Upgrade

Technology Blog, by: David Monaghan.

Archive for the ‘Techniques’ Category

Net Neutrality, Moore’s Law and Podcasts.

Posted by David on June 10, 2006

Three things I’ve been focusing on recently and want to share, they’re all things that people interested in technology should take a look at.

Network neutrality, it’s about the way our technology handles various information. There’s a lot of movement revolving around this term so I recommend checking this out above all else.

Moore’s law is about the way computer technology is progressing, there are various interpretations but the Wikipedia article provides some insight.

Podcasts are probably the most popular of the three things I’m pointing out today so I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve heard of them. While the term comes from the combination of iPod and broadcasting the idea actually stems from many other technologies not related to Apple. RSS or feeds and audio file formats (mainly mp3) among many other things make it possible for users to ‘subscribe’ to a feed which delivers the content in enclosures which make downloading easy to the user and more importantly to software. While the technology combination is extremely valuable the end users wouldn’t benefit from it without the great many sources of content which produce and host the audio to be retrieved. I don’t listen to very many podcasts because I focus my time on technology information (or information technology) but I’d like to share some of those on my list. Before I do so I’ll point you over to Netvibes which I use to aggregate and read all of my feeds including podcasts (Netvibes has a built-in audio player) and recommend that you check out iTunes if you’re seeking the easiest solution. The first podcasts I started listening to was TWiT (This Week in Tech) which mainly features ex-hosts from The Screensavers – a show I got hooked on to feed my tech fix. I also frequent the following technology shows in podcast format; Inside the Net, Security Now!, Cranky Geeks, Drunk and Retired, TalkCrunch, Ruby on Rails Podcast, some of the many course podcasts on Berkeley.edu, and Harvard’s Computer Science E-259. I should mention all of these are free and there are more if you’re willing to pay.

Side Note: This post would have been longer if A) Firefox didn’t crash in the middle of writing the original B) I saved the post on WordPress.com after having more content than I’d be willing to use C) I didn’t open up so many tags with Flash, or D) WordPress.com had an auto-save on the post editor. So this hopefully won’t be happening again and the cool thing is nothing above has to change; Writely.com has auto-save and will upload the posts to WordPress.com. I’ll be making an effort to start writing posts in Writely which I hope will at least match the WordPress experience if not enhance it, wish me luck in the process. Besides auto-save Writely also has RCS, will write and read Word doc files, and allows more than one person to edit the same document at the same time. Want to come and edit files with me but don’t have an account? Worry not, I can get you in there, besides I’d love to start collaborating more with others interested in similar topics.

Advertisements

Posted in Cultural Forces, Techniques, Tools | Leave a Comment »

Columnist or Reporter?

Posted by David on May 21, 2006

My journalism background. I walked backwards into writing, one day I decided to start up a website and later a blog. Now I've got a history of many various blogs, none of which have really taken off but I never started writing to be popular. You could say that blogging became an addiction for me. Once I realized that not only do I like writing but that some people might actually enjoy reading it I began analyzing my writing and what I do on my blogs so that I could be more effective.

Columnist or reporter? This is probably entirely obvious to people with a background in journalism but as I explained I have very little and I just started to ask myself, "Am I a columnist or a reporter?" Hopefully even the highest level professional journalists will agree that the difference between these two types of journalists are a bit difficult to distinguish from one another especially to the untrained (not to mention the rapidly changing technologies). From what I can tell the major differences between a columnist and a reporter are; First the motivation behind the content and second the process of acquiring and presenting the information. A columnist is the driving force behind their content and isn't expected to follow the same process of acquiring information from official or creditable sources in an unbiased way, while a reporter is expected to acquire their information from sources they can cite and is usually motivated by something like popular demand (mass media) and the search for unbiased information. Now the lines are blurry here according to some, blogs are being considered a sort of mix between these two styles of journalism and it seems that many of the people contributing content to blogs are completely unaware of this looming question.

So what am I? That't the question I've been asking myself, "Am I a columnist or a reporter?" I think the answer is obvious and I consider myself at this moment to be a columnist (at least on this blog) but now I'm starting to research what I would have to change to be considered a reporter. In any case I enjoy writing for the public and it's enhanced my writing skills (one of the real reasons I started writing material to publish). Recently I've wondered a lot how journalism might be changed by blogging and how journalism as a whole will end up in the next five, ten, twenty, etc. years. It's very interesting to me, everything that has to do with communication is under rapid evolution at an always accelerating pace. Anyway thanks for listening to my short ramblings on this, uh, column? Okay yeah, hope everyone had a good Sunday and I'll talk to you soon.

Post Scriptum. I've been thinking about the possibility of publishing in audio form, if I have something to publish but I don't really feel like writing at the time, or if I can get some friends together to talk about technology, I may even think of some other reason(s) but I'd be happy to hear what anyone thinks about such a publication here. I know one advantage to the readers or listeners in this case would be the ability to obtain the information I'm publishing while doing something which requires the use of their eyes or hands. I should also mention that obtaining information for the blind would probably be much smoother in such a format rather than through the use of a speech synthesis application. Anyway, lemme know if you have an opinion, as usual you can contact me at monaghan.david@gmail.com and don't forget that you can leave a comment for others to see. I'd also be interested in starting up a podcast with someone else, if you've got broadband and Skype we're half way there, I'm a hobbyist producer using FL Studio and Audacity and I know may way around enough of the technology to find anything we need. Don't forget to tune in later for a link to a cooking blog and podcast I'm going to start up with my good friend Scott and my Mom Jaimie (two excellent self-taught chefs) which I'll be producing, editing and writing for.

Posted in Cultural Forces, Techniques, Tools | Leave a Comment »

TFFA

Posted by David on May 13, 2006

OMG TISVF. Sorry, I almost got stuck there. See folks, acronyms can be dangerous and addictive, as a friend and I just found out today. Okay I'm kidding…

In all honesty; My friend Scott and I were text-chatting today over Google Talk (which I should warn you sometimes yields language which might be considered to be inappropriate for people younger than a certain age) and found ourselves on the subject of Internet Slang or terms used, manipulated and invented for use on the internet (which actually sometimes come from and are used in oral conversation but that's besides this point). So we ended up on this subject because I was looking at Answer.com's article (cited from Wikipedia) about the acronym LOL or lol. The first sentence I read was "LOL is a TLA" and I had to lol pretty hard myself. Because I was already having a conversation with him I sent over the link, we both got a good chuckle out of it. Later Scott told me he was checking out the Internet Slang article from Wikipedia and was amazed at the content, which I later decided to take another look at (we had both checked it out a little less than a month ago). After a while he mentioned something which got us both ROTFLOAO.

Here's the point of this article, our conversation over Google Talk via text messages which I have only edited to bold our names for clarity (which by the way I'm sorry if there's any I missed);

 

Scott: its funny, noe that i look at "lol", of all the things it says about it on the site, it never mentions anything about the fact that "lol" looks like a person laughing

l-l =straight face lol = laughing face

b

oops

dob HA! now it has ears

 

 

 

monaghan: that's odd, I never saw that but you're right. I thought at first when I started trying to see it that perhaps it was o = head and ll = arms raised up, but that didn't make much sense

 

 

 

Scott: l-l

 

 

 

monaghan: I never raise my arms to laugh but you know

 

 

 

Scott: lol

dob

hell yeah, i raise my arms and flail them around just to talk regularly

 

 

 

monaghan: rotfl

 

 

 

Scott: l-l

dob

l-l

dob

hhhmmmmm

 

 

 

monaghan: lol, that's how we should do it…

 

 

 

Scott: what, like this: dob

 

 

 

monaghan: l-l.. lol……..l-l

to show, I wasn't laughing, then I was for a while, then I stopped

 

 

 

Scott: yeah, then if someone is trying to be funny and they are not actually funny, you could just give them a

 

 

 

monaghan: dob

 

 

 

Scott: ………………………………………..l-l

like that

 

 

 

monaghan: lol

heall yeah

 

 

 

Scott: thats great

 

 

 

monaghan: too funny for acronyms, I mean tffa

which could be a spin off on tff (too fukin funny)

man we are good at this internet slang shit

I'm so going to add what we're talking about here to the WP IS article

wsjatis

awsjtia

(we should just always talk in slang)

(actually we should just talk in acronyms)

lol tff miggp

(man I gotta go piss) actually I don't I just thought it sounded funny

 

 

 

Scott: TFG

 

 

 

monaghan: rotflmao

 

Posted in Techniques | Leave a Comment »

Mozilla Keywords Out, YubNub Commands In.

Posted by David on April 18, 2006

On my search for the seemingly endless amounts of web applications I've found another service which changes the way I browse the internet, it is YubNub.org. At first YubNub looks like a somewhat humorous and friendly interface to Google and other utilities, but it becomes quickly obvious that YubNub really is exactly what it claims to be, "A social command line for the web." YubNub combines web searching with the Unix command line and gives users an open interface to add commands using a simple syntax with some advanced features.

One of the first interesting features I noticed was the ability to create commands which accept parameters. I'm also a big fan of the names used for two of the most useful commands on YubNub; ls (lists commands) and man (shows information about a command). Both of these commands take options just as you may expect, typing 'ls google' will list commands with Google in the name, description, or command source (URL). Using 'man g' returns the description for the 'g' command (Google search). Creating a command is very simple, the syntax is similar to Firefox's keyword syntax but also sports more fancy syntax to make commands much more powerful. If you're looking at creating a command check out 'if', 'ifThen', and 'foreach'. I should also mention that while 'ls' is great for finding a command, 'ge' is much better for discovering great commands.

Please go give YubNub a try, even if I have confused you with some of the more advanced features. I can't imagine there is a faster way to search and browse the web than this, and it's really not very hard to type 'g search term' rather than google.com. Even if you normally use a link/bookmark to pull up your search engine and just type the search term, remember that you're loading two pages when you could be loading one, besides that if your hands are on the keyboard why take them off? Currently when I want to search Google this is what I do;

Type: ctrl+k

Type: g search term

Hit enter key

That's all, the results are up for whichever search term I typed in. On another subject; If I see a result I want to pull up I hit the forward-slash key (/) and type the link text in until it's highlighted. Then I can enter and I'm there, hands never leaving the keyboard, much faster than using the mouse and loading a search page. On yet another subject; If I can think of a search term which I know will pull up the result I want as #1, I can use the goto command which performs an "I'm Feeling Lucky" search in Google (which simply loads the first result without showing the rest, can be tricky but it saves even more time).

Okay, let's egress from this digression… 😉

After a short while I realized that I needed an easy and quick way to access the YubNub site, but I already have a dashboard I like to use as my home page and don't care for opening more than one page when I start up (that's one more than I'm used to, and I may switch back soon.) The first solution I thought of was a keyword, simply enough one could be created and used but to type in a keyword to use a service that offers more keywords (commands) seems redundant, even if it's one character. So the best solution I've come up with so far is to replace the default path Firefox uses when entering a url that isn't a Mozilla keyword and isn't a real url (this is easy enough for any computer user to accomplish, put about:config in the address bar of firefox and hit go, then find keyword.url and double click to replace url with "http://yubnub.org/parser/parse?command=", quotes added for display purposes). With this quick edit of the Firefox config I can now access YubNub's power right from the url bar like it's built in. There's a better way than simply changing the default keyword url and I've finally seen the light. This has been available the entire time, I just never saw the benefit of using it until now. The best solution I can find now; Using a YubNub quicksearch (in Firefox), which is a small change for me, I'm used to using ctrl+l to access the url bar and I've gotten accustomed to this since using YubNub as the default keyword url but I've been dying for history and completion (at the very least for commands I've typed in). Now a simple ctrl+k brings me to a the one and only quicksearch I have installed, YubNub, and what I type gets saved in history for use later on. There's another problem I encountered when using YubNub as the default keyword url; The command \\ doesn't work, Firefox get's confused and in return I get an error message. Not being able to use even as little as one command is reason enough to switch, and I'm glad I finally did, I'll be happy to finally have history of my the commands I type in. Now if only I could get auto-completion for commands and options, this I would imagine is best suited for a Firefox extension.

If you're interested in using or already have been using YubNub and haven't already seen the Installing YubNub page I recommend you check it out. There's a long list of Firefox quicksearch plugins and more.
There's a wealth of commands, and anyone can add more. Had to get this out, I know most users won't understand let alone use this sort of service, although I could be wrong, even though it's not any more difficult to use than Google, the default behavior is to search Google. I really think this is a keyword killer for me, I've looked through the keyword list I have now and can't find anything I have that isn't already available, aliases can also be used if you've gotten used to a certain keyword as well although I'm not sure how that works with existing command names from another site which ties into YubNub nicely using the '!' command. I'm sure a few geeks out there are glad to see this, hope you're one of them.

I should mention that using YubNub as the default Firefox keyword.url does not override your keyword settings, keywords will still work, in fact they will override the default keyword.url if they exist (which might become a problem if you have a keyword which overrides a YubNub command).

Posted in Techniques, Tools | Leave a Comment »

The Long List of Web Applications

Posted by David on April 11, 2006

Welcome to the beginning of many articles focusing on web applications where I, David Monaghan, will be contributing reviews of these applications to this blog by following the guidelines discussed later. First I will explain my plan on how to present this information as well as my reason for doing so.

This article is still under construction and will be the focus of my work on this blog until it is refined to my satisfaction, at which point I will move on to reviewing the applications. Each application review will be presented on an individual article and will be categorized on this blog in the categories which match the functions it provides. In the next few paragraphs I will explain my reasons for starting this project. Obviously if you're interested only in the information you're more than welcome to skip ahead to the next section, 'Global Web Application Information'.

I've been a professional user and a hobbyist developer until recently, I started with web development and every time I try to escape I am led back here. Now that I'm finally taking the time to really develop a web application there are a ton of other people doing exactly the same thing. It's not that five years ago there weren't many new web-apps being developed and released but nothing compares to what's going on these days. Often one of the first things to be identified when starting a business is a function; This is best determined by viewing the current market and identifying demands which aren't being met. This series of articles is the beginning to my solution to the question, "Which demands are being made on web applications which aren't being met?" I am going to identify these demands being made by myself and those around me by looking at current software (web or otherwise) and common functions which we collectively use. Rather than identifying a particular application as a solution I prefer to see functions being provided by them and the abilities of the applications regarding these functions. By first identifying these functions and how they can be implimented I should find a very fine set which is easier to translate to real world usage rather than remaining focused on an application as it's used or viewed alone or as a piece of software in one genre of other solutions. As the information is added I believe patterns will emerge of covered and uncovered functions which can be used to asses the current market of web software and which pieces are missing.

I've been keeping my eye on web applications for a while now, it's always been obvious to me that the easiest way to develop a cross platform and rich application is via web technologies. Linux, Apache, MySQL, HTML, XML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, Perl, and Ruby. All free. These technologies make up the vast majority of web applications on the internet today, I started learning HTML and was referred to the rest when teaching myself to build and publish web applications and it's become apparent that not only is the web the easiest way but it is the best way. Many developers are seeing the same things I am, there is a flood of services and companies using various business models to offer free and rich applications to the masses, and the users are starting to trickle in already despite the fact that hardly any of these services is out of testing stages of development. Many of the business models revolve around a system parallel with Flickr; A full and free service which attracts users and offers more professional services available for a fee. This seems to be working well for these start ups in many different ways, Flickr as most know was purchased by Yahoo! but what is really amazing is those services which seem to have little concern over making money, however this is a false perception, these types of start ups are (if popular) often seeded by investors or bought by giants, e.g. Digg and del.icio.us, this offers a sort of high-risk incentive to start-ups who have little capital but lot's of knowledge and enough time to design, create, and publish (host) something which is highly useful.

With all of these changes I've found it hard to catch up with the mass, there are plenty of great ways to find services like this but it takes a lot of time to also research the applications once they have been identified and located. Then comes in 'The Long List of Web Applications', this series of articles is my solution to this dilemma, for myself and those who may be on the same adventure or who may just be looking for a good solution to problem X. A good list of the services needs to be created and organized and should include thorough reviews which examine a standard set of elements among certain groups of applications. I thought of trying to organize such a list into categories on one page but soon realized that many of the services wouldn't be able to be categorized into only one section and I didn't want to list any one service more than once (I hate needless repetition). The solution to this will be to document how this information will be collected and categorized, categories will be created on this blog to contain individual posts which will represent one service. These posts will be placed in the categories matching the functions of the application (thank God WordPress.com allows multiple categories) so that browsing them may be as simple as possible.

Global Web Application Information

As you should now understand this document doesn't contain a list of the web applications which have been or are being reviewed, the application reviews will each be contained on individual pages. What this document does list is the standard set of elements which should be included in the review of every application without getting into details relating to specific functions, that will be covered later.

  • Application Name
  • URI
  • Company Name
  • Company Birth Date
  • Privacy Policy (Light Version)
  • Terms of Service (Light version)
  • Licenses Used (for Service and Pontent Provided by Users)
  • Version History (with Changelogs)
  • Business/Service Model
  • Costs
  • Server Technology
  • Application Framework
  • Application Language(s)
  • Internal Data Formats (Security)
  • Import/Export Data Formats
  • Average Bandwidth
    • CPU
    • Memory
    • Hard Drive
    • Network
  • User Interfaces (Screenshots)

For applications which are hosted on the web there are some different aspects which should be noted;

  • Hosting Solution(s)
  • Geographic Location of Server(s)
  • Average Downtime
  • Advertising

While this list contains everything which should be documented for every web application, it doesn't contain everything which should be documented for individual web applications. Before we discuss more information about specific applications we need to identify types of applications and organize them accordingly, this can prove to be difficult. Luckily we can use a system which is fairly open in organizing content in that WordPress allows blog posts to be contained in one or more categories defined by the blog's administrator. Because when looking for a web application a user most often has a function or a set of functions in mind I've decided to organize these tools by their function. Once these functions have been identified and organized a category will be created to represent each function. The first post under each category will provide the information which guides the reviews of software with the function corresponding to the category, after of course a definition of the function.

Application Functions

On to defining the functions, which again define the categories. This list is a work in progress which I personally started months ago and have slowly worked on, it was designed to account for all pieces of software a computer could have installed on it's hard drive but it is now being extended to identify the demands of today's computer user(s).

You may wonder at first why some of these functions listed don't seem like they should be provided by web applications, you also may notice that this list doesn't seem to reflect the actual software types available today. Surely there are at least a few of these functions which can't actually be performed on a remote machine (oh imagine the horror if this wasn't the case), however web applications might provide a function which is somehow related to this function and might provide it for the server it runs on but has a web interface. Also you should know; This list is my dream of the future of software, in this dream there are well thought out services which perform a very limited set of functions with one focus in mind; "To be infinite in nature." Translation: Easy access, no limits, standards compliance, and integration with other software whenever possible. Many applications today have elements which are locked down to a small scope of information associated to the function provided, my biggest complaint recently has been over contact organizer software. I feel that I should be able to keep information for my contacts for at least the following; Birthday, baptism, wedding, child birth, and death. Not one piece of software I have used will keep track of all of this (in a user friendly way), and I have many more things that I would like to keep like; Graduation, election, promotion, retirement, etc. Let's not forget that some people don't have just one wedding, one child birth, one anything, if I want to keep two death dates why shouldn't I be able to? Someone out there has died twice I know it, and if I knew someone who did I would want to keep track of it in my handy software (when was it Jimmy died the first time anyway?)

My idea of this perfect set of functions which software should provide makes up the contents of this list, however far from reality it may be. I'm not trying to imply that one piece of software should provide each of these functions, in some cases I feel software suites, bundles, or "multi-function" applications are actually the best solution. Note: I tried to rate the list of functions by importance but don't quote me please…

  • BIOS
  • Filesystem
  • BootLoader
  • OS
  • Command Prompt
  • Programming Language
  • API
  • SDK
  • IDE
  • Host (Service, Server, etc.)
  • Network
  • Browser
    • Local
    • Network
  • Firewall
  • Anti-virus
  • Spy-ware/Ad-ware/Mal-ware Detection & Removal
  • Backup
  • Performance/Analyze
  • User
  • Calculator
  • Media
    • Text Viewer
    • Image Viewer
    • Audio Player
    • Video Player
    • Text Editor
    • Image Editor
    • Audio Editor
    • Video Editor
    • Text Creator
    • Image Creator
    • Audio Creator
    • Video Creator
    • Drafting
    • Model
    • Animate
    • Index
  • Messaging/Communication
    • Text
      • Snail Mail
      • EMail & Mailing List
      • RSS
    • Auido
    • Video
    • Newsgroup
    • Forum
  • Encyclopedia
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Translator
  • Spreadsheet
  • Presentation
  • Asset
  • Process
  • Project
  • Contact
  • Calendar
  • Search
  • Syndicate
  • Aggregate
  • Dashboard
  • List
  • Map
  • Route
  • Track
  • Shop
  • Auction
  • Stream
  • Publish
  • Bookmark (Placemark)
  • Journal
  • Forum
  • Catalog
  • Comment
  • Rank
  • Proxy
  • Cache
  • Voice to Digital Text
  • Digital Text to Voice
  • Analog Text to Digital Text

Have I Heard of, Have I Seen, Have I Tried…?

I'd be glad to get input regarding not only the function list but also the list I'm not making of web applications, I have already seen a good amount of them but know there are probably twice as many or more that I haven't. I'm currently using Del.icio.us and Ma.gnolia to keep track of these applications, here are the links;

Those I've used: Ma.gnolia, Delicious.

Those I've seen: Ma.gnolia, Delicious.

Those I've heard of: Ma.gnolia, Delicious.

If you're looking for one big list you can have it, the previous three we're generated by pulling up my bookmarks using the webapps tag and a tag set I devised to organize them (iveused, iveseen, iveheardof). I have also tagged some of them with keywords describing the service but need to do more of that.

See all of the webapps I have bookmarked; Ma.gnolia, Delicious.

Please give me your feedback, I'm working on this a lot in the background and have been anxious to know what everyone thinks of this project. I've actually been thinking about changing the scope of these articles from web applications to just applications or to technology in general. Please let me know what you think about a scope change, the list of web applications, the idea in general, or just the direction of this blog. You can reach me, as usual, at monaghan.david@gmail.com.

Posted in Cultural Forces, Techniques, Tools | Leave a Comment »

What I am Listening to Right Now, Part II.

Posted by David on April 7, 2006

You might have read in the first article, "What I am Listening to Right Now" that I tried and didn't have much luck with Pandora, well more accurately I had pretty good luck that didn't last long and never returned. The reason I became so fond of Pandora's service was that it enabled me to find music that I liked, but hadn't heard before. I found a lot of new bands and albums I didn't know about, besides I also found out the name of countless artists and songs which I heard and liked but didn't know who it was (how many people does that happen to, everyone who listens to the traditional radio?)

As you know my luck ran short, but my need for music doesn't wait long before it forces me to find some easy way to find and listen to music I like. Luckily Pandora was only providing me with an extra service, I already use iTunes frequently for listening to music, besides music I also have many subscriptions to talk radio shows (for lack of a better description) in podcast format. When I'm looking for new music, I check out the iTunes Music Store which lists albums other users have purchased or looked at relating to the artist you are currently viewing, that with the ability to preview almost every piece of content I really slim down my choices of music I need to purchase by selecting only songs or albums I know I will be frequently listening to.

I don't buy much, music is still too expensive, and I don't agree with the iTunes DRM setup so I'm holding what little money I would spend on media until things settle down in audio and video publishing town. What I have bought so far is very good, I've got it on all the devices I currently use as well so I'm at least mostly satisfied.

I can satisfy my music cravings for the time being, I focus right now on organizing my current collection and finding ways to share what I have with my friends, legally. iTunes does a great Job of organizing my digital audio and I have built up my entire collection into it and added album art, year, song numbers, and more into the tags of my mp3s. I have rated everything most important to me at this time and created virtual playlists which collect everything I have rated to make playlists of my favorite songs (2+, 3+, 4+, and 5 stars). The only thing I wish I could do is go through the genres and correctly edit each song but I'm not going to take the time until a system which allows multiple genres (on one song not a genre per song like current techniques) is available through iTunes (or any music player/organizer which has all the features iTunes currently has and is freely available).

My CDs are in a file cabinet, not organized really, but they are in a small holder and there are less than 25 (I think). I do have them all entered into Listal.com, a nice place to catalog movies, albums, and books (I actually prefer another service for books that I will mention another time). This is one way I share what I like with friends legally, but I don't have everything I listen to on there and there's a lack of information regarding which songs I like best. You can rate albums, but not songs, besides how good is a rating I set a year ago and never got around to changing?

I have grown very interested in the idea of having people know what I am actually listening to any any particular moment, not only now but in the past, "How many times did David listen to that Matisyahu album I let him borrow I wonder?" my friend Mark might ask himself. Now he can find out on last.fm. The web application actually keeps track of everything I listen to on iTunes (or at least every piece of audio I play on iTunes that the service recognizes, and that I play a certain amount of time, I noticed if I skip to another song sometimes it won't show up, a good thing I think). It's interesting for me especially to look through the bar graphs of songs I've listened to during various periods of time, and it gives me direction when looking for more to purchase. I should make it clear that iTunes doesn't upload what you play to last.fm or to any other place automatically, in order for last.fm to work an iTunes plugin must be installed which will collect information from tags on what you listen to in iTunes and upload it to last.fm when an internet connection is available; Again, no internet, no compatable music player (iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc.), or no plugin (iScrobbler or jScrob2) and last.fm won't work for you (at least not for knowing what you listened to on your computer without the last.fm streaming player). The list of media players looks pretty good, I'm surprised to learn they support both WMP and iTunes. Here's the

Last.fm's streaming player let's you listen to music in a radio like system but with a few differences. First of all you can tag, rate, skip (skipping is most likely limited), and ban music as you listen and as you do what you play is listed on your profile. One of the nicest features of having access to your music preferences in a database is finding music you haven't heard and might like based on it's similarities to your collection and listening patterns. I'm not sure how deep last.fm goes into finding new music for you but there's a few ways they give you and I've been pleasantly surprised so far.

A combination of various tools like this will really help the media industries in my opinion. It would be hard to convince me that a change hasn't already been seen because of these various services; iTunes, last.fm, listal.com, and Pandora.com. Let's not forget MySpace.com, they aren't the teenage chat room you might have previously thought they were, they started in music and remain to be going in a great direction where this is concerned. Music by the people, not the giants, I think everyone can agree that the music pushed to the top should be pushed by the all of the people who have to (or want to) listen to it.

So, what are you listening to? How? I want to know, I'm interested, and I think other people are too.

Do you know of another service that helps to find, organize, or share music? Please drop a line or leave a comment, I'm happy to check out anything that will help. Also, let me know if you've tried any of the services I have mentioned, I'm interested to learn of your experiences.

Hopefully a Part III will come soon with news of Pandora.com or something new and just as useful, until then I hope this helps.

Posted in Cultural Forces, Techniques, Tools | Leave a Comment »

Ruby, Rails and Remarkable Rambling!

Posted by David on April 7, 2006

I've been taking the time to learn Ruby the last couple of weeks, I heard about it for the first time (that I remember) about six months ago, then after hearing more and more about how Ruby on Rails makes developing web applications quick and easy I decided to give it a good investigative look and moved immediately from learning about Ruby and Rails to bumping Ruby up to my new favorite programming language knocking Perl out of the way. I'm not knocking Perl or trying to say that Ruby or any other language is or may be better, in fact if you know Perl and not Ruby I would recommend you use Perl if you've got a job to do and not a lot of free time. On the other hand, I must recommend checking out Ruby and Rails especially if you are a Perl fan.

I'm not going to ramble here, I'm going to give you three links and let you go about your way.

Ruby, Rails, and remarkable rambling.

The Ruby and Rails links are simple, they direct you to the corresponding official sites, what is most special here is the rambling (rambling is probably a bad word to use when describe the content, but it starts with an R arghhh!) Anyway, the link will direct you to Why's (Poignant) Guide to Ruby, it's an amazing combination of comedic fiction and a technical book. The topic? Ruby what else, I don't think Rails is covered in the book although I haven't finished yet. So far I've laughed more than I do when watching South Park or Saturday Night Live and I'm learning more than I usually do from technical documents, the combo really makes for a good introduction to Ruby and languages in general both for beginners and professionals. Sprinkled between code examples and extremely well written descriptions of Ruby's various features are funny comic strips which completely interact with the user and the book making for an extremely pleasurable and enlightening experience, two feeling rarely found together especially in technical documents (and fiction if you are like me, and I mean enlightened and not pleasured but I obviously don't read much fiction so I don't mean to insult any authors, I probably haven't read your book(s) yet). This online book is freely available and is under construction at the time this article was written.

By the way my Mom has been loving it so far too, she likes off the wall humor. I can't wait to see if it gets her interested enough to read the entire document, she's already picked it back up (metaphorically speaking) a couple times. If she does finish it or at least read another chapter I know she'll pick up at least some of the programming concepts mentioned, and trust me the author's interest in humor, fiction and cartoons doesn't seem to have an impact at all in their technical knowledge; In fact the combination makes for a much better information vehicle, the examples are directly related to the crazy story and are explained using an imaginary world which revolves around the user learning Ruby (some of the characters have even read the book and know some or most of Ruby's functionality). Hope you check it out, if not you're really missing out on some great material.

Thanks Why!

If you are a developer you should also check out RadRails, an IDE built on top of the Eclipse framework, wow.

Posted in Techniques, Tools | Leave a Comment »

Free Web Based List Organizer Software: RememberTheMilk.com.

Posted by David on January 3, 2006

Remember The Milk is a free web service I stumbled upon a couple of weeks or so ago while looking for free web services to both replace applications on my computer and to provide functionality currently unavailable from free desktop based software. I ended up finding Remember The Milk among many other free services listed on Nedwolf's site where you can find a comprehensive list of free web based software organized into categories of functionality. I was initially impressed by what I saw on RememberTheMilk.com, but now I have to tell you to give it a try, especially if you're looking for something to send you real reminders about events on your list.

The list items on Remember The Milk can have a due time, and in your settings you can configure times which you are notified before and during the event. The great thing about this isn't just the events, but you can now be reminded not just in your email but in your instant message program (I believe it is only for Google Talk at the moment, luckily that's all I use anyhow). Some may wonder why this is such a great thing, especially just for a list, but trust me there is more to come in the future of applications like this. When coupled with a good address book (or contact organizer as I like to call it) and a good calendar an application like this can automatically remind you of all types of events, and do it no matter where you are (that is when all IM protocols are supported, especially those accessible through cellular devices).

Now what I need is a good free web based calendar and contact organizer which support ical and vcard! Let me know if you have the solution please!

Posted in Techniques, Tools | Leave a Comment »

What I am Listening to Right Now.

Posted by David on December 30, 2005

I don't know the name of the song or the artist of the music currently playing on my desktop computer in my bedroom as I lie in bed and type this post on my new laptop, and there is a perfectly good reason; I am using Pandora.com as an internet radio. Now you may wonder what makes Pandora any different from the rest of the internet radio out there, and if so you asked the perfect question. Pandora doesn't just play any music, it plays the music you tell it to. Now you can't just go and type in a song name and start playing the song, Pandora is for a different purpose and that is finding new music that you would like based on music you already like. By entering an artist or song name into Pandora's online interface you start a radio station which plays music similar to your selection. Besides that you can add multiple artists/songs to a station, skip forward through songs, and let Pandora know if you like or dislike any music it plays. Pandora doesn't plays the songs in good quality through a flash interface which keeps the music flowing as long as there are more songs in the genome project database which match your interest.

If you don't believe this is worth listening to try it out yourself, I have to say it is a must for anyone seeking new things to try. Hope you enjoy!

EDIT: April 4th 2006: After about a month of usage I stopped visiting Pandora because I experience frequent stops in the audio which hasn't seemed to be fixed, and I'm pretty sure it's not my computer although I haven't asked around to validate this. In any case, I really think the idea is solid but until the service can function without pause I won't be using it (I also found a mirror which hooks up Pandora and last.fm, pretty cool but same problems). Perhaps I'm having problems with the player itself, I'm not so sure but I do hope in the future I will have more luck.

Posted in Techniques, Tools | Leave a Comment »

Free Web Based Applications More Possible, More Popular.

Posted by David on December 21, 2005

These two examples should show you that not only is it possible to mimic the functionality of applications that already exist on the desktop, but that they can be innovative as well. I'm excited to see these two pieces of a big puzzle, the solution (a full suite – and by suite I don't mean one vendor – of desktop replacements) may be years away but it seems to be coming together good so far.

Writely.com is a free web based word processor and RememberTheMilk.com is a free web based list organizer.

Posted in Cultural Forces, Techniques, Tools | Leave a Comment »