Wednesday, December 22, 2004

NPR should bittorrent/RSS their newscasts

In recording things, especially morning edition, their 45min limit on their audio streams is killing me. I guess they cut the streams short during 9/11 due to their servers being overloaded. I can understand that kinda, they do have to pay for all that bandwidth but I propose a solution, bittorrent.

Yeah, yeah, I realize that they sell some of their stuff like Fresh Air and Car Talk, I think that stuff should be available for download but that might be another post, this is more another means of sending out content and saving money.

I think BBC is already kind of doing this (Adam Curry said they haven’t been advertising the fact but he has found some mp3s in their RSS feeds). NPR could easily start doing this by putting out their 5 minute summary as a bittorrent. With all the people that listen to NPR online, especially as the idea of time-shifting catches on, seeding a bittorrent should take the brunt of the bandwidth load off of them. They could do it in AAC files (or something like that, not sure about all the DRM stuff, I hate the crap but considering that I only listen to a cast once then toss it, it would be fine if they DRM’d it).

Monday, December 20, 2004

The English Language… Amazing

Well I was talking to a German friend of mine who, in some random conversation, thought that the English language had something like 400,000 words (I think that is what he said), and I thought it was more. Today I took a peek at my beloved wikipedia under its entry for “The English language”, damn, pretty extensive.

Turns out that there are 800,000+ words and counting, the page (it’s a link from The English Language page on Wikipedia) states that its an estimate, and is not exact, but hey close enough. The Wikipedia entry touches on just about everything you could think of relating to English plus some. One of the things it mentions a few times is its Germanic and Latin roots (though the entry seems to say it is more Germanic than Latin, interesting).

I have a fair number of German friends so I hear German quite a bit when I am around them and of course pelt them with questions. Myself, not being anything close to a master of the English language (still learning, refer to my grammar/writing skills) I am always interested amused when I learn new German and Latin words, and how lots of English words can be explained through either German or Latin.

Then I think about Japanese and Chinese, whoa, talking about night and day difference, especially writing. I hear lots of Germans saying that English is way easier than German, and I am inclined to agree but it doesn’t hold a candle to Japanese or Chinese.

Bangkok Baby!

Yep, not in Rome anymore, on to the land of warmer (bloody hot!) climates, and hot (burn the hair off your legs hot) food! The postings will probably be a bit more spurratic due to adjustment internet access etc. So far i am liking it, i live in a very Thai area (no expats running around, and i am somewhat of a novelty where as in some other parts of town i would just be a nusiance) and most people have been very nice and extraordinarily tolerant of my almost non-eistant (except counting) Thai... oh boy, steeeeeep learning curve ahead.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Out'a Here!

Ok Kiddies, For all (3?) of you reading; I will be heading to Bangkok (Yeah Bangkok Baby!) so until I get situated there probably won't be many posts. But until then!

Direct correlation between...

... Between my postings and how much NPR/Tech broadcasts I listen to. I have been basking in ripped NPR newscasts, don’t worry NPR, haven’t traded/sold/kept any of them but God its nice to be able to listen to them when I want/where I want/how I want. I’ve been taking advantage of the sped up option on my iHP-120 and soaking in a 2 hour episode cut between my to and from commutes (about 45min each way).

I have also noticed that I end up with more “thoughts” on stuff other than tech, I have rarely been able to get into reading about politics current events etc (well I can a bit but hardly when compared to tech reading). Now more than before my postings directly correlate with amt of tech and NPR audio I hear. I still read as much tech as time allows, but magazine tech articles seem years behind and seriously out of touch compared to the online stuff, but podcasts quite often are as up to date as the online stuff the difference being that I can take them on the subway/bus/walk… nice. Thanks Adam and NPR (but NPR didn’t exactly make it easy).

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Part 5: Ideal Computing setup and Mind Mapping (the comparison)

Screw it, I have been trying to remember to save an html version (here is someone else's example) of what I did and bring it to work (no home net access [yes a piece of me is dying daily]) but I keep forgetting, whatever.

Anyway, I tried brainstorming using mind mapping software FreeMind. The learning curve wasn’t too bad but having to right click for everything (or memorize hotkeys [which I love if I use the app all the time]) was kind of annoying, hopefully they will be adding some menu customization so you can put buttons on the menu instead of awkward right clicks and convoluted right click menu navigation.

Anywho, other than the right clicking (and yes, I did use hot keys for the most common functions, mainly add a node) it was pretty nifty. It did take more time for me to come up with a mindmap than it did to just write it down but then again that was the first time I had ever used the software. I liked the bubble? (looked like a cloud to me, if you want an idea you can go to the java applet example, but it will take some serious bandwidth) option to group stuff together, quite nice. I would have liked a better way to attach larger chunks of text because in this situation for some of the hardware stuff I listed I forget why I wanted it (dumb-a*s I know) so I want to make a note as to why I wanted the feature in the first place (the whole “if you can’t remember it then it couldn’t have been that important” is just not true).

Well, considering its free, I have to give it a thumbs up, its nothing like Mind Manager (they have a demo available) which has tons of features but perhaps more than you need.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Firefox still not Opera

First, yes I am an Opera die hard, 2nd my biggest qualm with Opera is that it doesn't work with as many webpages as FireFox but... qualms:

First, the thing I like about FireFox, extensions, they are nifty, easy to install, and people are writing new ones every day, but it almost ends there.

That is not to say that FireFox doesn’t rock, it does, and is many orders better than M$IE, but it is, for lack of a better word, simplistic. Now I realize for many that is what makes it attractive (and in preaching Opera like I used to [installing it on friend’s computers] I have discovered that unless you are a browser nerd you won’t use half of the features that Opera has to offer, sad but true), and its not as simplistic as IE but when compared to Opera it just pales in comparison.

I think IE is, like M$ (I know “Duh!”); but FireFox is like MacOSX; and Opera is like Linux/Unix. That is to say, IE doesn’t work that great, you can’t get into its guts, etc. FireFox, is of course open source (yeah!) so you can get way into its guts *but* (and now that I think of it my analogy is breaking down) only at a programming level, superficially it is a bit harder to make really cool changes. Then you have Opera, admittedly not open source, but usability wise you can change sooooo many things, bookmarklets, change menus, adding/making buttons, viewing pages using different CSS pages you have made, load pages w/o graphics, billions of mouse gestures and hot keys, small program, super skinnable, fast, and the list goes on (a really good site to visit to get a better idea is

I know there are those out there that say that FireFox kicks Opera’s ass, but I really haven’t seen much of that. It seems to be more that they both rock, and neither are IE.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Granddaddy of the P2P

Just ran across an article that had a link to; this article, from 2000, announcing the “new” P2P client, Gnutella!

Nice, that was the beginning of the 2nd generation (in my mind) P2P apps (Napster being the 1st), non-centralized p2p. I am not quite sure what the 3rd generation was/is; I think it should be the rise of more anon p2p clients. Some have been around for awhile like FreeNet but most have been pretty slow to pick up steam which is odd to me considering the litigious nature of the RIAA and now the MPAA.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Godfather of Slackware

Just got word that the Slackware Godfather (Patrick Volkerding) is not doing well. He has been the maintainer (and creator?) of Slackware Linux, one of the oldest distributions of Linux and far and away one of the most stable/secure Linux distributions.

He has been posting updates on how he has been doing, seems to be heart related. I can say this guy is really nice, met him in person, no; but way back (like 1996?) when I installed Slackware he helped out with a few problems; considering the amount of mail he probably got (and no doubt still gets) I was quite grateful. The staying power and popularity of Slackware (almost always in the top 10) is also testament to its core linux goodness. Hope he gets better soon.

Lease to own Über Gizmo store?

You can lease to own houses and cars right? But those are for money purposes, how about for trying something out? I am constantly scouring the net for reviews on products I am interested in, and it is not uncommon to find conflicting reviews (its mostly subjective anyway). Plus, when I actually get my hands on something I will find quirks myself. Now the brick and mortar places are good for checking something out but #1 you only get to try it out at the store, #2 they have limited selections. What about a Amazon sized gadget place that let you lease to own (and if you don’t like it then whatever) gizmos, you can do all the net research etc narrow it down then get the gizmo, and then lease it to try it out and see if you like it, if you do then viola! You buy it!

I am sure there are all sorts of details that I am not thinking of but the theory sounds good right?

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Gimme and NPR podcast!!!

Oops! I forgot about this one, i wrote it then saved as a draft but never posted it, well i have since figure out how but there might be some useful/interesting links so i went ahead and posted it.

This whole podcasing thing really makes me want to figure out how to setup NPR for it. Since some of the NPR shows are being sold (itunes link) I doubt they will be podcasting any time soon… so I figure that somehow I can get some system of recording mp3 streams from some of the member stations… we shall see. It would be too cool if there was something like RadioShark for internet streams (real player, mp3, etc)… The whole time shifted radio programming just couldn’t be sweeter… if I can figure it out. If anyone out there is aware of something like this then let me know (I think "AudioJack" is but haven’t gotten a chance to play around with it that much).

Über Cameras, Why bother?

What is the point of these über cameras (yes I love that word, über. über, über, über, über!) that people have if they don’t take advantage of the resolution? I am a sucker for extra rez (though limited finance has helped bridle that love for pixels) so I have a nice 256Mb SD card that I either take full rez/highest quality JPEG pix or go all out with full rez TIFFs, but I seem to be the minority among my non-techno-weenie friends. In many case they have cameras that make mine look like the Sony Mavica floppy disk cameras of yore with 5 mega pixel, 5x zoom, 512Mb mem, etc (all I gots is a little Minolta Xt, love the size/ speed, and pix are ok [barely] but are mediocre for inside shots). Not sure how obvious it is but I love travelling and try to get pictures etc, and when with friends we all snap off pictures whenever but then when we get around to swapping pictures I get these gimpy 640x480 or 800x600 pictures?! The rez problem is exacerbated with bad shots (which I seem to be taking a lot of with my camera… grunt), you can’t Gimp/Photoshop them because they use some jpeg quality of 50% or less with a 640x480 resolution so touching up is (for me) impossible.

Come on people, the price of memory is dropping pricipitusly, you can now get a gigabyte of memory for under $70, you could store butt loads of RAW or TIFF files on something like that and it probably doesn’t cost 1/3 of what you paid for that camera!

Monday, December 06, 2004

Tech N’ Travel

Well I didn’t look around much for tech stuff (not sure what I was thinking??!) and in London about 2 weeks ago nothing jumped out at me but in Germany I noticed a few things. I was in Hamburg and Düsseldorf, at schnitzels, bratwurst, currywurst, a (bad) pretzel (probably a fluke), Maultauschen (think German Ravioli [but better])... you can’t tell I like food can you?

Well two things, both kinda techish. One clockwork, and German precision (I guess that’s the right word, sorry, I’ve never said I was an English Master). Of course most people would say things in Germany work really well, and German products are good as well, but I was consistently amazed how the trains (at least the ones I took) were on time give or take about a minute, amazing. Not only that but being in Italy I have noticed that the Nokia 3310 seems to be the standard (baseline) phone but in Germany this Siemens (don’t know the model, but it is about half the weight and 2/3rd the weight of the Nokia) phone is the “baseline” model, its just nicer and many Germans seem to dislike it, like it was a pinto or something.

A side note, in talking to my (well traveled) friend, she mentioned how most Germans don’t really think about (appreciate?) how well things work there but once they go other places they see. Amusing.

Anyway the second thing was Saturn, I have never seen one before but apparently it’s a pretty big electronics store in Germany. The selection of notebooks they had was pretty impressive, especially considering that they seemed to be at least as many as Best Buy or CompUSA in the US. The thing that I really noticed was the ultraportables, I just don’t recall seeing that many in the US, usually one or two Sony Vaios but that’s it. Here they had the luscious Sony X505, damn that thing is only a few hairs thicker than my Treo90?! It was just fun to look at (behind glass, Damn it!) but some other computers were out as well, including some JVC computers that in a way are a bit more practical. Computers like the JVC MP-XV841US have a screen, decent rez, and as much as a DVD-RW, impressive. For a notebook the things I require the most are gobs of disk space a optical drive, and a keyboard I can type on... that last part is a sticker. I don’t need much processing power (save that for the desktop), a huge screen would be nice but unrealistic (for now) if trying to save weight, but the keyboard. I have owned a nice little IBM series X 240, it’s a tough little thing but with hands my size (maybe slightly larger than average) I would always screw up trying to type. The day they come out with something like the Sony X505 with an optical Drive and at least 80 gigs of space I am so getting it, regardless of the 2nd or 3rd mortgage I might have to take out on the house.

Part 4: Ideal Computing setup and Mind Mapping

Ok, this mind mapping software stuff got me thinking, I sometimes wander off into lala land and think about whatever, this time, the “ideal” computing setup. I think this would be perfect for mindmapping software so I thought I would write it up in a wysiwyg word processor first then re-do the brainstorm in something like freemind (which I had trouble installing at first, didn’t see I had Java already installed, will work on that).

The Setup
Server: about 4 drives with mirroring, butt loads of memory (running multiple apps/OSs) and drive space (movie/music jukebox server, and holding two OSs), can skimp on the processor, quiet, wireless/wired router (gigabit? For multiple simultaneous media streams),Slackware with XP running on top via vmware

Workstation: über processor, petabytes of memory, lots of HD space, huge LCD or Plasma screen (+21”), wireless mouse, wireless keyboard, RF remote (maybe use PDA as RF remote), kick ass shielded speakers with shielded wire (none of that mystery humming crap), perhaps wireless game pad (for my NES rom collection), big honking L shaped desk, RAID level 1 with bare minimum 7200rpm 8mb cache hard drives,

Combination Laptop/Tablet: tablet, small, under 3lbs, have huge amts of hard drive space, have reasonable sized keyboard, have at least DVD reader drive, blue tooth (for wireless mouse), Wi-Fi, can sacrifice speed if I can nuke having a fan,

Phone/PDA (Smartphone): Bluetooth, Wi-Fi (VoIP, etc), plug-in ability for GPS (would be a god send here in Rome), nice 1 megapixel camera (minimum, also nice to have app that adjusts screen brightness using the camera), 64megs of memory minimum, SD-IO slot, backlit tactile keyboard, memory that retains info even with zero power, can charge via USB,

Ok, lets hope I get FreeMind working tonight.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Proud of the Ukrainians…

I have been listening to multiple NPR broadcasts and seeing on Google news tons of bits about the upheaval in the recent Ukrainian Elections. I can say I am proud of them (well some of them) for standing up to what were obviously unfair elections. When I was working in Moldova (Yes, I know Ukrainians aren’t Moldovans but there are similarities) I was usually quite frustrated with politics there (the younger generations are working at it a bit but are far and away the minority, and still have a long way to go) and the political naivety and/or apathy. To see Ukrainians stand up to Russia is almost refreshing, not because I hate the Russians (well, I’m not fond of the government but love the people) but because many of the former Soviet republics are willing puppets of the Kremlin; not too much unlike many countries being puppets to Bush (notice I say “Bush” and not the “US”; I hate the shmoe) in a way they don’t have a choice but in a way they do. It boils down to “be yourself”. I know there have been demonstrations in support of the existing government (which has worked very closely with the Kremlin) but notice many of those are close to the boarder and where there are large concentrations of Russians, which makes total sense. In my experience Russians are fiercely proud people, I met many in Moldova who lived there their whole life but didn’t speak Romanian (the national language), not wanting to taint their “Russian-ness”, appalled me but also made me admire them a bit more…

Regardless, Ukraine, along with just about any other country, need to be its own country and not the puppet of some larger power.

Part 3: Personal Organization Applications

I am not necessarily talking about PIMs (personal information managers) but that is defiantly a part of effective organization, something like “mind mapping” software. I haven’t really used them much, mostly because until recently I haven’t been able to find any that I could afford but I have lately come across a few forms of (free) mind mapping/organization softwares that I want to try out like Freemind, Thinkgraph, VYM, outliners

The more things I cram into my life the more important organizing my life becomes. Agendus is now a basic part of that but also organizing things such as projects more effectively (that can be anything from work to building the idea personal server, etc) saves time which allows me to do more things.

While I am thinking about it, a tablet would be ideal for mind mapping software, or it seems like it would be. Or better yet one of the tablet/notebooks (kind of like the Toshiba Portege M200 tablet PC [but that is not ideal mind you]) more on that later.

Interesting, while I was thinking about this (and flipping back and forth between different webpages [god I love tabbed browsing in Opera]) I saw a Slashdot/economist posting relating to organization/complexity that seems to relate closely if not directly with what I have been talking about.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

More of the same…

I read an article before of how 2nd term is an opportunity for presidents to do as they please, not having to please their constituents etc (refer to Regan actually befriending the USSR in his second term after spending most of his first term bashing them). I don’t foresee bush doing *anything* different. He is out to pursue his “my way or the highway” policies.

His latest (the shmuck doesn’t waste much time) unfathomable move was re-refuting the Kyoto protocol/treaty. There is even more evidence now that the greenhouse effect is causing/exacerbating global warming

You love me, you really love me!

Well I had gotten a wee bit behind on my podcasts, its almost kind of nice, I get to sift through all the stuff and listen to what is most interesting to me and chuck the rest (I wish I could append like a show TOC in the ID3 comment tag of the NPR rips). Anyway, I was listening to the “can’t miss shows” (Engadget, SlashDot Review, Daily source code) and while listening to the SDR I heard this site mentioned, as well as The Digestible Aggie! I almost fell out of my chair! Never mind that he slightly misquoted TDA and mutilated my name (I am amazed when I hear any non-Japanese speaker actually pronounce it *correctly*, so *no* worries) I got a plug from the SlashDot Review! Not only that, I added a sitemeter counter, and my RSS link is via feedburner (two subscribers [amazed you blokes bothered, thanks!]) so I have a grand total of two feed subscribers and am averaging about 3 hits a day, dinky? Yeah it is, but considering that I didn’t think I had *any* readers 3 is better than 0. Since only my old site shows up in Google I have no idea how you people are finding me (using the Google link option), if you can take a few seconds pleeeeeeaze let me know how you found this site by just putting a quick comment.

Part 2: Elaborating on the fitting more stuff into a day…

I was talking to a friend of mine, she is Sicilian, i.e. more Italian than Italians are (arguable of course but that is from an outsiders point of view). I was expounding on the virtues of the net and how you could “live a fuller life” (I don’t necessarily believe that mind you). After all my preaching she jokingly referred to me as an “internet monster” which (I hope) was meant more as “you are a slave to the net”. Later we talked about time and using time, I dare say Italians are the chill masters, sit at a café, sip on a nice wine, munch on biscotti or a panini and talk about whatever… and belive me, I can totally get into that, but… there are times (Americanized?) when I feel like I am wasting time, I could be doing more. At the moment “doing more” consist of soaking in podcasts during down time (metro, non-pleasure-walking from point A to B, etc), I really enjoy the news, but don’t feel I have much time to listen to it; podcasts offer an excellent opportunity to fill in the time gaps with useful info.

No this isn’t to preach about podcasts, its more about organization. I am pretty disorganized but unlike some disorganized sloths I do not pretend like I am content with my system or that it works, it’s a constant process.

In high school I would write notes to myself and keep them in the brim of my hat (got that idea from Abe Lincoln) so I wouldn’t loose them, and they would be easily accessible; problem was I couldn’t always remember to look at the notes that I wrote to remind myself, well it was the best I could come up with at the time.

Later on in college I got my hands no a Handspring Visor PDA, that little thing along with Agendus rocked hard core! It had “Springboard modules” that you could plug into it for more functionality, well the module I swore by was the little vibrate option since I am constantly listening to music when I am not with someone; but then it got ganked in Amsterdam. Anyway, my “productivity” went up, I wasn’t forgetting things all the time, I could take notes and elaborate on them later, remember appointments, take notes on contacts in my address book, all sorts of stuff.

Next I got a Handspring Treo90, that thing had a ton of goodies (of course it lacks a vibrating feature which is something I sorely miss), including a keyboard so it was easier to take notes, edit, etc while riding (not driving of course) or walking. I could put .pdf documents, maps from mapquest, on it, even word documents which I could edit on the fly! I still have it, not because there isn’t better out there but because I just haven’t come up with the dough yet (still a student ya know).

I have looked at a few other options for the future, the next organizer will definitely be a smartphone, it would be nice if it (and my mp3 player, or if it could be my mp3 player) could vibrate and beep via my player for appointments etc… actually the “could be PDA” should be saved for another post.

What the hell was the above about? It was a lead-in to personal organization applications, which I will try to write about later.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

My undying love for Wikipedia

Not sure if people (person?) actually click on the links I post, but if you actually do then you will notice that many of the links are to entries on the Wikipedia.

I could of course link to some website that has stuff about the subject but hey; most wikipedia entries are combinations of definitions, history, and include lots of links (which are frequently updated).

Not only that but the online love involved in people altruistically taking the time to make entries is just great. ;>

Part 1: Squeezing more info into a day

Ok, I recently had a bunch of thoughts that #1 was too big to put into one post, and #2 Well I was too lazy to write it all up at the same time so I will put this "thought" up in parts as I feel like it. The premise of it is essentially, efficiency/time management/etc.

Anywho, this part is kind of about podcasting, but more about getting more out of your podcasts. Some of these guys like Doc Searls and Adam Curry amaze me, they seem to get a billion things done in a day (have you seen Doc Searl’s Blogroll?!?!) and still have time to do blogs and podcasts, while I aspire to be that efficient I don’t think I will ever get there, however, a good starting point is to speed things up.

I wish I could speed read, I can recall there being a course in speed reading at the community college in my parents town but alas, never did it. You can’t really listen to live broadcasts quicker because, well, they are live. But you can speed up recorded stuff.

I remember seeing something for some sort of DVR, it allowed you to play video (I think the advertisement used the poor example of movies) back faster, so you could watch a 2 hour movie in about 1 hour and 30 mins. I’m not sure about you but when I watch a movie I do it to relax; speeding up news/informational broadcasts never occurred to me at the time.

Just afew weeks ago (about a week before I heard about podcasting) I updated my iRiver iHP120; one of the new options was to play audio faster (it adjusts the pitch so the voices don’t sound like chipmunks, nice), at first I thought it was useless but now with podcasts it’s making sense to me. I can listen to more shows/podcasts per given amount of time than before, and as a promotional plug, on the iRiver I can’t tell it is playing faster unless I switch between the speeds, if I start it on a faster mode it sounds fine.