posted at 04:35 AM     Read More  

Fri - September 30, 2005

Geek Toys



Posted at 07:40 PM     Read More  

Wed - September 21, 2005

Rhymes With "Shitty"


Those noted purveyors of second-rate hardware at Dell have launched a "competitor" to the iPod Shuffle ... the Dell Ditty (yes, I am serious - the "Ditty"). They had the mandatory press release and media event about the whole thing, but if you look around on Dell's web site you will have a bit of a chore in actually finding the Ditty. You have to do a site-wide search and then look though a couple of pages of results before you find it - one gets the distinct impression that even the mopes at Dell aren't very proud of this thing.

When you do find it, you will notice that (a) it looks a lot like a 49-cent disposable lighter, and (b) it claims to hold way more songs than the iPod Shuffle. A quick peruse of the fine print will reveal that those claims are based on songs that are encoded at 64kbps - an encoding rate that gives you sound more or less equivalent to the bad AM radio in a used 1978 Chevrolet Impala. Normally, I would peg this as a dirty marketing trick (a la Sony) but in this case, I just assume that anyone who would actually buy this shoddy-looking piece of crap would also be so undiscerning as to not care that the songs sound like vomit.

The fine print does not explain why it looks like a lighter.

If you don't feel like wasting time by rooting around on the Dell site to find the Shitty, er, Ditty for yourself, never fear. I have been thoughtful enough to grab an image for you and, for comparison purposes, have added an image of the above-mentioned cheap plastic lighter. Strictly for the sake of thorough journalism, of course ... cheap laughs are just a side effect.




Posted at 09:35 AM     Read More  

Tue - September 20, 2005

Video Killed The Podcasting Star


There was a very quiet change at the iTunes Music Store last week, coinciding with the much splashier debut of the iPod nano. WIthout any muss of fuss video podcasts (vodcasts?) started appearing in the podcast browser and subscription lists. One would assume that this all but guarantees that the next step in the iPod revolution will be the much-rumoured video models.

For now, there are a bare few video items available, but the selection is growing every day. You might want to try RocketBoom - it's quirky and fun and has the Geek Seal of Approval. And anything that rags on Tom Cruise is a-okay in my books. Big thanks to DBAG for the tip on this one.

Posted at 03:24 AM     Read More  

Sun - September 11, 2005

Nano Icons


If you are both the sort of person who gets the latest gadget the day it hits the stores and the sort of person who demands the proper icons for each of your gadgets, you will be glad to know that fasticon.com already has you covered on the Nano front ...

Posted at 07:45 AM     Read More  

Wed - September 7, 2005

Magic Pod


Okay, last iPod item, I swear. One of the things that was sort of lost in the limelight today is the second iPod co-branding initiative ... apparently, the U2 branding experiment was an unqualified success. The latest is the official Harry Potter iPod, which just happens to coincide with the iTunes store snagging the exclusive on Harry Potter audiobooks. Imagine that.

Posted at 07:53 PM     Read More  

Shuffle this


For those who have wondered about the "this doesn't seem very random" randomness (or lack thereof) in iTunes when you are in shuffle mode ... you will be pleased to know that Apple has both addressed this with a new shuffle algorithm and has added a "tweak" function so you can set your own shuffle parameters. About time.

Posted at 03:26 PM     Read More  

It's Official (UPDATE)


(UPDATED TO INCLUDE NANO)

At exactly 10:00 am PDT this morning, one Steve Jobs took the stage at the Moscone Centre in San Francisco and delighted legions of geeks everywhere by pulling an honest-to-goshen iTunes phone out of his jeans.




There was the requisite call to a A-list celebrity (Madonna, at her pad in London), a snide comment about Microsoft (wondering if he had a backup phone in case this one coughed up a Blue Screen of Death) and then he got down to business. The highlights:

The latest version of iTunes (version 5.0) was announced, available now as an upgrade via Software Update and available as a free stand-alone download as of 8:00 p.m. PDT tonight.

Steve revealed the not-so-secret information that yes, it was indeed a Motorola ROKR with full iTunes functionality with a capacity for 100 songs, twin speakers, and two-way synchronization to your desktop.

Right now Cingular is the exclusive carrier of the iTunes phone - other carriers will come on board after a suitable period of Cingular gloating and (of course) a flashy ad campaign.

UPDATE: Steve always has "just one more thing" and today was no exception. Just before walking off the stage, he reached into his other pocket and pulled out the "iPod nano", the smallest full-colour digital music player ever. The thing is like a freaking jewel ... so pretty it hurts. They are available in 2GB and 4GB flavours, and start at 199 bucks U.S. They replace the Mini, and you can expect a drastic price drop on the shuffle front as Apple seeks to further differentiate the product lines. Oh, and did I mention how pretty it is?





UPDATE 2: iTunes 5.0 is available for download now.

Posted at 02:04 PM     Read More  

Sat - July 30, 2005

HP packs it in


Much to the surprise of no one, Hewlett-Packard has stopped offering an HP-branded iPod. The business strategy of taking a product that everyone (and this time I really mean everyone) knows is made by Apple, putting your own name on it, and charging a higher price baffles me to this day. They sold a few of the things to fenderheads who fell for HP's subtle hints that this was a "Windows version of the iPod", but beyond that ... what were they thinking?

Sheesh.

Posted at 01:53 PM     Read More  

Fri - July 29, 2005

Legal me, Legal you


The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear any more arguments regarding the application of a "Bryan Adams" tax to iPods and other digital music devices. Good. The last thing we need is the government collecting money from people who legally listen to digital music and putting it in the pockets of the already-bloated record companies. BUT ... and this is a BIG but ... the court left the whole thing up in the air with a vaguely-worded hint that the trade-off might be some sort of legal prohibition on using the devices to play anything but songs that were specifically purchased for that use. In other words, they may be thinking that the current common-sense legal precedent of "you buy it, you can listen to it however the hell you want" might need to be overturned.

This is bad. All bad. Stay tuned - the mopes on the high court promised a clarification today.

Posted at 08:46 AM     Read More  

Sun - July 17, 2005

The Flea



Posted at 06:39 AM     Read More  

Thu - July 14, 2005

Photos for all


We live in an odd society where anything or anyone who is successful gets knocked down and casually vilified as a matter of course. And when there is no real reason or justification for the pot shots, people fell obligated to make shit up. Case in point - the iPod. First we had Microsoft issuing a buying guide that essentially amounted to "you should purchase anything but an iPod" ... this despite the fact that The Great Evil of Redmond doesn't even sell a digital music player. Now we have another round of sniping and nay-saying, this time from the dreaded General Internet Community, regarding the simplification of the iPod line and the "elimination" of the iPod Photo.

This latest batch of grumbles and gripes comes in two flavours: The uninformed, and the bizarre. The uninformed view is that the iPod Photo was such a spectacular failure that Apple is now retreating with its corporate tail between its legs, and the whole iPod sales structure is in shambles. This is verging on moronic. If anyone were to take an actual look at the new iPod model structure, they would see that all of the full-sized iPods are now what used to be the "photo" models. The only changes are in name (since all 'Pods do photos now, there is no point differentiating them any longer) and in price - the former iPod photo is now priced where the previous generation of 'Pods used to be.

The bizarre (and, not coincidentally, even more uninformed) view is a spectacularly bizarre bit of logic. The "news" making the rounds is that since the price of photo-capable iPods has dropped, it means that Hewlett-Packard is now making the iPod for Apple. This amazing revelation just happens to ignore the fact that (a) the HP-branded iPods are made by Apple in the first place, (b) the HP 'Pods cost more than the same models from Apple, and (c) HP doesn't have a photo model. Well, not yet, anyway ... since there are no more non-photo 'Pods, you can expect that Hewlett-Packard's lineup will be revamped to include photo models soon. Despite all this, people who are otherwise more-or-less functional members of society will pass along this "news" with breathless excitement.

Sheesh. Get a grip, people. The reason that the iPod photo is now the same cost as the previous "base" model is because the price to make the damn things has dropped that drastically. Dropping the "photo" designation at that point makes sense for two reasons. One, the simplification of the product line fits in with Steve Jobs' philosophy of eliminating potential buyer hesitation based on confusion or indecision. Much like the severe and simple differentiation of the Apple computer line, the "streamlined" iPod lineup makes it very easy to figure out what you want. You have the Shuffle, the Mini, and the regular ol' iPod, and given your budget and usage need, it is insanely simple to figure out which one you want. And two, the "photo" designation was not really a selling point - people were paying the premium for the photo models not for the ability to store images and video, but rather for the lovely 60GB of storage space. As personal digital music libraries get bigger and bigger, the 20 and 40GB models are starting to become cramped. With bigger and bigger appetites for library space, it becomes more and more important to present your "basic" model as being up to the task.

So sit back, ignore the idiots, and revel in the fact that (despite the wankers who wish it were otherwise) the best music player just gets better and better.

Rock on.

Posted at 03:21 AM     Read More  

Thu - July 7, 2005

A shitload of songs


Remember when the iTunes Music Store trumpeted about a million downloads? They gave away prizes and everything.

A million? Big deal. Big fat hairy deal. A million is nothing, boyo. Apple's on-line music store is about to hit a HALF A BILLION downloads. BILLION. With a "B".

Jeezus.

So yeah, there is a big fuss about it. To properly mark the occasion, Apple is giving away some more prizes. A free iPod mini (and 50 free songs) for every 100,000th download from 480,100,000 up to the big one. And the lucky mope who downloads song number half-a-freaking-billion gets ten iPods, a handful of download gift cards, and 10000 free songs.

10 'pods. Talk about being able to make friends in a hurry.

Posted at 09:03 PM     Read More  

Bandwagon ahoy


Despite the dire warnings from Microsoft about the dangers of buying an iPod Shuffle, the sales numbers are astounding and everyone wants a piece of the pie. Case in point: Iomega, who has seen their Zip-drive business go into the toilet now that recordable CDs are cheap enough to use once and throw away. In a bit of a flailing attempt to find some market share, they are releasing yet another teeny tiny digital music player into the already-packed market. No real details yet, but you can sign up for a sneak peek (as a "valued customer") here.

Posted at 02:49 AM     Read More  

Sun - July 3, 2005

Classic stuff


The BBC is offering free downloads of Beethoven's 6th through 9th symphonies for seven days. These are exceptionally good performances, and not the sorts of things that you normally find on the P2P networks. They are also seriously big files, so get clicking.

iPod Shuffle owners might want to give these a pass.

Note: This is one of the rare instances where you will find the word "whilst" in the instructions on a web page. Savour it.

Posted at 10:05 AM     Read More  

Sat - July 2, 2005

It's called "convergence"


FInally, someone in print media gets it. The San Francisco Chronicle has started to offer a serious portion of their print content as audio feeds via podcasts. This is Big Fucking News. It is no secret that print media as it stands now is on the way out - environmental, technical, and cultural concerns are pushing the old grey rags towards death's door. Anyone who doubts this only needs to look at the results from a series of focus groups organized by the Washington Post. And yet, the old boys that run the big dailies continue to stuff their heads up their asses and ignore the writing on the wall. The only thing that really keeps people tied to the print sheets is the portability factor - even with the plague-like spread of wireless and handheld computing devices, it's still kind of tough to read your local rag's web site on the 5:45 commuter train. But if you can take the stories or sections you want with you on your handy dandy digital audio device ... instant news nirvana.

A few other sheets have played around with this in a half-hearted way - The Globe & Mail has a single feed from the business section, sort of - but the Chronicle is virtually alone among the big dailies in making a real attempt at this. Don't look for the stragglers to have an easy time catching up, either. Sucks to be them.


Posted at 08:16 AM     Read More  

Fri - July 1, 2005

Friday is yet once again podcast roundup day


(NOTE: REWRITTEN TO MOVE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE ITEM TO SEPARATE POST)

Random stuff:

After 2 days of official operation, more than a million podcast feeds have been grabbed by users of iTunes. That is a shitload of audio, no lie.

Steve Jobs talks about the whole thing with ABC News in an interview here. In a sort of circular kismet, the interview is available as part of one of the most popular feeds (number one as of this writing, in fact) - the ABC News Shuffle.

Al Franken's feed has mysteriously gone missing. Maybe the republicans got to him. Maybe it's just the heat.

Dawn has some seriously purple hair going on there.

And the best podcast that is not on iTunes (yet, I would assume) is Geek Fu Action Grip, which is absolutely fabulous. More geek girls need to start making some noise. A nice touch: Any URLs referenced in the 'cast are listed with links on the website. Why don't more 'casters do this?

Posted at 05:07 PM     Read More  

Thu - June 30, 2005

One-click Podcasting


The latest version of iTunes is available for free download this week, and one of the changes was the curiously quiet inclusion of some serious podcast support. The iTunes music store now offers about 3000 different podcasts as free downloads, with full archiving and subscription capabilities. Some of the highlights:

- Subscriptions and downloads are 100% automatic if you upgrade to iTunes 4.9. If you stick with an older version, you can still download the shows individually, but you have to go back and do the work for each new episode.

- A pretty slick browsing and search interface. You will probably find at least 5 new shows that you like and would never have found otherwise.

- Complete archives, including episodes of shows that date from before the start of iTunes podcast distribution. Anything new you discover on iTunes today probably has back issues already lined up for your downloading pleasure.

- Instant integration with your iPod. No playlists to set up, no sync settings to change. Unless you really want to, of course. Some people are just chronic fiddlers.

- An impressive lack of censorship. My first thought was that the selection would be somewhat sanitized, but Dawn & Drew are right there in the Top 10. Fisting goes mainstream, I guess.

- Easy tools to get your own podcast distributed by Apple. This is the real surprise - pretty much instant and free access to a megalithic global distribution network for the average mope. Power to the people, and all like that. Very nice.

You could probably spend all day just poking around for new and interesting things, and yes, there is a lot of dreck clogging up the browser lists. If you want a couple of places to start, I highly recommend the CBC Radio 3 (under the "Public Radio" section) for the world's best independent music, and the Al Franken Show for a nightly take on politics south of the 49th (look for Al in the "Top 10" list).

Enjoy!

Posted at 10:20 AM     Read More  

Sat - June 25, 2005

Fresh juice for your 'pod


Some older iPods are finally starting to show signs of long-term wear and tear on their batteries. Some first- and second-gen pods are now only holding partial charges - their batteries have been recharged hundreds of times and they just don't have the electrons to spare anymore. It's kind of like that older cordless phone that your parents have that only lets you talk for 5 minutes because the battery has been hammered flat.

Never fear - your friends at FastMac are ready to pitch in and save your beloved 'pod. Their new iPod battery is being hyped as "the last battery you will ever need"
and claims to have up to 3 times the charge and life-span of the standard factory power brick. Replacement batteries are available for G1, G2, and G3 'pods, and come complete with illustrated step-by-step instructions and the little shims you need to actually open your little darling without pooching it. Have fun.

Posted at 05:54 AM     Read More  

Fri - June 24, 2005

Wires-b-gone


Logitech used to be a pretty good company. They made some innovative stuff, and sold it for a fair price. But the untold riches of the dark side tempted them and they eventually fell to that unholy siren call, becoming little more than chattels and dupes of the great evil that is Microsoft. Once in a great while, though, they still show flashes of their former brilliance. Case in point: These delightful bluetooth-powered wireless headphones for your 'pod. Start drooling.

Posted at 09:32 AM     Read More  

Sat - June 18, 2005

Podzilla


A fairly accurate indicator of how cool you are is what generation iPod you carry:

Fourth gen = cool
Third gen = remarkably cool
Second gen = insanely cool
First gen = so marvelously cool that you can keep a side of beef in you for a month. Like, Zaphod-level cool.

If you are "remarkably cool" or better, there is now a quick 'n' easy way to get Linux on your 'pod - without all the jerking around with the boot loader that this used to entail. If you want to play with Tux on your 'pod, just follow these quick directions:

1 - Download the delightfully seamless OSX Linux/iPod installer .
2 - Check that your 'pod is supported (if you are cool enough to have an older unit, then you probably already know if you are supported, but some people like to check).
3 - Plug in your 'pod with a FireWire connection. Wait for it to mount on your desktop. If it doesn't - shame on you - use the iPod preferences in iTunes to enable disk mode.
4 - Run the installer - eats up about 5MB of space on your iPod disk.
5 - Eject the 'pod from your desktop.
6 - Reboot your iPod by holding down the Menu and Play/Pause buttons at the same time. When the Apple logo appears, press and hold the Back/Rewind button.
7 - Voila. Tux grins out at you from your screen, and you are ready to play with the most portable Linux install ever.

So what's the point? What can you do with your shiny new kernel? Lotsa stuff. Start with audio recording - attach an iPod microphone to your baby, scroll down to Extras and then Recordings, and off you go. Glorious 96kHz audio recordings on the go - twice the audio resolution of digital tape. Then try out some games - Asteroids, Tetris, Othello, Pong, even Minesweeper are included in the install (head down to Extras - Games to find them). There is also a calculator, a calendar, and a very primitive image viewer.

What can't you do? Well, play music for one thing. I mean, you can play tunes, but it pretty much sucks. Lo-fi, skipping, all sorts of bad. If you want to groove to your playlists, do another soft boot of your 'pod with Menu and Play (see step 6 above) and you are instantly back into the Apple OS. You can visit Tux again at any time by rebooting again and holding the Back button. Feel free to experiment - the worst you can do is crash your iPod and have to resync to get you music back out of iTunes. Big deal. In the meantime, you will reach new heights of cool by flashing your penguin boot screen and geek enclaves and tech gatherings.

And yes, as should be obvious, I carry a first gen 'pod. Like you even had to ask ...

Posted at 09:54 PM     Read More  

Thu - June 16, 2005

The revenge of Mr. Brix!


Thee latest piece of art / podwear from groovy Apple-centrix artist Tomi is now available for the masses at large ... it's the return of Mr. Brix, this time as the gigantic motif on a new shirt. Like all of Tomi's shirts, this one (a) holds your iPod shuffle as part of the design, and (b) is unbearably cool.

Posted at 12:45 PM     Read More  

Sun - June 12, 2005

Podding for dollars


It didn't take long for Rush Limbaugh to start charging for his podcasts (the free debut was noted, of course, in These Very Pages). He is now charging fifty bucks a year and, inexplicably, people are actually subscribing. Now the slime-riddled weasels who run the radio biz (Ted Rogers, come on down!) are sniffing money and they want in. In fact, one station in San Diego is already charging a five-spot per month to download the morning show. Why anyone would pay good coin to listen to the types of morons who populate the airwaves on the drive into work is beyond me, but there you go.

Will any of this pan out? Will people pay money to listen to blathering idiots and commercials when they could listen to their own playlists for free? Or will this flop miserably, leaving the radio morons to blame it on "piracy"? Keep watching this space ...

Posted at 09:03 AM     Read More  

Fri - May 27, 2005

Friday is once again podcast roundup day!


It's a sure sign of the apocalypse when four horsemen come riding over the horizon. And it's a sure sign that podcasting has become a mainstream affair when bastions of low-tech thinking like the CBC and the nutbar right jump on board.

The CBC stuck their monolithic toe in the water this week with the first of what they promise to be a number of their regular network radio programs available via podcast. Annoyingly, the two programs debuting via 'cast this week will be the two standard bearers for laughable "tech" on the public airwaves - Quirks and Quarks, which purports to be a "science show" but is really an "outdated, inaccurate, and discredited science show", and /nerd which should be more accurately titled Lame 4-month old or completely wrong tech news by an out-of-touch Windoze-worshipping low-tech wanker. I'll wait for Definitely Not The Opera, myself.

Meanwhile, on the "nutbar right" side of things, Rush Limbaugh will be polluting audio collections with his shiny new podcast so that you can carry ill-informed and bombastic half-truths and war-mongering shit around with you wherever you go. In case you are into that sort of thing.

And, just in case you are a generic nutbar instead of a right-wing nutbar, our friends at Coast to Coast AM have launched a podcast project so that you can listen to the latest breathless revelations on government conspiracies, the illuminati, and the tragic love child of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. Okay, fine, I made that last one up ... they would never broadcast anything that inane. Instead, tonight's show is a very serious discussion about the "Prophet Yahweh" and his plan to make UFOs appear on command so that the media can finally see them. Really.

Posted at 05:47 AM     Read More  

Thu - May 12, 2005

The death of the iPod


Our pal Billy G. just never stops trying. First the marketing drones at Microsoft took the time to tell us why we should never ever buy an iPod ("You fool! There's no stopwatch! What were you thinking!") That must have not worked out so well, because now Bill himself is out making the rounds to make sure that we all know the iPod will never last. Why? Because it doesn't run Windows Mobile 5.0, natch!

Posted at 04:05 PM     Read More  

Wed - May 11, 2005

The dark side


What is better than an iPod Mini? The Vader-esque custom black iPod Mini, of course. Annoyingly, you actually have to pop down to the shop in London and pick it up yourself, since the Bamfords have a pretty little web site, but no on-line sales. What's up with that?

Posted at 07:12 PM     Read More  

Clip this!


A lot of the third-party sport cases for the iPod Shuffle have clips or carabiners on them. And they inevitably come with the stern warning NOT to use the device as a keychain (despite the wildly inviting clip) because you could damage your 'Pod.

Ha! Someone finally clued in and is making a bomb-proof andonized aluminum case for the Shuffle that is designed to be used as a keychain. About freaking time.

Posted at 02:17 AM     Read More  

Fri - May 6, 2005

Friday is podcast roundup day!


The podcasting community was all scandals and bickering this week as the Creeping Finger Of Commercial Doom infected one of the most popular and beloved populist audio shows. Dawn and Drew ("Love at first fisting") took on a sponsor this week, much to the chagrin of the huddle masses. While indignant listeners have vowed never to listen again, other 'casters are mostly making fun of the whole thing. Overreaction seems to be the order of the day, however, as some overly-earnest types are calling a freaking conference to either (a) discuss the ramifications or (b) burn D & D in effigy.

I mean, come on. It isn't like they have 60 seconds of "radio guy shilling" every 10 minutes ... they read a few lines from the sponsor's web site. Period. And really, it is their choice. If people don't like it, then they don't have to listen. But getting all high and mighty and trying to somehow "forbid" podcasters from trying to cover their expenses is the same sort of repressive mindset that currently keeps average joes off of the traditional airwaves. Pot, meet kettle.

In a totally unrelated item, Paris Hilton's podcast is quite possibly the worst piece of vapid dreck ever. And yes, I am including Full House in "ever". The only saving grace in the entire horrible pile of vomit is that you don't have to listen to it. Stay away. Stay far away. And no, I will not provide a link. I don't wish to be sued by the grieving relatives of people whose brains were turned to porridge by the horror of it all.

Posted at 02:21 PM     Read More  

Wed - April 27, 2005

Podcast round-up


Assorted news from the podcast front today:

When is a podcast not a podcast? When it is on the PORD - Plain Ol' Radio Dial. A failing all-talk station in San Francisco has clutched at the ultimate last straw ... 100% listener-created content. 1550 KCCY is inviting listeners to send in their podcasts to be the basis of the station's programming. While the idea of giving average mopes access to the airwaves is good, the problem here is that mass exposure will inevitably draw the well-heeled special interest groups with axes to grind. And the "people's radio" will give way to "the slickly-produced special interest propaganda station".

Meanwhile, on this side of the border, the Engineering Department of McMaster University is distributing a monthly newsmagazine in the form of a 'cast. Sadly, they are pandering to the Windoze set by distributing in MP3 format instead of proper AAC, but it's a start. Next month's feature: How To 'Pants' An Artsie.

Finally, there are some tentative mainstream attempts to get in on the podcast phenomenon while still maintaining the grassroots "us .vs. them" gestalt that makes the genre so appealing in the first place. The producers of Battlestar Galactica were the first out of the gate, offering commentary by Ronald Moore for each episode as it aired. Some fascinating stuff here, including commentary on the weekly trailers, and the opening prologues - very cool if you are the kind of person who wonders how they decide what gets in and what gets left out when they cut the trailers.

And late to the party (in more ways than one) the creative minds behind Star Trek: Enterprise offered a commentary to one of the final season's better episodes. Too little, too late, but the thought was there ...

Posted at 03:56 PM     Read More  

Tue - April 12, 2005

Presidential 'pod


The Bush family appears to have ignored the consumer "advice" from Microsoft - the twin drunk daughters bought Papa President an iPod for his birthday. Ever wonder what songs the World's Dumbest Man would listen to? Wonder no more!

Posted at 11:26 AM     Read More  




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