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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/</b> on line <b>166</b><br /> Martin Gordon's Blog / news

Newspapers and Magazines by Home Computer

From the video:

Engineers now predict the day will come when we get all our newspapers and magazines by home computer, but that's a few years off. So for the moment at least, this fellow [video of a newspaper vendor] isn't worried about being out of a job.

Twenty-eight years later, he's finally starting to worry.

(via NSLog();)

Post-Strike TV Show Statuses

I woke up this morning to a link from my friend Adam to a handy San Jose Mercury News article listing out the status of all TV shows now that the writers' strike is over. As the article states, these statuses aren't final and are subject to change, although they will be updating them as new information is released. For those of you with the same exact interests at me, here's the status of my favorite shows:

  • "Heroes": No saving the world until the fall.
  • "Scrubs": Four episodes still unaired and was planning to produce four more in what is its final season. Status is now iffy.
  • "The Office": Will film as many as eight episodes for April and May.
  • "Big Love" (HBO): May be held until early next year.
  • "Entourage" (HBO): Back in the fall instead of the summer.

Shows that I also follow but weren't on that list are American Dad, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Family Guy.

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Eulogy for CompUSA

Word came last Friday that all CompUSA stores will be closing. While some have some horror stories about their experiences at CompUSA, I've never had any bad experiences. Looking back, however, CompUSA was the place where I had my first experiences with Macs.

The only place to really play with Macs back in 2001 was at CompUSA. At the time, there were few Apple Stores and the only one in South Florida was at The Falls, about an hour drive from me. So CompUSA was the first place I laid hands on an iMac, the G4 Cube, and others. It was the first time I played with OS X - I was amazed with it even though it was in it's terrible Public Beta/10.0 stage. I bought my first Mac at CompUSA - a 700 MHz G3 iBook, and my first iPod - an open-box 1st Generation 10gb iPod. Since then, Apple Stores have sprung up and I've only made smaller purchases at CompUSA, a memory card here, a hard drive there. I have memories dating back even further - I remember buying a 4mb stick of RAM and a 14.4 modem for our 386.

Despite being one of the recent contributors to CompUSA's demise, it will still be sad to see it go. I have a MicroCenter fairly close by, but Best Buy and Circuit City don't have anything on our dear old CompUSA.


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Perhaps The Most Ironic Post Title You'll Read All Day

Nick Bradbury on blog post titles:

As people subscribe to more feeds, the more they stop reading every unread item and instead just skim the titles looking for something that interests them. If you use boring titles for your posts, skimmers like myself are likely to skip right over them.

Ever since I did my media fast experiment, my Google Reader unread count has floated somewhere between 875 and >1000. Since I switched to more selective reading, I use List View instead of Expanded View and post titles more than anything push me to actually read an item. Another thing to be careful about - titles that are too news-y. If your post title reads, "XYZ Corp Announces ABC", then you need to go back to the writing board, so to speak. For one, a title like that often sums up enough of the entire post to suffice. In addition, a post title like that screams "Press Release regurgitation" and suggests that more of the same basic information that I probably read before. In this case, even "Thoughts on XYZ's ABC Announcement" is slightly better because it signals that you put more thought into the post than simply picking original-sounding synonyms to cover up the fact that not much, if anything, was added.

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More on The Media Fast Experiment

Today should be day 5 of my media fast experiment, but as I predicted/promised in my previous post, I would sneak a peek on Sunday. And so I did. In about an hour and half yesterday, I made it through 182 posts in Google Reader, less than half of the ~400 a day I was averaging prior to the experiment. Still, despite only lasting three days into the experiment, I've come away with some valuable insight.

First, and perhaps most importantly, bumming around the internet is no longer my go-to action when I've found myself with nothing to do. Even yesterday, when I spent time in Google Reader, I also found time to catch up on some posts for my other blog and even process and upload some photos to Flickr from my trip to Puerto Rico last March.

Google Reader's expanded view, which shows full posts in a river of news format, is a great way to sift through a bunch of garbage while finding the few gems you really enjoy. In an effort to be more selective, I've switched to list view, which shows me headlines for about 25 posts in a way similar to Gmail. Picking and choosing is much easier when you've expanded the number of headlines visible on screen 15-25 times.

The only thing I wish I could do was mark items as read without giving them credit for being read. There's a bunch of stuff in there that I will probably never read, and it looks like it'll build up unless I do choose to mark it as read. A minor complaint, but on the bright side it should make unsubscribing from low signal-to-noise ratio feeds much, much easier (Engadget and the rest of the Weblogs, Inc sites, I'm looking at you).

In response to William's comment, I do think he's right to a degree. If your job is news-driven (you work on Wall Street, in PR, in journalism, etc), then you do have to keep up with the news. Even still, not every news item you come across is 100% relevant and the experiment helps to make that clear. And for those of us whose jobs aren't exactly news driven, much of it isn't relevant - we simply consume it for enjoyment. For most, consumption is way out of balance with production. As with any habit-altering experience, we must often go too far in one direction in order to ultimately end up in the middle.

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The 4-Hour Work Week Media Fast Experiment

I recently began listening to Timothy Ferriss' 4-Hour Work Week. The book proposes many interesting ideas, but by far the most immediately applicable are his productivity tips. The one I want to highlight in this post is the media fast experiment, which forces participants to avoid all news for a week. Instead of being the one to relay news to others, be the one asking others what's in the news.

I'm on my third day of the experiment. I've avoided visiting Digg and reading feeds on Google Reader. In an effort to be completely honest, I will admit that I did hit Techmeme yesterday and CNN today for about 5 minutes. I felt guilty both times and that feeling a good sign.

The effects have been moderate, but promising and encouraging. I've been getting more done at work and completing more personal to-do items out of work. Wasting time online is a slave to Parkinson's law (which Ferriss mentions in his book), which basically states that a task will grow to fill the time allotted to it. This is especially true for my RSS subscriptions, which are literally never-ending. Since I wouldn't allot a set time limit to my time-wasting (by definition), my time-wasting would grow to fill time until I got bored or tired.

Depending on how comfortable I feel with being able to control myself, I might allocate (by alarm) an hour or so sometime this weekend to go through Google Reader. Even though the experiment calls for a complete fast, an hour a week is a huge improvement over the multiple hours a day and I should be happy that I haven't gone mad yet with all this newly-recovered spare time.

And I just came across this blog post with a great summary of the book. Check out the productivity tips under Step II: E is for Elimination.

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Steve Jobs' Open Letter to iPhone Customers

Less than a day since Steve Jobs announced that the iPhone would drop $200 to $399, Steve himself has posted an open letter to iPhone customers in which he states that Apple has decided "to offer every iPhone customer who purchased an iPhone from either Apple or AT&T, and who is not receiving a rebate or any other consideration, a $100 store credit towards the purchase of any product at an Apple Retail Store or the Apple Online Store."

This is an excellent move by Apple and quite possibly the best way they could have handled the PR nightmare that would have been the 250-500 thousand $599 iPhone owners. While it's not exactly $100 in my pocket, it is exactly $100 more than I would have expected to receive. Store credit doesn't cost Apple as much as face value, but it goes a long way to satisfy those customers that felt wronged (again, I don't consider myself in that group). In addition to the PR boost, Apple could also benefit from the incremental sales this $100 store credit would generate. As a prime example, I was looking to sell my iMac in anticipation of the refresh and to take advantage of the free iPod deal. Not having easily found a buyer and realizing that I didn't really need a new iMac, I gave up on the refresh. This newly-found $100, however, might just be enough to relight that fire under me and get me to buy a new iMac: Apple wins.

I applaud you, Apple. With actions like these, you will no doubt win many customers for life as you won me so long ago.

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Thoughts on The Beat Goes On

Despite being a day late, I still want to comment on the iPod announcements made yesterday.

iPod shuffle
New colors and no storage bump on the shuffles gets a huge yawn from me.

iPod nano
The actual nano looks much better than those leaked shots that were floating around a few weeks ago. There was no storage upgrade for these guys either, only price drops to $149 and $199 for the 4 and 8 GB version, respectively. Video finally comes to the nano, but with such a tiny screen I wonder how useful it will actually be. Still, having the nano hooked up to a TV via video out makes for a very portable DVD player replacement.

iPod classic
80 GB storage for $249 (and 160 GB for $349) makes the 6th Generation iPod (or 1st Generation iPod classic?) quite the monster. The standard iPod form factor has become, as the name suggests, a classic and I'm glad Apple stuck with it instead of forcing everyone to the touch screen.

iPod UI
The new iPod UI is an incremental upgrade, with the most notable feature being Cover Flow (which I don't find much use for personally). The new UI also marks the first time that the nano and classic have reached software feature parity (video on the nano also means complete feature parity), so it'll be interesting to see if Apple considers the nano/classic "complete". Prior to yesterday's announcement, it had been two years since both devices saw a significant upgrade, and I wonder if it'll be just as long before we see the next big change for these two lines.

iPod touch
I couldn't make up my mind over whether I thought Apple would actually release a phoneless iPhone this soon. On the one hand, pricing would have been tricky - either it would be priced too low to cannibalize iPhone sales or priced too high to make it a terrible value. On the other hand, there was only so much further Apple could take the iPod classic before it had to enlarge the screen (thereby necessitating removal of the click wheel). I personally dislike the design of the device. The chrome border is gone in lieu of either a matte metal or plastic (hard to tell from the shots) and the iPhone's scratch-resistant matte back is gone for the iPod's iconic scratch-prone shiny metal back. Further, the upper bezel looks disproportionate without the earpiece and the WiFi antenna's plastic covering makes the back of the device asymmetric. Other minor things I noticed (and am apathetic about) are that the sleep/wake button has switched sides and that the headphone jack is on the bottom of the device.

iTunes WiFi Store
Apple is ever slowly creeping into tablet/UMPC space and the touch was the second step in that direction. Instead of working down from the desktop, as Microsoft has done (with limited success), Apple has worked up from the iPod. It's apparent from the name: this isn't a MacBook nano, it's an iPod touch. Unveiling the iTunes WiFi Store and partnering with Starbucks is a small step into building Apple's mobile eco-system, something other device makers have either not attempted or have been unsuccessful at. This will be the touch/iPhone killer feature, and perhaps the future of mobile advertising - truly contextual advertising and services that supplement a brick and mortar's main operations. It's not the device that will reach out to the world, but the world that will reach in to your device.

That said, I don't see myself using the WiFi Store that much since I don't use the iTunes Store much to begin with. However, if the WiFi store allows for over-the-air podcast downloading, then I'll be all over it.

I'm tech-savvy enough to not need iTunes to walk me through making ringtones, but I would argue against those complaining about the price. The extra $.99 is something I see as AT&T having a hand in. Still, $2 for both the song and ringtone is a good deal compared to the $2-$3 one might pay for a ringtone-only otherwise.

iPhone at $399
Though Apple announced during their last earnings call that margins would be lower this season, no one saw this coming. The market is interpreting it as a sign that iPhones aren't selling as well as Apple would like. The original 5 GB iPod dropped 25% five months after introduction (from $399 to $299), so large cuts aren't completely out of the ordinary for Apple. I see the price drop as something Apple planned all along as a way to aggressively go after market share after milking early adopters for an extra $200 and as a way control demand during launch.

Am I upset that I paid $599? Absolutely not. I was perfectly paying that amount and the price drop doesn't change that. I don't see Apple owing me anything much more than I see BMW paying me for the depreciation of my car when the 2008 models come out (in fact, I'm paying them for the depreciation). Price drops and technology progressing are facts of life. The only thing that I might be upset about is that the cost of entry to the iPhone Club has gone down and iPhone owners who felt a sense of superiority and exclusivity as a result of ownership just dropped a few rungs on the social ladder now that the iPhone is accessible to "regular" people. I am not in that group. I see adoption of the iPhone (or Mobile OS X platform in general) a good thing for users, both in terms of a greater demand for new software features or an increased pressure on other device makers to make better devices.

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The Digg Problem

I am becoming increasingly irritated with Digg. The amount of misinformation that gets spread on that site is appalling and makes me wonder if we aren't better off having some editor at CNN or the New York Times or even Slashdot tell us what's newsworthy (or at the very least true).

Who's the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?

What it boils down to is desperation to get on the front page or a simple lack of reading comprehension. In a little over a week, I've come across four stories purporting rumors as fact. Despite the fact that other people notice this as well (and make it known in the comments), the story still ends up with a couple thousand Diggs. In roughly the same period of time, I've heard two people spread these rumors as facts to other people, who may or may not be Diggers, and so on, and the misinformation propagates.

If an idiot throws a rock into the water, not even 50 geniuses can fish it out.

When I come across these stories, I'll bury them as inaccurate. I like to think others do too. But the story keeps climbing. Is anything done after people bury stories? They just turn gray in my news list, but I don't really care. I already know the story sucks. It's already possible to "digg down" a user comment, why aren't we afforded the same "luxury" with stories? As far as comments are concerned, 98% of them are trash. There's no intelligent discussion because the inmates are running the asylum. Calacanis had it right, there needs to be some sort of moderation team out there dealing with the mountains of crap.

So Scoble wonders why Digg's audience hasn't grown much. I feel it's because Digg isn't a serious site. I go to Digg to pass the time, not to find late-breaking news. I figure most people on Digg do the same and the quality of the community reflects it. Perhaps I expected more from the Digg community, but I've grown increasingly disappointed with the quality of stories that appear on the site. And that's where the Digg problem lies: in the world of user-generated content, if the users are subpar then the content they generate will (for the most part) be subpar as well.

So what else is out there in the land of social news? Maybe it's time to try out the Facebook Google Reader app (what Scoble calls, "Digg for the smart people"). Still, I'd like something that's a bit more open (and doesn't require me logging into Facebook).

[tags]Digg, social news, user generated content,

Free NY Times Select for .edu's

Scott points out that the New York Times premium content, NYT Select, is free for current students and faculty. It only requires a .edu address, so alumni with lifetime addresses would likely fly under the radar. YMMV

And because it wouldn't be a 2007 blog post with a Twitter mention…

I've signed up but still haven't gone through the registration yet. Twittervision is too time-consuming for me to have enough time to even skim the New York Times.

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