Technology Archives

January 18, 2012

Teens, old married couples, and sharing passwords

Happy password-sharing teenage girl

There's a front-page story in today's Times about teenagers who demonstrate their love for each other by sharing their email and Facebook passwords, such as the smiling Alexandra Radford, above. Alexandra and her high school boyfriend changed their email passwords to "ILoveKevin" and "ILoveAly" while they were dating, but she admits, “We did it so I could check his messages because I didn't trust him, which is not healthy.” No kidding.

The readers' comments offer a lot of predictable finger-wagging about how naive and silly it is to give your 17 year-old boyfriend free access to your email and the difficulty kids these days seem to have grasping any sense of privacy or boundaries. One comment points out the clever way a young person might share their passwords with their friends and still maintain privacy: have multiple email accounts.

This sensible advice reminded me of my parents, and their one email account which they share. I suspect I'm not alone in this. Even though they could create as many free email accounts as they want, and though they regularly use their shared account to communicate secret birthday present ideas for each other and things that the other one isn't supposed to read, my parents seem to feel that having one shared email address is like having one bank account--it's just what you do when you're married. My brother gently pointed out during a weirdly pretend-private email conversation about Christmas present planning: having separate email accounts doesn't mean you love each other any less.

The high school kids in the Times article are essentially demonstrating the same boundary-free devotion to each other as a couple that's been married for 43 years, which suggests a worrisome misjudgement of the stability and trustworthiness of teenage relationships. But it's interesting to me that no one I know in my generation would share their main email account with a boyfriend, or give their girlfriend their email password. Optimistically, that might be because we might find more meaningful ways to express closeness and trust, or more cynically, maybe we're jaded enough to know password sharing is a guaranteed relationship catastrophe.

Teenagers and our parents: sharing the struggle to understand how email works.

August 19, 2009

Bake sales and teen flicks

Soterious Johnson and Richard Hake baking

  • WNYC made a ridiculously twee little movie with an extended gag about having a bake sale to raise money. Goofy, but it's cool to see Brian Lehrer, Jad Abumrad (whose dessert I would actually eat,) Leonard Lopate, Brooke Gladstone, Terrance McKnight, and our faves Richard Hake and Soterios Johnson (above) all pretending to be terrible bakers. Best YouTube comment: "Soterios Johnson is white?"
  • Interesting op-ed about how struggling newspapers should switch to a nonprofit model like Harper's and Mother Jones.
  • The good news: the first real video inside a print magazine. The bad news: it's a "Two and a Half Men" clip and a Pepsi ad in Entertainment Weekly. I like pop culture just a little bit less now.
  • Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch, my favorite movie of 2011, now has Jon Hamm in it, playing a character named High Roller. OK, I guess I like pop culture again.
  • Maybe you've seen ads for this new movie Bandslam. Did you assume it was another cruddy pre-teen High School Musical spinoff? Me too!

    Did you know it might actually be a cool movie that's a victim of bad marketing, and features a scene in the abandoned CBGB's where, according to the Washington Post review, the main character "spots an old Patti Smith poster and gasps in awe, 'Do you know how many times she must have spit on this floor?'" And has a David Bowie cameo? Me neither!

July 22, 2009

The unleakable Jay-Z

Jay-Z is unleakable

Jay-Z says he's going to hand deliver The Blueprint 3 to the London office of his current label, Atlantic, as part of his efforts to stymie leaks in advance of the official release in September.

And this is going to prevent leaking how, exactly? Is he also going to hand-upload the album on iTunes, hand press the CDs, and hand deliver them to stores and distributors and reviewers and ad agencies and movie studios and the billion other people that will get promotional copies?

A guy like Jay-Z can't believe that physically shepherding his album to the label will have any impact on whether it gets leaked or not, so why would he tell everyone about this strategy? To throw down the gauntlet to would-be leakers--steal this, bitches! Or maybe this way, when and if tracks are leaked, he can lay all the blame on the label. Or most likely, announcing he's hand delivering the album makes it seem more desirable and precious and therefore worth the low low price of $14.99 at the record store Amazon.

As he said when explaining his change of labels, he's an entrepreneur. Which some might say is a word that better describes a band that self-releases their albums or makes their music more freely available online, rather than an artist who futilely attempts to keep the inevitable digital dissemination of his album from happening so that it can only be purchased from a gigantic media corporation. Incidentally, Atlantic now sells more than half of its music digitally, like through iTunes and ringtones which, along with Auto-Tune, get no love from J.

Even if Jay-Z is sleeping with the new album under his pillow every night, he's going to release a second track this Friday: "Run This Town", with a 100% Auto-Tune-free Kanye and Rihanna. Also, the album will be released on September 11, like the first Blueprint album was, even though that's a Friday. I guess 9/11 is his lucky day.

June 3, 2009

Microsoft makes you the decider

Bing ad still

Microsoft has launched its new search engine, Bing, and tonight will start showing some TV ads to try to get more than 8% of the market share to use it.

The ad starts with a montage of lots of the internet memes we've come to know and love. The still image above has a bunch of them--you've got the OK Go video, Chocolate Rain, Dramatic Chipmunk, Afro Ninja, the cat on the piano, the monkey on the laptop, Perez Hilton, and on and on.

Then a voiceover says, "While everyone was searching, there was bailing." Then we see images related to the financial crisis and bailout, and flashing text says we're all "lost in links" and suffering from "search overload", as though the current recession is somehow related to popular YouTube videos.

Anyway, then we move on to shots of smiling children using electronic devices, joggers, a rubber stamp that says "Let's go!", and the Bing logo. The voice-over narrator says, "It's time to *Bing*!" in falsetto.

This ad is a little bit better than the Google Chrome ad with the colorful toy blocks, but it seems to be targeted to people who don't enjoy the internet. The ad says that old search engines (Google) are for using interactive sites like YouTube and watching funny videos, and for reading news about the economy, which is more or less how most people actually use the internet. But this new search engine isn't about that: it's more focused, and it's for "deciding". The ad calls it a "decision engine", not a search engine. It's like Microsoft actually wants you to think "I'm the decider" while watching this ad.

Here are Bing search results for Bing Crosby and Steve Bing (number one related search for Steve Bing is Rick Santorum, ha!)

You can watch the whole ad on YouTube, that symbol of woefully outdated internet search, or just turn on the TV over the next few days.

May 26, 2009

Google: your guide to the 95% of the internet that is useless

Google vs. Facebook

pic by APC

During a protracted, sacred-cow-bashing bitch session the other day, a friend pointed out that Google is getting less and less useful for finding the things you want online. A generic search engine is fine if you have literally no idea where to find what you're looking for, but if you spend a lot of time looking for stuff online, it's often faster and easier to go to a site that pulls together information about a broad topic (like business news or movies or book reviews) and start searching there. Between a basic news aggregator like Yahoo News or Google News, the front page of the NY Times, Wikipedia, Amazon, IMDb, YouTube, Bartleby, and your social network of choice, you can find a lot what you're looking for on the internet without having to wade through a Google search that points to a lot of sites that aren't useful.

This is nuts, though, right? Google is supposed to be the easy-to-use guide that takes you where you want to go through the chaotic mess of the internet. Now it's the service that points you to one thousand robo-sites that reproduce the same inaccurate lyrics to Rihanna singles that every other robo-site offers, then tries to sell you a ringtone ("pictures, lyrics, pics, videos, photos, wallpapers, biography, news and much more!")

Useless content on the internet isn't Google's fault, but as a search engine, it has to get better at weeding out the garbage. This is where more specific sites like Facebook and Wikipedia come in. Sometimes the external links and references section at the end of Wikipedia entries is faster than a Google search to find some specific bit of information. And a lot of people would rather ask their group of friends for advice on a bar with a good jukebox or a book to bring on vacation instead of wading through 200 book blogs by PR account assistants.

One good thing about Google searches is that the first response you get is often a link to the Wikipedia entry (examples: Cyclops, "Maude", cadaver, philanthropy, Colorado River, quinoa, and Doug Henning.)

Lately there have been headlines like "Facebook Could Kill Google" because Facebook is getting users a lot faster than Google is, and because Facebook is now responsible for almost 20% of Google's traffic. And 45%(!) of people on the internet use Facebook as their homepage.

This week a Google product manager said that for many users, social networks are more trusted than an anonymous search engine because the results they get are better. If you want to know the capital of Tunisia, you'd use Google, but if you want to find out about restaurants, you go to Yelp or Facebook.

Maybe after the orgiastic explosion of new websites that happened over the last 7 or 8 years, the internet is starting to contract into a handful of sites that provide reliably useful information. When you're searching around blindly, you might want Google to show you a huge, sort of random list of sites related to what you're looking for. But as people start to get more comfortable with the internet and how it works, they won't want their searches to show them everything on it.

January 9, 2009

My First Tilt-Shift

There are some great examples of the tilt-shift photography miniaturizing effect at the Met's current exhibit, "Reality Check", with Naoki Honjo's "Tokyo, Japan" photo [thanks, DLK Collection]. And probably everybody saw yesterday's BoingBoing post about a website that approximates tilt-shifting with any photo you upload, TiltShift Maker.

I tried it with a couple of shots--fun! But as with all kinds of photography, I'm not very good at it. The online program seems to work best with shots of landscapes or groups of people that have a foreground, middle ground, and background.

Miniaturized Andy Goldsworthy stone wall at Storm King:

tilt shift Andrew Goldsworthy


Miniaturized stage set-up at the Bridgeport Brewing Company in Portland:

tilt shift Bridgeport Brewery


November 17, 2008

Presidents and email

Bush on a video conference

"Since I do not want my private conversations looked at by those out to embarrass, the only course of action is not to correspond in cyberspace. This saddens me. I have enjoyed conversing with each of you."

That's the email that Bush sent out to friends and family just before his inauguration in 2001, announcing his self-imposed moratorium on sending emails during his presidency.

There are a few great little details about that email, which is like a miniature time capsule of email communications in the early part of our decade. "Cyberspace"? William Gibson invented the word in 1982, and at the time of Bush's reference it was probably still a relevant word. The Wikipedia entry gently points out that in recent years it has "lost some of its novelty appeal."

Also, his private email address: You've got the date-specific address that looked behind the times about 30 seconds after he created it (94 is probably a reference to the year he became governor of Texas.) And, of course, AOL.

The Times predicts that Obama will send out some version of the same message before long, since all presidential correspondence is part of the public record. The emails that he will probably stop sending for the next 4 years are reportedly "crisp, properly spelled and free of symbols or emoticons" though he sometimes sends out short exclamations too ("Sox!"). (Isn't that what texting is for?)

AP says, "Often a president uses the equipment of personal assistants," suggesting that Obama might keep emailing using his aides' BlackBerrys. Sneaky. He'll probably have a few favorite staffers that let him use their BlackBerry and bum the occasional cigarette too.

June 30, 2008

IM movie clips

Sidney Pollack in Tootsie

A new service called PopTok allows users to insert video one-liners of movies into instant messages and email. Creator Illi Edry describes the inspiration for his service:

"Everybody quotes films. We produce one hour of television broadcasting for prime time at a cost of millions and at the end of the day, people quote one sentence. I came to the realization if the one hour is supporting that sentence, let's keep the sentence."

Of course, it's this mentality that led to the whole world repeating "You're so money!" and "Yeah baby!" over and over again in 1997, but I see his point. (Damn, my references are old. I just can't think of any annoying catchphrases from Iron Man.)

The service is being tested now, but they say they already have 2,000 snippets licensed from studios that you can drag into your IM conversations. Neat!

The site offers a few examples of their available clips, which are mostly famous 2-3 second bits from movies like Austin Powers, American Psycho, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Borat, Scarface, some Bugs Bunny, and a Kanye video.

I thought I'd suggest a few clips I'd like to see:


December 19, 2007

The future of music, according to David Byrne and Thom Yorke

David Byrne and Thom Yorke hanging out

The good folks at Wired completely understand what people like me want in this world: they got David Byrne to interview Thom Yorke about the digital release of the Radiohead album, the future of music, and pretty much everything that's strange, wrong and/or interesting about the music industry.

It's not too long, worth reading. There are also lots of audio snippets of their conversation. But here are a few highlights:

  • Radiohead made about $3 million from download sales of the "In Rainbows" album, which is more than they have ever made from all digital sales of their earlier albums combined.
  • This is probably because EMI, their former label, gave them exactly $0 for digital sales of their music. Wow.
  • David Byrne makes most of his money from licensing. Radiohead make most of theirs from touring. Albums sales hardly enter into it.
  • In spite of everything, both guys still think releasing albums, rather than a song here and there, makes sense. Yorke: "Songs can amplify each other if you put them in the right order." He says it would have been snobby not to release an actual CD of their album.
  • This is probably already obvious to everyone, but Thom Yorke explains it well: The old system where labels sent advance copies of CDs to the media so the albums could be reviewed in the press pre-release was all for the goal of making albums chart high in the first week they were released, which nobody really cares about besides labels--bands or fans sure don't. And this very practice is what allowed (and encouraged) people to leak and download music pre-release, which has largely brought about the nosedive in CD sales over the past few years. You manipulate the fans, they bite you in the ass.
  • Best part of the interview: both guys realizing that record labels are spending all their time worrying about distribution and DRM and licensing and suing people if they think they're getting ripped off-- which is all just "the delivery system". They have forgotten why people buy music in the first place. Byrne says, "people will still pay to have that experience"--connecting with music they love. Yes, yes, yes.

Great stuff.

In related news, MTV calls 2007 The Year The Industry Broke, with a blow-by-blow recap of all the events signaling the end of the music industry as we know it. There are a lot.

August 21, 2007

MTV and Rhapsody: taking digital music a few steps back

MTV and Rhapsody

MTV announced today that they're scrapping Urge and teaming up with an online music service you've probably never heard of called Rhapsody to offer digital music to its viewers. Membership plans under the new partnership haven't been announced yet, but of all the online music download services I've ever seen, Rhapsody's looks like the worst. The service is part of Real Networks, the people who brought you the worst media player of all time, RealPlayer.

Here's the offer: you pay $12.99 a month, and can listen to all the music you want on your computer. But no downloading or anything. If you want to download music, it costs $14.99 per month, and you can then download your music onto a Rhapsody-compatible MP3 player, which does not includes iPods.

And if you want to download a song onto your computer, it costs another 89 cents per track! After you've already paid 15 bucks a month just to put music on your cruddy-looking SansaRhapsody MP3 player, you have to pay again if you want to be able to burn a song onto a CD! You can also download your songs onto your cellphone, but only if you have a contract with Verizon.

And of course it goes without saying that even these purchased tracks come with DRM that limits copying to 5 computers (with the exception of Universal, who are offering their songs without restrictions starting today.)

What kind of deal is that? Considering that the other big news today in online music is that Wal-Mart is offering DRM-free downloads for a mere 94 cents each, MTV/Rhapsody isn't looking so tempting. A year ago Rhapsody had only 4% of the online music market share, so they've got a lot of work to do.

MTV is assuming that people are going to keep buying bigger and better combined phones and MP3 players. Wired bets that the next big iPhone-related announcement from Apple will be that iTunes tracks can be downloaded wirelessly with an iPhone, since that seems to be the main thing iTunes can't do yet.

July 12, 2007

NY Times reveals unbearable new office stress you probably didn't realize you were suffering

Marilyn on two phones

I'm beginning to think the NY Times' weekly "Life's Work" column by Lisa Belkin exists solely to drive me up the wall.

Today's column is about how totally impossible it is to get anything done at work because of all the different newfangled ways there are to reach people nowadays. Instead of just having phone numbers, some people that you want to contact also have email addresses. And not only that, some people also have cell phones! And one or two sadistic monsters of the corporate world who want nothing more than to trample upon your human spirit even make use of text messaging!

Seriously, this weekly column is supposed to be about navigating the complexities of the world of work, and this one is about the struggle to figure out whether you should email someone or call them.

It's especially bizarre because in most cases she mentions where a person has more than one form of contact information, they actually come right out and tell her and everybody else how they prefer to be contacted. Some have voicemail messages that say "I don’t check messages here too often, so if you want to reach me in a timely fashion please e-mail me."

Is that really so confusing?

Apparently it is. Belkin writes, "Does he or she hate e-mail, letting it build up in the inbox, but quick to answer the cellphone on the first ring? Does the person refuse to carry a cellphone, but grab the office line through the Bluetooth that is literally attached to one ear?"

Then she answers these frantic questions with an example of one of these she-demons of modern communications, Jeni Hatter who works at Rollins College in Florida: "I prefer to be contacted on my cellphone. It is immediate, and it is always with me." HOW DARE SHE?!

Actually, like most of her examples, it seems like Belkin personally has no problem with just telling people the best way to contact her. She describes an anecdote in which her voicemail message encouraging callers to email her for a faster response prompted one man to leave a message saying "That is so rude. Who do you think you are?"

Maybe Belkin is onto something, here. Maybe the world really is full of easily-offended, helpless people unable to cope with the labyrinthine world of office communications. John Corzine announced today that he will no longer be using email, at all, after realizing through an investigation that emails written from public office accounts are public record. He says he's going to shun not only email, but apparently also telephones, fax machines, dictaphones, and two aluminum cans with a piece of string tied between them: "We'll go back to the 1920s and have direct conversations with people," he huffed.

April 27, 2007

Buy a remote round

buy your friend a drink

Wired features a web service called Buy Your Friend a Drink that lets you get a round for your friends without actually having to spend time with them.

Sounds like a great service for generous but absent friends, or for people who would have loved to attend their work colleague's birthday party if it were not being held at Calico Jack's on 42nd St (which unfortunately is one of the relatively few bars that is currently participating in this service) but still want to buy them a cocktail.

It's currently operating in New York. And Hoboken, which I guess makes sense, since what else is there to do in Hoboken but find novels ways to drink. Wired says they plan to expand the number of bars where you can redeem the drink credits that your friends buy for you, and also start up on the west coast. It sounds like the kind of neat and easy gift idea that I hope I would remember to give people (and sort of hope people would give me) but that I wonder how many people will actually think to use. But if you have to start hanging out at Senor Swanky's to get some free drinks from your suddenly altruistic and considerate friends, it's a small price to pay.

February 27, 2007

YouTube ruins it for everyone

no more Twisted Sister

Great post on Fimoculous yesterday about YouTube and the death of video culture. Remember when YouTube was still an exciting new resource that totally changed the way people thought about once obscure material, music videos, clips from tv shows and movies? When you could think, hey, I wonder if the song by Frazzle and the Frazzletones from Sesame Street that I loved so much when I was 4 is up there, and it was?

Well, not anymore, it's not. The best demonstration of YouTube's recent decline is Fimoculous' methodical revisiting of a wonderful Pitchfork feature from last June, 100 Awesome Videos. I was pretty excited about this video collection myself. It was article that took a lot of work, and now it's mostly useless, because fewer than half of the 100 videos that used to be freely available on YouTube are still available there. The rest of them have been replaced by the "This video is no longer available" notice of doom.

No more Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It", no more ODB's "Got Your Money" [note: the Pitchfork links don't work anymore, and though right now you can search for and find new posts of these videos on YouTube, it's only a matter of time here]. I understand about intellectual property and artists getting their due, but this seems like a poorly-conceived knee-jerk restrictive approach to all video media that only aggravates fans and prevents the public from learning about new things. How is this helping anybody? And I'm not just saying that because we got banned.

Rex says, "I try not to be polemic about these matters on this blog, but I find it hard to believe this is good for anyone -- artist, label, critic, fan, and, especially, the marketplace of ideas."

January 9, 2007

CES vs. Macworld

The latest products from Apple were just announced at Macworld, and they're as sleek and gorgeous as you would expect. And functional! The iPhone combines phone, iPod, and PDA, and appears to automatically switch functions when you want it to by reading your mind.

Take a look at the new hotly anticipated iPhone, which as ADM says, looks like something out of Minority Report.


Lots more pictures.

Meanwhile, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, the rest of the world is unveiling some nice new stuff, and also some clunky, unstylish pieces of crap. A photo of the VenMill Industries "Skip-Away", courtesy of Wired.

Skip-Away, unbelievably hideous

The "Skip-Away" is apparently supposed to fix your CDs so they don't skip, but the title also serves as a warning of what you should do to get away from this hideous thing "quickly, or the ugly may rub off on you," as one commenter puts it.

Perhaps inspired by my favorite of the John Hodgman Get A Mac commercials ("I have some very cool apps. Yeah, calculator. Clock.") non-Apple electronics companies displayed bold new innovations such as a CD player and a clock radio at CES.

Way to go, guys! How about getting a reel-to-reel tape deck into next year's show?

October 17, 2006

Mail order brides stalled by anti-commercial-romance legislation

Russian mail order brides

The NY Times today has a pretty standard piece on men who buy wives for themselves through internet "don't call it mail-order" dating/marriage sites. As if not being able to get anyone in your own country to marry you weren't bad enough, these guys are suffering through some added inconveniences at the hands of their own government.

Congress created the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act, or Imbra, in March. The legislation "is intended to give foreign women and the American government more information about the men who seek so-called mail-order brides." In other words, Congress recognized an alarmingly fast rise in reports of abuse from women who came to the US to marry guys they met online. So they made a law that gives these women more information about the criminal record and marital history of their future husbands before they pack their bags and become legally bound to a man who has gone out of his way to find a wife who has no way of knowing any objective information about him. Men must now also provide this information to the government when applying for a fiancée visa. Sounds like a great idea, right?

Not so, according to the buyers. The customer is always right, and that should extend to spousal transactions, say purchasers of foreign brides. “We should have the right to correspond with, date and marry the person of our choosing,” said David Root, who has been involved with many women from the former Soviet Union in the past decade but has not married any of them. “The government shouldn’t interfere in this.”

He may have a point--Americans can indeed marry whomever they please. And it's not like they're forcing these women to leave their homes for a lifetime of marriage to a man who is often, let's face it, a total stranger. The man that the NY Times story follows, Adam Weaver, sounds like a nice enough person who was seeking an "old-fashioned girl", and now just wants to marry his Colombian fiancée (she's 17 years younger than he is, does that mean she qualifies as a "girl"?) without a lot of delays.

But some men who get into foreign marriage services clearly are delusional: there's a hilarious example in Sam Smith, who owns a company called I Love Latins, based in Houston [site not really safe for work]. In explaining the appeal of his service, he says, “It all started with women’s lib. Guys are sick and tired of the North American me, me, me attitude.”

"Me, me, me", huh? And what kind of attitude is it that compels a wealthy American man to search for another human being on a shopping site using criteria like age, weight, height, religion, and command of English, and then pay thousands of dollars for this probably low-income person from a poor country with few or zero opportunities for a stable life to leave their home and enter into a legally-binding contract with them that allows that person to live legally in the US only if they remain married? That's altruism! Right, Sam Smith?

March 14, 2006

Spam, direct from Winesburg, Ohio

Not sure if anyone else has documented this yet, but apparently some spammers are big fans of Sherwood Anderson.

We received the following email from someone using the nom de spam "Nysse Sterne":

--- Nyssa Sterne  wrote:

> Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2006 17:12:05 -0800 (PST)
> From: Nyssa Sterne 
> Subject: Re: Your wife.
> To: [redacted]
> Multiple orgasms - Cum again and again!
> Have you ever wanted to impress your girl with a
> huge cumshot?
> Its easy, just follow here
> stock, the respect of Colonel Tom Rainey and the
> directors, the fear of
> for days stayed in Sam's mind as a kind of
> realisation of the part he
> mother and boy had stayed with the girl, out of
> sight in the house, sick

Can you guess which part the spammers wrote, and which part is mangled Sherwood Anderson? I wish I could say I immediately recognized the Anderson passages, but instead I had to rely on my old literary assistant Google (just like when I was teaching and had to show disappointed mothers that their 14-year-olds didn't really write that precocious analysis of Waiting for the Rain). Turns out these literary fragments are taken from various chapters of Anderson's first novel, Windy McPherson's Son.

This makes sense: the erotic promise of multiple orgasms followed by a quick taste of one of America's finest short story writers is the perfect combination of the hard and soft sell. If the spammers keep this up and vary the authors a little bit, I might be able to make it through Light in August after all.

And that might be even more impressive than a huge cum shot.

February 28, 2006

Arts and Crafts: Apple's Intel commercial mashed up with Cronenberg's Scanners +


You heard about the Intel-based Mac minis that came out today? How about last month's kerfuffle over Apple's Intel ad, which is derived from a Postal Service video by the same directors?

That stuff is cool, but not as cool as David Cronenberg's 1981 sci-fi classic Scanners, in which people can telepathically explode each other's heads.

Which is why I've mashed up Apple's Intel ad with video from the "clean room" scenes in Scanners:

If you play it side-by-side with the original Apple ad, you'll note that it matches pretty much frame-for-frame.


  • Right-click the links and choose "Save as..." to download the videos. (For some reason, they tend to crash my PC when I try to view them directly in the browser. Sorry if this happens to you.)
  • Download the latest version of Quicktime if you can't play the video.
  • Besides lots of editing and a couple dissolves, I didn't alter any of the shots, except to slow some of them them down and, in one case, I reversed the camera motion.
  • I made it on my Mac using free/open source software software like Handbrake and free-ish software like MPEG Streamclip and iMovie.

Earlier: Lazy Sunday video remixed with kids rapping

February 13, 2006

Science and Technology Awards

George Lucas wins National Medal in Technology

Today Bush awarded 15 National Medals of Science and Technology to some of the most revolutionary, innovative thinkers in our country. And George Lucas.

Bush said, "From Thomas Edison's light bulb to Robert Ledley's CAT scan machine, most of America's revolutionary inventions began with men and women with a vision to see beyond what is and the desire to pursue what might be," which in George Lucas' case apparently means seeing beyond your universally loved trilogy of movies and pursuing what might be the lamest, most disappointing climax possible to the cinematic mythology that defined our young generation.

Recipients contributed important work in genetics, found whole new fields of mathematics, created GPS technology, developed the semiconductors we use in pretty much all our consumer electronics, and greatly improved detection of HIV and Hepatitis C. And seriously thought that Hayden Christensen was a good choice to embody the eternal struggle between good and evil.

Way to go, George Lucas! At least you also made some decent video games.

February 7, 2006

Google News censorship in action

Wu Xianghu, a Chinese newspaper editor, has died from his injuries after Chinese traffic police "beat him up for an expose about exorbitant electric bicycle licence fees."

Google News has lots to say about it:

google news

What about Google News at Well, not so much:

google news china

Keep up the good work, Google! We thank you on behalf of the billion+ Chinese people who have no idea this is even an issue.

[Thanks to computerbytesman's side-by-side comparison tool that made this easier.]

January 9, 2006

Robot-on-the-Spot: Robots in Brooklyn!

If you're walking down Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn - look out! You may see some robots on the loose.

Robots in brooklyn
More robots in brooklyn

The robots are part of a display by Bennett Robot Works (aka artist Gordon Bennett) called "40 Robots" - a collection crafted from found industrial materials like used car parts, cameras, radios, and fire alarms. It looks like they've been up there since October, but I just noticed them a few weeks ago.

At first I was intrigued, then charmed. Now I stop and visit with my robot friends every time I walk past. My favorite is Detecto, but I am also partial to Captain.

The best thing about these robots is that they are for sale, and I imagine they make excellent gifts! In fact, you probably wouldn't even have to wait until someone's birthday. You could probably get one for me them right now, and they would be totally happy, I bet.

November 20, 2005

Strange stuff on the MySpace profile of girl whose parents were murdered in PA +

I'm really sorry if this is incorrect information or I have the wrong person or whatever, but...

It seems like the MySpace profile of the girl involved in last Sunday's Pennsylvania murder/kidnapping has put a cover of the song "Sunday Bloody Sunday" in a continuous loop on her MySpace page, along with the tagline, "life goes on..."

Anyway, here's a screen capture in case the profile changes.

I have no idea whether this is really the site of that girl or not, but it sure seems to be. It was a public profile when I came across it shortly after the murders and it has since been marked private.

I'm not passing judgment here. I just thought the choice of music is notable, though I'm not sure what is intended by it.

Update [11:40 am]: She changed it. The music is gone, and the tagline is different.

November 4, 2005

Unintended Consequences

Check this out:

The 19-y-o killer in this story from California learned what ammunition was best and learned where to get it by posting to this forum, which original thread participants realized post-facto in this thread.

[via waxy]

October 13, 2005

Stormtroopers in Times Square

Stormtroopers in Times Square

Sadly, this is a Reuters photo, not a Robot-on-the-Spot (though I must have narrowly missed these stormtroopers in Times Square this morning.) These poor guys who had to walk through today's miserable wind and rain while dressed as stormtroopers are promoting the release of new LucasArts video game Star Wars Battlefront II, and the DigitalLife electronics/entertainment event at the Javits Center this weekend.

DigitalLife will feature the as yet unreleased new Xbox 360 that you can play some games on, and celebrity appearances by Wayne Brady, Redman, and Carmen Electra.

August 24, 2005

Google Talk and Eva Moskowitz

Since I still can't decide which of the Democratic mayoral candidates to vote for in the primary next month, I'm focusing instead on the Manhattan Borough President race. And, as a tie-in to the launch of Google Talk, here is the first Google Talk conversation between ADM and Amy, which regards one of the candidates.

ADM: hello???
Amy: what do you want.
ADM: what do you mean what do i want. i'm writing to see if it [Google Talk] worked or not.
Amy: I know. I was being wry. It worked! Thanks.
ADM: ok bye
Amy: Did you see the Eva Moskowitz for Borough President flyer in the mail? You can see straight down her shirt in one of the pictures. I mean, come on, Eva! Button it up.
ADM: that's like the christmas card episode of seinfeld.
Amy: I know. It's not as bad as a nipple, but you can see that hollow middle-aged woman inter-breast cavity thing. It's sort of gross.
ADM: it's not as good as a nipple either.
Amy: ok bye
ADM: ok bye

Here is the flyer photo of Eva Moskowitz that maybe isn't the one I would have selected if I were running for public office.

But I still like her; here's her campaign site.

April 12, 2005

In case movies aren't overloading your senses enough


Sony has submitted a patent for a new device that would enhance the movie-watching experience by shooting ultrasound waves at your head while you sit in the theater, to create "sensory experiences" that correspond to action in the movie. These brain-manipulations could involve taste or smell, or make you think someone is touching you. (Heh. That's hot. Or scary. Depending.) Presumably, it could also make blind or deaf people experience movies in ways that they couldn't otherwise.

The Daily News chronicles some earlier attempts to manipulate the senses of movie watchers, all of which have awesome names, and all of which ultimately failed to catch on. The most famous is Smell-O-Vision, from 1960's Scent of Mystery. But many lesser-known interactive ideas were pioneered by "King of Ballyhoo" William Castle, a gimmicky thriller director from the 1950's and 60's who wanted his audiences to get that little extra boost, or electric shock, to enhance their viewing. The Daily News piece says, "Percepto, an invention used by exhibition hustler extraordinaire William Castle on his 1959 horror film The Tingler, was a less expensive failure. When characters let out screams in the movie, some viewers did, too, thanks to electrical buzzers that zapped them in their seats." The next year, Castle tried Illusion-O for the movie 13 Ghosts, in which viewers wore 3-D-like glasses that allowed them to see ghosts that were otherwise invisible. Castle used the Emergo 3-D technique in House on Haunted Hill with Vincent Price. During screenings of this movie, the theater pulled an big inflatable glow-in-the-dark skeleton over audiences to scare them.

Another later invention, not by William Castle, called Sensurround used 1,600-watt bass speakers placed around the theater, which shook the floors and walls of the theater during action scenes in movies. "While testing Sensurround before its 1974 debut with Earthquake, plaster was jarred loose from the ceiling of Hollywood's famous Grauman's Chinese Theater."

No mention is made in the article of the delightful John Waters scratch-n-sniff innovation, Odorama, from 1981's Polyester. Like its predecessors, it existed for only one movie.

March 23, 2005

The future of Europe today! Or in 2006, anyway


Remember a couple of years ago when France decided that their language, culture, and unjustified superior attitude were being threatened by popular usage of the word "email"? They decided to ban it from official use, replacing it with the French "courriel", which might have been a reasonable move that had some marginal impact on the world if they had done it, like, 10 years earlier.

Anyway, now all of Europe has made a similar bafflingly outdated gesture toward modernity by creating a new extension for internet addresses: .eu. Which will launch in 2006. It took the EU from 1997, when they first starting discussing the idea, until 2002 to apply to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers for the new extension. Oh EU, you silly Old World slow pokes, you!

October 13, 2004

Just put it on my chip, Bartender!


At last, at last! Today the FDA finally approved the implantable microchip VeriChip™ for medical use. VeriChip™ is already in use to keep your pets from getting lost (and similar radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags are used in everything from library books and ID badges), but the approval of the chip for medical information will open up a whole new world of possibilities. With VeriChip™, you will never again have to call your mom to ask your blood type. Instead, your doctor can simply scan the chip in your bicep, and the chip's serial number will link to all that information you can never remember.

"Whatever," I hear you say. "Why should I get The Chip for something so boring?" But wait! What if, like in the Mexico attorney general's office, you could implant The Chip in your employees to give them security clearance? What if, like Spanish clubgoers, you could use your chip to buy drinks at the bar? (This strikes me as both the most brilliant idea ever and also the most dangerous, kind of like using your credit card in the slot machines.) And the best part? Your VeriChip™ will last 20 years!

It's curious that VeriChip™'s parent company Applied Digital Solutions touts itself as specializing in "security". Security for who? I'm constantly amazed at how consumers in our surveillance culture giddily give up their personal information without any comprehension of who is using it, and how.

Here is one BBC correspondent's story of his night on the town with his chip.

Wikipedia on RFID tags and the controversy on their usage.

Or pre-register for your personal VeriChip™ here.

June 3, 2004

Friendster Goes (More) Corporate

Over a year after everybody in the universe got a Friendster account (including, of course, us--Friendster login req'd) Friendster is finally hitting the big time. They've got a new chief executive and a new plan for profitability through advertising. Whether or not they'll ever abandon their 'beta' status is anyone's guess, but if they're going to start selling ad space on their pages, they'd better clean up some of the many, many bugs that still mess up my profile all the time.

Apparently Friendster has 7 million members, but its daily usership has been declining for some time. From what I hear around the water cooler, people don't use it so much for dating or learning more about friends of friends of friends any more, but rather for creating funny pretend profiles for celebrities or fictional characters. Like the entire cast of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the animatronic Christmas TV special from the 1960's--Hermie the Elf/Dentist is into oral hygiene and hardcore gay porn. (Friendster login req'd) (tx Jim.)

But despite failing public interest in Friendster, their announced intention to become a successful corporate entity has gained it some good business press coverage, as mentioned in the Washington Post article linked above. However, the Village Voice article quoted by the Post about this cool new online service called Friendster is, tellingly, a year old. The Wall Street Journal might care about the business prospects of a "hot" web-based company, but the kids seem to have stopped caring.

April 19, 2004

Dial-up fans: a loving study

The NY Times can be a stick in the mud, and sometimes its writers appear to enjoy being behind on trends. Like an article last month about this great new service called "Netflix" that people really like. Now, they write a piece about the over 50 million Americans who are still using dial-up internet access. Their numbers are shrinking, but they still outnumber high-speed folks by 2 to 1. The article approaches dial-uppers with real warmth and understanding for their sometimes illogical aversion to high-speed: they are described as "neither Luddites nor laggards, but consumers content to pay for a service that is less than optimal, and at times even frustratingly slow, because they say greater speed is not worth the trouble." A retired lawyer says, "I bring a newspaper and sit and read" while waiting for downloads, and a 31 year-old HR rep says "I just tell [my friends] I'm more patient than they are." See, suffering through dial-up is a virtue! Morality issues are also raised by some users of dial-up, who "sheepishly acknowledge that they avoid admitting their low network speeds when they are with their better-connected friends." Be proud of yourselves, patient low-speeders of the world: The New York Times will stand by you.

Some of us, of course, use dial-up because it is still a lot cheaper, and we have high-speed at work for when we need to download big files of disco-dancing Bush games or streaming videos of William Hung mixed with the Star Wars light saber kid. A former journalist in California says it's just "fear and inertia" that prevent her from switching over. Service providers are working hard to overcome these factors, and it looks like married, older women will be the hardest group to convert. I wonder if the popularity of high-speed among young, single men and the success of internet porn sites might be (heh) connected?

April 1, 2004

Lots of Email

gmailAssuming that Google's Gmail idea is not an April Fool's joke, we could all have free email with up to a gigabyte of permanent storage space at our disposal -- enough for 500,000 pages of email. It raises questions like: (a) will people use it as a distribution system and upload archives of movies, mp3s, etc., into their accounts and then make their passwords public, and (b) how will they prevent people from signing up for multiple accounts, thereby taking more than their fair share of disk space.

Regardless of that, a reader on Slashdot recalls the good old days of 1994 when AOL quietly offered its users 40 gigabytes of storage space. Here's how it worked:

Each AOL account could have up to five screen names. Each screen name could have up to 550 e-mails in their Inbox. Each e-mail could have a maximum file attachment of 15MB. So...15MB times 550 is 8GB times 5 is about 40GB.
Although it seems like Gmail has to be a joke, it's being widely reported, including by the NYT's John Markoff.

March 5, 2004

Problems with Google News

Google News is a great service for tracking down a lot of current articles on a given topic, but the much-vaunted robotic editor that assembles the headlines on the main page needs some work. For one thing, by its nature, it's never the timeliest of news sites: it won't "promote" something to the main news page until other sites have already posted it. This leads to problems on big news days: the day the space shuttle blew up, I think it took the Google News bot four hours or so to feature the story on their main page.

Additionally, others have previously noted that because Google includes non-objective news sites in its pool, some pretty biased stuff can show up on the main page, as long as the topic of the biased article is a hot news item that day.

As a result of the lack of human oversight, and the points mentioned above, tonight Google featured what may be the strangest headline yet on Google News:

This "news story" is essentially an advertisement that Google's newsbot is unaware is an advertisement. So, there are really 238 news stories related to this FREE devotional companion? Wow, Googlebot, you really scooped the competition on this one!

As you can see from the full size screen capture, the headline is right in there with all the other news stories, as if it were legitimate. If you click on the link from Google's site, you get a page that tells you just how FREE that devotional companion really is:

"The Passion: Reflections on the Suffering and Death of Jesus Christ" will be sent as a free gift to every WND reader who subscribes to WND's acclaimed monthly Whistleblower magazine, who renews their subscription or gives a gift subscription before the offer expires tonight at 10 p.m. Pacific.
The root of the problem stems from Google including sites like WorldNetDaily, which is unabashedly biased, in their pool of "news" sites. The problem is compounded because WND mingles ads in their own headlines, and Google's bot isn't sophisticated enough to tell the difference (as this example shows.)

There was a flap a while ago because unedited corporate press releases were showing up on Google News, too, as if they were actual news articles, so maybe it's time for Google to tweak their bot to be a little more discerning, at least when it comes to what appears on the site's main page, maybe by limiting the number of news sources that can be selected for a front page story (and maybe by splicing some spam-blocking code in there, too).

But then again, with the page being constantly in flux, maybe it doesn't matter: by the time I finished writing this post, the bot had replaced the FREE devotional companion "story" with one titled, "Campus reaction to Passion isn't so passionate" from the Yale Herald.

Update: Well, the news bot did okay today: Martha Stewart was found guilty on all charges 27 minutes ago, and it's already "above the fold" on Google.

December 30, 2003

Rich Friendster girls get nasty ++

We're all familiar with the Friendster Slut™, a person who includes mere acquaintances and middle-school crushes among their "friends" to make everyone think they are really popular, but these rich heiresses bring a new, more literal sluttiness to their profiles. Casey Johnson, of Johnson & Johnson, includes "sex, pills, pole-dancing, licking lollipops and making fun of desperate debbies" among her interests, and was at Bungalow 8 last fall when our favorite The Simple Life star Nicole Richie smashed a cocktail glass in the face of the son of the Calumet Farm horse breeding family. Says another rich Nicole in a testimonial: "casey is a fun loving hooker, she blows a good pencil weiner and likes it! she is coragous and addorible... will you be my sex slave?" And here I thought saying in my profile that I was in an "open marriage" was pretty wild. Here's the Robot's profile. Look at all those friends. If anyone has Casey in their Friendster network, let us know. Update: See below.

Note also that Casey is related to Jamie Johnson, who displayed the sordid lives of vapid heirs to the world in his documentary "Born Rich." -amy

Update: Apparently, Ivanka Trump is connected to Casey, et al., on Friendster. We know someone who is connected to all of them. This is someone who fills a special need in our lives: she is our FriendsterPimp™ (her word). Now, due to the highly questionable nature of pimping Friendster profiles to your less-connected friends, we can't reveal her identity, but we can share these Friendster profiles, hosted on our own servers*, so you don't even need a F. profile to view them: Bijou Phillips [bio], Casey Johnson [google]. We may have more in a few days: right now, our FriendsterPimp™ is busy slapping Ivanka Trump around for keeping too low a profile out on the streets lately. -adm

*Servers which, by the way, are hosted on a lighthouse station off the coast of the Isle of Man, outside any national jurisdiction.

September 12, 2003

Friday Fun!

Here's a little something I made for you. Two little somethings, really:

  • iTunes Library File XML parser. Put a copy of your iTunes library file (usually "iTunes Music Library.xml" which is found in your iTunes folder) in a web-accessible directory, paste the URL into the form, and your iTunes library will show up rendered as an HTML file sortable by artist, album, song, or file size. The resulting page is bookmarkable, too, so you can send it to people. See a small example.
  • For the less technically inclined: your very own secret decoder ring. I invented a method of encryption called PCP, aka Pretty Crappy Privacy. You can use it to encode text, and email the results to your partners in crime. They can then use the page to decode the secret message. I'll give you a dollar if you can tell me my encryption algorithm. Here's a little message to decode to get you started:
Have fun!

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