Monday, August 29, 2005

Back In Full Effect

Holy Crap. I just went almost 3 weeks with no internet connection. I was reading blogs from a cell phone at work. It was bad. I'm sure I missed all kinds of cool shit. I am so disappointed in myself. Now I know to get my internet hooked up before I move into a new place, rather than waiting till I move in to set up an appointment. I've never done this before. How was I to know.

Anyways, We don't have a wireless router yet and I left my ethernet card at my parents place, so I will be trying to post from my WinLappy whenever I get a chance. This blog needs to be back in action. Just because I've been out of the loop doesn't mean you guys need to be. My most humble apologies. I will never let it happen again.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

T9 & Predictive Text: Overlooked & Underrated

phoneSpeaking of T9. For those who didn't know, I work as a Sales Rep. for Quality Cellular (U.S. Cellular). I've had a cell phone since I was 15 and being a tech geek, keep up on all the new technology and features. One of the originals that came along with SMS (aka: text messaging) was T9 predictive text entry. I really can't imagine texting as much as I do if I couldn't use T9 to write my messages. For this reason, I am always surprised when I hear from a friend or customer that T9 is stupid, confusing and worthless (which I hear very often). 95% of the time I hear this is simply because the person doesn't know how to use it. This is why I'm going to make a post explaining Predictive Text SMS Technology.

A phone keypad is probably one of the worst interfaces for text entry. It was definitely not designed with the intention to do so. In fact, up until SMS came along most telephones left out Q & Z from the keypad letters, simply because they didn't feel it was necessary to include the 2 least frequently used letters in the language. Now that SMS is here and widely used, it's apparent that there must be a better way. The standard multi-tap system will sometimes require you to push a button 4 times to get to the letter you want. One of these 4 press letters being S which is one of the most common letters in the English language. Along with that, if consecutive letters in a word are on the same key, there is a 3 or so second wait time before you can enter the next letter. As far as efficiency goes, you can't really get much worse without trying.

Now along comes predictive text systems such as T9 to make the whole thing a whole lot quicker and easier. Lets start this little lesson with you going to grab your phone, and bringing up your SMS composer. Lets say for example you want to say COOL, in which case you would press 2,2,2,6,6,6,pause,6,6,6,5,5,5. That's 12 button presses with a 3 second pause in the middle for a commonly used 4 letter word. Now, figure out how to enable T9 on your phone, or whichever predictive text system your phone uses (they all have one). Now lets try COOL again. This time, totally disregard the letters that are coming up on the screen as you are pressing buttons. Rather than pressing each of the buttons 3 times each, just press them one time for each letter, so you would enter 2,6,6,5 without any pauses. If you are using T9, the word you will see is probably BOOK. Well that's not what you want, but that's ok. What predictive text does is finds all the possible words that can be spelled with the letters for those buttons when pressed in that order. If the word that comes up isn't the one that you want, there will be a button on your phone that will cycle through the other words that are possible. On my Nokia it's the * key and on the LG I made the previous post with it was the 0 key. They try to arrange the most commonly used words for a combo at the beginning of the list. On our example, COOL is the second word in my T9 sequence following BOOK. After you have the word you want, just hit SPACE to go to the next word. This effectively makes the number of your button presses the same as the number of letters in your word, plus any cycling you have to do through the possible words.

Now T9 isn't perfect. Just like any other dictionary, it can not possibly contain every word that you may want to type. If you cycle through and don't find your word in there, one of your soft keys will probably give you a SPELL or ADD WORD option which will let you use the regular multi-tap method to input your word, which will also then be saved in the dictionary for the next time you want to use it. One drawback I have found is when using T9 on my Nokia phone, I can not save words that contain both letters and numbers, such as 2nite, l8r and 4ward to my dictionary (which I could do on my old Sony Ericsson). In fact, entering numbers at all requires me to go through the menu and select INSERT NUMBER, which is option 6 of 12, making it the furthest menu option to navigate to. Oh well, its still far more convenient for every day messaging than multi-tap.

If you are in that 95% and reading this, your social life probably just got a whole lot easier. For that you are welcome. If you are one of those weird 5% (like my roommate) who prefer multi-tap and fear new ways because you have to adapt a little, then you can go buy a Sidekick or something and have a good old time even trying to use it as a telephone when your sick of hunting around for the small buttons and accidentaly pressing 2 or 3 keys at once. QWERTY keyboards were not meant to be 3 inches wide. Enjoy using your newfound tech-knowledge, text away, and send me lots of money and other cool stuff for having saved you from early arthritis in your thumbs.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005


I'm posting this from work on a LG vx6100, really just to see if it will work. I can't get T9 to turn on, so this is taking forever. Regardless, the count is now: Adam 1, Crappy Cellphone Internet 0.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The People Take Back Their Radio

radio dj
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few months, you have probably heard of something called a Podcast. Even major news networks are doing stories on it. With so much hype around podcasting, its easy to forget that all a podcast is, is a pre-recorded radio show. Not really an amazing & new idea, but it was bound to happen eventually. The coolest part however, isn't so much the technology, but the possibilities of this simple technology. With podcasting, anyone with a computer, microphone and recording program such as Audacity, can make a show about anything they feel like talking about. There are currently 1000's of podcasts available, covering most any topics that you could want. There has even been a growing number of downloadable video shows or "vidcasts" surfacing, but those are still a pretty new thing, therefore covering mostly geeky topics. Many believe though, that vidcasting will eventually become the new platform for public television similar to PBS.

Another cool aspect of podcasts is the convenience. Let me make a comparison to the trends in television. Television, from its conception was a limited number of channels where the same content is broadcast from a network to subscribers all over the place. Then along came things like TiVo, Digital Cable, On Demand TV, etc. which gave the control to the viewer rather than the broadcaster. Seems only natural that people would demand the same from radio. Why should you have to wake up at 7am to listen to the morning news show that you like? With the huge number of podcasts out there, it also wouldn't be too convenient to have to search around for good podcasts from random places or even a list on the web. Then after finding a few that you like to listen to, having to visit multiple sites a day to check for new broadcasts and download them all to separate folders on your system. Well that's where this cool thing called RSS (really simple syndication) comes in. Already popular with blogging, RSS is basically a system that lets you subscribe to a RSS feed and get simple, interactive information delivered to you in some kind of RSS aggregator. Well its pretty much a podcasting standard to attach RSS to your podcasts making it really simple to get your podcasts with minimal effort. A podcast RSS aggregator or "podcatcher" is a program that you use to automatically downloaded podcasts to your computer/mp3 player as soon as they are released, by subscribing to the RSS feed for that podcast show. Some podcatchers even host lists of podcasts to save you the trouble of having to search all over the web for shows. Pretty easy right?

So you may ask "That's all well & good, but I'm not a computer geek. Where do I find this stuff?" Well, it's a good thing I'm pretty geeky already and have been listening to these for a while, so I can probably get you started. First of all you are gonna need an aggregator. I used iPodder which is pretty good. Here is a list of various podcatchers for Windows, Mac, Linux and a few other platforms. The latest version of iTunes has podcatching features that have impressed many people. Everyone except for the podcasters themselves who are annoyed by the numerous changes Apple made to the standard & widely used RSS which Apple believed would improve the whole system, but instead just forced everyone to change to their new "better" standard. It would have been nice though if they had consulted the podcasting community that they are trying to serve though, but when has Apple ever asked for constructive criticism?

Once you get your podcatching software, it's time to find some broadcasts. If you are using a podcatcher that has a list, such as iTunes, you will have this pretty easy. Keep in mind though that there are going to be a lot more shows out there than are going to be on your programs list. Podcast Alley is pretty much the best all-in-one collection of podcasts out there right now. The Podcast Network is a collection of podcasts centralized in Australia, but featuring podcasts from many other places. As for a couple that I frequent: Escape Pod is a podcast of science fiction short stores (kinda like a weekly audio book). TWiT (This Week in Tech) is a good technology geek podcast. Diggnation is a weekly podcast/vidcast that goes over the most popular (dugg) stories on the turbo cool Digg interactive blog. Speaking of vidcasts Here Is A List of the technology & video game vidcasts that have come around in recent times.

Now that you know all about the next big thing in media, I hope you find some cool stuff to fill your talk radio appetite which has probably gone largely unsatisfied by the radio now-a-days. Enjoy.

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Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Future Of Music Is In The Past

phonographMy musical tastes have been changing a whole lot in the past year or so. Now-a-days I find my downloading patterns are focused more and more on music that was made before I was even born, or in some cases before my parents. Most notably I have been getting into Funk & R&B (60's & 70's), Bebop Jazz (40's, 50's & 60's), Bossa Nova & Salsa (50's & 60's) & Roots Reggae (70's & 80's). The main thing that got me into old music was an interest in sampled Hip Hop & Jungle breakbeats, primarily inspired by the Hip-Hop documentary "Scratch". Heavily used tracks like "James Brown - Funky Drummer (1969)", "The Winstons - Amen Brother (1969)" and "Michael Viner's Incredible Bongo Band - Apache (1973)" were some of the first I came across. It's a really cool feeling to have been listening to Jungle music for a few years, then put on "Amen Brother" for the first time and hear the original drum break recorded 30 years earlier. After poking around and listening to record samples on online vinyl stores like Turntable Lab I became hooked on digging around for sampled music (mainly Funk & R&B).

My electronic music tastes had been drifting for quite a while toward the more chill & jazzy lounge type styles of various electronic music genre's. I had always thought Jazz music was pretty cool, but hadn't really known what to look for, considering pretty much none of my friends listened to the stuff. I would listen to the local NPR news radio station in the mornings, which also happened to be a Jazz station, and sometimes when the news was over, the radio would stay on till I left for school. This was pretty much the only exposure I had until I happened across a documentary on Bebop co-founder Thelonious Monk called "Straight No Chaser." This stuff was exactly what I was looking for in Jazz music. Fast drums paired with a stand-up bass giving a backdrop for sometimes very abstract & intricate instrument solos. I dove straight into this stuff, finding out as much info about it as I could. The main players of this style of Jazz being Thelonious Monk (Piano), Dizzy Gillespie (Sax), John Coltrane (Sax) & early Miles Davis (Trumpet). This type of stuff is probably what I'm listening to the most right now. Also on the Jazz note, Inspired by a segment on Sealab 2021 sampling an Antonio Carlos Jobim & Elis Regina song called "Aguas De Marco" from the 1971 album "Elis & Tom" I also started getting into Brazilian Jazz styles such as Bossa Nova & Salsa. Much of this stuff was also being sampled in a lot of Drum N Bass around 2003 such as a track called "So Tinha De Ser Com Voce" on the same aforementioned album.

I had been into Dancehall a bit and started buying some records a while back. Then it started getting big on the mainstream radio over here and I started to realize more & more how similar it was to the crappy MTV rap music that i loathe so much. Upon seeing an old Jamaican movie from 1977 called "Rockers" featuring a soundtrack of early & mid 70's Reggae & Ska (also featuring the vocal sample from the Jungle track "Babylon" by Splash) I discovered that the old stuff was much better than the new stuff.

The more & more I got into this old music, the more samples I would discover hidden in random albums I would get. It's so cool when you put on a John Coltrane & Duke Ellington CD and say "Holy Crap, that piano is on a DJ Krush mix I have" (which actually happened last night with "John Coltrane & Duke Ellington - My Little Brown Book" on the DJ Krush mix "Code 4109" track #4). Most people have no idea that much of the music that they listen to was pretty much made 20-50 years earlier, with modern producers sampling melodies & beats that are largely unchanged. The way I see it, these people wouldn't be sampling the songs if they weren't good it the first place. "You can't polish a turd"

To get you started on your quest for older sampled music Here Is A Website containing mp3s of parts of old songs as well as the newer songs that use samples from them. Most of the tracks on here are Funk, R&B and Disco samples which are used in Hip Hop, House & Electronic Music. Its really cool stuff to take a listen to, even if you don't really plan on taking the time to research old music to expand what your listening to.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Space, The Final Frontier

cats eye nebulaThis site is a collection of the clearest and most interesting images ever taken from the Hubble Sapce Telescope. In case you have been living under a rock and don't know what the Hubble actually is, it's a giant telescope made into a satellite that is orbiting the earth and is exploring the far reaches of the Universe. Since the telescope is viewing space from outside of the earths atmosphere the images it takes are many many times clearer than any earth based telescope. Launched from the space shuttle Discovery in 1990 it is still in frequent use today by people worldwide. Pictured is the Cat's Eye Nebula "NGC 6543" which is the late stages of a dying star (even though it is roughly 3,000 light years away, therefore died 3,000 years ago).

Ever since I took a science class with one of the most popular professors at my school I've had a great and growing interest in space, astronomy, physics and pretty much science in general. The concepts and events of the Universe are enough to blow my mind every time I learn something new. I've been doing a bunch of studying of these subjects on my own time which has lead to a good start in forming a personal worldview which brings me more happiness & contentment than going to church or school ever did. I wish more people would take things into their own hands and explore what's out there rather than just conform to the lazy "Tell me what I should think" and "Ignorance is bliss" attitude that is so prevalent in our culture.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Damn You Freedom & Independence. Damn You.

maxtorOutpost is selling 200 gig. Maxtor hard drives for $70 out of pocket. If not for the fact that I moved from home to Madison 2 months ago, started my job 3 weeks ago (haven't got paid yet), and am moving again in a week, I would be all over this deal. Good thing only 3 or 4 people check my blog regularly, so maybe there will be a few left in another 3 months when I get some extra money for something like this. Wait, I found this on Digg. These things are going to be gone in a couple days. Damnit.

I once had a $200 gift card for Best Buy. It was a toss up between a DVD-RW drive and new speakers for my car, or a high cap. hard drive and lower quality car speakers. I went with the DVD-RW. Hindsight doesn't look too good on this decision. Now I'm sitting here, broke as hell, with a full 40 gig. hard drive, no blank DVDs and a junky car CD player feeding 3 of 4 of my nice new speakers. *tear*

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Real DJs Across The World Grimace In Disgust

idjDJing has been becoming more commoditized with every new "cool" & "revolutionary" DJ technology to hit the market. With another valiant attempt at this, as well as jumping on the iPod bandwagon, the quasi-craptacular DJ hardware company Numark adds a new Cool & Revolutionary product to their catalogue. Characteristically innovative yet lacking in the usefulness department, the Numark iDJ is a basic DJ mixer with integrated iPod docks & controls. Mixing tracks all night from two iPods may sound like a really cool idea, but from the looks of things and Numark's reputation, I can assure you this console offers nothing that spectacular.

idj backSpec. wise, this is a pretty basic 2 channel DJ mixer. It has 3 band EQ, trim & level meters on each channel. For inputs it has a phono and line on each channel as well as USB ports for playing tracks from your computer. It also has an s-video output for iPod Photo capabilities, which seems pretty useless while playing a party. It lacks fader curve, kills and effects which some DJs find necessary. The main missing feature however, is any way to control the pitch of the tracks that are playing on the iPods (a flaw reflected in the price). Unless you beatmatch all your tracks before even putting them onto your iPods (neither easy, nor accurate), any kind of real DJing is going to send you back to your decks. Other than doubling as an expensive iPod computer dock, the same effect can be achieved with two RCA-to-Stereo Mini cables and any regular DJ mixer. How many people have two iPods anyway? The only thing this is going to do is detract people from DJing the right way and discourage support for underground artists who actually need the money from their record sales.

The iDJ is set for release in the 3rd quarter of this year at a MSRP of $399. Come Christmas time the Mac geek of frat houses across the globe will be painfully mashing & trainwrecking together Ludacris tracks from his iPods at a crappy party until someone spills MGD in it then beats his ass for being the frat nerd and getting all up in his face about it.

Fuck iPods, The End.

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Going Down!

elevatorHere is a nice little practical hack. Next time you get in an elevator hold down the "Close Door" button while you press the button for the floor you want to go to. This will put the elevator into "Express Mode" which will cause it to skip stop requests at any other floors. Some elevators require a key for express mode, but some do not and this method should work on those which don't.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Mac Fanboys Flock To The K-Mart Ammo Dept.

mighty mouseSteve Jobs has been doing some rather risky stuff of late. Migrating to Intel chips, developing an OS for non-Mac x86 machines, and now releasing an official (PC compatible) Multi-Button Optical Mouse. Well, i guess you can call the "Mighty Mouse" a multi-button mouse even though it doesn't actually have any buttons. The top of the mouse is mapped for configurable touch buttons as well as full scrolling and has an innovative non-moving scroller ball & squeeze pads on the sides. Since the mouse buttons are configurable, Mac fanboys can still have their inefficient one button mouse and live in their happy little PPC world. With all the touch pad experimenting on the various iPod versions I'm not surprised that Apple is incorporating it into other products. Making the mouse PC/Windows compatible will make them tons of money, and at only $45 i may even decide to pick one up, provided its Linux compatible, which it more than likely isn't *sigh*. With a new Mac a bit out of my current financial reach, I suppose my crappy Compaq roller ball mouse is going to have to suffice.

*picks crap out of mouse ball rollers*


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