Tech Post 3 – iTunes

BOC Correspondent # 3
BOC Correspondent # 3

I will hit iTunes Match first because my beef there is fairly short and the end of my rant against the new version of iTunes segues directly into the next post on iOS.

iTunes Match proports to provide several services that aroused my interest. It could provide higher quality versions of songs you possess and in many cases fix glitchy, skippy type errors found in older degraded files. It would make all your content available on all your devices. This is a feature available through the link between the iTunes Store and the iCloud for content you had purchased via the iTunes Store. But the iTunes Match system is supposed to be a bit more elegant, easier to use, and provides that service for all your content regardless of its origin. The process of adding your mixed origin content to the cloud also provides you with a true backup of that content.

My experience with iTunes Match was basically the exact opposite of the description. None of my damaged songs got fixed, despite downloading fresh copies after completing the initial sync/match/upload. Many songs, around 75, were no longer available on my iPhone. The reasons seemed to be that Cloud Tunes could not figure out which version of these songs i actually had. This did not happen with obscure stuff. Most of the less well known bands’ music behaved with no issues. I had the problem with Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones to name a few. Cloud Tunes can’t figure it out, grays out the songs, and adds a tiny icon you can hit for “more information”. This icon leads to a really tiny dropdown window that has six instances of the song title but no other information presented in the very very minuscule resolution window. What i am supposed to do? Guess which of these six instances of the same song title correspond to my album – at random since there is no other information available to me? Click one and hope for the best? Repeat this process for the next 74 tracks? Or just get used to no longer being able to listen to songs I own that are already on my device but that I am no longer allowed to hear? I bailed.

The good news. Because i bailed early, within 5 days of ordering the service, i contacted Apple and got a full refund.

I really do not like the new iTunes (anything past 10.7). Usually I will give new tech a few days and try to get to know the new features and see what the developers were trying to do. I did not do this for this version of iTunes. It did not last more than an hour before I hit the boards to find out how to revert to the previous version. Why?

The things that I use iTunes for became harder to find (more clicks) and harder for me to see/use. I like lists. I like “list view” wherever available. The classic iTunes layout worked well for my needs. On the left I can easily click between media types (music, movies, tv shows, audiobooks, and podcasts) or perform the primary activity that brings me there – click a playlist and jam out. I do not mind that Apple changed things. I assume that they had a reason and were either responding to customer feedback or projecting a probable course users would enjoy. What does bother me is that they made it impossible to retain or revert to previous viewing methods.

An example highlights the pre and post Steve Jobs attitude in this regard. I do not care for coverflow. Is it neat? Sure. Is it a cool bit of coding? Sure. But it is not useful for me. Coverflow came out in the Jobs era. When coverflow came to iTunes I was happy for my more visually inclined friends while also being grateful to Apple that instead of limiting our choices, they accommodated multiple perspectives. If you are a word/list guy like me rather than a cover/image guy, you were not forced to use coverflow. You could continue to use the lists as you had from the beginning of iTunes.

The new version of iTunes does not provide any options for viewing your data in the old way. It is a complete redesign. This is a very un-Apple approach to design and “innovation”. Throughout the 90s when i was still a Windows user, my Apple friends would tell me about some of the great features in Apple systems. One oft touted feature was that the menus are always the same. If you want to see what options are available to tweak a program, those options are always found under “preferences” and you can always access preferences in the exact same place for every single program on the system. This highlighted a huge difference between Apple and Windows systems. Not only did it make it easier to get things done, you felt like someone who designed the software might actually use it and want you to be able to use it also. As I got serious about switching my company and client computers from Windows to Apple, and began researching not only what I might need to know, but how I could teach other long-term Windows users to use Apple computers, I came across the same advice time and again – if you can use iTunes you can use a Mac. Not only did that prove true, it was great advice and I made it step one in prepping all my tech support clients for the switch.

This redesign of iTunes, requires you to give up your previous ways of organizing and interacting with content, most of which you probably own. I have been using this system since it came out for Windows in 2003. Innovation is fine. Forcing your user base to abandon a decade of effective methodology is just plain weird and frustrating. If they were fixing a problem, maybe I could see this move. If they were providing additional functionality, I would not like the approach, but I could understand it. As far as I can tell from experience and research, neither of these things are the case.

What this feels like, what this really reminds me of – major updates and/or new releases of Windows. Nothing really works better. Some things do not work as well as they used to. But we did move everything from where you expect it be to a new place, and we gave some old operations and processes new nomenclature. I must tell you, few things in the tech world make me as crazy as Apple acting like Microsoft.

My suspicion is that the main impetus behind making these kinds of changes is the continued drive to synergize the experience between the OS and the iOS. I don’t have a problem with that idea. I do have a problem with this aspect of the implementation. I will get into this more in the next post, but for me, they are taking the worst parts of the changes in iOS iTunes and importing them to the parent OS version.

If you also have a Mac and miss the old iTunes, let me know and I will send you some instructions on how to revert to an older version.

Next Up: iOS

Tech Post 2 – iPad

BOC Correspondent #2
BOC Correspondent #2

I thought this was going to be a dream come true. I had been lusting after the iPad since it first was revealed, and not just for personal use, but as a business tool. The vision was that Vance and I would be able to get rid of laptops and have pads for the road and an iMac for him and an iMac or Mac Pro Tower for me. Initially we would probably still need to travel with our phones, but “soon” we should be able to ditch the phones and do all our work and manage all our client conversations just via the iPads.

In the Fall of 2012 it looked like we would soon be doing a lot of work travel to the Mid East, Morocco, and India. It was time to test the iPad. My over three year old MacBook Pro had some sound issues that indicated a logic board replacement and the system was getting slow overall. A pre-disaster change was propitious.

I had a lot of concerns. Would the lack of a standard file management system be a drawback? Would I be able to perform all the various tasks that my many jobs and responsibilities require? Can I manage, edit, and create new websites on the thing? Of all the concerns that were troubling me, I was secure in the knowledge that my Mac files would be safely and simply accessible via iCloud and that I would have no trouble with word processing via Apple’s Pages, with spreadsheets via Apple’s Numbers, nor with presentations via Apple’s Keynote. Since these were Apple programs designed by Apple for both the OS and mobile/iOS environments there should be no trouble with these critical tasks.

After some deliberation and hands-on time at the Apple Store with the Business Team and the selection of iPads, I chose the iPad mini. After playing with the device for a few days to simulate as many scenarios as I could, I learned two things that were quite surprising. 1) All the issues I was worried about had multiple, simple, and in many cases quite elegant, solutions. Generally the solutions were free apps, though some inexpensive apps were called for as well. But all the things I needed to accomplish that involve non-Apple software were covered. 2) The three main things I was absolutely not worried about at all, Apple failed big time in all three of these areas – Pages for word processing, Numbers for spreadsheets, and Keynote for presentations (collectively “iWork”).

iCloud did successfully provide reliable access to iWork files across multiple devices. But the iPad cannot display iWork documents the same way on the iPad as on an OSX system. Things generally look the same, but you are required to create a copy of the document in order to open and edit it. Part of Apple’s innovation at the program/app, OS, and backup system level over the past few years has been a concerted effort to remove any worries one might ever have related to versioning of documents. “Now, on our newest line of fancy devices, here is a problem from 1990. Enjoy!”

If that was the only problem, it is possible that I might have stuck it out. But it isn’t the only problem. The iOS versions of iWork do not have the full feature sets that their OSX siblings provide. This was not a huge problem for me with most basic tasks in Pages and Numbers, though I do like to send business correspondence on our digital letterhead (which is very simple) and it would not render properly on the iPad. Let that sink in. In fact, take a look.

RAI Base Letterhead
RAI Base Letterhead

Sometimes I add a little data to the footer as appropriate, but that is a really simple letterhead. Pages on the iPad cannot display this document correctly. If that was the second and last problem, it is still possible I may have stuck it out. But it isn’t the end.

Keynote. If you listened to any Mac news since at least 2006, you heard about Keynote often. You heard that it is much better than Powerpoint. It has more features than Powerpoint. It is far simpler to use than Powerpoint. In my experience, this is all true and I have enjoyed using the great and simple features in Keynote. Many of these features are not available on the iPad. The iPad does not even contain the same color pallet as the OSX version. I developed a very simple slide template in Keynote and the iOS version cannot even display the base template correctly, never mind actual data on the slide. If you get around the template flaws  for some reason, the amount of information (amount of text/number of words) that can fit on a slide in iOS is less than the amount that can fit on a slide in the OSX version. Maddening!

Truthfully, the first strike would probably have kept me off the iPad, the second would definitely have done the trick, but now with this third problem, Apple, you are really just starting to piss me off.

I ended up returning the iPad and switched to a MacBook Air with which I am very pleased. The screen is bigger. It can do more stuff. It is more powerful. It can hold more stuff. It is very light and easy to carry. It already has a keyboard and mouse attached. Most of the folks I know and see who do use iPads for business also carry and use wireless keyboards, so i think this actually puts me ahead of the curve in some respects. When I am at my home office, it plugs right into my 24” cinema display which is quite nice.

I will return to the simmering rage hinted at in this post in the concluding remarks for the series.

Next Up: iTunes

Tech Post 1- Safari

BOC correspondent #1
BOC correspondent #1

I was a Firefox guy almost from the beginning of the browser’s history in 2004. I like the concept behind open source software and I have used and enjoyed many Mozilla products. Thunderbird let me leave MS Outlook behind with increased productivity, integration, and ease of use, all with a much smaller program file size, which used to matter even more just a few short years ago. I still use Filezilla as my FTP client, and I have always done web-design and editing with SeaMonkey. I was so pleased with Firefox that it remained my primary browser even after I got my company to switch from Microsoft to Apple computers.

Sometime around version 3.5, roughly mid 2009, they began to remove or significantly change the features that made me a fan of Firefox. I explored Chrome and was disappointed that I could not replicate the features that I missed and which were no longer available from Firefox. I had explored Safari and was not thrilled with several aspects of the UI – mostly having to do with bookmarks and bookmark management. I did spend a little time with Opera, SeaMonkey, and others, but did not enjoy any as a primary browser.

Given my equal dissatisfaction with all the browsers, I decided that I might as well use the one that was already integrated into my OS and my phone. After a brief adjustment period, the program worked fine and I did enjoy the ease of multi-device integration. Safari continued to improve over the years and I stayed with it, only using other browsers to test website compatibility. I was converted and happy. I still did not like the bookmark management system and UI, but there were ways to manage bookmarks without having to use that aspect of the program too often.

And then, end of 2012-beginning of 2013, Safari started to get ridiculously slow. I am used to such a high standard of performance from my Apple products that the browser was the last culprit on my list. I was checking cables and testing my modem before it occurred to me to check out other browsers. Firefox, fine. Chrome, fine. Seamonkey, fine. I really did not want to switch and I limped along with Safari for a bit. A large part of my business involves research and the delays were starting to affect the amount of work I could accomplish in a day. After a brief check through the major competitors, I settled on Chrome, and that is what I use now and have implemented throughout my company for computers and mobile devices.

That was my only real beef with Safari – the speed drop. I am not one of those guys who has to use THE fastest browser when the differences are microns only really noticeable in lab tests, but the slowdown in Safari was reminiscent of the pre-broadband era. I could not actually go and make a sandwich waiting for a page load like in the old days, but I could write a paragraph.

There are still many features that I prefer in Safari far more than Chrome or other browsers. The synergy between the OS and iOS versions in not just content but the UI is unsurpassed to my knowledge. I am constantly baffled at the way in which Chrome handles stored password and form data and the highly inconsistent way in which that stored information is offered (or not) when faced with forms to fill out. But you can have the prettiest car in the world and if it don’t go, it don’t go.

I may check back on Safari from time to time, but given that I cannot conceive what they might have done to slow it down (or why) it is hard to understand how they might fix it. (Then again, I don’t write code, and I don’t read it terribly well either.) I would like to think that this is something Apple would notice, given that Apple employees use the products, and that they would fix it, but my confidence level that such behavior remains a part of their mission statement is quite low.

I talked with The Fromminator about Safari recently and she has not noticed the same speed issues that I have. She was running an older version of OSX which could be a factor. I have tested Safari speeds on two Macs running the most current OS and both had poor performance. My local Apple Genius Bar guys have also noticed the speed lag. Today I ran a few more comparisons between Chrome and Safari (I would love to move back to Safari) and I am still seeing a major speed differential. How about you folks? Any other Safari speed reports from the field?

Next Up –

iPads for Business

JMT Day 11 and 12 – June 11 and 12, 2012 – VVR Part 1 – The Staff!

Vermillion Valley Resort (VVR) – Two Full Zero Days!

VVR on Facebook

7900 (+/- 0) – 0.0 miles

Free Maps Online – Day 11 and 12 – Map 10

Photos Open to the Public on Facebook

Let me just say, I love VVR. We ate a ton of good food. We drank many a fine beer from the incredible selection of fine beer there. And we met so many fantastic folks.

I developed deeper connections with more of the staff than I did with most of the other hikers – probably because the staff is there every day, Jake and I were there for at least part of 4 days, and most hikers were there for a day or a day and a half. These are my VVR peeps! (I don’t think I missed anyone, but if I did – Big Sorry!)

Marie, Olive, Kevin, Jim, Vicky, Gary, Randy, Rene, John, Robert, Mark, Joe, Roy – and the 4 leggers, Feather, Emma, and Stella.

Marie helped us get settled-in, took care of our many requests with a smile, and we had some nice chats about life and school. One of the amazing parts of her brain allows her to remember everyone’s name, trail name, nickname, and who is with who. Marie gave me a little notebook that I used the rest of the trip and to which I have referred often while writing this. I fall at least a little bit in love with almost every waitress. You give me a super cute one named Marie and it is Game Over. From my previous super-cute-waitress-Marie-love-experience, I was already playing some tracks from Harvest Moon in my head when Jake leaned over at breakfast one morning and sang quietly, “I used to order just watch her float across the floor.” Jake and I both had a big Marie Crush, and I would imagine many hikers leave there in a similar state. We could not find Marie to say goodbye to before leaving for the ferry and were sad about that until we saw her come running down to the lake (cue the music!) to give us farewell wishes and hugs!

Olive is a unique and wonderful lady that I enjoyed both sparring and actually talking with. We talked about life, school, travel, books, dogs, people, and many other things. There are tons of fantastic Olive moments and I will put one or two down here to give the flavor. One day, many non-hiking folks showed up around lunch time. There was a table of college-age looking guys near our customary spot at the outdoor bar. Olive came out, looked at us, and said (rather loudly) “I am so tired of pretending to be nice to people!” I think that put those dudes on their best behavior. One of our greatest and most public sparring sessions was at breakfast one morning. The room was not full, but there were at least 6 other folks eating breakfast at the time, and Olive started talking about how gross milk is. We went back and forth a bit, with me taking the side that milk is natural and no weirder than pretty much anything else about eating. Olive maintained that it is different and gross and weird because it is special food made for babies. Out of the blue she changed tactics and asked, “Would you drink a woman’s breast milk? Would you drink Marie’s breast milk?” In a rare fit of self-control, I kept the first two or three things I thought of in my head and only responded with a smile, “You are just sweetening the pot here Olive.” The room responded with joyous and approving laughter. Olive made one final attempt to regain her footing by approaching a distinguished looking hiker and trying to recruit him to her side. Grey Wolf was smiling and shrugged saying, “I agree with everything he just said.” Oh man, we had fun. Good Times. Olive and I have stayed in touch and i look forward to our next chance to visit one another!

Kevin is a wonderful Chef and a great guy. He cooked us many fine meals and seemed to enjoy the challenge/variety of cooking for vegetarians. He busted out his cookbooks and capped our great string of meals with some fantastic fried eggplant! I don’t usually enjoy eggplant, fried or otherwise, but this was super. He and I spent part of several evenings talking about cooking and travel and life. Before we left, Kevin realized that we were going to tell everyone we met how awesome VVR is, how awesome the food is, and that there were quite a few #6 breakfasts in his future. Kevin rode over on the ferry with us on our way out on the last day.

Jim, Vicky, and I talked about VVR, hiking, dogs, the VVR website and marketing, as well as other lighter stuff. They were both gracious and welcoming and maintain such a friendly vibe at their place.

Gary and I talked for a long time every evening sitting around the fire and covered a ton of topics.

Randy and I talked about skateboarding, growing up, mentoring kids, and hiking.

I got to spend less time talking with the others, but enjoyed the time I did share with Robert, Rene, Mark, John, Joe and Roy. I did get to watch John training Mark on the ferry and he seemed like a good and patient teacher. One day I heard Marie saying that she wished there was a way she could open the sliding glass door with her foot as she came outside with many plates of food in her arms. I thought that i was the only on that heard her. But, within an hour, Joe was there with some cut-to-fit angle iron and affixed it to the door and now she can open it with her foot! These are all great folks dedicated to doing a good job and helping each other. It was a joy to witness.

Feather is a lover and will accept love from anyone. I got some nice dog time in with her.

Emma seemed more selective than Feather, unless you wanted to throw her ball. We played ball for about an hour one day.

Stella is more discerning. I got to pet her a few times, but did not make it into her inner circle.

Stay Tuned for VVR Part 2 – The Hikers!

Tech Talk 5 – Clever Title!

I was excited when the iPad was released. This seemed like a device that would allow me to go on the road without my laptop, and still have a reasonably sized screen for doing work, reading and writing email, surfing the web, and watching my shows. It would also be a huge advantage in terms of books. I am not just a TV addict. I go on the road with 4-20 paper books also. That is a cumbersome load. (We will pick this thread back up in the books/podcasts edition.)

After the initial wave of ravenous excitement died down, I went into the store to play with them. I do like the Apple stores, but my biggest complaint with them is that you cannot try out the devices in anything remotely like real world circumstances. Very few people spend their time computing standing up at a high bench. Even fewer people use their iPads standing up with the device laid out flat on a high table. But at least you can get your hands on the devices and check them out. I was concerned about not having a keyboard, but found that I could actually type wicked fast on the iPad and was able to use 8-10 fingers to type instead of the 4-6 I use on the traditional keyboard. But I did recognize that it was unlikely I would duplicate those speeds while seated, or in any other position besides standing with the device laid out flat on a table of appropriate height.

I was very disappointed with the hard disk capacity of the first wave of iPads. As much freedom as the device offered, the limitations of how much data it could carry were significant. (Research what that was 30 GB?). Looking into work-arounds, I discovered that there really were not any. There was no way to hook a first Gen iPad into an external storage drive for the purposes of data/content management. You had to either purchase new material on the iPad through the iTunes store (or other online vendor) or move content to and from the device from your computer over the USB connector. If you do maintain your own server, I imagine that you could access that server on the iPad over the web, but the device did not have any kind of file management system that would allow you to move content around that way – you would have to have your iTunes library active on the server and move content via iTunes.

The iPad 2 does have a bigger drive, but still not really big enough (for my needs) to be the only computer I take on the road. They did release an adapter cord, Apple 30 pin connector to female USB receptor, and many of us thought that this would be the ticket. I envisioned getting the iPad2, the usb connector, and a small, rugged, highly portable, 1TB storage drive that takes power from the host device instead of a separate power cord. That would allow me to go on the road with a minimal setup for at least 3 months without needing another storage drive or computer (except for iPad software and security updates, but we will revisit that aspect in just a bit).

1 TB is also imperfect for me, but it beats the heck out of 30 or 120 GB. But, early reports revealed two key problems: the iPad does not have enough power to be able to also supply power to such a device, and the file management system was still non-existent even when using a powered external drive over the USB connector. The connector was released as a means to move pictures from digital cameras to the iPad. In that scenario, you use iPhoto to access the drive. That file system is built into iPhoto – similar to how there is some file management built into iTunes that allows you to move data through the iTunes interface. But something like the “Finder” in Apple or “Windows Explorer” in Microsoft just isn’t there on the iPad.

Tech Talk 4 – Get what you paid for?

The model I briefly outlined in the last episode is kinda how I run my TV life now. The big difference is that I don’t have my archive online. I know I could manage that, but I don’t want to build my own server and develop the security and port protocols and have to maintain a physical, “always-on” server somewhere. There are pre-existing online backup solutions, but media alone, not pics and documents – I am already pushing 2 TBs, and that will only grow. That ain’t cheap for me to pay for online storage.

Instead, I try to imagine how long I will be gone, what I may be in the mood for, what I might want to have as fall back, comfort-food TV/audiobooks/music. If it is a short enough trip, I load 150 Gigs or so onto my laptop from my archive, and manage content to and from the iPhone just off the laptop. On longer trips, I bring a storage drive along. This works, but it is bulky. To travel with this set-up, I have to bring: laptop, laptop charger, powerstrip, backup drive, firewire, backup drive power block, my iPhone, and maybe also my iPod in case there are power issues (or 24 hours of airline travel) and I need another source for media, and a few iPod cords and wall chargers.

As I am carting this load around our globe, I am thinking about Apple. I bought most of this stuff from the iTunes store. Almost all of it is still in the store available for sale. It is sitting there ready to be downloaded and I already paid for it. I have personal experience and have heard other well-documented stories that Apple allows you to re-download up to your entire purchase history once a year. They don’t advertise this. Not every apple tech even knew it was the policy (at least up to 2008 or so). This was limited. If I had a corrupted file and effectively lost one episode of a show I purchased a Season Pass for on iTunes, I had to re-download the whole series. They could not give me a one episode download as that was not on my receipt. Imperfect, but at least they honored my purchase and provided replacement data. (This also had an impact on my desire to create my own portable storage system as a more immediate means of dealing with these issues.)

I appreciated the support from Apple in replacing a few damaged files, but it just got me thinking. Why do I have to store all this crap and carry it around? Why do I have to email you a request and wait for you to analyze the issue before I can get my stuff? I can see my entire purchase history in my iTunes account online. Why can’t I re-download BSG when I want to watch that instead of carrying it around with me on an external drive?

A great example of corporate fighting and odd ownership rights – I have purchased all 7 seasons of Buffy, the one season of Firefly, the Serenity movie, (those three in both dvd and iTunes formats), Dr Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog, and Commentary the Musical from the iTunes store. I am doing a Buffy re-watch right now on my laptop and iPhone and taking notes for some future blogging. But I can’t watch Angel this way. Angel is not in the iTunes store. I did buy all 5 seasons of Angel on DVD, but those are still in India. Angel was available for streaming on Netflix (and hopefully still is), but I suspended my Netflix account a while ago. I will probably re-activate it to do an Angel re-watch next (and re-watch Slings and Arrows while the account is active) or see if anyone will lend me the disks. But I can’t really watch on my iPhone over netflix. It works, but not everywhere I like to sit in this house has a wireless signal. I am lucky enough to still be on an unlimited data plan with AT&T (they quit offering those once they realized that iPhone use exploded) but even that gives you a choppy stream – not really worth watching.

But this all seems to get cumbersome and ludicrous to me. I have access to watch Comcast shows online through their xfinity program. Since we have almost all the paid channels on our account in PA at RAI headquarters, i can follow HBO and Showtime and some other good cable network shows. I have paid for the complete series of several shows on the DVD format. I have paid for many many complete series in the iTunes store. I had Netflix. I check out Hulu. And still I can’t get all the content I want and can’t get it to all the devices I would like to use to watch said content, and I can’t watch what is available from wherever I would like. I can’t even access all the digital material I have already paid for and downloaded without access to my storage drives.

Isn’t there a better way? Isn’t that way already here? As it turns out, the answers are, “Yes” and “Sort of”.

But, there are a few more pieces of the puzzle before we get to the new solutions.

Tech Talk 3 – Where’s the bytes?

I started to see what I believe will be the shape of future media delivery. I don’t know if we will ever get rid of the traditional TV telecast. Enough people will probably still want to watch the local/global news and sports in the traditional manner, some folks wanna watch Law and Order, commercials and all, and zone out, and we may not need to get rid of one method of consuming these media items in order to expand and create new methods. I believe that “in the future”, every aired episode (we will get to “new” content later) of every show, every movie, every song, etc, will all be available to everyone one earth on any device they want, at any time. (I don’t add “who can access the internet” because making that happen is another piece of the puzzle – not forcing people to use it, but making sure that there is a relatively simple and inexpensive way they could if they wanted.) Of course, for some kind of fee depending on the system. More on the shape of this aspect a bit later.

I don’t know exactly what form this will take, and who we would pay or subscribe with, but it seems really silly that we can’t say, “Honey, tonight what do you say we watch Andromeda? I really liked that show but I missed a bunch in the middle and I missed the conclusion too. I always wanted to go back and watch it from the start.” Then march over to the TV or computer, scroll to Andromeda, select season 1 ep 1, have already paid your subscription fee, or authorize payment for download, then begin watching. (Or Dallas if you are dying to know why anyone cares who shot JR. Insert your own inner passion.) We are closer to this now, but still a ways off.

I picked this example because minus the “Honey” part, this is a ripped from the details of my life account. I want to watch Andromeda. I liked the show. Not all the eps were super, and they had more one-off or ‘throw away’ eps than I care for. But I liked the large strokes of the show. The concept was great, and there were several engaging long term story arcs. But I never got to see it all.

Now you can’t pay to download it from anywhere legally. They aren’t making any more of the DVDs. You can’t even get the disks from netflix. They aren’t on Hulu. They aren’t in the Comcast OnDemand back catalog. They aren’t on Sci-Fi. You can find dvds for sale online, but new/good condition complete series sets are pretty pricey. Piecing the series together from several different vendors, one season, or partial season, at a time turns out to cost about the same.

This may be good for a few weird collectors (weirder than me anyway ;)), but I can’t understand why the people involved in making the show would not be interested in continuing to generate residual income from their work. I don’t want to pay some guy named Fortinbras on ebay 800 bucks to (hopefully) receive a bunch of dvds that I don’t really want anyway and then be limited to watching on my laptop, or spending a week with handbrake converting the dvds into iPhone compatible mp4s (that look too low res when I do watch on the laptop). But I would happily pay the going rate at the iTunes store, 25-45 bucks a season depending on release date and quality. They give me two versions if HD is available and my computer sorts out which is the best version for which device. I don’t have to rip two different copies from the dvd in handbrake to have max res on two different devices, give them distinctive names like btvs.313.pod.mp4 and btvs.313.lap.mp4.

On demand creation of physical products from digital media is extremely simple and cost effective. I won’t let this crawl too far here, but it is a great time to mention books. There will be a separate but related story on books, bookstores, ebooks, podcasts, podiobooks, podcast novelists, and the crossover success stories of a few folks who turned their free podio books into actual print book deals. On demand printing has been available in the book industry for years now. It is not the cheapest option, or the most profitable for an author, but it is possible and one way to generate income off of your work. We will discuss some of the better options that have been developed for book publishing when we get to the podio/audio/ebook story. But for TV and movies, Print On Demand is a fine business model for anyone seeking dvds of old shows. There is not much in the way of stock you need to keep around. Blank cases, disks, label making equipment, a printer and paper for the booklets – everything else is just digital info. There is even less stock needed and probably more profit potential in running On Demand paid downloads.

I know that the tech is there. The tech has been there. This kind of tech has only gotten better and easier over the years. The things I discovered about pirate groups and how they run demonstrate that it can not only be be easily done, it is being done right now and has been for years. The way things are, avid, dedicated, willing to pay, potential consumers get what they want whenever they want it, and because it is illegal and free, no one gets paid, and occasionally, someone goes to jail or pays a fine. The way things could be, anyone could get whatever they wanted to watch or hear, legally, from any country whenever they wanted, and pay for it, and the creators and the industry continue to make residual money, no one goes to jail, and everyone can find out who shot JR. (It was Alex!) (I just made that up. I hope there isn’t an ‘Alex’ on Dallas, and I really hope Alex did not shoot JR. I don’t truck with spoilers.)

User Error, or Eat Your Words Fool!

Voice Over on the Shuffle – it works great.  I was terribly wrong.

You know what really helps hardware work correctly? Downloading and installing the proper software!

Somehow, i did not fully activate Voice Control before i dissed it as having a limited capability.

I fixed that and it works great.

In my defense, i did fix the printer yesterday…

I have uploaded the new version of the resume to RAI for view and download. Yesterday’s task – struggling with the one remaining “working” Windows system we have at RAI to review the MINDS and RAI websites.

The Last RAI Windows machine

I never use Internet Explorer, not even when i only had Windows computers, but loads of the people will view these sites that way, so it is potentially worthwhile to ensure that the sites do not look too bad.

Sadly, my old Dell died so i have to use my dad’s which has his customizations and the system hog Norton/Symantec suite and a bunch of other less than useful Windows garbage clogging up the works…

A terrible thought has been in the back of my mind for almost two years now, as the Dells began to die and we began to move to Apple. It is possible that i may have to buy another damn Windows computer just for checking out website designs! I know about some of the alternatives, but i am not putting Windows on my Mac, it is bad enough that i am forced to use Word and occasionally PowerPoint.

Pardon my frustration release but i fought with this half of the day.  One of the little things that just pisses me off royally about Microsoft is their total lack of responsibility or acceptance of the issues they refuse to fix. Without getting into that whole can of worms, here is an example of the attitude to which i refer by way of a brief story.

The only reason i needed to do so much web work is because Internet Explorer does not display webpages/code the same way every other browser i am aware of does.  I commonly check my work in at least three browsers – firefox, safari, opera and/or chrome. So far, things always look the same in each of these, but something is always off when i check IE. Granted, i am a much better developer than designer, but if i can make it look right in 3 or 4 others what’s the problem over in Microsoft town? So, i am reviewing lines of code trying to see if i can even figure out why things are mussed and i notice this little button on iE i have never seen before. I hover over it and it says something like “Compatibility mode – websites designed to look good in older browsers may not look right in IE.”

The balls on these frackin’ guys! Older Browsers! The other guys’ old products just can’t keep pace with the innovators over at Microsoft! I hear that the crack team of code monkeys over there are about to fix some of the security flaws in Windows 3.1!!! Seriously, IE is one of the oldest browsers on our planet. Sure, they do update it, but so does everyone else.  Firefox, Chrome – older than IE?  I don’t think so you bullet dodging, pass the buck, we hide our code so you can’t see how terrible it is…people.

I don’t bag on Microsoft just because it is easy, or because i am a Mac guy, or because it is popular, or anything like that. They have all the money in the world and still refuse – simply refuse – to make software and particularly Operating Systems that work.  If you are one of the people who thinks vista or “7” is great and finally has Windows on-track – let me ask you this? Have you been able to replace the sound card on a one-year old system without fighting IRQ problems for hours or weeks? OK – i am done for now.


Anyway – i finished (for now) with the RAI site. There are still some tweaks i would like to do (that list never ends) but i did clean things up a good deal and updated some info. It looks pretty good on “older browsers”.

The left-hand menu spacing is still fracked up in IE, but it does look better over there than it did before…

Back to the Run – and other news

I ran 1.8 miles, pace 9’17”. It was a nice experience to be back out there. The weather was confusing. We had a lovely bright and sunny day in the 40s that could even feel like 50 when the wind died down. As soon as i was dressing to run, clouds rolled in and blocked the sun. I dressed warm and was fine half the run and hot the rest. Them’s the breaks.

The shuffle feature worked out well for me today with a dash of T-Rex to start things off, into Soundgarden 4th of July, into Fugazi Faucet Squared. I was hoping to get to 2 miles today, but i did make it all the way back into my neighborhood. Not too shabby after an unintentional break.

When i uploaded to nike i decided to check back in with the goals section.  It is actually kinda neat. I only have two data points since establishing the goals, but it tells me at a glance how i am doing comparatively.  I am only one run behind, though almost 3.5 miles behind.  The pace goal may also be tough to meet – but if i keep up with the conditioning, i might make it.  If not, i will keep striving for it.  As a refresher, the pace goal is 1 mile, under 9′ pace, 4 times, by March 20.

We shall call her Lil' Agnes

In other news, i had a great experience at REI today.  I came to REI late, mostly because they were never located nearby.  But after doing some outfitting there last summer, i am converted. I took leaky Big Agnes with me and a clerk and i inspected it together and agreed that it was the valve. I did not have my receipt, but they found the purchase through my member number. They did not have any more of the same model, but they did have a similar product by Thermarest. I was initially bummed as the Thermarest was an additional 40 beans. But, i have been on the floor for two nights and wanted that streak to end.  If i don’t like it, i can take this with me to another REI on my next NOVA trip and exchange it there and get my loot back.  That’s good service!

After many hours of creation, my dad and i finished editing my new, four page resume tonight. I have sent it out to the necessary parties and am excited about the next steps.  The finished product is actually pretty good.  I like it better than the one-pager by far. I will change out what is on the RAI website and make this one downloadable as well, but i do not have the mental energy for that tonight. If you are burning with curiosity, let me know and i will put it in your hot little hands!

Perhaps i shall have some more time and energy to write tomorrow.

Sleep well people of the interwebs!

Mexico Update #3

December 26th

Skipping over the events of Barcelo Maya! and the travel to Playacar for now, i wanted to share a little bit about yesterday – Christmas in Mexico.  Fair Warning – this turns political, and emotional, and “preachy” would not be a far stretch, about halfway through.

It is about ¾ of a mile to the swanky downtown area of Playa Del Carmen from my hotel.  The walk is safe.  Very small Airport on one side and a row of gorgeous, though abandoned or not yet occupied buildings, on the other.

The swanky end of downtown has the nice free public restrooms – always good to know where those are.

I looked around and quickly learned that this too is pretty much like the touristy sections of Virginia Beach or Ocean City or Myrtle Beach – hawkers, overpriced stuff, and large crowds of slowly wandering tourists.  But it was interesting all the same.  I found one of the veggie places from Happy Cow100% Natural.  Sadly their site is poorly designed with images and flash instead of text so google translate does not work there.  I did download the menus and did some work con dictionario and learned enough about what was offered.  When i found the restaurant, it was near the beach on one of the main drags – 5th Avenue.  This is what it said on Happy Cow, but on their own website it is listed about 15 blocks away. It looked just like the picture and description from Happy Cow (waterfall!) and the menu was the same.  I did not have enough spanish to find out if there is more than one location, or if they moved – but i have 6 more days in Playacar to figure that out.  The location from the website is very near the natural food store I plan to visit anyway, so I can check those out at the same time.

After noting their location on the map i drew combining info from the phone book and the interwebs –

Highly Detailed Map

i told them i would be back and went off to locate another Happy Cow find – Playa RAW.  This is a vegan, raw only joint.  I have only been to one other restaurant of this style, but the food is better than it sounds.  Vegan Raw lasagna is awesome.  How do they do it?  I don’t know.  It is mind blowing to imagine lasagna prepared without heat, cheese, or dairy – but they do it and i like it.  I have never studied these folks or their methods, but I did learn a little.  They are Vegans plus (or minus).  Heat causes chemical change that decreases the amount/effectiveness of the nutrients in food.  Raw food has maximum effect.  They take the principles of vegetarian/vegan animal friendliness and extend them to the rest of the earth.  Everything needs energy to sustain itself.  We get ours from food.  Eat as low on the food-chain as you can and maximize the effect you get from eating so that you kill fewer things to sustain yourself.  All I know about their cooking methods: some use is made of non-electrical natural-convection-style and/or solar dehydrators.  I don’t know “the best” ones, but if you google it, there are tons of info sites and even DIY youtube videos.

I knew it was going to be a long walk, but i had not managed to get a sense of scale on the maps yet to know if it was 2 miles or 6 miles.  It is closer to 5 miles – one way.  A direct route may be only 4 miles or less, but i was not on a direct route.  I turned around at about 65th Street North.  Playa RAW is near 84th Street North.  Known location for good veggie food, 100% Natural, – about 10th Street North.  Known bathroom – 10th Street South.  I had already walked around 3 miles, and i was getting hungry, and would need a bathroom sooner than later, and you leave the tourist areas and enter the blocks where people live near 20th Street North.

I did not have the sensation of fear walking in these neighborhoods, but i was uncomfortable.  If i had more Spanish, i would have felt a little better, but as with other places where the poor live, it is hard not to feel like you are flaunting your wealth.  It was an odd place.  There was a mixture of absolute squalor – rivaling conditions i saw in the Indian slums around Delhi and the refugee areas (“camps” makes them sound better than they are) around Amman, Jordan – normal poor folk, and even lower middle class/upwardly mobile folks.  There were kids with radio control cars playing in the street and almost every late teen/early twenty year old had headphones on or was playing tunes on their phone in speaker mode.  But right next to these are the people digging through trash looking for anything useful, living in burned out buildings with maybe 3 walls and collapsing roofs, or in abandoned construction sites, or just under a tattered tarp.

I do not have the answers, but i do think it is important to learn to even ask the questions.  Back home i think of myself as poor – or at least economically lower class. Mostly i am just ‘thrifty’ (or cheap if you wish) and the ‘poor’ self-image encourages thrift.  It is a simple but effective tool – you spend less and learn how to do more with less if you tell yourself you have no money.  But there are options and resources available to me that these people do not have.  This is a gross oversimplification but i think it is a great example of the importance of the Big 3 – Economics, Infrastructure, Education.

Politically, you have to find a way to help those who need it – and it takes a lot of money. You have to get people with money to give it to you so you can get resources to the people with no money.  And you have to find ways to generate and retain more people who have more money – Economics.

It is hard to get a job, even a not-very-good job, if you smell bad all the time and have nothing but dirty clothes because you do not have water – Infrastructure.

It is hard to get a better job if you can’t read or write – Education.

I believe that we have been blinded by the pace of life today.  Everything must be said in a sound-bite and issues must be made sexy and fun.  The things that need the most attention and the people that need the most help do not fit into these categories.  It is hard to campaign for office or do fundraising on a platform of sewage, roads, and books – but those are the things that will do the most good – everywhere in the world.  It is embarrassing that we not only have not fixed these things – we are not even really trying to fix them.

These are not secrets.  It is not hard to reach these conclusions, or build a consensus on the veracity of these claims.  I have no special knowledge, skills, or de-coder ring – these facts are laying out in the open for all to see.   We choose to look away, back to our own lives.  Me too.  I have done charity work, built and repaired with Habitat for Humanity, volunteered in soup kitchens, given money and clothes, built websites and presentations, planned and led events, and designed fundraising strategies for other charity organizations.  But, i spend way more time on selfish pursuits.

We can’t all be “all give all the time”.  I get that.  But why can’t we get everyone some water and some rice, a road to the hospital, and a book?  Why aren’t we trying harder?