Archive for May 2005

Godin: Sober thoughts about podcasting

A gut-check overview about why we shouldn't have unrealistic expectations of podcasting.

May Randoms

Possibly useful thoughts collected throughout May:

sIFR 2.0.1

Sorry about the point release, but we had a tiny regression bug between RC4 and 2.0 which was only noticeable under rare circumstances in old versions of Mozilla. It is now fixed, and the update, as usual, requires only the swapping of your sifr.js file. Head over to the Official sIFR Landing Page for the download.

The Other Mike D.

I’ve always loved Mike Doughty’s lyrics and vocals but could never figure out what I didn’t quite like about his former group Soul Coughing. Now I know. The rest of the band. I went to Doughty’s show in Seattle earlier this month, and it blew me away. Usually when singers leave bands to go solo, they get worse, but Doughty has not only gotten better as a singer, he’s a better songwriter as well. More soul, less coughing, as one magazine puts it. The guy loves touring too. Before the Seattle show, he stood on the streetcorner outside the club with his acoustic guitar taking requests from fans and cracking John Curley jokes. I’ve never seen anything like it. Oh, and not only does the man play for free on streetcorners, but he’s a Movable Type user as well. How can you not love that? *Note to Doughty’s IT guy: The man gives you music. Please get him onto MT 3 or WordPress already.

The Decemberists

Their latest album “Picaresque” is my Album of the Year so far. The band’s previous release “Her Majesty the Decemberists” never did a lot for me, but this effort is epic. Long live folksy pirate music.

Downloading Live Shows

Croftie may not like live music but I do. As a result, I’ve found myself downloading a ton of shows lately off of Archive.org. It’s a bit frustrating that most shows are only available in lossless (see: overkill) formats like SHN and FLAC, but you can convert these to MP3s with a program like xACT. Can someone please point me in the direction of an app which automatically tags your converted MP3 files from a playlist file or something? Manually entering song info for each track you download is a pain and a half. Is there an AppleScript perhaps (or Automator workflow maybe?) which will convert an entire folder of FLAC/SHN files to MP3 and then tag them? That would be of incredible use.

Hybrid Bikes

If anyone is in the market for a good city bike, I just picked up a Marin Fairfax and I love it. Hybrid bikes are usually either heavy, ugly, or both, but this thing is only slightly heavier than a road bike and made of brushed aluminum and carbon fiber. I got mine for $599 at a local shop, but you can get the 2004 model for $329 online at REI if you don’t mind different components and a few other details.

TV Season Is Over

Thank god the end of good TV season coincides with the beginning of summer. This year, we had some great reality shows and some dud dramas. Survivor made a strong comeback from last year’s miserable season proving that it’s still the king of all reality shows. The Apprentice was entertaining, if not much better than the previous two seasons, and finally The Donald hired someone who isn’t a white male. Surreal Life was its normal entertaining self, making you embarrassed to be a human being, in a good way. And the newcomer, The Contender, proved to be a great addition to Mark Burnett’s lineup, despite Sylvester Stallone’s and Sugar Ray Leonard’s complete incompetence as hosts. On the flip side, I’m sad to say that the hitherto spectacular show 24 appears to be on its last legs. This season went south after about the 8th episode when the plot climaxed prematurely, the most interesting characters were killed off, and the least interesting (a.k.a. Tony Almeida) were brought back. The most pathetic episode saw mild-mannered Chloe O’Brien wielding a machine gun and shooting up a Jeep. Ummm, yeah. Time to put this show to rest. Quit while you’re ahead Fox. Somehow I don’t think they’ll listen to me, and somehow I’m sure I’ll still watch season five.

New Favorite Ice Cream Flavor

Haagen Dazs Creme Bruleé. I can’t believe it took this long to invent this flavor… or maybe it just took me this long to find out about it.

Kicking the Soda Habit

I’m not too concerned with getting off of coffee, but if you’re looking to kick your Coke and Pepsi habit instead, I highly recommend replacing your thirst for fizz with high quality mineral water. I didn’t drink mineral water for the first 20-something years of my life, but I’ve really taken a liking to it lately and have been virtually pop-free for about six months now. I recommend San Pellegrino especially if you’re new to the stuff. It’s a lot milder on the fizz than most other brands.

Regular Expressions Cheatsheet

Visibone's cut-out style cheatsheet to help you out with those tough RegExes.

We're Hiring In a Pretty Big Way

Just a quick note to let all Mike Industries readers know that the Walt Disney Internet Group is looking to fill over 80 positions in our North Hollywood and Seattle offices right now. These are mostly technical positions ranging from the creative side of things to the engineering side of things, and I can tell you from the over four years I’ve worked here that it’s a great place to get your groove on.

To list every position available in this blog entry would take quite some time, but just in the Seattle office, I know we’re looking for engineers, technical producers, designers, managers, Java people, SQL people, project managers, and a handful of other positions. The North Hollywood office has other openings as well.

If you’re a talented, motivated person who is interested in working for Disney, please check out the Walt Disney Internet Group job site and submit your information through there, or also feel free to send me your stuff through “disneyjobs at mikeindustries.com”. I’m not sure every opening is listed on the WDIG Jobs Site so if you’re a talented web professional, send us your stuff and we’ll try and see if there’s a fit.

UPDATE: If you’re interested in WDIG jobs out of the Orlando office, there are some openings there as well.

Auto-Wrapping Text Around Freeform Images

"The Box Office". This is spectacular. A PHP-based tool which creates empty divs to help you achieve ragged text-wrapping automatically.

iPod Giveaway #2: Great iPods in History

Picked up by the New York Times, Toronto Star, San Jose Mercury News, Kottke.org, Gizmodo, Boing Boing, and Popular Mechanics among others, the first installment of the Mike Industries iPod-A-Month Creativity Competition was a bigger-than-expected hullaballoo. Thanks again to all who entered.

For the second installment, we’re going with a nostaglic theme: Great iPods in History. As is the case with all of these competitions, the person who suggested the theme will win one iPod Shuffle, and the person who wins the actual contest will take home the other (suggestion pool still open through the end of the year). Congratulations to “Getmeparu” for suggesting this contest… as soon as I figure out who you are, a Shuffle will be forthcoming.

As is illustrated by the slightly modified 1945 Alfred Eisenstadt photo to the left, the aim of this contest is to place an iPod Shuffle into notable historical context. You can modify famous photos, upload audio narratives, shoot video, or even design a mini-site. I expect most of the entries to be altered photos, which works well for this particular contest, but I just wanted to remind everyone that rules can always be broken. You are free to submit anything you like, as long as it’s yours and it was created specifically for this contest.

This contest, along with the remaining seven, will run for two weeks. The deadline for entries is midnight, May 31st.

Submission rules are as follows, and cannot be broken:

  • If you’re submitting an image, it must be exactly 418 pixels by 418 pixels. Use a standard <img src="yourimage.jpg" /> tag to enter it into the comments section below. Please also keep your filesizes reasonable (as small as possible, but definitely under 80k or so).
  • Please submit any audio, video, or website entries as a standard link.
  • Multiple entries are allowed.
  • Nothing overtly offensive or in otherwise poor taste please. Mike Industries is a family establishment.

Good luck!

UPDATE: Please, it’s a very simple rule: 418 pixels by 418 pixels. Anything smaller or bigger will be deleted. Also, please keep images under about 80k. Thanks!

UPDATE #2: Maybe the big red exclamation mark will help here — all images must be EXACTLY 418 pixels tall by 418 pixels wide. Not 418×200. Not 500×500. It is not a “maximum width”. 418×418 please. The management thanks you.

UPDATE #3: iPodLounge.com has just offered to send a pair of $150 Etymotic ER-6i earbuds and a sportcase to the eventual winner. Thanks iPodLounge!

Baton Ruse

What is a musical baton?

I don’t know, but my beard idol Rob Weychert and my Google-juice idol Keith Robinson just passed me one. I will now waive it over my head and tell you all sorts of things you never asked about!

Total volume of music files on my computer:

18.05 GB… Mostly from actual pressed CDs

The last CD I bought was:

“The Runaway Found” by The Veils

Song playing right now:

“Mojo Pin” by Jeff Buckley

Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me:

  1. Ten Years Gone by Led Zeppelin
    Best group ever. Any suggestions to the contrary will be deleted.
  2. Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns by Mother Love Bone
    If you live in Seattle and you’re in your 20s or 30s, this is your anthem.
  3. The Pink Life by Mike Doughty
    This pick is currently in ridiculously heavy rotation. Over 50 plays in the last few months I’m sure. And I’m seeing Doughty live tomorrow night. Bam!
  4. Salvation by Citizen Cope
    Unclassifiable music is the most impressive music of all. Citizen Cope and Calexico are two of the least classifiable bands I know.
  5. Bonnie and Clyde by Serge Gainsbourg
    The all-time winner for song most ahead of its time. Sounds like it was composed in 2005. Was actually composed in 1968.

* Honorable mention: Any of Inman’s favorites from the “Video Game Beeping” genre.

Five people to whom I’m passing the baton:

I've Been Adiumed

Have you noticed me bugging you a lot over Instant Messenger these days? If so, you’re not alone. Over the last two weeks, I’ve finally discovered something hundreds of thousands of Mac users already know about: Adium.

Adium is a multi-protocol Instant Messaging client which lets you connect to all of your peeps on MSN, iChat, AOL, Yahoo, Jabber, and a few others. I’d tried Adium in the past but found it too riddled with bugs and incompatibilities for everyday use, but I’m happy to report that as of version 0.81 (can I get a 1.0 please? have some confidence in your product!), Adium is most clearly the best instant messaging client in existence, and dare I say, one of the nicest pieces of software I’ve ever used.

I tend to judge software on its details. Most programs these days can do the big tasks correctly, or else no one would use them, but the true test of a great app is how it handles the little things. How does it look on screen? How does it react to certain clicks and drags? How does it alert you? How customizable is it? These are the very things Adium excels at. Here are some particularly nice examples:

  • First and foremost, Adium offers a beautiful customizable interface. I hate iChat’s bubbly chrome look. I hate MSN’s bloated windows. I hate Yahoo’s 1993 design sensibilities. Adium lets you choose from hundreds of design themes, almost all of which are better than what MSN, Apple, and Yahoo force upon you. My personal favorite is “Decay” (shown to the right), which combines a nice transparent black chromeless window with Kottke’s space-efficient Silkscreen typeface.
  • Adium also lets you customize the look of your message windows. I use the built-in “Plastic” theme (shown also to the right) which features subtle shadowing and rounded corners.
  • The ability to combine contacts from multiple services is brilliant. Even when I used Fire (another multi-protocol IM client), I liked to separate all of my contacts out by IM service, but then I realized this practice is pretty pointless. What IM service someone uses yields no logical information about how to classify them as a contact so you’re really better off putting everyone in the same pool. If you want to then group by “Work, Family, Friends, etc.” fine. Adium not only lets you lump everyone into the same pool but it also allows you to combine contacts with multiple IM accounts into one contact by simply dragging and dropping.
  • Adium uses Growl alerts. Those of you in the Windows world have this nice little built-in system notification called Toast. Whenever an application wants to notify you of something, it can pop up a Toast message from your taskbar. OS X does not have such a notification system built-in, but an add-on called Growl enables this functionality and in a much more beautiful and customizable way than Toast. Adium can be configured to fade in Growl alerts upon almost any event. The result is shown to the right.
  • Adium also pioneered tabbed chat windows. If you’re an IM whore like me, you may often have 10 IM windows up on your desktop during any given workday. Which looks better to the boss… 10 IM windows or one? I’d probably fire someone if I saw 10 IM windows on their screen all day. Adium’s support for tabbed IM windows doesn’t end there though. You can always drag a tab onto your desktop to create a separate window, and the tabs also act as status indicators for when people are typing. It’s these sorts of little touches which make Adium a superstar.
  • If you have a bunch of wiseasses in your contact list like I do, you’ll appreciate Adium’s ability to hardcode names for all of your contacts. “Jer Supply” becomes “Jeremy Fisher”. “Karrne Asada” becomes “Steve Karr”. “Andy Clarke — And All That Malarkey” becomes “Andy Clarke”. Two “Mark”s become “Mark Budos” and “Mark Wubben”. And most importantly, the jerkstore on your list who changes his name everyday to something totally unrecognizable (a sin I was guilty of for over a year) becomes “Jake Thomas”. Don’t get me wrong… I’m all for creative IM names. But when your contact list is over 100 people, it just tends to slow things down when you’re trying to find somebody.

All in all, I only have two complaints about Adium:

  • The default theme and soundsets are not ideal. If a user tries Adium out for the first time and doesn’t take the time to customize, they may not have as high of an opinion about the product as they might otherwise. When someone sends me a message and I hear the obnoxious sound of a duck quacking, I have to wonder a little about what I just downloaded. I humbly suggest to the Adium developers that they ship their application with as subtle a theme and soundset as possible.
  • I wish I could see my status in either the menubar or even better, the contact list (a la MSN IM and iChat). As of now, the only way to see your status is in the Dock icon or by pulling down the status menu. Since I auto-hide my dock, it means that nowhere on my screen is my status consistently visible. Bad… but hopefully something that will be addressed.

If you’d like to give Adium a try, here are some links to get you going. Everything is free of course:

  • Visit the Adium site and download the latest version.
  • Download the Decay theme to pretty up your contact list.
  • Download a nicer Dock icon to replace the duck. This is an icon set I assembled based on Wesley Underwood’s “Speech Bubble” set. Full credit goes to Wesley as all I did was modify the set so that status is indicated by color. Clear is offline. Green is available. Yellow is idle. Red is away. Here is what the icon set looks like:
UPDATE: The Adium Extras server appears to be down right now. They are apparently in the process of moving servers. If you’d like to download the “Decay” theme, grab my copy.

Autoswappable Bluetooth Mouse

Need to get this… has built-in right/left click swapping!

Online marketing forecast: $26 billion by 2010

A Forrester study on the coming growth of the online advertising market.

Shared
Why I Just Asked My Students To Put Their Laptops Away:

A great essay about how toxic everyday distractions can be.

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.