Sony's Latest Electronic Gaget (from The Onion)

February 25, 2009

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NSFW Language, but well worth it if your ears aren't too sensitive. embed src="http://www.theonion.com/content/themes/common/assets/onn_embed/embedded_player.swf"type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowScriptAccess="always" allowFullScreen="true" wmode="transparent" width="480" height="430"flashvars="image=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.theonion.com%2Fcontent%2Ffiles%2Fimages%2FSONY_FUCK_article3_0.jpg&videoid=93143&title=Sony%20Releases%20New%20Stupid%20Piece%20Of%20Shit%20That%20Doesn%27t%20Fucking%20Work">


Roxanne thru Songsmith

February 17, 2009

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If you haven't already heard about Microsoft's Songsmith, you can check out the the official Microsoft Research Songsmith page for a quick video about it. Basically, you feed it vocals and it comes up with music for you. I thought it was a joke when I first saw it, but it's real. Several folks around the net have taken to feeding it the vocal tracks from popular songs and seeing what it comes up with. Everyone I have heard has been universally bad. Some have been at least entertaining, but a few actually like Running with the Devil actually hurt my brain a little. Another example that isn't quite as bad is this version of The Police's "Roxanne": While it doesn't cause physical pain, it seems to go on forever. Normally, Roxanne isn't that long a song. With the Robo-Latin beat produced by Songsmith, Microsoft has managed to find a way to slow time.


We should all carry wedges

February 05, 2009

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wobble-wedge.jpgSaw these Wobble Wedges on Cool Tools. These things could make great promotional tchotchkes that would actually serve a practical purpose. Print a logo, web site and a slogan like "Stability brought to you by ACME Computer Systems" on them and pass them out. I'd be happy to keep a handful in my bag and leave them stuck under tables where ever they are needed. In coffee shops and restaurants tables get jostled around enough that you can be confident they would get bumped out of place from time to time and have to be put back in place. The brand message would get seen on a regular basis and associated with a "well isn't that thoughtful" idea.


Fixing Perl's CPAN on Mac OS X Leopard

February 04, 2009

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perl-camel.pngOne of the main languages I use for programming quick fixes is called "Perl". One thing that makes it so powerful is that there exists a huge number of modules for helping you do things that Perl doesn't do itself right out of the box. The easiest way to install the additional modules is with a core module called CPAN. Basically, you just tell the CPAN module what you want to install and it goes out to the web to find what you want, downloads it and then installs it. While it's not difficult to do all that stuff yourself, it's much faster to let CPAN handle all the steps for you automatically. At least, as long as it works.


While trying to add a new module today at work, CPAN couldn't manage to get to the outside world. Every time it tried to get a file, it would take so long CPAN timing out and give up. I was browsing the net and could actually get to the files CPAN was looking for directly with my browser. So, I knew it wasn't an issue with the connection, but had to be something to do with CPAN itself. This is a classic example of how hunting for one little computer issue can take a huge amount of time. I spent over two hours tracking down what was going on. It turns out that one of Perl's configuration files was set so that FTP processes wouldn't be in "Passive Mode". The fix was to open the file "/System/Library/Perl/5.8.8/Net/Config.pm" and change the line: ftp_int_passive => 0, to: ftp_int_passive => 1,


After changing that setting, CPAN is working like a champ. The two parts of this that boggle the mind: 1) that a single digit makes such a big difference and 2) that it's actually possible to figure that out the issue with that one digit and what to do about it thanks to the net. (Note: the main reason for this post is to hopefully help other people who have the same problem find the answer in less than two hours. This fix is for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard when CPAN times out trying to load files like "01mailrc.txt.gz".)


New Music: I Saved an Airplane by Cat Scientist

January 29, 2009

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I Saved An Airplane - Cat Scientist Found via the SXSW Music sampler. (After digging around a little for more info on the band, sadly it looks like they are no longer together.)


Found Music and how imeem beats last.fm

January 29, 2009

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For the past few years SXSW has been releasing music samplers with a ton of free MP3s from artists who are going to preform at the festival. I've found a lot of music that I like sifting through the sampler and am going to start posting some of it here. I wanted to find a site that already had the audio clips and would let me embed them in my site. The first site I looked at was last.fm. I've used them a few times in the past to stream music and thought I remembered seeing a way to pull out their player and put it on other sites. When I looked again, all I could see was a way to embed it on facebook, myspace and digg. There was no code you could simply grab and embed on a personal site. Strike One. This struck me as weird so I did a quick search and found some pages that suggested that you had to create an account before you could get code to embed. Strike Two. Don't make me sign up to really get benefit out of your site. I was in the mood to see how it worked anyway so I created an account and added the song I wanted to the Library, hit the "Play your Library" button and got this: last-fm-bs.png What? I have to add 15 artists before I can hear any of the songs I want. Strike Three and by the way, to hell with your site. I'm gone.


Next stop: imeem.com. First thing I see is a nice search box right in front of me on the home page. I put in the artist I want to hear, and see a list of songs from that artist. Click on the one I want to hear and a nice little player pops up and starts the song for me. Check out the bottom of the player and the code for me to embed the song is sitting right there. Sold. The worst part for last.fm is that they actually had a song that I wanted to include that imeem didn't already have in their list. So, they would have won even if I had to jump through some hoops. Seems like a huge miss out of them.


The LHC still won't destroy the world.... Probably.

January 29, 2009

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An article at arxivblog.com discusses how scientists are going over their calculations for the Large Hadron Collider to make sure it isn't going to destroy the planet. Some of them now think that it could tiny create black holes that hang around for a few seconds or minutes. Latest results: the black holes will *probably* decay faster than they grow. Check in with http://hasthelargehadroncolliderdestroyedtheworldyet.com/ to see if the world has been destroyed. (found via Slashdot)


The tease is enough of a trailer

January 29, 2009

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A few weeks ago I saw the 30 second teaser trailer for "Taken". All I really got out of it was:

  • Liam Neeson plays a dad who is some kind of former Secret Agent or Mr. Wolf.
  • His daughter get kidnapped by some bad guys
  • Liam is a stone cold badass and is gonna get medieval all over the kidnapper's asses.

That was it, but it was enough. My interest was piqued. I was ready to spend $10 to see the film in the theater instead of waiting for it to come to NetFlix. Good job marketing team. At least until yesterday, when I caught one of the other "full" trailers. Now, don't get me wrong. The movie still looked like something I'd like to see. The problem is I'm pretty sure I've now seen the entire movie. Or, at least all the key scenes and good parts. Now I definitely won't be seeing it in the theater. The studio spent extra money to turn me off from their film. This is nothing new. As the studios spend increasing amounts of money creating films, pressure to make sure they are hits grows. The marketing guys get the call and put more and more scenes out to try to grow interest to get more butts in seats. I expect that they have run the numbers and their math points to this strategy working. With my focus group of one, I can tell you that it backfires way more often than not.


Another side to this that I wonder about is how directors feel about so much of their films being broadcast before the are even released. If I were in their shoes it would piss me off. After spending a huge amount of time and energy to create a piece of art, I can't imagine any other possible reaction when you see some of the best parts being ripped out, slapped back together in a 3 minute montage and shown completely outside of their original context. Adding insult to injury, there are generally enough visual queues in the trailer so that when watching the film, you know exactly when you about to see the clip from the trailer. Instead of an audience reaction of: "Holy Shit! Did you SEE THAT!" You get: "Oh yeah, this is that cool part from the trailer I've seen thirty times. I wonder where I put my Twizzlers"


I would love to see movie marketing that only did a teaser trailer and then built the rest of the hype without showing any additional scenes. It seems like it would be fairly easy to shoot extra footage during principal filming that is specifically for commercials and marketing. You then get the best of both worlds. More insight into the story without spoiling of the actual film itself. For action films in particular, word of mouth marketing would become much more powerful. Instead of, "Oh, man! There was this awesome scene where he jumped on a helicopter! Here, check it out from the trailer." The last sentence would become "You HAVE to go see it!" Since I don't expect this change, I'll just do my best to avoid trailers for movies I really want to see. (If you have tried this yourself, you know it's much harder than it sounds.)


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