Category Archives: Geekery

unShoehorning iTunes

Re-importing my music to iTunes after doing a clean-out and migrate. Good golly, iTunes is awful.
Chris Hubbs

iTunes long ago lost its focus. With the release of first the iPhone and now the iPad onto the consumer electronics scene, iTunes has become a hub for the iDevices you slave to your machine. iTunes is how music, video, books, and apps are installed on your device. Apple’s choice is understandable, but it’s left the actual music playback as a secondary feature.

iTunes’s name reflects its heritage: it was a music player before it was anything else. SoundJam MP was acquired by Apple, with the refined application released as iTunes 1.0 on 9 Jan 2001. 1 The release of iTunes for free from Apple killed the nascent audio player market, as wonderfully detailed by Panic’s Cabel Sasser in his telling of the True Story of Audion, Panic’s entry into that space.

Over the years, iTunes matured: multilingual support, burning CDs, equalizing and crossfading. iTunes 2.0 brought in iPod support, ushering in a new era for the company: pure-play consumer electronics. 2 iTunes 2.0.3 even supported the Rio One player, which indicated that Apple may have been hedging its bets slightly. 3 iTunes 3 brought about smart playlists and further worked on performance improvements.

iTunes 4 was where the magic really started happening: the Music Store was released, AAC was an encoding option, and DVDs could be burned. Music sharing could be done over the network. Then iTunes 4.1 drops, bringing iTunes to Windows. Apple knew it had to support Windows to make the iPod a true mass-market showstopper, and using MusicMatch Jukebox4 for synchronization wasn’t really a good play in terms of providing an overall experience for the user. iTunes 4 brought further improvements: iMixes, party shuffle, conversion of WMA files, and Apple Lossless audio.

iTunes 4.7 is where things start to get wobbly. If you’re going to have an iPod Photo, you needed to have a way of getting those photos onto that iPod. As such, photos got shoehorned into iTunes. If you loved iTunes purely for its music-playing capability, you might think that this was Fonzie wearing bathing trunks with his signature leather jacket. iTunes 4.8 adds video support, which makes sense in some ways: music videos are related content. iTunes 4.9 brings podcast-consumption support, making it possible for the nerdy ramblings of your friends to be brought to your computer through the benevolence of Steve Jobs.

iTunes 5.0 was released on 7 Sep 2005, with inevitable .1 bug fix 13 days later, and iTunes 6 was released 22 days after that. After Indiana Jones emerged from the lead-lined refrigerator, he learned that:

Apple on Wednesday announced iTunes 6, the new version of its popular music software, with several dramatic new features including downloadable TV shows and music videos, and the ability to send music and videos as gifts. The announcement came at a special media-only event in San Jose, Calif., along with announcements of new iMacs and new iPods with video capabilities.

“We’re doing for video what we’ve done for music — we’re making it easy and affordable to purchase and download, play on your computer, and take with you on your iPod,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

This move was great for the consumer world as a whole5, but it was bad for the purity of iTunes-as-music-player.

Music enthusiasts were thrown a frickin’ bone by support for gapless playback and Cover Flow in iTunes 7 in Sep 2006, but nothing interesting really happened until the iPhone dropped in Jun 2007 with iTunes 7.3. The next January, iTunes Store video rentals became available with iTunes 7.6, and folks who loved iTunes for music were looking for an icepick to jam into someplace to end the pain.

The power of “Genius” was brought to iTunes 8 (in playlists) and 9 (in mixes), but those improvements were focused around selling more songs in the iTunes Music Store as anything else. I can’t fault Apple for that, and iTMS has become very important in the world of digital downloads, exceeded only in my mind by the Amazon MP3 Store. iTunes 10 brought Ping, which … well, lolwut.

I can hear you: Fine, fine. People have decried everything being shoehorned into iTunes for quite some time. What’s different now than, say, four years ago, when iTunes 7 was feature mature save for Genius6? The Mac App Store.

iLife ’11 was unveiled on 20 Oct 2010, and there were some pretty great improvements, even if the presentation of them was a bit uneven. The suite was released for $49, and as per usual, Macs sold after that date came with iLife ’11 pre-installed. If you’re like me, you’re interested in some of the pieces (in my case, iPhoto and iMovie), but not others (GarageBand, iWeb, iDVD). I’d have to ask myself this: “Am I really going to spend $50 for five pieces of software when I really only want two of them?”

Apple now offers iLife apps a la carte. Want iPhoto ’11? Boom, $15. What about iMovie ’11? Again, $15. Apple has decoupled the suite, and should I have purchased the upgrades I was interested in7, I’d save $20.

What does this have to do with iTunes? My hypothesis is that Apple is envisioning a future where Mac software is connected but not agglomerated. It’s appropriate here to quote Ian Bogost at length from his essay, “What is an App?“:

The days of the software office suite are giving way to a new era of individual units, each purpose-built for a specific function… or just as often, for no function at all. And there’s the rub of the new era of apps. The software suite may have been an authoritarian regime, a few large companies offering a few top-down visions of how to use computers productively. But like the LP record, it told a coherent story—or at least presented a complete aesthetic.

Bogost doesn’t seem happy with these developments, but I can see where it has value to the user. Very rarely do I need applications to interact with each other, even on my iMac. Aperture handles my photos. Mail handles my email. Safari and Firefox8 handle my browsing. NetNewsWire snags my feeds. TweetDeck keeps me pegged to Twitter. iTunes handles my music, my videos, my TV show downloads, my iOS apps, my podcasts, my iOS app purchases, my iTMS purchases, my … well, you get the point.

Where could this be headed? I’d do it like this:

  • The most important thing to Apple will be iOS device sync. iTunes already syncs data from external software—bookmarks from Safari, calendars from iCal, contacts from Address Book, photos from Aperture or iPhoto—so it can be done as long as Apple knows where the data is and how it’s structured. 9 If Apple took the iOS device sync functions of iTunes and put them into their own focused program, they could simplify the user interface for synchronizing as well as make the iOS App Store the #1 priority in that program. 10 Let’s take the name iSync, currently used for synchronizing with non-Apple, largely non-smart phones, and make that the new sync-only app’s name.
  • There are two types of non-audio media left over: video and books. Apple’s got the iBooks name already, but it seems to me that the Books resource on the Mac is there to get books onto the iPhone or iPad. I don’t see many people reading on their iMacs or Macbooks, but I do see lots of eyes focused on Kindles and iPads. Perhaps this can be a chunk of iSync, especially as the only way I’ve seen to buy iBooks is on an iOS device. Update, 10 Apr 2012: You can buy books in the iTunes store and have them download on your device. I just hadn’t tried it when I wrote this. I apologize for being ignorant.

    As for video, I think there’s room for a top-flight video-management system. Video is going to come from three forms: purchased through the Apple store, imported locally11, and created through iMovie or your iOS device. With OS X 10.7 Lion largely favoring a single-window approach, iVideo could be a storehouse not only for others’ video but for yours. Want to watch that vacation footage that your brother spliced down to seven minutes using iMovie ’11? Pop it into iVideo and watch it on your Macbook. If the whole family wants to watch, then Apple TV and AirPlay can know where your data is and stream it accordingly.

  • iTunes should return to its audio-only roots. 12 Come up with a killer, full-screen interface for it. Take the obvious play that everyone has figured Apple would do since acquiring Lala13: give users cloud access to their music wherever they are. Give the iTunes Music Store full room to breathe. Go make a lot of money.

Apple has been steadily working towards the atomization of software packages. iOS apps are sandboxed, and can only share data in a defined, structured way. While this is a convention of a full-screen device that Apple has declared must have firm boundaries, Apple now appears to be extending this metaphor to the Mac, bringing iOS conventions like 1-click app purchase and download, full-screen apps, and focused apps to the Mac App Store. The Mac App Store is its own application on OS X 10.6.6, but interacts with the wider system. As such, Apple is eating its own dogfood, selling and distributing its applications through the Mac App Store. 14 If Apple will follow this path to the logical end I’ve discovered, it will de-clutter iTunes and make it a fantastic audio player—no more, no less.

  1. Yes, it’s so long ago that it precedes the public release of OS X. []
  2. Simmer down, Newton nerds. []
  3. Subfootnote a: Rio was actually a good play in the space, and it’s a shame that they never got the industrial design right. b: Apple would never do that these days. To wit: no smartphone save an iPhone can connect to iTunes. []
  4. which I used for years []
  5. Presuming that you think iTunes itself has been good for the consumer world. If not, okay. []
  6. Let’s ignore Ping. Please. []
  7. I haven’t because I’m watching spending. I’d get iPhoto before iMovie. []
  8. Chrome was in that list until their decision to dump H.264 []
  9. On Windows, iTunes pretty much runs this whole show now, but the Mac App Store isn’t a choice there, and Windows users are used to shitty software as it is. Apple needs to provide a first-class experience on the Mac to buttress the growth of its market share. []
  10. Fire up iTunes and hit Home on the iTunes Store. Where are you going to find apps? []
  11. Whether from a ripped DVD or pirated through torrents or similar. []
  12. Podcasts are audio and should be included, but it’s unlikely that they’d be emphasized in any way. []
  13. Before Lala’s service was ended by Apple. []
  14. I am resisting the desire to acronymize that to MAS. []
Radio Airtime Sourcing

My iTunes Smart Playlists, c. 2011

Five years ago, I wrote about my iTunes Smart Playlists set. Since then, more than a few changes have happened to iTunes, including Genius playlists and the renaming of Party Shuffle to iTunes DJ. Amazingly, I’m still largely using the setup I had five years ago. Here’s what I have feeding everything:

I found the filter necessary for a couple of reasons. Most importantly, I didn’t want to hear stuff that I’d skipped over, and I didn’t want to hear crappy music. The Christmas genre rule gets removed between the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas, but otherwise it stays gone. As for comedy tracks, I’m wanting to listen to music when I use this playlist. I choose to listen to comedy albums beginning-to-end, anyway. 1

Here’s the source for the filter:

There’s been consolidation. The cutoff of “Rolling 3 Months…” is “of Adds”. I went from a rolling month to a rolling quarter purely because I wasn’t adding music to the library as often. The only thing I’m really missing here is the Randomizer list; writing this has me considering re-instituting it.

The Rolling 3 Months list isn’t worth taking a screenshot. The only filter on it is that the Rating must be non-zero.

Great But Forgotten:

The main change here is the definition of “forgotten” from a five days to 90. I often use this as an iTunes DJ source playlist.2

Heavy Rotation:

This playlist is the main reason I reset my iTunes play counts on New Year’s Day. The play count can get skewed if there’s an album you listen to a ton. I’ve also had an album end up Heavy Rotation purely because I had it playing in iTunes with the sound muted. 3 Having a fresh start on the play count is a good thing. Heavy Rotation will tell you that I’ve spent a lot of time listening to Broken Bells and Radiohead this week.

Least Often Played:

The other thing that concerned me about resetting plays was that this playlist would become useless, but the Last Played data does stay intact. Very cool.

I don’t think 4-Star and 5-Star Albums require explanation.

  1. If you’re curious: Caliendo, Leary, Engvall, and that Blue Collar Comedy stuff. It makes me laugh. I can’t help it. []
  2. It was the source playlist while writing this. []
  3. I’ve taken to stopping iTunes rather than letting it play in the background and seeing Last.FM data. I don’t have a good answer as to why I was doing that before. []

On Tabulae Rasae

I have a nerdy New Year’s Tradition. I take the previous year’s email archives and put the incoming and outgoing email into their own IMAP folders. This is of marginal utility when I’m connected to a broadband connection, but if I’m on a mobile device, having everything in a pre-sifted bucket helps minimize search times.

In the same vein, I tried something new this year. After a limited test, I found that using the Reset Plays in the context menu1 will reset the play count, but it does not change the Last Played date. This is important if you use some iTunes smart playlists, as I do, to manage your music listening. 2 If you’ll go to Music, then Select All, then Reset Plays, you’ll know your music listening from the time you last reset plays.

Being born on the first day of a month, I deeply understand the concept of the tabula rasa. I think that it’s important to clean the slate from time to time, but I find that I do it poorly in two respects. First, I try to tie it to a specific date rather than simply contemplating the change and implementing it as soon as the thought is fully formed. Second, I would always come up with resolutions for the New Year in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, which I find typically led to half-considered goals that had no actionable basis. I’m making a lot of changes in my life here in the first few months of the year, but I’m trying to not tie any of them to specific days. I am simply trying to have the changes happen as soon as circumstances will allow and as soon as I’ve given them proper thought. I didn’t clear decks because Saturday started a new year.

  1. that is, right-clicking []
  2. I’ve tweaked those playlists, and I plan to write about that soon. []

Major and Minor Problems I Have with NHL11

I have played EA Sports’s NHL sports games for the last several years. I even had a series of posts about NHL 2004. I complained about the game back then, and I’m complaining now.

Major Problems:

  • If you are on a lower line as a created/play-a-pro player, you get ice time completely disproportionate to your line chart quality. If you’re on a third or fourth line, you shouldn’t be playing every other shift and staying out on the ice for two or more minutes during stoppages. You’re there for energy and to give the top six a chance to recuperate. 1 This is especially true of a fourth line spot: in real hockey games, the fourth-line guys usually don’t play much in the third period, especially late.

    I get the idea: gameplay should be focused around, well, playing. If you’re trying to make a realistic simulation, though, the times should be equivalent to real life, and you should be struggling/slightly upset to be on a low line. They’ve fixed this a bit with preseason play, where you can come in and earn a higher spot than you should deserve if you play well, because you get more ice time than would be normal in games that count.

  • Related to the first: if you’re unhappy with playing time, you should at least be able to have a fake talk with your coach or agent. The goal would be to be an unhappy player and get moved.
  • Lines do not get shifted around properly in-game when injuries occur. Right now, I’m playing top line, and both my center and right wing are injury-prone. When they get knocked out of a game, the player from their second line comes up to the first. Makes sense, right? The issue comes from the fact that there’s no cascade. If the second line goes out there, the player who moved up to the first line is double-shifted. If an injury happens in-game, the only line that should get shorted is the fourth line, which mimics real life: benches get shortened when you lose a player. The same phenomenon happens when you lose a player due to injury.
  • If you’ve left the game because of penalties or injury, you view the rest of the game from the vantage point of the penalty box. This makes no sense, as the player has no impact over the game at that point, and must waste time waiting for the game’s live simulation to complete. If you’re going to require that, at least come up with a TV view where the player can be watching from the locker room. The sensible thing to do is simply simulate the game from that point and move on to the next game.
  • Fatigue isn’t cumulative enough. Early in the period, you should be able to recover quickly and fully; later in the period, it should be harder to recover and you shouldn’t get as fully recovered as you can. A stronger fatigue effect would get you the chance for two realistic fatigue-related phenomena: a fight bringing you back up to full strength, and a goal lifting the spirits of the team. Example: late in a period, your max recovery from fatigue is 80%. A fight or a late goal could push it higher, but only for a short period of time. It gives you from for the adrenaline boost that each provides.

    The game I’m currently playing has me turning the fatigue all the way up and recovery down pretty far, and it’s still not enough to be very satisfying. It also makes sense that your maximum recovery should be lower later in the game, later in a road trip, and on back-to-back nights of games. Let’s see fatigue really be something that makes sense.

  • Related to fatigue: when you get a partial change on, the fresh players should, when possible, take positions away from the bench, allowing tired players to cheat towards the bench and get off of the ice faster. Also, extremely tired players should seek to come off of the ice at the expense of breakaways.

Minor annoyances:

  • Retired jerseys. Look, just because my favorite number is 4 doesn’t mean I should wear be able to wear it as a Boston Bruin. The list of retired numbers rarely changes in-season, and even when it does, it will be very rare when a player on that team will be wearing the jersey. 2 This has annoyed me for years, and it’s a simple thing to fix but greatly respects the game.
  • There’s no apparent way to turn off or attenuate the auto-rotating views of the camera. I’ve tried in the Visual Settings, and they don’t work. This isn’t a big issue if you’re playing as a defenseman, but it can be huge playing as a forward, especially if you’re trying to make a pass during the rotation.
  • There’s no way to practice the new skills in the physics engine for NHL11—all of which are greatly appreciated—other than the tutorial you get the very first time you start the game. I’d mainly like to review the faceoff options, but it would also be good to see what the checking options are now that it’s just more than “skate in the guy’s direction and flick the right stick at him”.
  • Related to fatigue checking: you can see your own recovery meter while on the bench, but you can’t see your teammates’. This could be a simple view and would be legitimate, as you can see another person’s fatigue level in their body language. An on-ice feature would be nice, but I don’t know what button combination it would use, and you’d also have to incur a gameplay penalty [not being able to shoot or pass] while you looked to your teammates.
  • Coaching feedback is written and not verbal. Also, it’s terribly repetitive. I know what I’m going to get 95% of the time, so I toggle past it. You could listen to the coaches on the bench. This does require that you have the game announcers turned off, which I usually do after ten games or so. I like Gary Thorne and Bill Clement, but I’d rather hear the game on the ice.3

NHL11 is a great game. The improvements to the physics engine—multiple faceoff styles, stick breakage and piece interference, and player-player interactions making for spins, etc.—are really wonderful. Previous revisions to the game focused on online play and the Be a Pro mode4, but left the physics of the game engine alone. The complaints listed above are things I’m complaining about are products of the fact that the game improved significantly this year. I had just about written off purchasing NHL12, but I will be curious to see what improvements are made. I’d love to see even one of the things I suggest above be incorporated.

  1. The same goes for defensive pairs, although being a second or third pair just means that you’re likely to see a more equal amount of time; first pairs end up soaking lots of ice time. []
  2. See Ray Bourque changing from 7 to 77 when the B’s retired Phil Esposito’s number. []
  3. I’m a former hockey broadcaster, and I wouldn’t want to listen to me while playing a game. []
  4. Be a Pro is what I play almost all the time. I looked at the Hockey Ultimate Team stuff and decided that I just wasn’t interested. The only thing I want to develop is my on-ice game. []

I Don’t Trust Internet Services That I Don’t Pay For

Five years and a week after announced that Yahoo had acquired them, Yahoo has put Delicious out to pasture. John Gruber relates that a source told him that the entire delicious team was fired yesterday, part of a wider series of layoffs at Y!, which we might remember was once #1 in search, etc.

The human story shouldn’t be overlooked: a lot of people have lost their jobs right before the holidays, and that’s awful. The late-year firings are totally driven by a desire to have clean edges on the fiscal year if you’re a Jan-Dec company, but that’s a quite tone-deaf way to do things. I have friends who’ve been laid off here locally of late, and the good companies are giving employees 30-60 days’ notice so they have time to look for a job before they’re just suddenly out on the street. For high-skilled knowledge workers, that seems to be the human thing to do, if for no other reason that they might consider working for you again. I rather doubt that many Yahoos who’ve been laid off in this round or who’ve left previously, whether by choice or force, have any desire to come back and wear a purple Y on their badge.

The human story is important, but as a consumer of Internet services, it does concern me. A lot of people have been migrating from delicious to Pinboard for bookmarking services today; I’d had an account for a while and had recently made the switch. The Pinboard team has a good set of design choices about their service, and that’s why I gave them my money a year or so ago.

there are worse things than being DDOS'ed by people trying to give you money

Pinboard started to get buzz in July 2009, not long after it was released to the public. The first MetaFilter story I can find on PInboard has a great comment: “The goal seems to be to recreate and improve on, which is kind of crazy now.”

Except, well, that’s not so funny today, is it?

@zafarali - the entry fee is a big part of what keeps the service clean and nice. Think of it as a financial CAPTCHA

I think the Pinboard model is an interesting one, because it provides a bit of revenue on Day One as well as promoting the idea that people should get on board early so they can have an account for the low price. Your users will give you network effects, of course, but my thinking here is that paying for a service, even with a one-time fee, is investing money into it. Plenty of people, myself included, had data invested in delicious, but no money. I invested $6.19 in an account back in March, and $25 later when their archiving system was announced. I will renew that $25 going forward.

When you rely on free services for the Internet, you’re agreeing to be a digital squatter, moving from place to place as the winds blow you around. That’s not altogether a bad thing, because it’s hard to know which services are going to be truly good. That said, when you find a truly good service, you better be paying for it, or it’s likely to die. The price you will then pay is the time you expend getting your data out of the system or the mourning of the loss of that data.

The lesson for Web startups is simple: if you let Yahoo buy you, you're cashing in and telling the users who made you to fuck off.
Geof F. Morris
Yahoo is going to tell you that they'll do stuff for you to make you great, but they never fucking do it.
Geof F. Morris

The expert reader will poke a hole in this by saying, “Dude, you’re using Twitter statuses in this entry. That’s free.” Yes, yes I am. I would love to pay Twitter for the service if it would ensure that the service doesn’t die. I have a lot of time and invested in it, honestly. I haven’t figured out where it would make sense for me to give them the money, but I’m thinking that some power-user features would do it. Specifically, boolean search on statuses I’ve made in the past, including mentions and replies, comes to mind. Twitter is designed to be lightweight and fun, and I think that should be the case for the vast majority of people who use it.

Another option that I see is a Metcalfe Tax on private accounts. That would go over like a lead balloon at this point given that the service is fairly mature and there are a ton of private accounts. I think the only way you can do it is this: old tweets are kept private, and if the user wants to delete their account, you let them. I have a lot of friends with private accounts who would have a tough choice to make about whether or not to keep a Twitter account if they were suddenly forced to pay. The only way I can see making it fair is for extant users to have a very small, one-time fee [< $3] for privacy, but new users have to pay a not-as-small yearly fee for having a private account. Charging even $1 is going to piss people way the hell off, but if you can show that the people coming after you will have it worse, it’s not as bad. [It's not good.]

Either way, I think Twitter needs to find me a way to give them money. [I have a private account at the moment that sees infrequent use, so this is not a trivial thing for me.] I need something more than time and data invested in them, for all of my concerns above.

Someone should buy Flickr from Yahoo. I think Google would be least likely to fuck it up, but I think Facebook is most likely to offer.
Geof F. Morris

Here are services that I do pay for:

  • Email hosting by Fastmail. I’m clear about why I use Fastmail, and I’ve used it since July 2006. A couple years ago, I ended up moving to a family account, and now my parents and brother have an email account that they’re guaranteed to have going forward. 1 There’s a price to it, but it’s worth paying.
  • Flickr, which I’ve used since 2005. I don’t get as much out of Flickr as I perhaps should, but I do get enough out of it. I’ve been a paid Pro user for a few years now, and I will continue to do that even though the feature growth of the service has slowed rapidly since the Yahoo! acquisition. The choices that Yahoo! has mad this week have me worried for Flickr’s long-term viability, even though it is likely revenue-positive. As I tweeted, I think Flickr should be acquired by someone who’s not going to let it wither. Even better, I’d love to see some VCs offer to acquire it while paying Yahoo for the server infrastructure in the short term as they bring a technical team together to support it going forward. There is money to be made with Flickr if there’s a tight, focused, interested team doing it and people that are willing to invest in it.
  • Sirius Satellite Radio. I use it in my car, and I use the data streaming at home. There’s value in it to me, so I pay for it. The data streaming is good for the mostly ESPN Radio listening I do at home, and the car access is great when I am traveling and will want a variety of things to listen to [talk radio, comedy, grunge music, metal] while on a longer trip.
  • Pinboard, as discussed.
  •, which I like even though I wonder how it’s going to work going forward in a Pandora/Rdio/etc. future. It’s not like I spend that much in them, but I’ve believed in them since the Audioscrobbler days.
  • Instapaper, which I love and have supported by buying the iOS apps. I do worry about whether that’s generating enough revenue for Marco to have it viable, but I expect that he’ll roll out true power-user features at some point that will be attractive enough for me to invest more into the service.
  • The web server I run. My site hosting is free, but only because I pay for it in time spent installing and upgrading software for users, administering the server, and generally being available when it craps the bed.
  • The domain names I own. When I find that they no longer have any value for me, I sell them if I can’t find them a better home with someone else wishing to take on the project. I’ve let five domains lapse in the last four months, and while each has given me a twinge when doing so, I recognize that it’s impossible for me to carry through with all the ideas I’ve got in my head.
  • Since I brought up email, it’s worth mentioning the Google. Yes, I pay more with Fastmail than I would with the big G, but I’ve gotta say that I don’t want to invest my money and email data with them. I have a Gmail account, but I don’t use it for very much other than getting access to Google services where you have to have an account. UAH’s alumni email network is also Gmail-powered, but I don’t really invest much in it, either; it gets UAH-specific stuff and that’s it.

    Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Facebook. Facebook’s high-school/college/young adult audience isn’t going to pay for accounts. They just aren’t; most don’t have the money, and very few of them have the inclination. Simply put, they’ve not been burned enough by free to know any better. For me, I don’t have enough invested in Facebook to worry about it going under. If/when it does, there will be a vacuum filled by another entrant, and people will flock there. I will as well, because I don’t have much invested in it other than time and data that is almost always available elsewhere. I do not have single points of failure with Facebook.2

    Look, I think that paying for stuff that you use and enjoy is important for two reasons. One, it forces you to consider what is truly important in the services you consume. If it’s free, you will take it for granted. I don’t take my email for granted for free—not in the slightest. [Of all the services listed above, it is the most expensive.] Things that I get for free these days generally aren’t worth caring about or investing in. Two, it will force you to choose a service carefully to find one that fits your needs. If you’re spending money with someone, you’re going to be picky about it, and I think that’s important.

    1. The domain name, is ridiculously long, but it’s actually something that can be easily read to someone on the phone, which is way more than I can say for “gfmorris AT gfmorris DOT net”, which is both hard to get people to get right and then always gets me, “Oh, you’re one of them people with your own domains, huh?” Yeah, I am. What’s it to ya? []
    2. None come to mind, anyway. []

On Anonymity and How to Discourage But Still Permit It

I respect privacy and anonymity, but it’s obvious that there are significant drawbacks. After Will posted the above tweet, I had a thought: Anil Dash recently proposed a Metcalfe Tax to allow people to break default, broadly public bonds that provide network effects. I like this idea, and I think it would apply here: if you wish to be anonymous, you can certainly have that anonymity, but it comes with a price. The easy counter-argument is that requiring payment, which has at least some sense of identity required for non-cash transactions, doesn’t fix the problem. I disagree: any competent system administrator is going to be able to figure out a lot about you based on server logs alone.

Please note that I don’t think that this is a choice for the entire Internet, nor do I want it to be. But if I ran a publication that had comments as a part of the interaction model, I would institute it.

iPad App/Folder Symmetry in portrait

iPad App/Folder Symmetry

Like any good Apple dork, I updated my iPad to iOS 4.2 today and started organizing my apps into folders. I knew I wanted some kind of symmetry in them, so I started with two rows of most-used apps: top and bottom row, because that’s where your hands are most likely to be. That works great in portrait layout, but not so much in landscape. What I came across was this: twelve most-used apps. In portrait, the top and bottom rows are just apps. In the ones just inside those, the outer spots have apps. All others are filled with folders. The result looks like the below:

As you can see, this gets you symmetry regardless of orientation, gets all your apps on one screen, and leaves you six app folders, which can each hold 20 apps. There are probably other combinations, but this is the one that I came to in playing around tonight.

[Sorry for the background image of the Shuttle being slightly offset to the left; it makes things look off.]

DIY Wedding Photobooth

Yesterday, two of my friends got married, and it was wonderful. Back a couple months ago, Brandon and I were into our second Whiskerino [known to some as the Colorado Bulldog] when one of us, I think Brandon, mentioned something about having a photobooth at the wedding. I said, “I know I can pull that off.” Predictably, I procrastinated on actually testing it until 10:45 Friday night. I figured out how to get the images onto the machine, but I hadn’t fully figured out how to project them in a dual-monitor setup. But hey, I’m improvisational. Here’s a little on the setup and how I pulled it off.

The Setup

Here’s my equipment list:

  • Canon EOS-5D Mk II for my camera. I ended up using an EF 28mm f/2.8 lens, given the location I had to shoot. If my EF 50mm f/1.4 wasn’t still busted, I would have used that; my EF 85mm f/1.8 was just a touch too long.
  • Mac mini (early 2009, I believe), hooked up to the 5DMkII with a simple USB cable.
  • 20″ widescreen LCD for the primary monitor. This was used to house the software windows for the image capture and review.
  • Mitsubishi HC5500 LCD projector for the secondary monitor. This is my home theater projector, and yes, I was willing to partially dismantle my home theater for this wedding.
  • EOS Utility and their Digital Photo Review or whatever it’s called software. EOS Utility is what lets you run the camera from the computer.

EOS Utility would do image capture, pulling data through USB to the local hard drive. This kept me from having to use cards to do this. Also, I could use Live View to make sure the shot that I was looking for was there without having to check the viewfinder. This worked great when I would rotate the camera around to take shots from the dance floor. I set EOS Utility to dump photos to a specific folder. All this work happened on the primary monitor.

Over on the secondary monitor, I used System Preferences to change the desktop background picture every five seconds, randomly, pulling from the directory in which EOS Utility was storing photos. This gave us an instant photobooth slideshow without having to use Automator or AppleScript to automagically move JPGs [I was shooting RAW+JPG] into iPhoto and then do the slideshow there. That was a potential option, but iPhoto frustratingly wants to push its slideshow on both monitors. Dumb. Come on, Apple.

The bridge and groom loved it. My only sadness with it was that more of the attendees didn’t come by to have candid photos taken.

Icon Set

The iTunes 10 Icon, Panic’s CandyBar, and Why I Was Up Until 2230 Yesterday Tweaking Icons

Hey, iTunes 10 is out! And hey, that icon looks like shit! If only there were a way to fix that …

Oh, hey, Cabel! Thanks! Awesome! I hadn’t thought about that.

I had resisted CandyBar for a while, for two reasons: 1) I’m a tweaker, so I didn’t want a reason to tweak and 2) I didn’t want to be that much of a Panic whore. But Steve, he drove me to it. Now I have a pretty icon for iTunes 10.

That said, there was no way I was stopping there. None at all. After all, I’m the guy who names his computers after Space Shuttle orbiters. I described the naming process back in March. I’ve since reformed the Drobo into a two-volume drive: Io for Input and Output

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, and Ganymede for social sharing. I’ve decided to not attempt any landings on Europa. As you can see to the right, I’ve taken the nerd bit even further: HAL 9000 has the iconic red lens, Discovery Two is a model of the ship, Ganymede and Io are images of the two moons, and the two TMAs are shown with how they’re represented in the two movies.

I’m actually kinda proud of this.

Who to Follow?

Here's what I don't get about Twitter's who-to-follow: what does Twitter gain from network effects? Facebook got more eyeballs on ads.
Geof F. Morris
[Note: That was not a rhetorical question. I really don't know.]
Geof F. Morris

Seriously: Facebook gets network effects from having users network with each other, as it learns about the connections between people and can improve their social graph. Facebook aggregates a lot of complex, contextual interactions with how people relate to each other: family, spouses, love interests, college friends, elementary school friends, colleagues, etc. Twitter is all about three things: followers, following, and lists. Twitter lists are limited: you can only have twenty of them. Twitter is working with a sparser set of data [fewer variables], and for that matter, data that requires greater inferences. If I list Rick and Jessica as people I’ve known since high school, it can be surmised that there’s a stronger bond there than … well, how do you determine any bond’s strength on Twitter? Furthermore, even Facebook doesn’t know that I was the best man in R&J’s wedding—not even if we start posting photos from the wedding itself. [If it can, well, it's sentient, and then I gotta take drastic action.]

One can draw inferences about networks on Twitter, of course. You could look at the concentration of, say, Whiskerino alumni and figure out, eventually, that all of us know each other somehow. You’re going to better understand this, however, with a list. I get that Twitter may be trying to draw more information about the interactions between its users, but “features” like Who to Follow generally just end up pissing the very people who’d help grow your network off. On that score, count me in with Derek.