Archive for February 2005

sIFR 2.0 RC4 is Here

UPDATE: Version 2.0 is now available. See article here.

Introducing sIFR 2.0 Release Candidate 4! RC4, you say? Why so many release candidates? Don’t you guys beta test?

Well, yes, we do… vigorously. But the truth is that RC1 should have still been a beta, but we had no idea how many improvements we could still make. The good news is that with RC4, we really don’t have any outstanding issues that we know of anymore. sIFR even works in Konqueror now! Hot damn!

So anyway, here is a list of what’s improved in RC4:

  • Ability to roll sIFR headlines back to plain text dynamically, or turn them off or on persistently via cookies
  • Better support for fringe browsers like Konqueror
  • Improved transparency support for Mac browsers
  • Squashage of various minor bugs affecting tiny percentages of the population
  • Multiple speed improvements
  • Mac IE support is now turned off by default. Although sIFR works fine with Mac IE in most situations, we figured since no one tests in that browser anymore and it accounts for such a small percentage of the population, we might as well save people the worry of having to test in it. It is possible to turn sIFR on for Mac IE if you’d like, however.

I may be forgetting a few minor things, but I think that’s about it. Many thanks to Mark Wubben, whose javascript expertise is responsible for almost all of RC4′s improvements. If anyone ever needs javascript or DOM work done, I highly recommend contacting Mark. His skills are second-to-none.

I also want to point everyone in the direction of the new sIFR Wiki. It is only in its beginning stages right now, but feel free to consult it for documentation, tips, tricks, and other sIFR-related goodness. If you are using sIFR on your site, also feel free to add yourself to the list of examples.

Big ups also to Danilo Celic who has created a fabulous Dreamweaver extension which can automatically export your sIFR-ized swfs for you. Danilo also has a nice video presentation showing how to use sIFR that you might want to check out if you haven’t already.

Here are the details about upgrading from previous sIFR versions:
→ Read the rest of this entry

Apple, Tivo, and the iConcert

You’ve all heard the rumor by now: Steve Jobs is finally in the market for a Tivo. Not the device but the entire company. Or at least that’s what some industry analysts want us to believe.

Whether or not a deal happens is another story. I’ve gone on record in the past about how badly Apple needs a set-top box strategy, but never did I actually see any evidence of such progress. All we’ve heard from Cupertino on the television front is how uneven the playing field is in the world of cable and satellite television. How cable companies have too much power. How satellite companies are building their own boxes. How Apple is a computer company, not a TV company. And so on, and so on, and so on. And to make matters worse, our man, The Steve, just flat out hates television, calling it “the most corrosive piece of technology that I’ve ever seen”. He doesn’t watch much of it and he brought his kids up to do the same.

But then you have to ask yourself the question “Does Steve Jobs not like television as a medium, or does he simply not like the way it is presented to him?” I suspect it may be the latter. By that I mean, he doesn’t like crap programming, he doesn’t like commercial breaks every 15 minutes, and he doesn’t like the dayparted nature of the traditional television schedule.

So what is the killer app that could change the way Steve views television and get Apple right into the living room game?

How about music.
→ Read the rest of this entry

Blink, Lies, and Videotape

“There are 17 different things a guy can do when he lies to give himself away. A guy’s got 17 pantomimes. A woman’s got 20. But if you know them like you know your own face, they beat lie detectors all to hell.”
— Christopher Walken, True Romance (1993)

Malcolm Gladwell is rapidly becoming my favorite author. His debut book, The Tipping Point, is one of the best sociological works of our time, and his new book, Blink, may be even better.

I got a chance to read Blink recently while on vacation (’cause that’s the only time I read things that don’t start with http://), and no sooner do I get back that I already find myself applying theories from the book to everyday life.

Take the Jose Canseco steroid scandal which bubbled up this week.

In Blink, a significant section of the book is dedicated to the study of “microexpressions”. Microexpressions are the fleeting looks on people’s faces when they are listening, thinking, or reacting. While an “expression” (like a smile) may stay on someone’s face for a long period of time, a microexpression usually only lasts a moment. Microexpressions are also almost entirely involuntary. For this reason, experts believe they hold clues to what we are actually feeling, whereas expressions are mere masks.
→ Read the rest of this entry

Unprotecting iTunes vs. Unprotecting Napster

I just read an article on CNet News.com about how Steve Jobs supposedly wrote emails to a bunch of music executives pointing them to a blog entry which explained in easy steps how to turn Napster-protected tunes into unprotected tunes. The purpose of the e-mail was allegedly to show the music industry how unsafe Napster DRM is.

Hey, guess what? Aside from all the hacks people have put together to also un-DRM iTunes Music Store tunes, the method below will always work. Always has, always will:

  1. Purchase album from iTunes Music Store
  2. Burn album to CD
  3. Rip CD to MP3 using iTunes

Your album is now unprotected in less than 5 minutes, you’ve used Apple’s own software with no hacks, and you haven’t done anything illegal. So what’s the big deal? Unprotecting music without first burning to CD is bad, but if you burn to CD first, it’s ok? I don’t get it. I know there is a miniscule loss of quality doing a second transcoding, but most people won’t even notice (hence, the explosion of the MP3 market).

I’m definitely not one of these people who thinks all music should be free, but I do think it’s time to finally start admitting that all DRM is breakable and always will be. One side of me thinks that a combination of “stealing music is wrong” messages, difficult-to-break DRM, and easy-to-purchase legal music is enough to keep the economics of the music industry afloat, but the other side of me thinks that Wilco might be on to something.

Improvised iPod Placement on The Apprentice?

So I was catching up on my Apprentice episodes after getting back from vacation and I noticed something interesting in the episode from two weeks ago. The two teams were competing to see who could set up the best Nescafe promotion in 48 hours. They each hired event planners to help them set up the actual promotion in downtown NYC (which ate up most of their $75,000 budgets), but they also had to come up with their own prize giveaway ideas.

One team decided to give away $10,000 cash, but the long-haired hippee guy (Danny) from the other team had the bright idea of giving away iPods instead. He seemed to come up with the idea on the spot and another team member even piped in (wrongly) with “The Minis are only $300!”. The team seemed to discuss the idea for a couple of minutes and then someone inexplicably said “Ok, so the bottom line is that we’ll give away HP iPods”.

HP iPods?

Who would think to say that on their own? I rewound the scene several times on the Tivo to see who said it and the voice appeared to come from off-camera. It sounded like Danny’s voice but Danny was on camera and his lips weren’t moving.

Fast-forward to the promotion itself. The Apprentice team put up signs in their promotion booth saying “Win an iPod from HP”.

So here’s my question: How exactly did HP get injected into this episode of the Apprentice? The team clearly seemed to come up with the iPod idea on their own, but by the time the promotion ran, the HP brand was all over it. If I had to guess, here is what I bet happened:

  1. Long-haired hippee guy comes up with iPod giveaway idea.
  2. Apprentice producers go to Apple and ask them if they’d like pay for iPod product placement on the show (knowing it’s going to appear on the show anyway).
  3. Apple says “Thanks but no thanks.”
  4. Apprentice producers, perhaps already having a relationship with HP, remember that HP distributes an iPod too and approach them with the idea.
  5. HP says yes.
  6. Mentions of the “HP iPod” are dubbed into scene in post-production and the Apprentice collects product placement fees.

I wonder how often this happens in the world of reality TV. I watch an unhealthy amount of it, but I’ve never seen anything as seemingly improvised as this. Usually product placements are labeled clearly as such and scripted well in advance.

ESPN Seeks Flash Developers

If you know Flash like the back of your hand and you don’t mind 15 million people seeing your work every day, ESPN.com wants to talk to you. Our main office in Bristol, Connecticut has an opening for a full-time advanced Flash developer to help build bleeding-edge applications for the largest sports site in the world, ESPN.com.

ESPN has always been a pioneer in the world of Flash and web development with projects such as:

  • The world’s first dynamic Flash sportsticker (“The Bottomline”)
  • Dynamic Scalable Flash headlines
  • Real-time Flash GameCasts
  • NCAA March Madness Flash tournament brackets
  • Fantasy Football League Manager
  • ESPN Motion for Mac and Firefox

… and many, many more.

Having worked on this stuff for the last four years, I can say that not only are the projects extremely fun and about as high-profile as it gets, but the amount of resources at your disposal is mind-blowing. What good is writing a data-ticker if all you can pull in is some public domain weather information that everyone else has? Throw in ESPN real-time game update feeds from every single sporting event in progress throughout the country though and then you’ve really got something. In addition to the raw amount of data available, you’ve got the highly talented production and engineering teams at ESPN working with you to get everything just right.

Anyway, if you want to find out more, drop me a line with a link to your resumé and/or portfolio and I’ll pass it on to the appropriate people. I must stress that this is more of a Flash developer position than a Flash design position although it can obviously include some of each. If you don’t know ActionScript 2.0 and object-oriented scripting, the position is probably not for you. If you do, however, know that stuff and you’ve got a love for sports, I highly recommend finding out more.

Working here is a fun, fun gig.

Shared
Humanity's deep future:

A group of researchers at the Future of Humanity Institute talk about where our race may be going and how artificial intelligence could save or kill us all.

Steve Jobs speaks about the future at the International Design Conference in 1983:

31 years later, it’s safe to say this is one of the most prescient speeches about technology ever delivered. Jobs covers wireless networking, tablets, Google StreetView, Siri, and the App Store (among other things) many years before their proliferation. A fantastic listen.

How to travel around the world for a year:

Great advice for when you finally find the time.

LiveSurface:

A fantastic app for prototyping your design work onto real world objects like billboards, book covers, and coffee cups. This seems like just as great of a tool for people learning design as it does for experts.

50 problems in 50 days:

One man’s attempt to solve 50 problems in 50 days using only great design. Some good startup ideas in here…

How to Do Philosophy:

If you’ve ever suspected that most classical philosophy is a colossal waste of time, Paul Graham tells you why you’re probably right.

TIME: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us:

Stephen Brill follows the money to uncover the pinnacle of corruption that is the U.S. Health Care system. A must-read article if there ever was one.

DIY Dot Org:

A beautifully designed site full of fun and challenging DIY projects. I could spend months on here.

The Steve Jobs Video Archive:

A collection of over 250 Steve Jobs videos in biographical order

Self-portraits from an artist under the influence of 48 different psychoactive drug combos.

Water Wigs are pretty amazing.

David Pogue proposes to his girlfriend by creating a fake movie trailer about them and then getting a theater to play it before a real movie. Beautiful and totally awesome.

Jonah Peretti's letter to BuzzFeed’s employees:

If you’re wondering what a excellent blueprint for a modern media company looks like, look no further than Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti’s latest email to his employees. In it, Peretti explains a lot of his company’s virtues, the most important being a relentless focus on always providing what’s best for the user. Vox Media (operators of The Verge) is the only other company I can think of which approaches this level of reform and execution.

The Covers Project:

I love this so much: a cross-referenceable database of cover songs, searchable by song or artist. Slowed down, acoustic covers — no matter the song — are so enjoyable to me that I wish it was a requirement to play one at every show. If you like them as much as I do, make sure to check out M. Ward’s Let’s Dance or Sun Kil Moon’s entire album of Modest Mouse covers.

“More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.”
- Tim Kreider’s denunciation of the cult of busyness is excellent. (via jimray)
Overshared
@sunghu No! We have an office there now! #truestory
@sunghu Are you visiting the Twitter Columbia office while you are down there?
@sunghu It looks like a beer in your photo.
@sunghu Are you going to partake in a glass of "Colon"?
Horrified Subway Execs Assumed People Were Buying Footlongs To Share With A Friend: http://t.co/dF5052wl9g (via @mikefarrell)
Great turnout at the Twitter Seattle event tonight. The Pacific Northbest office is all growns up! https://t.co/xTkyT3EnEo #JoinTheFlock
"Rarely Say Yes to Feature Requests" by @destraynor. These Intercom posts always hit it completely out of the park: http://t.co/Zrqd9k82D6
"Code Comic Sans": When a project isn't quite code red but will look like shit unless it gets some design love. Coined today by @aunder.
@benjaminlistwon Yep. The kid is really the only blameless one too. :(
When I was 9, a friend's dad took us to a gun range. I was SO pissed at my parents for being livid. They were right. http://t.co/JhxzKm6uL4
@cpen It's just fascinating to me that bread is literally the only cuisine that San Francisco gets wrong. And SO wrong. @bobby
@bobby If you're lucky, you can still actually bite into the bread. These days, I just run the whole thing through a food processor.
@cpen Load some up for the plane ride.
@cpen Do you ever watch the Amy Schumer show? I feel like you would *really* enjoy it.
@cpen If you were still in the good ideas zone, you would be pushing your flight back right now and paying the change fee. #yolo