Had my first iPod chat

There’s been quite a lot of coverage of the social aspects of having an ipod, e.g. in this column or on a new “phenomenon” generally referred to as “ipod jacking“. Yesterday i had my first casual ipod chat with a total stranger, so there obviously is something to all these stories.
I was shopping for a nice new coat and there only was one salesperson in this crowded part of the store who generally seemed kinda bored and far too hip to be bothered with my concerns. So i braced up and approached him with my questions (i was kinda hesitant to buy the coat at that moment). I’d been listening to my ipod for the whole evening as it makes shopping much more enjoyable, blocking all the surrounding noise, but i used my sennheiser mx400 as i generally prefer them over the white apple earbuds. As usual my ipod remote was attached to my scarve and as i took my jacket off to try the new coat on so that he could judge wether it fits or not, he stared at my chest for a moment and then asked if that was an ipod i was wearing. I affirmed and he told me that he thought about getting one as well. We spent the next few minutes talking about ipods, their features (he didn’t know how capable these little things really are), the goodness of apple (he’s an apple user, as i found out) and even my non-apple earbuds and why i prefer them.
That alone wouldn’t make a good point for a post, but the really interesting thing was that not only we had a nice chat on a topic we both were interested in and enjoyed (even though i’m usually reluctant to talk to a total stranger), but also that he warmed up during our little conversation. This made the following shopping-talk a lot more pleasant and gave me the feeling that he was quite honest in his recommandations. Of course i finally bought the coat, and boy, what a coat it is! I usually don’t play favorites with my clothes, but this one sure is special. I definitely love it more than any other piece in my closet. Perhaps more on it later.

More software recommendations

After my recent mention of omnipad, a really nice, free text editor for windows, it dawned on me that it would be a good idea to recommend some more software that has proven useful, fun or plain invaluable, some of which i stumbled across just recently, so here’s a short list:

  • yahooPOPs! – some time ago (i think in 2002) yahoo disabled pop access for their freemail service. Yahoopops automatically queries your yahoo mail account and allows you to retrieve your mail in your mail client of choice. Especially useful if you’ve got some important old mail stuck there but didn’t bother to manually forward/grab it.
  • uniform server – installer for simply setting up a wamp environment on your box for some quick’n’dirty webdev stuff. In the past i first used php triad before it went more or less dead and more recently commercial (under the new name of sokkit) and then foxserv, but i really like the smaller download footprint and ease of install of uniserver. I always had trouble setting up foxserv (nothing major, but still annoying), but uniserver simply worked out of the box.
  • vlc media player – this isn’t exactly an insider tip, but i heard of this player just quite recently and perhaps there are others out there who haven’t heard of it yet. At first i’ve been a bit deterred by the rather poor ui of the windows version, but since then most doubts have gone. This is a very capable media player (the first one that allowed me to play xvid without any trouble) and by now my default video player. It’s available for pretty much any platform. I have the impression that it sucks lots of system performance, though.
  • argo uml – a nice uml modelling tool. Perhaps not good enough for professional work, but i used this software in a course and quite liked it. There’s also a more polished, more capable commercial software package based on this open source project, poseidon.
  • vexed.net – now to the fun part: most likely you’ve heard of vexed, a brilliant puzzle game available for pretty much any platform. On windows i play this version, implemented in .net.
  • Finally, i’d like to recommend sharpreader. I’m sure that i’ve mentioned the software before on this blog, but for the sake of completeness i have to include it in this list. It’s an rss feed reader for windows written in .net. I’ve been using this software for several months now and can wholeheartedly recommend it.

Now if someone could point me to good windows versions of tetris and arkanoid, i’d be most grateful.

The limits of business journalism

If He’s So Smart…Steve Jobs, Apple, and the Limits of Innovation
So apple isn’t making as much money as dell or microsoft, i always knew this company was a complete failure! They clearly have to turn into another dell, cause you can’t have enough soulless behemoths in the computer business. Apple, stop innovating, start copying this other really innovative computer company that isn’t apple, piss off customers and make shareholders happy.
Is this what you learn in business school or are business journalists an even darker breed?

Redesign bla^2

I made some more changes to the site design and slowly i’m getting very satisfied. The old one wasted too much valuable screen real estate and the content- and menudesign didn’t work with the new header as well as with the old one anyway. The new design is less playful and imho looks more solid.
I also changed the content block which has now a fixed width. The whole main block is 780 pixels wide and should therefor work quite well on 800×600 and higher resolutions. I’ve tested the design in mozilla firebird 0.7 and internet explorer 6.0 and it appears to be working well in both, but if you encounter any problems with it let me know, please.

My EyeToy experience

After my brother picked up a playstation 2 eye toy bundle two days ago we spent the whole afternoon playing and i can tell you: this game rocks! Perhaps the biggest surprise was that it actually works.
It’s been tried before: human machine interaction by voice, motion or rather esoteric means. But we still operate most of our machines with a mouse, keyboard or keypad, so it’s safe to assume that those other attempts more or less failed. Eye toy works pretty well and more than good enough to be a lot of fun.
As i’m generally interested in user interface design i was especially impressed by the menu system of eye toy: you select options simply by moving your hand to certain areas on the screen and keeping your hand in place on those virtual buttons. It works a little like the interfaces in minority report, and while i thought that it wouldn’t work in reality when i first saw the movie, i now think it might work.
The eye toy menu system is of course rather limited, far from what you see in minority report. People bashing apples one-button mouse definitely wouldn’t be happy with it because navigating the menus is basically like using a mouse without any buttons, limited just to moving your hand around on the screen.
However, considering that this is just the first practically useful application of this technology i’ve encountered thus far and imagining the possible improvements, i find this very promising. Controlling the menu with free movements of whatever body part one considers appropriate works a lot better than i expected. Even though i’ve been using computers for quite some time now and i’m quite accustomed to computer mice, it felt more natural than using a mouse after a short period of time to adjust. Furthermore, over the last few days several people of various ages and computer experience tried the game and everyone accustomed to the control scheme quite fast.
If you wanna get a glimpse at one future aspect of human machine interaction or just want something to impress your friends, pick up eye toy, definitely the coolest and most impressive videogame i’ve ever played. And parents don’t have to worry about their kids hangin’ out in front of the playstation all day ’cause playing this game makes up for some great physical exercise. My muscles still feel sore…

OmniPad text editor

I’ve been looking for a decent windows text editor for quite some time now and finally i’ve found one: omnipad. I’ve used it the whole day for coding and i’m very satisfied. Of course i’ve never tried bbedit, otherwise i’d most likely be spoiled, but omnipad got at least one huge advantage over bbedit: it’s free.

MiniPod

Fancy new colorful ipods? Makes perfect sense, especially with those funny new imacs showing up in all different colors nowadays – oh wait, that was ca. 1998. Seriously, the rumored prospect of cheaper, smaller (both physically and in capacity), colorful, even striped ipods is quite unbelievable. Cheaper – i can see that. Smaller – at least possible. Colorful – uhm, no. Striped – did hell freeze over yet? It just doesn’t sound steve-approved to me.
Of course i’d love a smaller 2gb sub-$200 ipod, something like creatives muvo, but considering what they are charging for their small hdd-player the rumored price-point seems rather unbelievable.

Redesign blabla

As said, prechristmas was stressful, thank god i made it into the holidays. The past two days i had time to go over the css stylesheets and here’s the result. Also planned are changes to the internals of the system cause i’m currently not exactly happy with the list-linkage feature. Changes would require hacking around in my wordpress installation though, and with the next wordpress release just around the corner i’m somewhat hesitant. Especially the multiple category support sounds like it could solve my problem… perhaps i should pick up their bleeding edge cvs version and check whether version 1.0 will make me perfectly happy or i should start coding right away. Let’s see how boring the holidays turn out.
I’m still not fully back into blogging, hopefully this will change soon.

LotR: RotK

So what do i think of it? I won’t go into detail (perhaps later, but most likely not), but i consider it the weakest of the three movies. After a very strong start it magically turned into starship troopers somewhere in the middle, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in this case it is. It doesn’t represent the original book very well and the ending was far too long. I’m definitely disappointed.