category: Technology

Lifehacker -iPhone

I enjoy Lifehacker, but man oh man, they have too many iPhone-related posts. I can pretty much guarantee I won’t be buying an iPhone anytime soon and I have zero interest in reading about hacks or apps for it, so I whipped up a quick filtered version of the full Lifehacker feed, minus posts with iPhone in the title or category, with Yahoo! Pipes.

You can check out the pipe here or subscribe to its RSS feed.

Auto-Playlists

I love MediaMonkey‘s AutoPlaylist option that dynamically scans your library based on user-set filters and creates a playlist for your listening pleasure. Here are a few I’ve set up that I love going to when I don’t quite know what I want to listen to:

  • ADD Playlist: Under 30 minutes – Follows the ADDreviews model. Creates a random playlist of 30 tracks under a minute long each.
  • College – All tracks recorded between 1994 and 1998. (Similarly, “High School” has tracks from 1990-1994.)
  • Favorite Polish Tracks – Any tracks in my “Poland” directory that I’ve rated 4 stars or higher.
  • Jazz in Under 5 – Random jazz tracks that clock in at under five minutes.
  • Hip-Hop By Year – 20 random hip-hop tracks that I’ve rated 3.5 stars or higher, sorted by year. Serves as a brief history of personal hip-hop favorites. Just made this one today and I’m loving it. (I also have one of these that’s the same idea, except with 700 megs of tracks for an MP3 CD’s worth.)

A few years ago, I had a pretty sparse collection of music digitized and was still listening primarily from CD. These days, though, I’ve really adapted to listening to music differently. I still usually listen to entire albums rather than relying on some sort of random selection, but every so often, I like the option to listen to random tracks by year, rating, genre, or some combination thereof.

A Twitter Tip for Opera Users

Here’s a quick tip for Opera users that want a quick way to post to their Twitter stream.

  1. Login to your Twitter account
  2. In the form field where you’d normally type your Tweet (gawd I hate that term), right click and choose “Create search.” In the “keyword” section, enter just the letter t.
  3. Now, open a new Opera window. In the URL field, type “t Posting to twitter via Opera!” without the quotes, and your new tweet has been posted.

I love Opera’s ability to easily create a search from any search box. Combined with the ability to do quick keyboard shortcuts like “g hoohaa” to search Google for “hoohaa,” it’s the perfect way to post to Twitter with as little extra effort as possible.

Things that currently are not working on my home PC…

… or, Small Annoyances I’ve Been Living With For A While Now

  1. The scroll wheel on my mouse does nothing. Updating drivers, changing settings, nothing will make it, you know, scroll.
  2. Our printer form feeds paper rather than, you know, printing. When I print a page, the printer whirs up and proceeds to spit out a blank piece of paper without even attempting to print. If I hook up the printer to my Mac, it works fine.
  3. It doesn’t recognize when my camcorder is hooked up via Firewire (or USB, for that matter). So, this means I can’t transfer video and I can’t send an analog signal through it to capture, either. This is the most frustrating of all the issues and probably indicates a problem with the camera.
  4. Mozy has had a lot of trouble backing stuff up for the past month or so.
  5. POPfile occasionally gets stuck and the process needs to be restarted.
  6. There’s a one-pixel red dot on my screen. I’ve run dead pixel removers a few times with no luck.

If only.

Would somebody please create an app that would parse Trillian chat logs and convert them into mail messages that could then be imported into a mail app of choice? Ideally, you could tie a chat log to a specific From: address and get a separate message for each day. This would make searching for conversation threads a lot easier by consolidating the number of places discussions are archived.

Thanks. I appreciate it.

Two old tech references in one sentence

Services like IMified remind me of a hybrid of ELIZA and Gopher.

Jott

So this is my first attempt at using Jott. Which is a service I just read about on Mike’s Hacker. You call a toll free number and leave a message, and it converts that speech to text and emails it too you. Which is a pretty good idea if it works well. So I decided for this post, I’m writting my post by calling Jott, leaving the message, and then I’m going to post the text exactly as it transcribes it.

[Added: Woa — Jott is transcribed by people, not by a speech-to-text engine. Does that scale? The above paragraph is pretty good, except “Mike’s Hacker” should be “Lifehacker.” Also, note the very human spelling error “too.”]

Usability Absurdities

Went to ask a question today of Citimortage through their web site and got this:

Stupid error message

So, wait… go ahead and ask a question, but don’t use “non-allowed characters” like a question mark?!

I’m not sure which is worse: this, or Nuance’s contact form which limits you to 100 characters. Do you have any idea how hard it is to ask a question of any depth in 100 characters or less? What’s with having any limit? Let me ask my damn question if you want my money. (That, and try answering my question when you get it. Which you haven’t done.)

Moving to FiOS TV

A couple of weeks ago, Huyen informed me that the dish was returning only blank screens instead of, you know, TV channels. I did a little research and still ended up calling customer support (which, in the past, has been pretty helpful). I worked for about 30 minutes with a nice guy who didn’t take me for an idiot, but we couldn’t come to any resolution other than that the signal wasn’t coming through strongly enough. I was getting the DISH information channels, but nothing else.

He eventually informed me that he’d have to send a technician out in a few days. He also informed me that it would cost $50 for the service call, though I could cut that down to $30 if I started paying $6/month for warranty extension. Sounded like a pain, but I set up the appointment.

I decided to do a little research, in the meantime, and realized that for the same price I’m paying for DISH now, I could get the new Verizon FiOS TV. There would be some huge differences, though, that made it an easy decision to switch:

  • Channel lineup: sure, I’d lose the Sirius music channels that I never use, but the channel lineup is actually a little better with FiOS. The only channel I’ll be bummed to lose is Free Speech TV, but that’s an acceptible casuality.
  • DVR: The Dishplayer 7200 that we have now was pretty killer back in 2000 when we got it, but these days it’s just “bleh.” The new PVR we’ll be getting from Verizon supposedly has some GUI issue, but has all the nice new features that modern PVR users are used to, and then some. The big feature: the ability to record two programs at once or record one and watch another live program. Can’t do that now. Also nice: 120 hous of recording of standard def TV.
  • More than one TV: Right now, we’re stuck with watching TV on the downstairs TV. With the new service, we’ll not only be able to watch TV upstairs, but we’ll be able to stream recorded content from downstairs. Nice.
  • Media-center-ish capabilities: We’ll be able to stream music from our PC to our stereo downstairs. Not bad!
  • Picture qualty: Supposedly, FiOS’s picture quality on standard definition programming is excellent, better than dish or cable.
  • HD channels: We don’t really care about this now, as we don’t have any HD-capable TVs (and probably won’t in the near future). But someday it’ll matter.
  • On Demand: I’m looking forward to seeing how much free on demand stuff there is. Don’t have it on DISH.

While I kind of hoped to move to a wide-open, hackable DVR, I’m willing to give this one a shot because, c’mon, who has time to hack their freakin’ DVR anyway?

Installation is tomorrow. It’s a lengthy process (4-6 hours!), but it’ll be worthwhile. I’ll report back afterwards.

(Unsurprisingly) Selling out to spammers

A certain Russian MP3 site that sells songs for pennies may or may not be legal in the US, but I can tell you one thing: they sell e-mail addresses to spammers.

I signed up with them a few weeks back, just to poke around and try their desktop application. Of course, I used a special tracking e-mail address when I signed up. In the short time since, I”ve started receiving some pretty nasty spam at that account. Here’s a brief sampling of some I’ve gotten:

  • Illegall and viollent familyy orrgiesart
  • Trasshy teenn sllut gets her brainss screwedd outdream
  • The rape of three teens mediumize

So, if you sign up with them, you may want to use a throw-away account to keep your primary e-mail account clear. And use a one-time use credit card number.