Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Lamenting the Apple

Oh Apple, where did it all go wrong? Where did all your design engineers go? Where did your aesthetics go? And your plain good sense?

In case you're wondering, Apple today introduced a "fun" new product: the iPod microwave Hi-Fi. This thing is ugly, expensive and useless. Expensive and useless, I can handle. But ugly? From Apple? This can't be happening. Please tell me it isn't so.

They also introuced this leather case for their new iPods. In and of themselves, they're not bad, though you can't access the controls or view the screen unless you take the iPod out of the case (I wonder how long it will be before someone sues Apple because they dropped their iPod while removing it from one of these cases). No, the bad thing is the price: US$99. Give me a break. I bought my leather case for about $25, and I can plug it in, access the controls and view the screen without removing the iPod. Come on Apple. You can and must do better than this.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Originally uploaded by rangerteper.
Took this on a x-country ski trip earlier this week. Unfortunately, there had previously been a nasty ice storm and, coupled with the fact that the park's grooming machine was broken, the ski trails were closed for the most part for our trip, so went snow shoeing instead.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Kudos to CBC

So I downloaded the CBC podcast into iTunes this morning and low and behold, it came in as a single file. Looks like they decided to go the extra mile for iPod users after all. Good for them, and good for all the people who e-mailed the show to let them know how irritating the problem was. In this day and age of unscrupulous and opportunistic politicians, it's nice to know that someone out there is actually listening.

Of course, now the tip in my previous post is worthless, but what the heck...

On a side note, I'm posting this using Bleezer. Experimenting with the program, I have found that it works fine if you're posting text only, but as soon as I try to post any HTML, it doesn't get posted. I still have high hopes that the next build will work better because I really like creating my posts outside the Blogger text edit window.

Edit: Another Bleezer note. I tried to use the tags field in Bleezer and got a post error. After removing the tags, it posted fine. More growing pains, I guess.


Thursday, February 09, 2006


I listen to a bunch of science podcasts, including the Nature Podcast and, my favourite, Quirks & Quarks. One of the downfalls of such shows, however, is that for some reason science show hosts, more than most others, seem to feel the strange urge to pun. Chris Smith of Nature is the worst at this by far; I find myself cringing every time I listen to the show. Hardly a sentence goes by during the story intros and conclusions that does not contain at least one--usually terrible--pun. Bob McDonald of Q&Q isn't quite as bad, and generally his puns don't score as high on the groan scale, but he has been guilty of a few doosies over the years too; however, at least McDonald usually seems sheepish about it, unlike Smith, who doesn't even seem to realize he's doing it.

Not that I'm not so naive as to think that the hosts are entirely to blame. The show's producers and/or writers also have a lot to do with this dubious popular science tradition. The question is: "Why?" My personal theory is that science has been elitist for so long that those in the media who bring science to the masses feel it incumbent on themselves to try and make the uninitiated feel more comfortable. And punning, being such a base form of humour (though admittedly some view it as the highest of art forms), is apparently the magic ingredient. God forbid that science ever stand on its own as entertainment.

Anyway, now that I've got that off my chest, let me also offer up a little tip for Q&Q listeners who listen to the podcast on their iPods. For whatever reason, Q&Q is downloaded into iTunes as separate mp3 files rather than one long show. Apparently for those people who use non-iPod players (all 7 of them), these files will play sequentially without any problems, but the iPod treats them as separate podcasts, meaning you get kicked all the way back to the main menu after each segment--a PITA to be sure. Here's my trick to solve this little problem:

  1. You'll need QuickTime Pro, which will cost you some bucks, unfortunately (Bad bad Apple).
  2. Go to Doug's AppleScripts for iTunes and download his Join Together v3.2.1 script.
  3. Download podcast Chapter Tool (direct download link from Apple site).
  4. Install the Join Together script and Chapter Tool as per their respective instructions.
  5. Open iTunes, go to your iTunes library and select the Quirks & Quarks (or any other podcast) segments you wish to join together (you can't do this from within the podcast list).
  6. Choose "Join Together and Chapterize" from the iTunes scripts menu, follow the instructions and let the script do its magic.

Voila! You should now have a single file in your iTunes library that contains all the segments of the Q&Q podcast. The one hitch is that the file won't appear in your podcast directory, but you can easily create a smart playlist called, say, Q&Q, then set the playlist rules to include files for which the artist is Quirks & Quarks and for which the genre is not "podcast."

I contacted the show's producers about this little bug, and they blame it on Apple breaking the podcast standard (whatever that is). Jim Lebans, of Q & Q wrote, "we can either satisfy the Apple owners, or everyone else, but not both without using two feeds, [...] which is a lot more work for us." OK, so I can sort of understand this, but I must say it irks me a little. Apple aficionados are constantly getting the old "we'd love to develop [insert application or service here] for Mac but there are simply not enough users out there to make it worth our while. But with the iPod, Apple users are for once vastly in the majority and should therefore (and often do) logically enjoy the benefits of content producers tailoring their output to iPod users. In this case, however, what would appear to be an anti-Apple bias has the tail wagging the dog.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Recent Flickr upload

Lac Seigneurial
Originally uploaded by rangerteper.
Took this last weekend at Parc du Mont Saint-Bruno, about a half-hour south of Montreal. I was facinated by the paterns of snow on ice. Slightly photoshopped to adjust levels and bring out some colours.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

"New" Internet = Web 2.0 -- who knew?

It would appear that my previous post was a re-invention of the wheel of sorts. As usual, when I try to be hip, I end up falling on my face. OK, Web 2.0 it is.

In other news, I finally snagged an invite to the private beta of Newsvine (though there's not much point clicking on the link unless you have been invited). Pretty cool so far. I also received an invite to CoComments, but I haven't got it to work yet, for some reason. It's supposed to work with Blogger, but I haven't had any luck except in posting the little tracker code to my own blog. I wonder if a distinction is being made between Blogger blogs and Blogspot blogs. Anyway, I don't have time to futz with it right now.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

10 things that make the "new" Internet a great place

A few posts back, I made reference to what I call the "new" Internet. A buddy of mine asked me what I meant, so I thought I'd try and explain in more detail.

Back in the early days--and by that I mean early days of today's ubiquity, i.e., mid-90s--the Internet was a really neat place. Yes, we were stuck with dialup speeds for the most part, and there wasn't that much content, but everything was free, and there was a sense of community, or so it seemed to me. Then around the end of the decade and in the early part of the new millennium, things started getting silly. Everyone was out to make a fortune; every second site was subscription based. Then the dotcom bubble burst, and we all know what happened.

But today, the Internet seems to be regaining some of the old sense of community. AND bandwidth we didn't dare to dream about 10 years ago is now as cheap as water in Canada (well, maybe not quite that cheap, but you get my picture). Part of what makes the "new" Internet so appealing and interesting is the tonne of resources and applications that are available to "Internautes" (as they say in French) today. So I thought I'd make a list, in no particular order, of what I feel make the Internet a fun place to hang.

  • Wikipedia
  • Podcasts and podcasting (even if I dont have one myself)
  • Blogs and Blogging
  • Open source software and freeware in all its guts and glory (and yes, I'm posting this using Bleezer)
  • del.icio.us and Digg
  • Flickr
  • RSS/Atom/XML and on-line news in general (if anyone has a spare subscription to newsvine, I'd be eternally grateful)
  • iTunes and the iTunes Music Store
  • IM, Skype, and video chatting
  • Wifi (especially free wifi)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Mini + miniStack

Mini + miniStack
Originally uploaded by rangerteper.
This is the picture I tried to blog using Bleezer. Alas, I have since heard from the developer and it would appear that for the time being, I'm stuck with using Flickr or Blogger's on-line editor.

No worries, Larry. I'm going to keep using Bleezer for a while yet. It has a lot of potential. You'll make a million... oh, wait...

So far... not so good

If you read the last post, you'll have noticed something wrong: no image. OK, remember, this is young software. I tried to upload an image from my computer but it didn't make it (I had to go in and edit out the place holder). Not sure why this is the case; I think Blogger limits the image dimensions, but I thought this was done automatically.

A more serious issue was that Bleezer froze after I sent the post. The post showed up on my blog fine, but I had to force quit the app. Maybe something to do with the image not being the right size? Well see how this one goes.

I should add that I learned of Bleezer through D'arcy Norman Dot Net. One of D'arcy's complaints was that the preview editor doesn't show line and paragraph breaks. I haven't used any HTML to indicate paragraph or line breaks in this post, so we'll see how they show up on the web site.

Edit: This one posted fine and Bleezer didn't hang. However, I discovered a new problem. Bleezer is supposed to be able to fetch the other posts from the blog and allow you to edit. However, when I tried to make this update from within Bleezer, I got an error (something to do with Atom). Ahh... growing pains

Bleezer Blogging

I'm trying out this new freeware blogging client called Bleezer. It runs on OS X, Windows and Linux, which is great, and you can't beat the price. I'll give it a try for a week and see how I like it, but I've been looking for something like this (i.e., free blogging app for OS X) for a while, so I'm prepared to give it an honest workout.

Right now, it's a little short on how-to/help documentation, but the developer has only been at it for two months and seems pretty eager to improve Bleezer. Hats off to him, anyway. This is one of the things I love about the "new" Internet.

Now, as a test of how it works posting images, I'm posting a picture of my Mac setup. I tried this before but my post just showed a broken image link. Maybe I didn't give it enough time to upload the image. This time, I'm resizing it so it's smaller.