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<br /> <b>Strict Standards</b>: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method unfancy_quote::strip_quotes() should not be called statically in <b>/home/martingo/martingordon.org/blog/wp-includes/plugin.php</b> on line <b>166</b><br /> Martin Gordon's Blog / 2005 / July

Ahh! Under attack!

I woke up this morning to find 95 new emails in my inbox. Three of them were random (not spam) emails but the other 92 were blog-related emails. 90 of them were requests for moderation of comments in my 3 and a half month old Flickr post. The other two were comments that slipped through Wordpress' filters and were posted as comments.

The emails were dated (timed?) 7:41am through 8:09am, so all this took place within a half hour. Since it took me less than 5 minutes to clean up and only two comments actually showed up on the site, it just goes to show how futile these spam attacks really are.

iTunes inconsistency? No way!

I've been using iTunes 4.9 for a while now but just realized that iTunes decides when podcasts are marked as played and when songs are marked as played are completely different times. Songs are marked as played at the end of the song. They're removed from an "Unplayed" Smart Playlist and their play count is incremented at that time. Podcasts, on the other hand, are marked as played as soon as you start playing them. They don't have play counts, but the blue bullet next to each individual podcast disappears as soon as I start playing them.

I normally don't care about these small inconsistencies, but this one affects me, so I care :) See, podcast titles are long and the iPod screen won't display the whole title, so I have to play them to find out what episode I'm actually listening to. This causes issues when I sync only unplayed episodes to my iPod or when I want to listen to the oldest unplayed episode on iTunes. Hopefully Apple will fix this in 4.9.x or iTunes 5, but I'm sure it's not their #1 priority. It would be nice though.

Mr. A-Z

Jason Mraz's new album Mr. A-Z came out last Tuesday and I've had a chance to listen to it a couple of times already. I haven't had enough exposure to the songs to be able to comment on them seperately, but I will post some quick thoughts of the album as a whole.

  • Jason likes to write songs about writing songs and the record label bitch's experience (see the single, Wordplay, for instance).
  • Lots of great lyrics. This fulfills the desire for quality lyrics that I was left with after the lyrically-bare (but otherwise excellent) Stand Up.
  • Steve Lillywhite is the man. The production quality of this album is excellent. Lillywhite mixes different types of sounds (see Life Is Wonderful) and adds tiny decorations throughout that makes the album not just a recording of studio performances.
  • The opera bit on a song whose name escapes me at the moment is very cheesy. I really like the rest of that song but that bit just makes me cringe.
  • The eclectic mix of styles is refreshing and there is a good balance of fast and slow (but not too slow) songs. This is one of those albums that can be listened to straight through without getting bored.

Mr. A-Z is a solid sophomore (on a major label at least) studio album that's not as pop-ish as I had expected. Jason has said in interviews that he wants to return to his acoustic roots for his third album and I can't wait to hear what he cooks up next.

Broward County to get iBooks

Apple announced today that it'll be supplying 30,000 iBooks to K-12 students in Broward County Public Schools. With over 272,000 students, that's roughly 9 students an iBook, a bit worse than Henrico County's 3.7 students/iBook (which are to be sold for $50 each). The biggest difference though, is that BCPS is the 6th largest school district in the nation and hopefully this deal will make other school districts take a serious look at Apple for its computing needs for the first time in 10+ years.

With its unusually large IT budget (replacing computers every 2 years), I would have personally liked to see MDCPS (Miami-Dade County Public Schools) replace my high school's computers with something other than those god-awful Gateway Profiles and Dells. Alas, it's too late for me now, but if they act quickly enough, my sister will be able to use something a little nicer than those 60Hz 17" CRTs they love to decorate classrooms with.

(via MacMinute)

kcurT

kcurT
kcurT,
originally uploaded by Martin Gordon.

Saw this on the way to work today. It was a bit scary seeing the front of a truck a few hundred feet ahead of me. As I got closer, I discovered the truth.

Mapping Like It's 1999

Microsoft recently released its online mapping software, MSN Virtual Earth, in response to the excellent Google Maps.

Despite reports that Microsoft has nuked Apple's campus, it turns out they're using horribly out of date imagery. A quick look at Penn's campus reveals that Hunstman Hall has suffered a similar fate. Considering the groundbreaking ceremony was in 1999 and those satellite images show no sign of construction, I'd say the MSN Virtual Earth data is at least 6 years old. It is definitely older than 9/11 — the twin towers are still there.

I have nothing against Microsoft in particular, but they're just asking for it when they enter a market months after the competition with a clearly inferior piece of software. What resources does Google have at its disposal that Microsoft doesn't have to be able to get clearer, closer, not to mention color, satellite images that aren't more than half a decade old?

Shawshank Redemption (Minor Spoilers)

Per my boss Ramesh's recommendation, I finally saw Shawshank Redemption for the first time last night. I don't know why, but I expected it to be some kind of action movie. I'm glad it wasn't. It was a sweet story, but I found myself wondering sometimes if I should be sympathizing with these criminals (Tim Robbins excluded). I found the warden's character a bit inconsistent. First we see him as a Bible-toting, God-fearing man who turns out to be a bribe-taking murderer who, for purely selfish reasons, won't give a fellow Christian a chance at redemption.

The twist at the end was clever and had me going up until 30 seconds before it was revealed. Red's "final quest" was a bit sappy but I suppose it was the only way to wrap up all loose ends and leave the audience with a warm fuzzy feeling.

Overall, I thought it was a good movie, though not without its tiny flaws. It was definitely long overdue to be crossed off my "Movies to Watch" list. Next on the list: who knows?

Find-A-Human

Find-A-Human is a valuable resource for people who have spent way too much time fighting with automated voice systems. Find-A-Human currently has only 70 companies listed, but they have an easy-to-use submission system so I can see it growing quickly as more and more people find out about it.

I'm glad that they already have Amazon.com's phone number listed because they are notorious for hiding it on their website. I don't even think it's available there — I had to Google for it back in March when I ordered my camera.

Podcasts? ¿Qué?

I was listening to NPR this morning when they asked "Do you know what a podcast is? What about RSS? If you do, consider yourself special." In a recent survey, the Pew Institute discovered that only 13% of internet users surveyed know what a podcast is, and 9% of those surveyed know what RSS is.

I was somewhat shocked by this but after digging up the actual report, I learned that the survey was done in May/early June. Since this was before the release of iTunes 4.9, I was relieved to discover that the situation wasn't as dire as those "sensationalists" over at NPR made it out to be. Though these statistics are somewhat irrelevant now that Apple has brought podcasting into the mainstream, I thought it would be good to share this information so that we'll be able to truly see how successful Apple has been in exposing podcasts to the world once new data does comes out.

When will blogging peak?

Jeremy Zawodny from Yahoo asks "when will blogging peak?" When will blogs become "just another part of daily life for a bunch of people"?

When I think of something peaking, I think of it dying off completely on the other end. That's not going to happen with blogs. What I do think will happen is that fringe, low-traffic blogs will die out. The evolution of blogging is like pottery — you throw some clay on the wheel, probably a bit too much, but then you strip the excess and fashion a pot out of it. You may waste some clay in the process, but the pot you have to show for it will last forever.

Everyone likes to jump onto what they see as The Next Big Thing and that's where you'll get the huge spike in blogs we are experiencing now. Once those low-traffic bloggers see that their blogs have very few readers, for whatever reason (poor exposure, lack of postings, lack of compelling content, etc.), they'll quit blogging and go back to doing whatever they were doing before blogs existed. The only guys left blogging will be those A/B/C-list bloggers that do produce compelling content and do generate enough traffic to warrant the effort involved and those "fringe" bloggers that are too stubborn to quit. After all the dust has cleared, we'll have the 500 lb gorilla blogs and "mom & pop" blogs with smaller, but loyal followings amid a vast wasteland of rotting micro-blogs akin to the wasteland of mid-90s websites that featured scrolling marquees and yellow text on a background of stars built with Geocities' page builder.

The key to surviving is having a strong community built around blogs. I feel that online journals, like those on livejournal.com, will survive. The name says it all: these are journals, records of daily life, except that are shared with the world (or a select group of friends) instead of kept hidden under a pillow. They rely on a close group of friends to function. The "friends" list on these types of sites is easily accesible and commenting between friends is sometimes used as a substitute to IM. The difference being that journals (like blogs) are one-to-many instead of one-to-one. Another key difference is that these journals are for the most part uniform and there is authentication is site-wide, so members don't have to register each time they want to comment on a post and it is easy to hide posts from readers that don't have the proper authentication. Stand-alone blogging software just doesn't have this sort of integration.

To continue with Jeremy's online shopping metaphor, right now we have all these .com-types popping up everywhere thanks to the low cost of entry (only we replace VC funding with free and easy blogging software). After the peak and "crash", all that will be left are the big guys (Amazon.com, Buy.com, et al), the "mom & pop"-sized guys (i.e., Deep Discount DVD, NewEgg [to some extent], et al) and the niche, hosted players (eBay Stores, Amazon Marketplace).

This time, the winners and losers will be determined by the content producers and consumers, not by faceless investors and people trying to make a quick buck; this time, we're trading in trackbacks, not greenbacks.