Archive for March 2012

 
 

The Lottery

What would you do with $500,000,000?

The correct answer: Anything I damn well please. Surrounded by security guards.

I get a kick out of seeing the news coverage of tonight’s Mega Millions lottery. It’s particularly funny when they bring out financial advisors to explain what someone who’s just won a half billion dollars should do with that kind of money.

The advice is simple: Spend it. As fast as you can, spend it. Even spread out over 25 years of annuity payments, you’d be hard-pressed to spend $1.6 million every month. And you can’t take it with you.

Here’s my best serious advice: Give everyone in your family a contract asking them not to ask you for any money, ever, in exchange for a million dollars, paid out over the first five years.

Then hire security, go into hiding, and move somewhere where nobody knows who you are. Claim to the locals that you sold your dot com in 2000 and invested wisely. Take up a hobby. Eat out every night. You’re worth a half billion dollars; dishes are beneath you.

42 states are in this lottery now. With modern technology, I don’t see why we should ever have a lottery go up this high. I propose a new lottery, a la the Mega Millions. It would produce more winners and more millionaires while spreading the wealth. I should make this my platform for a presidential campaign. “Creating More Millionaires In America, Every Week.”

The longer nobody wins my proposed lottery, the better the odds get that somebody wins it. After the top prize hits ten million dollars, swap out the balls for ones with fewer numbers on them. Limit the possible numbers to, say, 1-40 or even 1-35. After $30, eliminate the last ball. After $40, eliminate another ball. I can’t imagine nobody hitting it after that, though it is technically possible, I know.

That’s it. That’s my simple idea. I know there are problems with it. People will grumble that they play the same numbers every time and changing the rules as the prize goes up would mean that they’d have to pick new “unlucky” numbers. (Nevermind that if the numbers were truly lucky, they’d already have won once and wouldn’t be using them anymore.) Those cards you can fill in the boxes for would need to change. It’s more complicated and people hate to think.

So, OK, here’s option #2:

Someone wins every week. The top prize gets split amongst those who guessed 5 of 6 correctly. If that’s too many people, then make it only the people who picked the first 5 of 6 correctly. Divide the money out evenly.

I know there’s a reason for these big prizes. They draw more people. Nobody wants to be a lottery winner of a small prize that they can’t retire on. But there ought to be some kind of system to be worked out which would prevent these ridiculous prize pools and create even more winners, while still being a game of chance.

This just in: As I typed this, it was announced the lottery is up to $640,000,000. Yikes. That’s $2.1 million per month for 25 years. Now I hope ten tickets win it tonight AND that they’re all office pools.

And one of them is mine… (Disclosure: I’m in no office pool. I do have 10 tickets of my own, though.)

AI11 – Round of 9 – Idols Week

The following was written as I watched the show. Typed it as I watched it. Slightly distracting, but a lot of fun.

Nine songs, two hours — wow,this ought to be a well-padded show.

Ah, it includes trio songs and Tommy Hilfiger.

Tommy Hilfiger is back? Didn’t we ignore everything he said last week? Why did they bring him back? Oh, because there’s a branding partnership going on between IDOL and TH. That explains that…

This ought to be fun. Stevie Nicks is nutty.

Colton: Going first is never good, but then picking a song this slow-moving until it moves into an upbeat part that he’s pitchy all over is not a good sign. Might work well as a worship song, but I don’t think it plays well as an Idol song. Trouble. The judges completely disagree with me, though. Oh well.

They’re flashing Twitter handles now during the judging. Interesting.

I need to go back and listen to that one again, but there won’t be any time tonight.

Skylar: She could go Trademark Skylar Crazy on this song. And, sure enough, she does it at the end. It’s right in her wheelhouse, so I have nothing to complain about. She did it strongly. And lots of talk about bullets and guns, which is always good for a family show in 2012. When I was a kid, we were allowed to play with toy guns, you know. I’ve never shot anyone since, somehow.

TRIO 1: Colton, Elise, and Philip. Oh, god, no. Not this song again. “Landslide,” of course. So you just know another trio will get stuck with “Can’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.” UGH

Oh, wait, this is a medley. Elise doing Nickie makes sense, though.

Philip gets stuck with “Don’t Stop.” Poor kid.

Will another trio sing “Don’t Go Dragging My Heart Around?” Who gets the Tom Petty part?

Heejun: UGH. He’s still here. Doing Donnie Hathaway, an Idol staple. But by far, this is Heejun’s best performance on the show, with a standing ovation that was well earned. Man, if he just sang like this in the past three weeks, I wouldn’t be making fun of him every week.

That was impressive. It was darn near an Idol Moment.

Hollie: Steve Nicks just about leaned forward and ate Hollie. And it would have barely been a snack, since there’s not much to Hollie there… But, uhm, the girl who’s been singing Celine and Whitney is suddenly naming Carrie Underwood as her Idol? Something doesn’t feel right here, though the emotion in the second half of the song was strong. Still, it seemed very karaoke to me. Who is Hollie? I don’t know after that.

DeAndre: I can believe he idolizes Eric Benet. I also know that it’s not my thing, musically, and this will be boring and/or grating on my nerves. And the falsetto is back in full effect. Oh, god, he’s having a Justin Guarini moment here.

The last minute or so of the song saved it, when he went to full-on falsetto scream, but I was bored by the rest. But, like I said, this isn’t my thing, so feel free to ignore me.

Jessica: She sounds good on the Beyonce song. Very comfortable. Right in her range. Very controlled. At some point, though, the vote split between Jessica and Heidi will result in Heidi’s departure.

Random Thought: This is the night the producers start casting the finale and who they can get into the show to sing with the contestants who idolize them. Will they get Beyonce to visit? Eric Benet? Lifehouse?

TRIO 2: Heejun, DeAndre, and Joshua. Heejun doing Michael Jackson? Oh, boy… Heejun shouldn’t be choreographed.

That was painful. I missed Fleetwood Mac, all of a sudden.

But, man, there’s going to be a lot of high and long notes in the third trio, isn’t there?

Phillip: I wonder if Simon would be bored by Phillip and would say something like, “This is a kid I can hear in a thousand bar bands this weekend.” It’s really Taylor Hicks 2.0, though I love it here, too. His selection of idol makes sense, his performances are consistent, and he picks the right song. I like it lots. And it’s another standing ovation from the judges to go along with it. Can’t complain here.

It helps that the producers gave the contestants a softball this week. Their vengeance shall be swift next week when they give the remaining eight the Songs of the 1920s…

Joshua: His Idol is Mariah. I’m almost not surprised. But, wait, it’s not Mariah’s song. It’s that great song from “The Drew Carey Show.” I love this song. I hope he can pull it off. Can he turn this into a gospel song? Weird.

What’s with all the stuff standing around on stage this week? Doors before, dead trees now, smoke almost omnipresent…

Oh, boy, the band drops out and he can’t reach up for that note. Whoops. The magic trick failed. But everything else worked so well that he gets the standing O anyway. Go figure. Oh wait, he cried at the end. That always gets the standing O.

OK, so I went back and watched it again. Maybe I was a bit hard on the Magic Trick bit. He didn’t go big and broad for that note, but it worked in his style, so I’ll give it to him.

TRIO 3: Jessica, Hollie, and Skylar: Madonna hits. This might work the best of the three. Wait, they’re starting with “Like a Prayer”? They’re supposed to end with that. Hollie doing dance songs? That seems weird. Are any of these three taller than 5’2″? It’s three pipsqueaks with huge voices singing in mid-range.

Elise: Is doing Zep? I expect pyrotechnics on the stage for this one. Maybe confetti at the end. And the electric guitar guy on stage.

Needs a hair fan. They got the streaming smoke behind the guitarist guy on stage, though.

Well, that took steel cast iron balls. And she pulled it off. Yowza. That bit at the end where she paused a second and Randy was waiting anxiously for the ending? Pure genius.

That was the least Idol song ever on Idol, and I’ll be damned if it didn’t work.

So who’se in trouble this week? Colton is. Going first is never good. I think Elise might be, just because the main Idol voting contingent isn’t a 70s rock fanbase. And Hollie is in trouble. Who would I put in the bottom three? DeAndre, Hollie, and Heejun. (One song isn’t enough to make me forget, Heejun…)

We might see a Judges Save this week. It’s that loopy a week.

Commodore USA

I have to admit that there’s a part of me that wants to download this and run it purely for nostalgia sake. And, yes, you can order an Amiga or a C64x today. The latter has been out for a few months. The Amiga was just announced, and even includes a Blu-ray player. Crazy, eh?

Commodore OS Vision is our customized GNU/Linux distribution for Commodore enthusiasts that is designed to unleash your creative potential and help you enjoy your computing experience to the fullest. Commodore computers were well known for their unique operating environments, so we seek to do the same, by providing a distinctive, attractive, advanced and fun operating system experience. Various themes are included, inspired by the Commodore 64 and various versions of the Commodore Amiga Workbench user environments, but with a modern spin, which includes many slick graphical effects which showcase the capabilities of our new Commodore machines.

via Commodore USA.

AI11 — Round of 10 (Billy Joel week!)

There’s no way I could not talk about Billy Joel week on American Idol, is there? I’m much too big a fan for that.

I wish I had the time to be more comprehensive with it, but we’ll have to resort to bullet points:

Elise had an Idol Moment this week, for sure. I watched it twice in a row. “Vienna” is a great song, and one Joel plays regularly when he tours, but it’s not on one of the Greatest Hits albums or anything, so not too many people seem to know it. But it was made for her voice. I would have pegged her for a “New York State of Mind” girl, but she chose one better.

Skylar doing “Shameless” was the most predictable moment of the show. It’s weird that an ode to Jimmy Hendrix has become a country hit twice now, but it was an obvious choice for Skylar. Joel has done a countrified “My Life” on tour, too. That might have been more interesting to hear.

Also, they have to stop walking through the crowd in these songs. Both Elise and Skylar looked a little uncomfortable in the middle fo their songs walking through a sea of 12 years olds nervously trying to figure out whether to clap (and where’s the rhythm?) or smile for the camera.

Heejun did “My Life,” instead, and made a damn fool of himself. Surely, the judges are only kidding themselves when they praise him for, well, anything, right? They’re just trying to save face for putting this doofus through. I’m all for having fun on stage — remember Casey? — but this is getting to Sanjaya/John Stevens territory here. No, wait, Stevens was a better singer. Man, did Steven Tyler look ticked off by the whole thing or what?

Phillip Phillips’ “Anthony’s Song (Movin’ Out)” was great. Like so many contestants this week, he completely ignored Tommy HIlfiger and Jimmy, and it worked.

Diddy doing Idol? Did he hand off his weapon to J-Lo’s bodyguard for old time’s sake, while he was at it?

Steven Tyler has never heard “She’s Got a Way.” I can understand that — he was on a lot of drugs at the time that song hit — both the first and the second time Joel recorded it. (It hit Top 40 status with “Songs from the Attic”, not “Cold Spring Harbor” a decade prior.)

Never thought “Piano Man” would make it as an “Idol” song. Kind of a simple little ditty, but Colton did it about as well as anyone could.

DeAndre should have done better with “Only the Good Die Young,” which has a natural reggae feel to it. He was OK, but I didn’t feel like he ever really got into it as much as he could have.

Joshua Ledet has a great voice, but meandered through the song desperately searching for a choir to back him up for a chorus or two. And he looked dead in his eyes. There was no connection to the song.

Erika Van Pelt did all right with “New York State of Mind.”

I’ll say this, though: Overall, it was a pretty good night. There were no crash and burns. Hollie was disappointing. But, man, I just want to go back and listen to Elise on “Vienna” again…

Bonus content: Holly singing an Adele song:

iPad(3) First Impressions

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First Impressions of the iPad 3

I’m writing this before I’ve even plugged it into the computer at home. In a brief window of wi-fi opportunity, I was able to configure my email and download the Comixology with a couple of comics.

  • Comixology has not upgraded its iPad App to the new retina display resolution, but it’s tough to tell. My main demo around the office this afternoon was “Justice League” #1 with Jim Lee art. The Superman splash page at the end was a big hit, with people calling it three-dimensional. More about this to come in Pipeline on Tuesday.

  • It is heavier than I expected. Since this is my first iPad, I’m not comparing it to the marginally lighter iPad 2. I just mean that the image in my mind I always had was of a slightly lighter device. It’s not a bother, though.

  • The size is huge. I’m so used to a phone where my thumb can travel the entire area of the screen in a half second. Now I’m holding a tablet with two hands and running fingers all over a display that’s four times the size or so. It’s weird.

  • When I go back to reading the iPhone, it feels so tiny.

  • Finger prints! Everywhere! Might work better in a slightly more dim room. Need a microfiber cloth to take care of this.

  • Must download lots of apps tonight. Will start with Instapaper, as I’ve recently realized how it will fit into my life. It won’t be Retina Display-ready for another week or two, but it’s a free upgrade, so no worries. More about that in this blog next month, I’m sure.

(This just in: Instapaper updated tonight, after all, about an hour after I downloaded it. Nice timing!)

Now excuse me while I go load more comic book files onto the device for, er, “testing.”..

What’s What in the Cockpit

Here’s your link of the day, explaining in graphic detail just what all those levers, switches, knobs, and lights in a plane cockpit are for. I’m only halfway through it and am fascinated by all the workings of an airplane.

Above the lever are three landing gear lights. They’re green when the gear is down, red when the gear is in motion or not fully extended, and unlit when the gear is up. It’s typically a good idea to check for “three green” before landing.

AI11 – Round of 11

Not a full American Idol review tonight. Just a few stray bullet points, since I’m not writing these all up this year.

  • Jimmy I. gets the award for most awful product placement in the history of reality television. There are plenty of forced promotions for today’s technology — The Voice wants to sell bad tablets, for example, from Spring — but this one hit like a stampede of elephants coming out of left field. Painful.

  • There was a time when Idol was about a single person on a stage singing along to an unseen band and trying to hit all the notes and inject a little of their personality while desperately seeking Simon’s approval. Today, everyone wants to be their own “artist” and so overworks every song to work well with a dozen band members on stage with them. And it’s starting to bite the contestants in the keister.

  • So the Gentle Giant is gone. He wouldn’t have won, anyway, but he stood a chance of stealing the show with “Somewhere Out There” tonight.

  • Wow, the judges woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. Now that they were always wrong — they were mostly right — but they came out with the gloves off for the first time this season.

  • I fast forwarded through the ad for J. Lo’s reality singing competition show. Is the entire show in Spanish, or just the title?

Australia Tracks Public Potties

There’s something magical about the internet, and it’s the way it makes the world shrink. As a kid, I can remember my class doing a pen pal exchange with kids in the faraway world of Vermont, maybe 10 hours north of here. We were each assigned a person in the other class, and we wrote letters back and forth. It all seems so very quaint in this age of email and all, but it was a good writing exercise, obviously, and seemed like a very social thing to do. It probably ended after two back-and-forths, and today would be banned by schools fearing privacy breaches or something.

UGH.

But even today, as a man in his mid-30s, I’m sometimes in awe of how small the world has gotten. I have regular contact with people on two other continents, and occasionally three or four. I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s just normal. When I was six years old, that would have been a huge deal.

The fact that I can look at a map of a city in Australia — on the other side of the friggin’ globe and a place I’ve never been to in my life, nor likely ever will be — and see the streets that people use to go to work, school, and home fascinates me. There are people over there just like me. Just a little different. The weather is a touch warmer, and they have more deserts, and they have a slightly different accent, and the water goes the wrong way down the toilet and –

That brings me to this::

http://www.toiletmap.gov.au/

It’s a website from the Australian government’s National Continence Management Strategy. It’s The National Public Toilet Map.

And for the life of me, I can’t figure out whether to laugh at Big Government for wasting money on this, or imagine how wonderfully useful such a thing would be. After all, we’ve got apps for that here in America. Apps that will locate a nearby bathroom, and even one that will tell you when the best time to take a potty break during a particular movie is.

But skimming along a map of Melbourne, Australia and seeing three public toilets on the pier leading out into the ocean is just fascinating. Scrolling north a bit and finding an open restroom at the corner of Byrne Street and Graham Street near a local major road (perhaps a highway? The 33?) makes everything seem so – normal. Common. They have streets and bathrooms and schools and offices and houses. Australia is more than just the Sydney Opera House and The Rescuers Down Under. There are people there, just like you and me.

Kumbayah!

The website is a blast to peruse, because they let you search in many different ways. It even allows you to map a trip and find all the public restrooms along the way. And just to make it completely over-the-top, it’ll include directions (with timing) to stop at every restroom along the way.

If you want to take a road trip from Sydney to Melbourne, for example, it would take 10 hours and you’d stop at 70 different restrooms. This is useful information if you’re a drunk college student or the parent of a three months old, I imagine.

Most of the stops are BP and Shell gas stations, so it’s not like there’s some crazy wonderful Australian thing about public restrooms sponsored by the government and paid for with your tax dollars or anything. It’s just that the Australian government is better at tracking gas stations and their hours of operation.

And either this is the most ludicrous April Fool’s prank ever concocted, or it’s real. But if it’s a gag, they did a good job covering their tracks. Here’s another unbelievable URL linked to this story:

http://www.bladderbowel.gov.au/ncp/ncms/

And, yes, you can click on “Suggest a toilet” and do just what you’re thinking about doing:

http://www.feedback.toiletmap.gov.au/DynamicFeedback

I love all the peoples of this earth.

Papa Smurf is a Jerk

If I’m ever falsely accused of something, I surely don’t want Papa Smurf to set up my defense. . .



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AI11 – Round of 13

Once again, I continue to not do recaps of another season of American Idol.

We have an actual new twist in the voting this year. It comes closer to the much-desired Judges Kick People Off voting system. This week, the lowest vote-getting girl and lowest vote-getting boy will form a Bottom Two, from which the three judges will choose who to send home.

That is the single most tortured paragraph of grammar I believe I’ve ever written for an Idol recap.

Sorry, it’s 2012 now, so let me phrase that properly: “#idol recap.”

We don’t know yet if this also means there will be a Judges Choice save to be used this season. Or will this be the system for the season? I would like it if the judges had to make the tough choice in the end. It would help even out some of the craziness of previous seasons. It would eliminate the One Save Only part of the Judges Choice, which inevitably leads to either them saving someone too early, or saving it until the last minute when it’s too late to save the person they should have saved weeks earlier.

With Nigel Lithgow producing the show, maybe he’s willing to bring the best part of “So You Think You Can Dance” over to Idol: Show the bottom three, and let the judges kick someone out. And then it would be pure America’s Choice in the final weeks. I hope so.

Randy Jackson wins the week, providing actual musical criticism to the performances, and being the only honest one, even if it’s couched in too much “but you know we like you” butt covering for my taste.

But what was that pin Randy wore? I’m guessing it was 8 Bit Whit, but it might also have passed for Betty Boop or a KISS band member. Or Liza Minelli.

Poor Shannon. Crash and Burn. Even worse, the recap video at the end showed her worst note. I had to cringe again for the poor girl.

Could we have a sing-off at the end of the season between Hollie and Jessica, the two power singers? Jennifer Lopez has dreams of that happening, as do the producers, I’m sure. They’d love nothing more than to have a different style of Idol champion after so many years of mopey guitar playing alt-pop/rocker types. But will it happen? Probably not. In all likelihood, those two will split votes, leading to one of their demises later in the competition. I think they’ll both stick around for a long while, though, if their voices can hold up to the strain of the competition. (The ghost of Tamyra Gray still hangs over the singers. She stood a chance of beating Kelly Clarkson, if her voice hadn’t betrayed her so close to the end.)

Erika needed to consider a different dress, though. When she was sitting on the stool, it spread out so much that she looked like Jabba the Hut. When she was standing, her arms just looked flabby.

Hometown girl Elisa was unimpressive. It was definitely nerves, as she’d occasionally look comfortable and sing well, and then get stiff the next second and concentrate too hard. There’s also a lack of personality there that will hurt her.

I want to like Colton, but I couldn’t understand half the words he sang. He wasn’t along in that last night, but the first half of his song was particularly Kurt Cobain-level unintelligible.

I’m not a Jeremy fan. Nice guy, boring song.

Ditto to Jermaine. They’re going to have a problem keeping that voice interesting and not just a novelty. They haven’t won me over yet. Boring song.

Ditto to Heejun, who just isn’t that good. Am I the only one bothered by the accent coming through the singing? To be fair, though, Hollie’s is starting to come through the music, too, and that’s going to bother me as the season goes on.

It looks like Phillip is taking the spot I thought Reed Grimm might get – potentially crazy guy who you never know what he’ll do next.

And Jessica had the first official Idol Moment of the season, on Week One. I hope she didn’t peak too soon.

Joshua was great, too. Skylar made a Whitney Houston song sound like a country song without going off the rails, which is a neat trick.

So who will be the lowest vote getters tonight? I think conventional wisdom will be Shannon and Jeremy. The problem with Idol, though, is that (say it with me now) a bad performance is often the best way to get your base out to vote like made for you. That might save Shannon and doom Elise, whose fans may think that she’s safe because Shannon did so badly.

But who will the judges send home? If either Shannon or Elise are in the bottom, I think that’ll be the choice. It’s an easy pass for the judges to sacrifice them. They like the boys too much so far.

iPad 3 Predictions

Tomorrow is the big announcement. Lots of questions remain about just what Tim Cook and Company have dreamt up for us all to spend our money on.

It’s silly and counter-productive to make guesses for any reason other than the ability to pat one’s self on the back should one of them come true. I’m going to do it anyway, because it seems like such fun.

  • What is the name? Will it be the iPad 2S? The iPad 3? Or the iPad HD? I don’t think it’ll be the “2S.” The retina display screen is too big a change to make it a point release. This is a new thing and needs a new name. I think it’ll just be the iPad 3, though the iPad HD fits in well with the multimedia platform Apple is trying to sell to its customers tomorrow. Here’s what I mean:

  • The AppleTV will get a refresh tomorrow, too. Will they call it the AppleTV HD? Only if the iPad gets the same name? For branding purposes, it’s not a bad idea. I mean, the big difference between the AppleTV 2 and 3 will be that the screen resolution peaks at 1080 instead of 720. It’s not that big a deal, but Apple will need to sell that hard. The important thing is, it’ll synch up beautifully with the iPad.

  • When can I buy these announced products? You might get a hint by looking at when Apple’s website is telling you new stock of the AppleTV will be in:

AppleTV Release Date?

That’s March 10th, which is Saturday. This would lend credence to the idea that everything will be released in a hurry on Friday the 9th. The more conservative 16th of March estimate is still in play, too. But would Apple coordinate their release schedule with South by Southwest and get it out this weekend? I kinda doubt it, but it seems like good timing. I remain hopeful for a March 9th release date.

  • What will the price point be? Same as it ever was. How they’ll manage that with a new more powerful chip and a screen that’ll suck the power and battery life out of the system, I do not know. Tim Cook is great at managing the supply chain, but this is a whole new level of craziness. I’m betting against the iPad 3 having as good a camera as the iPhone 4S. I don’t think it needs it. I think the best camera you’ll see on the device is the one capable of providing a 1080p video stream. That’s all it needs.

  • What about software announcements? Apple is going after the Chinese market these days. They’re aiming at education. And they want the enterprise market, if they can get it without going too crazy. And for that last reason, I believe we’ll see Microsoft on stage to demo Word/Excel/PowerPoint for iPad. Actually, I bet they skip the PowerPoint one, as it would be embarrassing to talk about the PowerPoint app while using Keynote in the on-stage demo. It’ll be mumbled at the end of the announcement.

  • Will the iPad 2 stick around? Yes, I believe it will. I have to think that the supply chain for that is so refined at this point using parts that are so cheap that it’s an easy profit for Apple to make with a lower-priced device, even if it’s just sold to the education market. (Even if the Retina Display screen’s killer feature is text reading and selling the old screen to educators and students seems kind of rude.)

  • Any other surprises? If I knew, they wouldn’t be a surprise. What’s the craziest, most outlanding prediction I could make here? How about a new springboard? Nah. . . That’s the kind of thing we’d see in iOS 6 and iPhone 5, at the earliest.

I’m just excited about it this year because I’ll be getting one, at last. So expect a full review both here and at ComicBookResources.com when I get there…

iPad 3 Is Coming

Dagnabit, I wrote this late last week and never posted it. So please forgive some of the verb tenses and estimations that might be off by a week…

The iPad 3 will be announced next week, leaving lots of people with iPads and iPad 2s looking to upgrade. Many of them are selling their old tablet on eBay now in advance of the new release to help offset the cost. eBay has said that the volume of iPad 2s being sold is higher now than it was with iPads when the second edition came out last year. That shouldn’t really be newsworthy, given the record sales Apple has had in the last year. But it’s still impressive.

Some observations:

  • People don’t mind living without their iPad for a week or two. Their auction will all end in the next seven days, and it’s no guarantee that the next one will be released right away. I’d bet on a 09 March release, but that’s just a guess. That’s a couple of weeks without their iPad. Could you imagine them doing that with their iPhone? Or their laptop/desktop computer?

  • The eBay listings show an average selling price of about $400. That’s a pretty good return on your investment. How many tech products hold 80% of their value a year later, particularly in light of a rumored Big Upgrade like the iPad 3 with his new screen? I don’t blame people for going a week or two without if it means buying an iPad 3 for $100 or so, in the end.

  • People will pay $400 for a used iPad 2! If I were willing to shell out $400 for an iPad, I’d save up, wait a couple of weeks or a couple of months, and buy the iPad 3. I think it’ll be worth it for that screen alone. Meanwhile, there’s still the theory running around that you’ll be able to buy a brand new iPad 2 for $400 or less once the third version is out.

  • The iPad 1 looks to go for $250 – $350. This is not a scientific statistical analysis. This is just me looking over a few screens of eBay listings. The iPad 2 price is consistent at $400, while the first iPad varies more wildly. And it’s not the specs that’s driving the price difference. I see 16GB models selling for more than 32GB models, and 3G-enabled iPads selling for less than wi-fi only. There are, of course, a lot of variables to account for with eBay auctions, but I found that randomness interesting in light of the consistency of the iPad 2’s sales. (That all said, the 64GB model tends to get up there near $400, which makes sense.)

What MarsEdit Means to Me

MarsEdit Icon

I’ve been struggling a bit with MarsEdit recently. I’m on the thirty day trial, trying to figure out if it’s the tool that will get me more productive with my two blogs.

The main “pain point” to blogging for me lately has been using the web-based interface. It’s painfully slow. Logging in takes a while, clicking “New Post” takes forever for a page to refresh. Each incremental save means I have to stop working for 15 seconds while the page saves and reloads. Previewing is pretty fast, but another lost step. And adding images is anything but a cake walk. I have tools to make it easier, but it’s still not easy. In a perfect world, I want a thumbnail that a user can click to see a larger version of the same image. It’s do-able, but it’s ultimately ugly when you open it up full-size and WordPress still shows the sidebar over top the image. (That’s a fix I can do in the theme on the back end, but I’m getting lazier with age.)

So what does MarsEdit offer? It gives me a place to create a new blog post, label it with a category and tags, set its status as Draft or Published, and then upload and post it, complete with pictures. It’ll even handle Markdown previewing, which is a writing style I’ve been adopting more and more lately. I find Markdown easy to use and, more importantly, a tool that encourages me to structure my writing a little more, just to use the simple techniques to create headers, bullet points, bold-faced words, etc.

I’ve also recently installed the MarkDown plug-in for WordPress so that I can only write in that style while formulating posts. I’m not sure how necessary it is, but I do appreciate being able to format everything without my hands every leaving the keyboard and with much simpler syntax than HTML.

The big drawback with MarsEdit, though, is that the writing interface doesn’t work for me. My text is too small, and if I zoom in on it, it only increases the font size — both as I’m writing and in the final published edition. And even with that, it just doesn’t “feel” right. I’d rather be writing in Word, at that point. Or TextMate. Something else with greater white space around the margins, at the least. (I might try out Byword or one of the other trendier Mac word processors/text editors next.)

(While editing this post, I discovered that MarsEdit does let you send the text out to your editor of choice. BBEdit is the default, but TextMate and others are also supported. That is awesome, and it comes complete with a three key shortcut.)

Previewing my final post is too simple, too. I know I can play with it and add my WordPress CSS stuff to properly preview it, but I haven’t started to do that work yet. It’s nice to preview Markdown to make sure all my formatting is what I expect it to be, but that’s about it.

So what is MarsEdit? It dawned on me this morning. MarsEdit shouldn’t be my blogging engine. It should be closer to my blogging conduit. It’s only one minor extra step, but I think MarsEdit is a great tool to use so long as I write in a different window first. Do my writing in a word processor I enjoy more, then take the one extra step of copying-and-pasting to the MarsEdit window. Apply category and tags, double check syntax through Preview, and publish.

It’s such a simple basic use of the tool, but I already feel more productive with it. I want to blog again. I’m not worried about spending as much time waiting for a page to load as I am doing the actual writing. That’s liberating. Let’s see how long that lasts. . .

So the only question now is, is that worth $40 to me? If the price was half as much, I’d hesitate, but I’d buy it. At $40, it’s just too much. I’m all for coders getting paid, but for the tools it adds to my box, I might be better off using some other blogging engine. Ecto comes recommended, but it doesn’t look like anyone’s actively updating it anymore. I need to spend some more time in the Mac App Store looking for other solutions. Heck, I think someone even has a TextMate bundle to automate this stuff. That might be worth looking for, too. Maybe even AppleScript or Automator?

One last hiccup, too: The MarkDown I generate in MarsEdit won’t translate to HTML if I publish it directly. I need to send it from MarsEdit to the blog, then log into the blog’s engine and resave and publish it to get it translated into MarkDown. I’m sure I’m doing something wrong here, or missing a step, but it’s still a step backwards.

I’ll update you as I have answers.

Pro Tip Time

Never use an ATM that bares its Windows XP soul.



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Movie Trailers Update

I haven’t popped over to the movie trailers section of my Apple TV in a long time. I’m always impressed how quickly the high res trailers load up and how great they look on the TV. But for now, a quick round-up of what I watched:

  • The Avengers: I wanted to watch this first. It’s the whole reason I turned this thing on. But it wasn’t available on the Apple TV. It’s listed on there, but when you click it, you get a message that it’s not available and to please try again later? I wonder what’s going on there? Apple has the trailer exclusively, last I heard. Is it web only?

  • The FP: You need to see this trailer. It’s just asking for the Rifftrax treatment. It’s made to be a “cult hit.” It looks like it’s a post-apocalyptic story of two gangs that fight it out on Dance Dance Revolution. Winner Take All. I kid you not. It’s a viral sensation now, and one of Apple’s Most Watched trailers. It’s either awful and cheesy, or amazing and wondrous and fantastically cheesy.

  • Brave: Not so much a trailer as it is two minutes of the actual movie. I liked it. I can see wherethey’re going for 3D with it, too. PIXAR usually does better staying away from humans, but the designs here are strong enough to be interesting. Reminded me of “Tangled” in some ways, though. We’ll see how this pans out.

  • John Carter: People who’ve seen it early say it’s ten times better than all the trailers, but that this latest trailer is the best. I’m still not sold, but then I haven’t seen a story yet. The trailers are all CGI fighting and people leaping around. There’s a potential for something cool here, but I’m not sold yet.

  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Fighter: While I give them points for the high concept and I did giggle my way through parts of this, I’m not completely sold yet. And, yes, the Washington Monument wasn’t around in Lincoln’s time. Whoops.