TiVo Made Something Difficult?

The Washington Post has a review of the new TiVo ToGo service, which I’m still awaiting my service update for. The reviewer feels getting the media to your PC is too difficult for most users. I thought he might be refering to the fact that the TiVo desktop and the Sonic MyDVD aren’t as well integrated as he’d like (not that’d he know since the required update of MyDVD isn’t available yet). Nope. He thinks setting up the TiVo on a network is too difficult. Sure, I’m a geek and love that stuff, but it’s a wonder this guy can turn his laptop on.

My Life by William J. Clinton

Not so much a straight biography, but a autobiography from an American president who really understood all the presidents before him. The kind of perspective only someone with this position and his kind of love for history and politics could write.

My Life

While I began reading My Life by former President Bill Clinton back in the summer of last year, my reading of it was interrupted by the release of a installment in the Dune series (weird priorities, I know). However, I’ve been back on it recently, and I find the book well worth the time.

I suppose most people skimmed through the first half or more of the book just to read whatever salacious details about extra-marital affairs they could find, or simply imply. Honestly, I could care less. I always thought that was a little too personal for my business. What’s more, my opinion is this: it happened, he lied to congress, he was censured, I moved on. It’s not the most significant thing in the man’s life and I’m not going to spend anymore of this post or my time worrying about it. It’s not like a war got started over it…

Bill Clinton is, and probably always will be, a nerd of the Democratic party (or in politico-ease, a wonk). I mean this as a compliment, in that he is truly one of the modern times great minds in politics. He is a student of the game, so to speak. As A studier of history and as a person who lived through some of the countries more tumultuous times, he is able to put ideas and policy in perspective. As a candidate and as President, he received a lot of attention for his pain feeling abilities, but after reading more about his youth, I don’t really doubt him. However, it is a true love of politics that makes him a nerd. I get the impression that this is a man who seeks out political races like a compulsive gambler finds race tracks. Sure, he’s a progressive who wants change, but I think he also likes the challenge just for the sake of it.

The parts of the books I enjoy most, aside from some interesting tales of his youth, are the insights into America’s history. Mr. Clinton does an nice job of making Jefferson, Truman, and Kennedy all feel as though they were contemporaries as much as ancestors. Of course, he has intimate knowledge of making history, but he honestly makes America’s past seem not just interesting but relevant. I was aware from reading other books by staffers about the President’s love for reading and how he often would reference events in the lives of former presidents back to Washington for insight. This is what I was looking forward to in this book. Not so much a straight biography, but a autobiography from an American president who really understood all the presidents before him. The kind of perspective only someone with this position and his kind of love for history and politics could write. I’m sorry to say that up until now in the book, it has only been coming in snippets.

I can imagine critics not caring for the all-over-the-map style of writing. However, I love it. It adds a sense of place to every incident described. Sure, there are some goofy parts and some anecdotes that just seem out of place. On the whole, I’d say it’s a good read. I know that many of his detractors simply think this book is revisionist history. I’d say that if someone is going to attack the man and his work, the least you could do is read his side of the story, and here it is.

Rethinking My Youth

Virginia up until yesterday had a state law banning sex between unmarried individuals.

I thought I must of heard wrong a bit of local news on NPR yesterday, but no, it was indeed correct: Virginia up until yesterday had a state law banning sex between unmarried individuals.

The Washington Post reports that the state Supreme Court struck down an early 19th Century law banning fornication between unmarried persons. While rarely enforced, the law came into question under a defense move in a civil case regarding the transfer of an STD between two unmarried individuals during a two-year relationship. Apparently, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas anti-sodomy law in 2003, the good folks at the VA Supreme Court thought better of this Commonwealth’s both antiquated and quite stupid law.

Now, I must admit that I never had any idea this law existed. Further, as I mentioned previously, I thought I heard it right on NPR yesterday and tried to do some research on the internet last night. After about 10 minutes of using search engines and newspaper sites, I just gave up (No, that’s not trying very hard, I know). However, ignorance of the law is no defense. The real question for me is, would I have done anything any differently knowing what I know now? (Mom, if you’re reading this, I stop right about here) The answer is, I’d probably only have done it more. Civil disobedience should always be this fun.

Of course, The Commonwealth of Virginia is the same state that, up until the late 60’s, had a law banning interracial marriages. So, not only would my former life have been a series of enjoyable misdemeanors, my married life would have been illegal, since my wife is half-Korean. Which half, you ask? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist) Virginia’s law was particularly nasty in the pantheon of racist laws, in that it was one that laid out the various permissible ratios of heritage (1/16th negro, 1/4th American indian, etc.) that one could still be considered white. I’m pretty sure 1/2 Asian wasn’t in there, and chances are no one would have much cared, but here’s what the trial judge had to say upon exiling the couple in question from Virginia:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

This sounds like all the same rational for banning homosexual marriages: that because God obviously doesn’t want them, than neither should we. I’m not so sure that there’s a whole lot of evidence that suggests God doesn’t want two loving people to have a formal commitment. Further, I think that at some point in my lifetime, we’ll look back at today’s anti-gay-marriage laws and feel the same way about banning interracial marriage and unmarried sex: why did we ever have laws institutionalizing hate and criminalizing love?

U.S. Can’t Find Its Ass

The BBC reports some shocking news this morning; the United States has officially given up its search for Weapons of Mass Destruction. No, seriously. However, O.J. Simpson continues searching for the killer of his ex-wife and her friend on the golf-courses of America.

Will this affect the Iraqi elections held later this month? I doubt it. It didn’t seem to matter the folks here in the States, and I doubt people dodging suicide bombers much noticed the headline. Barnum was right, you can’t fool all the people all the time…

Apple Stakes Its Claim

Apple seems to be taking the Target approach to design. That is to say, great design needn’t be expensive.

It seems that the theme of this year’s Macworld Expo is going to be affordability . With the keynote speech announcements of the headless iMac, called the Mac mini, as well as the sporty iPod Shuffle; Apple seems to be taking the Target approach to design. That is to say, great design needn’t be expensive. You’ll make up the cost of the design in volume.

There was a great deal of speculation about the "headless" iMac online, leading to some law suits. It appears that the iHome was indeed a hoax, but on the right track when you take into consideration the Mac mini as well as the announcement of Final Cut Express HD. Of course, I’ve yet to play around with one, but a G4 Mac in a small square-ish box (stop me if you’ve heard this one) sounds like a cool little computer. Provided it doesn’t overheat like the cube. Based on what I know about the performance of the new iMac, I’d say it’s safe from overheating. They’re putting little fans in there just for good measure these days. All of that aside, I’m glad to see a well-designed Mac with some decent specs at what seems like a super price. Particularly since most of us already have a monitor, mouse, keyboard, & speakers we can plug into one. While I love the design of the iMac (which is, by the way, a G5 now, instead of a G4), if you already have those things on your desk, buying them again seems wasteful. Just buy a KVMS switch (like the one I have from Belkin for my PC & Linux box).

I am impressed with the iPod shuffle as well. Do I realize it’s just a USB key drive with a speaker jack & music player buttons? Of course I do. However, it’s a nicely priced one that happens to have the über-cool name of iPod attached. Demand greater than supply? Unless they’ve already produced these things buy the 100’s of thousands, than you bet. I bought a 1GB USB key for about $70 a few weeks ago, and I’m already wishing I’d just waited and bought this thing for twice that. I’m happy to pay premium for this kind of cool.

TiVo Hacks by Raffi Krikorian

In my impatience for TiVo To Go, I recently bought TiVo Hacks by Raffi Krikorianed.

In my impatience for TiVo To Go, I recently bought TiVo Hacks by Raffi Krikorianedstly useful hacks, like pretty much all of the books in the O’Reilly ____ Hacks series. I say mostly… who wants to make all of the text on your TiVo interface in italics (seriously, hack no. 9).

I’d say that of all the books out there for hacking your TiVo, this is probably the most concise and up-to-date. Of course, there’s part of the problem. If you have Series 2 TiVo, you trade off for nicer features with the inability to do many of the more popular hacks for the TiVo. You can’t use FTP to get your video off of your TiVo with a Series 2 becuase the video is scrambled on it. Okay, you can FTP it, but what’s the point? Anyway, none of this is the author’s fault, and he goes iinto some detail to explain exactly what models can do what.

The greatest hack, in my opinion, for any TiVo is going to be adding more hard drive space. You’re really not going to improve on the features of the UI by adding a screen clock and the whole web-surfing thing sounds fun until you remember that surfing with just a TiVo remote is going to suck (that’s why you have a laptop). Adding/replacing hard disks is the killer hack, and this book tells you pretty much all you need to know. Of course, all you may need to know is to just buy a kit from Bill Regnery. However, this book still goes a long way and I’d recommend it to anyone who owns a TiVo and is curious about what’s inside the box and how to make it do some cool tricks.

My Last Day

There’s some handwriting on the wall, but I can’t quite make it out…

There’s some handwriting on the wall, but I can’t quite make it out…

Many of you know that today was my last day working as a structural engineer for URS Corporation here in Richmond. My co-workers took me out ot a nice lunch at the nearby Mexican restaurant yesterday and pretty much all of my personal belongings have been brought home.

It has been good getting to work with all of the people there and I was able to work on some great projects. However, I came to realize that the kinds of projects I would most likely be seeing there were like the ones I had been doing. That being said, there wasn’t much promise of even more of the same coming. I didn’t expect I would be laid off, but I damn sure wasn’t about see another employee with kids or something get laid off before me, either.

I will admit that there were some times when I thought that the conversations on politics or religion were going to make my head explode. However, when you don’t have much in the way of workload, people tend to get into those kind of conversations. I for one think those are about as appropriate for a place of business as cut-off denim shorts, but that’s just me. All differences aside, I have been fortunate to work with a good group for the last three years.

I hope that all the people there at my old office will check in here often, as I’m sure I’ll have something to say about my new workplace. Also, that way, they can really get to know my opinion on all sorts of things I didn’t really care to discuss at work… such as cut-off denim shorts. Man, I hate those things…

TiVo To Go

There is a lot of news going around my household in this New Year. Not the least of which is the fact that tomorrow is the last day of my job at URS Corporation or that I have several new gadgets that don’t entirely work! That’s all for another time, though. This post is all about the TiVo.

TiVo announced the TiVo To Go service way back in January of ’04 and finally rolled it out on Monday. Well, they sort of rolled it out. They posted an updated version of TiVo desktop on their site and the newest version of the TiVo software will include the capabilities. Of course, the scheduled downloads for the box software don’t occur immediately. The best you can hope for is requesting priority and you might get it in the next few weeks. Further, there’s no Mac support as of yet.

Now, to be able to burn your recorded shows from your PC (again, not Mac as of yet) to DVD, you’ll use Sonic’s MyDVD v6.1, which was announced yesterday. I had a copy of MyDVD that was pre-loaded on my Dell Dimension 4600 Media Center PC. I didn’t really care for the interface, so I never really used it much. I purchased Nero 6 as soon as I got the PC and have used it ever since, especially since Nero soon added support for Microsoft’s .dvr-ms format mpeg video. That aside, a soon there-after bought a Plextor PX-708A DVD Burner and after a couple of frustrating days, finally learned that MyDVD + PX-708A = memory dump. Bad.

Sonic’s site lists the PX-708A as compatible hardware, so hopefully that problem’s fixed now. None-the-less, this is now one more piece of software that does something that another piece of software I already own does, with the exception of one tiny task which will cost around $50. Not to sound cheap, but why can’t TiVo and Nero get together on this as well? Since Bill Gates announced at CES earlier today that Microsoft’s going to support TiVo ToGo in Windows software, why can’t Nero be on board?

I’m addicted to TiVo and desparately want the ability to get my video files to and from the machine to some network storage or my PC. However, I’m not crazy about buying another piece of software that I wasn’t impressed with before to replace some software that I really like.

Lastly, on the TiVo front, they’ve been taking a lot of flack over their sollution to skipping over advertising. The idea is that when you fast-forward through 2 minutes (or so) of commericals, a static banner ad will pop up on the screen. Frankly, I don’t care so long as it doesn’t eat up my bandwidth. I’m watching people zip around the screen at 4x FF, what do I care if an ad is slapped over that? Ads are everywhere, and good ads are an artform. People get too upset over advertising to realize that when done right (and whose to say this won’t be), it helps the customer connect with a supplier. It does appear that some people seem to agree that this is a non-issue, and I think that no one is goign to get rid of their TiVo based on this. Further, this is a whole lot more tenable than the Senate’s stupid sollution to making fast-forward illegal!

After doing some further reading, I thought I’d post this link to a response on the TiVo commercial skip stuff from one of the product managers at TiVo.

Bridges In Wired

It’s like Wired magazine reads my mind or something. They continually print & post the coolest articles on everything I love. This is no different. David Goldenberg has written a nice (albeit short) article on what he states are the five top bridges in "a third golden age of bridge building." He’s made some nice choices, although a few too many cable-stayed bridges in my opinion. You can read the article in the January issue or online here.

The most hi-tech bridge I’ve worked on to date would be the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge in New Haven, CT. Called the Q-Bridge for short, it is an extradosed cable-stayed bridge, which will be the first of it’s kind in the United States. I worked on portions of the steel option, which would be the only steel extradosed bridge in world. Pretty cool stuff, although not the most likely option.

Music Industry

I thought I might post some of my thoughts on the music industry, where it’s at and where it might be going. However, if you aren’t familiar with The Long Tail, you have to read the article which appeared in the October issue of Wired Magazine. Go read it here now.

I thought I might post some of my thoughts on the music industry, where it’s at and where it might be going. However, if you aren’t familiar with The Long Tail, you have to read the article which appeared in the October issue of Wired Magazine. Go read it here now in a new Firefox tab and then come back here. Later, you can read all the arguments for and against the article at the web site for The Long Tail book.

Okay, so I have to admit that other than a brother and a good friend which most would consider indie musicians, I have absolutely no affiliation with the music industry other than the most common: consumer. That’s not to say it’s not an important role, though. I’m the guy who along with my millions of peers either buys or doesn’t buy the music. It does take me for this whole model to work. I do believe that it starts with the artist, though. The songwriters and performers are both the chicken and the egg here. That being said, I also believe that the middle men perform the most meaningless task in the process. I was recently reminded that coughing up the cash for marketing and mass-production could be seen as the most crucial part, and I’m sure that record executives feel that way about it, too. However, after reading this article, seeing how free journalism (read: blogs) can influence the entire country, and my own personal experience in meeting people from around the globe through my website; I’ve decided that this simply isn’t the case anymore.

Here’s my new improved model: instant access to the tip of the long tail. I put my music in digital format (this goes for books, etc, as well). I’ll pay for hosting the files on iTunes, Amazon, Tower, where ever I want I think I can find some toe-hold of a market. Then, I use word-of-mouth, playing shows, and blogs to find an audience. With sweat and luck, a number of recommendations start pointing to me. As long as these recommendations are genuine, and not like pay-for-play on some Clear Channel station, then they will work. People can listen before they buy and, assuming price is right, they will buy. So, I start to move up the tail some. Best part for all you Downhill Battle geeks, no record label. Period. If I want help with my marketing, etc. I join a musician & songwriter collective. This gains buying power and larger influence. This already works for independent grocery stores, pharmacies, and on and on; why not for musicians? The model for the music business is the most complex I’ve ever heard of. It doesn’t have to be this way. The technology available for communication between humans (which is pretty much what both marketing and music boil down to) is to a point that this model is now obsolete.

Now, I realize that being out on the skinny end of this long tail isn’t going to make stadium-playing-rock-gods out of my friends and family. It will, at best, pay the rent; and that’s going to be about as good as one can hope. But isn’t that much different than the way it is now? I’ve got as good a chance as playing starting forward for the Wizards as I’ve got going platinum, so what’s to loose? If you’re not U2, then not too much. However, the fact that the music industry protects itself doesn’t help someone on the verge of getting in. You start selling your songs on your own, and you’ll never get signed on to a major label. That’s a risk that would be tough if you feel like a deal with a label (major or indie) is just around the corner. However, for all but the best selling musicians these days, that’s not too big of a risk. Unless you’re in the top 10%(or so) of artists in terms of sales, you’re probably not getting much airtime or support.

As an aside, go read up on some great ideas on file sharing networks at the Electronic Frontier Foundation as well. Also, check out some of the links above. You’ll see that I’m pretty much just regurgitating some great ideas that are already out there, but you’ll also see I’m not alone in my frustration as both a listener of music and someone who gives a damn about artists trying to make a living. Lastly, if you like a song, buy the damn music!