Enter

The first programming I ever did was on the family’s Commodore 64, typing in programs from the pages of “Enter” magazine. I recently came across two or three issues that survived that era, plus a folder full of pages I had ripped out to save for whatever reason. I might be scanning those in to show off here. This stuff is golden for programmers of my age, I imagine. There’s a lot of memories to come flooding back from these pages.

Enter Magazine with Sting from Dune, December 1984

Sorry, Pepsi

I love Diet Pepsi. And this summer, they have a contest going where you can collect codes under bottle caps and redeem them for chances at prizes on their website. So i went to the website to register. I logged in via Facebook, but they still needed all my information and a new password. Not sure what the point of Facebook then was, but I’ll live.

The form had a captcha, though. And everytime you failed the captcha, you had to fill out a new one AND re-enter your intended password (8 character minimum) twice. I started taking screengrabs after I failed the first half dozen times. This system of captchas is broken.

Please note that Pepsi doesn’t give you the option of choosing lowercase characters. Maybe THAT’S the problem?

captcha1

captcha2

Google Reader Update

I haven’t found one that’ll work in IE8, which is what I’m stuck with at work.

I haven’t tried Feed Wrangler yet, mostly because it would cost me $24 to try it and I kind of doubt it’ll work on IE8, too.

So, maybe I’ll be going cold turkey on reading the news starting Monday.

Sad

Google Reader dies next week

The Voice Semi-Finals Results

The judges have run out of interesting things to say by now. They’re just repeating themselves, and the honesty is long gone. Also, we can drop Shakira. She seems nice enough, but she never says anything interesting. Aguilera can be annoying at times, but at least she adds something to the show.

Sasha’s Whitney song wasn’t nearly as good as the judges hyped it up to be. And the second song — well, Judith Hill lost when she decided to be a techno dance music singer instead of the power balladeer diva everyone wanted her to be. Sasha didn’t learn that lesson.

Amber’s version of “Sad” was amazing, but nothing that would ever get her votes. And “Firework” was painful for the first 3/4ers. That’s NOT a song that anyone should ever do in a singing competition without a major rewrite of it.

Danielle and The Swon Brothers gave their voters more of what they like. Ditto Michelle Chamuel. They go through to the finale. Who wins? Michelle has a chance with the inevitable vote splitting amongst the country fans. But the country fans LOVE to support their people. I think Danielle has the best chance to win it.

Can we please now stop with these group singalongs? They’re awful. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” could have been awesome if just Sasha sang it. Maybe Michelle could have pulled it off as a solo. The Swon Brothers might have been an interesting country version of it. But having them all trade off lines meant the song never went anywhere. Just when you had a clear direction and a strong voice (usually on Sasha’s line), it immediately got reeled back in so someone else could have their turn, or so that the group would sound in harmony. It was painful. And it’s just as bad on Idol.

Oh, and the returning contestants who have EPs ready to go soon because the world moves too fast to wait for a full record and The Voice’s season ends soon as does their window for best publicity? They all need to learn how to write better bridges, because all their songs sounded the same for those three to four minutes. Very little variations or breakout moments in there. I liked Adam’s guy (Tony Lucca) the best.

Power Mac G5 Unboxing

Stumbled across this and felt the need to post it on the eve of WWDC 2013.

powermac_unboxing_vands

This is from my first Apple computer purchase/unboxing. Pictured are the Power Mac G5 box, extra RAM from Crucial, and an OS X “Missing Manual” book I bought at Amazon. This picture is from September 2004.

These days, I’m on a 27″ iMac. That PowerMac was replaced a couple of Christmases ago, though it’s still on the floor underneath my desk.

My iWatch Prediction/Guess

The tech industry is a funny place. It reads the rumor sites to see what Apple might do next, and then attempts to beat Apple to the punch. The latest case of this is the iWatch. While Tim Cook just recently hinted towards a wearable computing device, Apple hasn’t otherwise said a thing about making a watch. Or a necklace, for that matter. This is all hype fueled by rumor sites and random guesses from analysts. (Gene Munster is still convinced that an Apple TV set is just around the corner. That’s based on, uhm, any random thing he can read into what anyone even loosely connected to Apple might say or hint at.)

I’m not saying that Apple isn’t working on a watch of some sort, but I highly doubt it’ll be the standard watch you’re all thinking of. Watches have two immediate problems that Apple would have to work around:

They’re fashionable and they’re waterproof.

iPods and iPhones are notoriously not waterproof. They have exposed ports for recharging and for headphones. And then they have little sticker inside there to tell when water has hit them, voiding the warrantee. Would an iWatch run on batteries. No, of course not. It would need to be recharged somehow without a hole in it. Does that mean Apple might finally get into the game of making a wireless charger? One of the Android phones has that now, where you just place it on a pad of some sort and the thing magically charges. It’s possible Apple could do that, using the iWatch as a test case for such technology before rolling it out on a grander scale to the iPod Touch and the iPhones. iPads require so much charge that I think they’d be the last to use such technology. Plus, there’d likely be a revolt from people who use third party add-ons that utilize the port. On the other hand, Apple just switched out the old 30 pin adaptor for the Thunderbolt adaptor. So it’s not like they haven’t shown they can do that.

A phone doesn’t need a headphone jack, so that’s not a problem. But is the technology there for the touch screens to be waterproof?

Second is the fashion thing. Current styles go chunky large for men, and smaller for women. The problem isn’t just a pipeline and fashion thing, but a whole user input thing. Unless the whole thing is run by voice control, the watch will need a display most likely larger than what a woman’s watch would normally be. I don’t see Apple disrupting the fashion world in that way.

All of this leads to my theory of what an iWatch is: An iPhone accessory. It’s a bracelet that you wear on your wrist with a bunch of sensors in it that communicates automatically with your iPhone. At best, it has a small one-line digital display of the time on it somewhere. You could make it in black and white. You could make it in a few different lengths to accomodate different wrist sizes. But inside, it has a GPS chip and an accelerometer and who knows what else?

The secret to the product isn’t the hardware, but rather in what software Apple comes up with to utilize the “iWatch.” It has to do more than just what the current market for pedometers and health checkers offer. Maybe that small display (underneath an extra layer of something that’s clear and water protectant) tells you who’s calling before you pull the phone out of your pocket. Maybe swiping your finger along it turns the volume up and down on your iPhone that’s currently playing your favorite song.

And it charges wirelessly, but requires so little power that it easily lasts the whole day and recharges while you sleep. That’ll be the trick. This watch will be an eighth the size of an iPhone, yet still contain sensors and a memory chip. There’s not that much room in such a device for a battery. Keeping it powered will be a trick. But the lack of a display — or a small one, at most — will be a big help.

That’s my guess. In a few months, I may be proven wrong. Or, I’ll stand by my earlier prediction: This is all a fake-out from Apple to keep the competition busy in R&D making a product for a market that won’t be interested in it.

Looking Back on VR.5

“VR.5″ was my introduction to the internet, in some ways. It debuted in the spring of my freshman year in college, where I had internet access for the first time. It wasn’t my first time on-line, having been on local BBSes and Q-Link before then. Q-Link was a Commodore on-line service that would later become AOL.

In any case, I loved the show when it aired, even if critical response wasn’t initially great and the ratings — being a Friday night FOX show — never took off. Only “X-Files” ever survived that time slot. The road is paved with the dead bodies of all the other shows they tried in there, including the wonderful Bruce Campbell vehicle, “The Adventures of Brisco Country Jr.”

But VR.5 became a cause for me at the time, and I met up with a group of people on-line who also liked the show. Together, we did what we could to try to save it. We wrote letters, organized on-line somethings-or-others, etc. We didn’t send ketchup packets or flowers or weird things to the network executives. That came later. This was at a time when the internet was new enough that not every show had such a campaign. We dubbed ourselves “The Virtual Storm” and I became the “Media Relations” guy for it, just because I had gotten a couple of emails or postcards back from the networks I had written to. A local newspaper even interviewed me for the campaign. It was fun.

The show has been off the air for nearly 20 years now. Sci-Fi aired the 13 episodes once — including 3 FOX never aired — and there was a VHS release for the series, but that’s been it.

They’re testing the waters, though. If you want to see VR.5 released, perhaps in an on-demand way, go over to Amazon and sign up for alerts from them for when the show is available. It’s a minor thing that might go nowhere, but what the heck? Doesn’t hurt to try. Or to click once.

This got me to wanting to listen to the soundtrack again. I was shocked to see it had never been imported into iTunes, which I didn’t have until a decade after the soundtrack came out and was my first CD purchase. Thankfully, I found the CD easily enough, in the same folder as I had stored my Babylon 5 soundtracks, which is likely a topic for another post on another day.

But here’s what I wanted to show you:

vr5_cds

Two discs. One soundtrack. The disc on the left is the one you could purchase in stores or, I guess, on-line. Was Music Boulevard around yet? Amazon? Probably not. So let’s just say you bought that one at Sam Goody’s.

The other one — on the right — I got from the VR.5 production company as they closed down their offices and cleaned things out. I had emailed with them a couple of times during the VR.5 campaign, and they offered to send me the disc. As I recall now, this was a copy they gave out to their staff or at a Christmas party or a wrap party or something. It’s labelled “For Promotional Use” only, so maybe it’s amongst a batch they created to send to whatever kind of reviewers would listen to this kind of thing? I don’t know.

I just think it’s cool, so it’s the one I imported.

Excuse me now while I go listen to Dee Carstensen’s “To Dance Again” and vividly remember the visuals from the series that went along with it. I can still picture the rain coming down and Lori Singer clearing off her desk and thrashing a computer in the process.

Oh, wait, it’s on YouTube. Here you have it. (Someday, I’ll learn how to embed YouTube videos in this blog again…)

It’s All About the Voice. Right?

“The Voice” is a show made to directly take on “American Idol.” In the ratings these days, it’s winning. Its major conceit is that they care about the vocals more than anything. Famously, the auditions are held with the judges’ chairs turned away from the singer. The singers only get on the show if their voice is good enough to get them there. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, thin or fat. This is meant to produce a better sounding field of contestants free from the shackles of modern image-conscious creepiness.

Here, then, are your three winners of The Voice:

voice_winners_blog

And here are your two finalists this season on “American Idol”:

ai_finalists

What went wrong, NBC?

(Just for the record: I’m not calling Kree and Candice fat here. If anything, they look healthy compared to most reality TV show contestants… But if The Voice is built on the concept that it’s Voice Uber Alles, then they need to explain how it’s the skinny good looking folks who always win.)

Hello, Old Friend. Twitter Edition.

Hello, Fail Whale, my old friend…

Got this tonight when trying to reset my password by receiving a text message. I guess the SMS server was overloaded. To think, Twitter started as a texting-based service. Can you imagine only updating Twitter via text message today? Crazy.

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How to Fix American Idol

It’s simple, really, but it won’t happen. It depends on Simon Cowell admitting that his “X-Factor” show is a bust. The ratings stink, the talent’s not memorable, and the whole show is a low-rated spectacle. Time to move on.

Then, “Idol” announces that the next season is the last. And to go out on a high note, Cowell is returning to take Mariah Carey’s seat back. I think Nicki Minaj and Simon Cowell on the same panel would be awesome. Let Keith Urban play the nice guy who’s still good with constructive criticism, and keep Randy Jackson because he’s the last constant left on the show after Ryan Seacrest.

Problem solved. Simon, over to you.

Something you don’t see everyday

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Facebook “unavailable”?!? THE HORRORS!

Buying a Firetruck

I love this story, but this part made me laugh out loud:

More specifically, I’m married, have a mortgage and we just had our first child in October. So in November when my firetruck appeared on eBay and I brought up the topic of purchasing a large red truck for the millionth time in our relationship, my wife had more important things on her mind. In a moment of weakness, she angrily said “I guess I can’t stop you!” making it enthusiastically clear that she wanted me to immediately buy this particular truck and not pass on an epic opportunity to put a check mark next to a lifelong goal.

As guys, that’s what we do. Whittle down our wives until they don’t say “no” explicitly, then use that as our permission. =)

What I Thought About “Les Miserables”



  • I felt sorry for the focus puller. It looks like three quarters of the movie was shot at f/1.8. The focus puller had a LOT of work to do to keep up with moving actors in a scene.

  • “Gladiator 2″ will not be a musical. I believe the Actor’s Union has even written a new rule to keep Russell Crowe from ever singing in a movie again.

  • France was a rotten place to live in the 19th century.

  • I kept hearing stories about women crying in the theaters during Anne Hathaway’s big musical moment in the first half hour. I got more emotional with the Daddy/Daughter moments, because I’m a softie dad.

  • Was the CGI that obvious, or is the Blu-Ray high definition just too clear? Either way, all of the CGI backgrounds jumped out pretty obviously.

  • I knew one song in advance of the movie. I surprised my wife when I sang along with “Bring Him Home.” Though at least now I get what the song is about better. I knew it from Dennis De Young’s “10 on Broadway” album. That album is not available digitally on Amazon, but is on iTunes. You can buy the CD off Amazon, too.

  • Hugh Jackman got robbed at the Oscars.

  • Obvious and Obligatory Geek Moment: Wasn’t it great to see a team-up between Catwoman and Wolverine, though?

  • I love how the proper French accent sounds so — British.

  • Yes, the camera angles were a little weird. Dutch angles, close-ups, medium range at best. And then, when the camera pulls back, there’s an odd amount of negative space in the top half of the screen, with all of the important stuff packed into the lower third or so. Strange. It does feel a little cramped. I guess when you’re filming with an f/1.8 lens, everything wants to have shallow depth of field.

  • No, really, there were shots where the actor’s nose and eyes were in focus, but their ears were staring to blur already. That’s a shallow depth of field. What did they think they were doing? Being all Stanely Kubrick with a 50mm and lighting scenes by candle light a la “Barry Lyndon”?

  • The Blu-ray looks and sounds great. We used the 5.1 surround sound since we don’t have the other two speakers for the 7.1 setting, but everything was clear and crisp, nonetheless.

Ready to Feel Old?

Animaniacs is twenty years old this fall.

Wakko and Yakko Warner. Dot is just off camera.

AAAAUUUUGGGGHH!!!!!