Saturday, June 07, 2008

New iPhone coming

So... new iPhone in two days. Are ya excited!? Are ya!? ARE YA!!?!! Ah, never mind.

Voice-activated cell phone services

"Voice-activated cell phone services", the current Pogue video segment, is cool, and like usual, funny.
(If you get it over iTunes podcasts, the picture resolution is much better.)

Saving your blog writing

If you have a blog and you're like me, that you write the posts directly into the web interface, perhaps it's a good idea to every so often save your blog pages to your own computer, so you're not depending on Blogger or whoever to save it forever.

Myself, I save the monthly archive pages (which there are links to on the right).
I save it in Mozilla/Firefox, because it can save generic HTML plus makes a folder with the embedded images. Safari can only save as HTML without saving the images, or it saves in a proprietary format which includes them but can't be opened with any other browsers. I think the Firefox solution is so much better. Also it can save as text-only. I think it's a poor show from Apple that Safari does not have these platform- and application-independent options.

Talking about Safari, both my laptop and desktop Macs have Safari 3.1.1, but it's different: on the desktop, safari scales down (non-embedded) pictures which don't fit in the window, but on the laptop it doesn't. (For added irony, it would be a more useful feature on the laptop, what with the smaller screen.) I can't find a setting to determine this. Any idea anybody?

Drying phones

A tip I got from a friend who recently had his mobile phone get wet and talked to a repair geek:
If your phone (or, I imagine, other electronic gadget) gets wet, let it dry for a week before turning it on.
For one thing, the board soaks up water. For another thing, there are layers of copper in there, and they will oxidize if electricity goes through while it is wet.

More on compacts

Michael Reichman weighs in on compact cameras.
The Sony W300 looks interesting. Particularly how we all are so sure that more megapixels invariably produces more noise, and here comes this camera which has the highest megapixel count of any compact, but apparently also unusually low noise. I guess we don't know nothin'.

Small note; Michael writes:
"Joy of joys, the W300 has an optical viewfinder. Yes, it's small, and only shows about 80% of the taken frame. But it's there, it zooms with the lens, and it means that one doesn't have to shoot with the camera at arm's length the way middle aged people have to read menus in restaurants when they've forgotten to bring along their glasses."

Mike is not alone in feeling this way, I read it many places. But I can't help wondering how we'd all feel if all cameras had had screens for many decades, and somebody now introduced a camera with an optical viewfinder... "the makers of this camera apparently expects us to walk around with it pressed against our faces like a nicotine patch. It's very odd and inconvenient, it hides your face and greases up the backside of the camera..."
Some suggest it helps to stabilize the camera to press it against your head. I doubt so, you have to hold your breath so it does not interfere, and then you get tense because you get out of breath.
Apart from that it restricts the view angles you can photograph from, to head height.

Update: The Sony W300 has a label which reads: "Full HD - 1080". But if you look closely with a magnifier, you can see the words "still image" next to the label. And sure enough, the video is only VGA. And sure enough, the still image resolution is far above "1080". But what kind of weasel marketing is this? "Full HD - 1080" is meaningless unless it's about video. Clearly they want people to buy the camera thinking it delivers high-end HD, and when people find out it doesn't, then they can point to the label: "see, it's only the still images which are HD". Very disingenuous.

30 pounds and Political Correctness

"What's the difference between a boyfriend and a husband? About 30 pounds."
-- Cindy Gardner

Interesting that if somebody said that about women, they'd be strung from a lamp post. But you can say it about men, because they are currently seen as an oppressor, so you can say what you want about them.

Funny in general, who you are allowed to make fun of. For instance, stand-up comedian Ron White (whose early album Drunk In Public was fantastic, but seems to have run out of material) has a spiel about the Inuit in Alaska, I think it is. About how ugly they are. Imagine he was saying that about blacks, or Asians? But when it's a tiny minority like the Inuit, the audience is laughing it up.

What can we learn from that? It suggests to me that Politically Correct fads like who we can criticize or which words we may use are not so much based on compassion as they are on fear. Obviously the Inuit are not less deserving of our compassion than the blacks or Asians, but they are much less deserving of our fear because there are so few of them, so who cares if anybody disrespects them?

Friday, June 06, 2008

Modern artist

How a modern artist works. Paper, whuzzat?

Max Hardcore

"Max Hardcore" may not be some people's idea of a nice man, and his porn videos even fewer people's idea of wholesome culture (they often contain consensual violence or actors pretending to be minors), but the verdict against him is highly problematic because it's a verdict against fantasy. If people can be put in jail for what goes on in their heads, we're on a very slippery slope.

P said:
In Lebanon and most arab countries, if you criticize the State, its leaders, or do the same with a "friendly country", you can be sent to jail by virtue of law. It doesn't matter for one second if you were merely stating the bare truth. Besides, anything bare is public obscenity, so there!
Otherwise put, if as a journalist -or a blogger- you can reveal a genuine and proven corruption scandal and present irrefutable proof in a court of law, the local George-W-Bushes can legally haul yo' ass to da slammer. Giddit? So jest shaddup, boy, and bow yo' head to da man. Sit. Be quiet. Play dead. Heel.
So much for freedom of expression and the Chart of Human Rights, eh?
Phooey. ):-P
Now THAT's what I call repugnifying public pornographic obscenity. But I'll call it without raising my voice too much...

Land of the blind

Does anybody know that old short story about a man who comes to an isolated land where everybody is blind? He can't prove to them that he has an ability they don't.

It's highly interesting. If you think about it, if the blind people did start to believe him, they would view his ability as a supernatural one.

Graham sed:
Sounds like H G Wells' "In The Country Of The Blind." It was a great story IMO.

Yep, that's the one. Thanky.

LisaNova and Jenna Elfman

Like I've said, it seems this is the rise of the age of the female comedian. "Comedienne" for short, I guess. Bully for them.

Lisa Donovan Nova plays Ashley Moorehouse, Jenna Elfman plays Shirl Davidson.

"Ashley" interviews Dubya.

Jenna and Lisa in another sketch.

Lisa is a phenom I'd missed. She has over 100,000 subscribers on U-toob. Often funny, pretty hot, and not above using her assets.

I'd missed her because I don't surf around on YouTube that much. Am I the only one who finds it stressing? I quickly get into a mind mode of "find the next good one, the next better one, better, one more, next..." Total sensory overload.

Here's a video interview with Revver's founder about Revver's revenue-sharing program. The cola/mentos guys earned $35k in a couple months. I wonder how U-toob's revenue sharing program is doing?

Web sites die quick

Web desing guru Jakob Nielsen (both spellings are due to him being Danish) says that your addresses/pages on your web site must live forever, because every time you change them, you disconnect from all the sites which may have linked to them.

But it seems most don't follow that advice. And worse: even domain names don't live forever. For various reasons I've checked up on domains I've found on old links pages and on old graphics I have lying around. And I'm shocked, shocked I tell ya, to note that better than half of those randomly selected domains are simply gone. Defunct.

Even big commercial ventures like for example, which was an attempt by comics legend Stan Lee at making web comics commercially viable, is just gone. No site, not even a single page. It's just stupid, because keeping a domain and small site on a server will only cost you like twenty dollars a year. And you can put links on the page to whatever new things you would like your old fans to look at now. I've only let one of my domains expire, and that was because it was a .dk domain, and the Danish registrar authority was a pain in the ass to deal with, so I just gave up.

A similar point: I am also shocked, shocked I tell ya, to notice how many artists and celebrities don't even have their own web sites. Even as a very, very minor artist myself, I find it inconceivable to not have my personal site. Apart from anything else, it's just fun. And people can find you. But better than half of the actors, artists, writers etc that I look up don't have their own site. They let it be up to others to project their image on the web. Such a pity. I mean, even a discussion board for the fans on your own site must be an invaluable resource for keeping the finger on the pulse, for any well known person.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Transformers shirt gets jet ban

"Transformers shirt gets jet ban". The Sun.
(Why do mainstream media publications insist that headlines must be nigh unreadable?)

I'm sorry for a week full of making fun of people's insane phobias, but I just can't get over the surrealism of it all.

Mini-notebooks are taking off

Mini-notebooks are taking off.

"“This is for people who would have bought a desktop, but buy this to save money,” said Leslie Fiering, a vice president at the research firm Gartner."

Is this a stupid thing to say or what.

Abuse virus

Virus comes in verbally abusive emails.

Nude cell phone pictures

Teens are sending nude pictures of themselves over the cell phone. It seems this is a crisis on par with a serial killer on the loose.

"In Utah, a 16-year-old boy was charged with a felony for sending nude photos of himself over a cellphone to several girls."

From the dictionary:
Felony: "One of several grave crimes, such as murder, rape, or burglary, punishable by a more stringent sentence than that given for a misdemeanor."

... Murder, rape, burglary... and nude self-portraits. Wow. The mind boggles.

Robot Chicken

Just watched season one of Robot Chicken. Toy violence, hot plastic chicks, and more pop culture references than you possibly imagine. Warmly recommended.

More on fears, real and imagined

A good theory as to why photographers are being harrassed everywhere these days.

Here's an article about the frustrating overreactions we always seem to get to rare dangers.
"Our greatest recent overreaction to a rare event was our response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I remember then-Attorney General John Ashcroft giving a speech in Minnesota -- where I live -- in 2003, and claiming that the fact there were no new terrorist attacks since 9/11 was proof that his policies were working. I thought: "There were no terrorist attacks in the two years preceding 9/11, and you didn't have any policies. What does that prove?"
What it proves is that terrorist attacks are very rare, and maybe our reaction wasn't worth the enormous expense, loss of liberty, attacks on our Constitution and damage to our credibility on the world stage. Still, overreacting was the natural thing for us to do. Yes, it's security theater, but it makes us feel safer."

Update: Jon Stewart in a Comedy Central commentary video. Very funny and observant.

Broadband woes and wins

I've never been very happy with either of my broadband connections, not even the "XL" cable connection which I'm paying more for. Now yesterday, oddly, I got a bill which showed I was being billed both for an XL connection and a Medium connection. So I spoke at length to a guy in the billing department, and he was very puzzled too. No clue how that happened.

But a lot of good came from it: it seems that since I still use a set-top box and never got the more advanced modem, I can actually only receive a 2Mb connection, not the 10Mb connection I have been paying for in the past two years!

So he refunded me 300 pounds ($600) for all those overpayments. And next week I get a proper cable modem and my bandwidth should rise not only to 10Mb, but to 20Mb for some reason. I'm much looking forward to that.

And to cap it off, just out of the goodness of his heart apparently, he gave me an 8-pounds discount per month in the future!

See that's the kind of support call I like.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

iTunes for movies, in UK

I'm happy to be informed that I can now rent movies on iTunes here in the UK. So maybe now I don't even have to get up from the chair to change a DVD. How much more couch potato can you get? Except maybe, like the boy in Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently book (I think it's the second one, The Long Dark Tea Time Of The Soul), who is living in the attic, watching TV 24/7, and has a hose connected to an electric kettle and a big crate full of instant noodle meals, and only goes to the toilet during commercial breaks...

Nicely, Apple has amended their ways, at least here, and now offers movies for rent for 48 hours instead of 24. But then it's not exactly cheap. £4.5 for an HD rental if the movie is pretty new. That's nine dollars at current rates. Given that the cost of delivering the movie is nil*, I'd think they could rent them cheaper. Lovefilm mail DVD rental is much cheaper, and they have to pay postal costs and replace worn out DVDs.

Delivery is very quick over broadband. The HD movie I'm trying out right now was ready to start viewing after downloading just two minutes. I'm amazed, I did not think we were there yet, real time movie viewing over the Net, and in HD. But Apple is using the excellent Akamai network and it's always been much faster than the Net is on the average.

The picture quality is good. Not quite as good as Blue-Ray (at least yet), but it looks close. According to this bitter article, it is not 1080p, only 720p, and quite compressed. I dunno.

Finally something to use my Apple TV for. It's been languishing.
HD movies are only available over Apple TV, not a computer, for some reason.

* OK, not nil, but I'm guessing insignificant in the whole game. Interesting question though. Bandwidth pricing is dropping fast all the time. Over a year ago, I found 5TB use per month hosting for down to $300. Say $200 now. Say an MP4 compressed HD movie is 5MB. That's a thousand movies delivered for $200, that's 20 cents per movie. But iTunes/Apple is a monstrous customer, surely they can get a much better deal than that, say under five cents per HD movie. I'd say compared to a nine-dollar rental price, that's insignificant, it's less than one percent.

Reflective blinds

Here's another of the Highly Useful products I like to mention sometimes: reflective blinds. They aren't that common, oddly, I had to ask for them specifically. They are covered with a special reflective crystaline material on one side, so they reflect the great bulk of the heat of sunlight. They are amazingly effective. If you stand by a window where the sun is blazing in on these blinds, you can barely feel the heat at all.

I had asked about metal blinds, but the thing about those is that while they do reflect a lot of light, they also heat up, so they convert a lot of the energy into infrared light going into the room. So they are not at all as effective as these.

Jonathan informs:
We've been trying to push these blinds for some time as the benefits are fantastic. The problem is that a lot of people don't know they would really want these blinds and if they do have a problem with a room in their house in the summer, they just don't know there's a solution out there.
The premium is around 15%-20% of the cheapest vertical or roller fabrics you can buy. This premium is about the same premium that's charged on blackout materials for both vertical and roller blinds, so it's certainly not exorbitant and should fit within most people's ballpark of what a premium product should cost.
Jonathan, Click4Blinds

Fears, real and imagined

Fears, real and imagined.
"Regardless of how many years we’re under the constant “orange alert,” the real chances of dying in a terrorist attack are slim to none. According to the AEI-Brookings Joint Center, even if there were one terrorist hijacking per week, your odds of perishing in such a conflagration would be just 135,000 to 1. Still, we go through the charade at the airport, grand theater orchestrated by the Orwellian-sounding Department of Homeland Security that’s aided by technology that looks like it’s working but still lets through 60% of undercover agents carrying fake bombs."

Dvice sometimes has amusing/interesting posts, but it's not very well written, I've noticed. For example in the above paragraph (which has a good point), "conflagration" is used as if it means "disaster" rather than "large destructive fire".

Man sometimes have sudden bursts of sanity. I wonder how long it will be before a major airport will realize that they can much more economical and competitive if they remove security checks totally.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Photo retouching

Article on photo retouching.

I like the phrase: "Hugh Hefner boldly used the techniques of airbrushing to define his surreal concept of the “girl next door”."

No kidding. I am not sure what is the scarier thought: that most people prefer something overtly fake, or that most people can't tell the difference? I wonder which it is.

The tender hero

Just a little more bitching about a superhero I have a love/hate relationship with, and who shall remain nameless. (Though it rhymes with Fluffy The SpamFire Layer.) It happens again and again in many forms: this time she knows that either she kills a person close to her, or every person in the world suffers and dies, including that person. Her choice: protect that person to the end of the world and beyond.
This is a hero?
Damn, I'm a broken MP3 file. I better stop now.

Update: sorry, couldn't stop...
Humans have so much invested in the Holiness Of Life that when you do have a hero who can kill, you usually have somebody who probably enjoys it, and who over-does it. Like The Punisher or Dirty Harry.

Allan Moore does it well, though, in Miracleman. There's a psychotic superperson who goes on a killing rampage and who is basically unstoppable. But he turns temporarily into an innocent, vulnerable boy (like Kazam does), and Miracleman kills him. With great regret, but he does it.

A good part of Fluffy from season five: Michelle Trachtenberg. A powerful actress and a highly accomplished person academically too.

Union Station security

Why has the world suddenly gone bonkers paranoid about photographers? Newest chapter: Union Station, DC. (Warning, the sound in this video is really loud.) (Why do sites usually tell us to "turn up our sound" when they link to a video? In my experience I have to turn my sound down.)

Thinking about it, this is another benefit of the new-generation pocket cameras with image stabilization and high picture quality: using such cameras in places like this, you are much less likely to be bothered by security forces, since you look like a tourist rather than a serious photographer or a terrahrist. And yet the pictures can be professional quality.

Update: a congressman comments strongly.

How to improve photographs for beginners

How to improve photographs for beginners.

Candy songs

Wow, man, I just figured out that songs like My Boy Lollipop and I Want Candy are not really about candy! I'm shocked! Shocked, I tell ya!

Apparently this video is a classic. I'm not sure why. But then it seems to me that rock videos from the eighties pretty much sucked all over.

A nice punky version from Good Charlotte. (Though I do think this song should be sung by a girl.) Used it Not Another Teen Movie, which is excellent.

There was another version I found as MP3 and liked, nice girl voice and nice instrumentation, until I saw the video and found out it's not a girl singing but apparently a 12-year-old boy... ew.

This seems to be one of those songs which have been covered endlessly. And while some of the boys sing about boys, some of the girls sing about girls. I wonder if Melanie C is gay or if she changed it to get attention.

Monday, June 02, 2008


Operational interfaces are very hard to make well, that's clear. Here's an example of a poor detail in an otherwise well done design and interface.
On the Canon Ixus camera, if the camera achieves correct focus, there's a beeb, and the focus frame is green. If it can't achieve focus, there's a slightly different beeb, and the frame is yellow. Both these differences are way too subtle, I did not notice at all until I stumbled over these data in the manual. And I've used Ixuses (Elph) for years.
At a minimum there should be a blinking light, or the focus frame should be blinking. And they might even add "can't focus" in blinking text on the screen or summin like that.

Real-time model airplane video

Real-time model airplane video. Looks like a fun way to get a flying experience without risking life and limb. And if you put it in a model helicopter, you need not be zipping by all you're looking at. (There's even a simple "helicopter" with four small soft propellers, which is harmless even indoors. I forget what it's called.)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The truth about cell phones

You heard cell phones fry your brain? The truth is much worse.

Rainy weather thankfully

Rain enhances colors because all the dispersing micro-reflections get cancelled in lieu of bigger ones.

Update: it turns out that regular commenter Alex is not a bad photographer.


I've never been one for soap opera, except for a brief flirtation with Victoria Principal (not to be confused with principal Victoria) when I was a kid. But I got a little curious about Passions because it was mentioned repeatedly on Buffy. And it apparently has a lot of supernatural elements. But frankly I don't think I could stand all the romance and all the melodramatics.
Also, who has the time: five hour-long shows per week?! Man, it's gotta be junk, no? I can't imagine anybody producing quality storytelling at that pace.

From wikipedia:
"In 2005, so many plotlines came to involve an element of rape that fans began to refer to that year as the "Year of the Rapes".[citation needed] Early that year, Paloma Lopez-Fitzgerald was sexually assaulted and nearly raped during a club raid. The show then carried a plotline over whether they should do a rape test while Paloma was in a coma (at the time she was a virgin) and Jessica Bennett was also raped a few weeks later while at a club. Also early in the year, Alistair Crane repeatedly raped his wife, Katherine Crane, while at the Crane Compound. Late in May, heiress Fancy Crane was nearly raped by a man in Las Vegas who demanded "payment" for letting her into a party after she lost her invitation. During the tsunami and later in November, Liz Sanbourne attempted to rape Julian Crane at knifepoint. In August, Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald was raped by Alistair Crane when she refused to pay him (with sex) for helping her with visitation of her infant daughter, Jane; Theresa later married Alistair, and he continued to rape her throughout their marriage."

Gee! Saucy stuff for the housewives!
I've heard from people in the know that rape is de rigueur in romance novels. And not only that, but it's the hero who rapes the heroine, and later gets her in the end, as it were. Not sick at all. No wonder these women freaks out if their husband likes to look at naked girls on the Internet, they are so morally superior.