Apple home server appliance?

I so hope all these rumors of a cheap headless mac are true. And if they are true i fully expect something along the lines of a home media server. Not a media center, but a digital hub. A headless mac which isn’t supposed to be hooked up to a monitor, just something to stuff away for remote access or hooking up to your tv. This has been high on my wishlist for the last few months, hopefully it’ll pan out (and at the projected sub-$500 pricepoint).

WordPress looking better and better

WordPress used to look rather bland out of the box in the past with its default greenish template by Dave Shea. It’s not all bad, but it’s not particularly attractive either. There’re still a lot of sites which run with this default template and i always thought that it hurts the public perception of wordpress.
Site design quality took a surging rise when Michael Heilemann introduced his highly lauded, much ported kubrick theme for wordpress. From there, things started to improve vastly: Ryan Boren wrote that kubrick was an inspiration for the theme support which’ll be introduced with the release of wordpress v1.3. This new theme capability improves theme management for the enduser and gives designers better support for creating richer, more diversified templates. For information about theme creation for wordpress 1.3 this is a good starting point.
The themes becoming available aren’t quite up there with the best designs in the blogosphere yet, but they’re slowly getting there. Some of the better themes i’ve found and tried out on my test-install are mallow, manji and persian, all of which much better than anything i could possibly come up with. Judging from these excellent first efforts i’m thrilled to see what other gifted designers in the wordpress community will come up with in the near future, once 1.3 is officially released. Nonetheless i’m also somewhat reluctant to using a pre-made theme because i’m not yet willing to declare the form of personal web design dead.

Web-application ramblings

Adam Rifkin recently wrote a great piece about weblications. It’s a nice primer on the subject with some good quotes and examples and many great links. It offers an overview of what’s been going on in this area in ’04, inevitably with a focus on google’s gmail and google suggest offerings.
In it was also a link to the kuro5hin-article “web-apps are the legacy apps of the future” which briefly deconstructs the blatant weaknesses of state-of-the-art web technologies utilized in web-apps. All points raised there are valid, with most problems boiling down to the statelessness of the technologies involved. Nonetheless where others see limitations, i see opportunities. The technologies at hand are far from perfect, but there are already obvious advantages to web-apps even at this early stage like centralized upgrades and no need for installations.
The first e-mail client i ever used was a web-app and i dare to say that the same holds true for at least 90% of netizens these days. Web-apps have been around for years now and they’re here to stay.

A place so foreign

I’m at a place from my past, a little apartment in wels where i used to spend the better part of my rummaging adolescent years before i went on to vienna, the first place i experienced independence. My brother inherited the place and keeps the tradition of having fun around here up. It’s strange to return somewhere you might have called a home earlier in your life, seeing how it evolved, seeing what has remained the same, even finding a few artifacts you left yourself.
It’s strange treading paths you’re intimately familiar with from what seems like a life long passed. This isn’t my town anymore, this isn’t my home anymore, this isn’t my life anymore – it’s my past, way behind me, and still here to be touched, felt, smelled, heard, seen, experienced, soaking you up, bending your mind. If i wouldn’t feel like i’ve lost touch with my surroundings i might be overwhelmed, but so i’m just happy to return to a well-stocked fridge after years and that my younger brother developed a fine taste in alcoholic beverages a lot earlier than i did.

An Ugly Swan?

Tonight aired the final episode of the german version of cosmetic surgery reality soap “the swan”. The show’s concept is imported from the fox series of the same name, just as everything else on german television is a two-years-late rip-off of us shows these days. Basically you only have to follow us television trends to find out what will air around here in 06-07.
But i digress – the show “the swan” takes the conventional approach of casting people with low self-esteem who want a full-on surgical makeover paid for by the station and adds the even more stale concept of getting people to call a premium number and vote for their favorite bodymod. Basically they take a bunch of women with little self-confidence, boost them with the help of plastic surgeons and psychologists and then break them again, except for the one lucky winner. I personally have no objections to the surgery part of the show, but don’t like the following beauty pageant.
The docs did a pretty impressive job, with lots of liposuctions, tummy tucks and facelifts involved. I guess half of the before/after effect was made up by crappy before-shots and great make-up work for the after-shots, but nonetheless, the results of the surgeries were quite impressive.
What really struck me while watching the show was the reaction of my parents. Ten years ago they wouldn’t have watched such an abasing show, but tonight they just dropped an occasional snide comment. This notion of cynicism taking the place of outright anger and criticism has been brought up a lot lately, but seeing my parents as an example for it felt somewhat disheartening…

Mobdex – Project Gutenberg on your cellphone

Russell Beattie launched mobdex last week. Mobdex allows you to browse and read several hundred books from project gutenberg on your cellphone. Russell took those public domain books and the site offers sufficiently easy navigation and breaks the books into small chunks for consumption on tiny screens and weak mini-browsers.
This idea is pure genius. I’ve always been a huge fan of ebooks and read several ebooks on my 7650 when i was still using it. Reading books on a cellphone really works a lot better than most people would suspect. After switching to a dumbphone i sorely missed ebooks, but thanks to mobdex i now have access to a vast library of classic masterpieces. I’ve thought about something like this for quite some time but never came around implementing it, but my original approach was kinda flawed anyway: i rather thought along the lines of a j2me ebook reader that can download books ota, but mobdex’ approach of a web library is so much better.
The site renders beautifully on my moto a835 and besides a few ui weaknesses i can’t recommend the site enough. Now if only there were something like this with current ebooks in its catalog.

The state of personal computing

Following up on Drunkenbatman’s excellent Yin & Yang article Leslie Michael Orchard has posted a series of ramblings about security-awareness among endusers and how dedicated devices and appliances could improve the situation in four parts: one, two, three, four. I could blockquote them extensively, but i’d rather urge you to go read them now. These are as high-quality as ramblings get.
The idea of convergence has been quite popular for several years now, but i think it’s on the wrong track. People won’t put up with halfdecent functionality packaged together if they can have several devices perfectly tailored towards their needs. Why should they? Computing and consumer electronics are merging and processing power and connectivity are getting dirt cheap. If you have the choice between one dirt-cheap piece of equipment struggling to half-fulfill your needs (think pc) and many dirt-cheap dedicated devices working just as you expect them to work (think ipod for music, playstation 2 for games, linksys nslu2 for home serving , etc.) which way would you go?
I think centralized, access-everywhere web applications will also play a big role in this. As it stands now the web is bloated with legacy markup ballast holding it back, making it nigh-unusable anywhere but in highly-evolved browsers which are almost exclusively available on personal computers. But this will change with the evolvement of the mobile web, tailored towards incredibly simple devices with primitive browsers respecting web standards (namely xhtml-mp). It’s just too big a potential market to ignore.
Of course there’s this danger of losing control over your machine and this is a prospect many alpha-geeks won’t be comfortable with, but most people these days have never been in control of their machines. They have little to lose and much to gain. And for us geeks i believe that a stronger fragmentation of services and associated physical devices into interoperable appliances can’t succeed without open standards and that further development of digital living will still depend on the tinkering and toying of people who like to get their hands dirty. Business plans make for poor innovations and poorer revolutions, even digital ones.

Putting stuff online

There have been three interesting services/applications sitting in my bookmarks for the last six weeks that i wanted to write about, but somehow never came around to. Now that i’m cleaning out my temp-bookmarks, slowly migrating them to del.icio.us, it’s time to get this post written, so stay with me if this isn’t exactly fresh anymore.
All three services/apps have one thing in common: they strive to make it as easy and painless as possible to put stuff online. The first of the three, which is my personal favorite for it’s simplicity and elegance, is pasta, a “plain text pasting service for del.icio.us”. Dump something into the textfield (100k max, 10 times a day max), hit submit, and it’ll create a page like this one and auto-post your page to del.icio.us. What i like about this service is that it ties in nicely with the existing filing/sharing/disseminating infrastructure provided by del.icio.us, it’s as easy to use as writing/copy-pasting and it’s incredibly open. It allows anyone to put his words online with practically no barrier and you could do some incredibly interesting stuff with this kind of service that most likely not even its creator expected. Possibly my favorite new service of the last six months.
The second is the publisher, an application provided by creative commons and based on the internet archive’s “generous offer to host Creative Commons licensed (audio and video) files for free”. It’s a drag-and-drop application that auto-licenses your files and uploads them to archive.org for free hosting. If you’re an artist who wants to distribute his works under a creative commons license, this is a killer-app. You won’t have to struggle with hosting, you won’t get in trouble if your stuff gets too popular to pay for traffic, you don’t need too much technical expertise. Don’t waste your brain cycles on distribution, just get creative.
The third is blogtorrent which tries to make the ingenious bittorrent protocol accessible to the masses. Bittorrent is imho the most exciting p2p application since napster and has the potential to load-balance traffic on the net in a way to possibly allow anyone to distribute large amounts of data without getting overwhelmed by traffic bills.
It’s never been easier or cheaper to put your stuff online.

The Playlist Meme

  • Get Down – Everlast – Whitey Ford Sings The Blues
  • Life – MOP, Guru, Stikken Moov – Guru Presents Ill Kid Records
  • Consuelo Leaving – Belle & Sebastian – Storytelling
  • Your Name – Tricky – Blowback
  • Get This [Instrumental] (Groove Nation) – Mark Farina – Mushroom Jazz
  • King Porter Stomp – Benny Goodman – Ken Burns Jazz
  • The Great London Traffic Warden Massacre – Morcheeba – Charango
  • Bite – The Kleptones – A Night At The Hip Hopera
  • The Rafters – Moby – 18
  • La Parole Est A La Defonce (Interlude) – Alliance Ethnik – Fat Come Back

via Rui Carmo. Boy i’m glad there’s hardly anything in my itunes library i need to be ashamed of. Let me also mention that i don’t allow singles, only whole albums in my library.