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September 2003 Archives


September 29, 2003 9:53 AM


Happy MacOver the weekend, Apple improved their RSS feed for the OSX downloads page (and perhaps improved other feeds?). The feed now contains a full description of the application download instead of a simple subject line. You can subscribe to that feed here. There's also a "Hot Downloads" RSS feed here.

September 25, 2003 10:03 AM


Wi-FiLong distance wireless connectivity is an art as much as it is a science. Such is the case at my house in Northern Virginia where the tech flies high and the stock crashes go so very deep. AOL is 5 miles away, PSInet and Alcatel used to be down the street from here, and now I'm getting my last mile solution from a local no name.

I spent two hours the other night re-aiming and positioning my pizza-box-like Wi-Fi transmitter in hopes of squeezing more bits out of the air. It's installed in the attic, and the guy who installed it there placed it behind the air ducts (big, insulated, round hoses) and low enough to be behind the brick facing of my house. No wonder he placed it there really due to the sweat laden efforts I put into moving it to a place where no duct work or bricks would be between it and the base station 2 miles away.

I'm supposed to be getting a full megabit downstream and 128 up, which isn't so bad when you consider my alternative is my AOL dialup account. I've been getting ~285 kilobits/sec for the last week, and have tweaked as many TCP settings as I am willing to fiddle with. Nothing really worked, but if I took the antenna, pointed it out a window, aimed it real well and connected my Powerbook directly to the antenna, I sometimes got 800 kilobits/second. That's almost triple what I was getting, and almost all of what I should be getting.

Back to the attic, which has no flooring. The "floor" is rafters and the drywall that makes the ceiling below and there's insulation everywhere, covering the floor beams, so walking around is nearly impossible. My wife insists I'm a monkey, so I took that to heart and swung around the lattice of roofing trusses carrying my wireless drill/screwdriver, Leatherman and Cat5 with me. After getting the antenna free from it's original 2x4 (one screw was bent) and attached to it's new home a few meters away, tests revealed an average 500 kilobits/second.

Aiming the thing was pretty easy. When I had the antenna in the window blazing ahead at 800k k/sec, I put it next to the vertical window sill, put a piece of paper on the horizontal sill, and drew in the angle. Back up in the attic, I did the same using the vertical truss the antenna it's attached to. I'm assuming the english-is-my-second-language-migrant-workers who built my house did a good job keep their angles straight. For the most part, I think they did, and that's helping me get better thru-put.

Just this week Adelphia started rolling out cable modems in my neighborhood. :^P

September 24, 2003 9:58 AM


iPod 0wn34 j00!!!This idea of going wireless with the iPod and removing the hard drive is the least consumer oriented music idea I have seen so far (outside of lawsuits). What follows is a totally knee jerk reaction to a manufactured business model that seems to me to be an effort to take control away from consumers and place it in the hands of of industry.

Riddle me this: What would you get if you crossed a BlackBerry with an iPod? The answer: The future of the music business. Let me explain. Imagine, if you will, an iPod as a wireless digital ladle. It would dip into a nearly bottomless stream of continual music, scooping up any song you wanted, when you wanted, where you wanted. There would be no need for CDs, hard drives, or any other storage device. And trying to capture such music would be about as easy as trapping mist in a jar. Every song would contain a digital expiration date, so, over time, they would evaporate.
Riddle me this buddy, what happens when people see that there is a subscription model (no ownership) and the music is transient (again, no ownership, and this time no control) and no one buys into the business model? What then? Oh yeah, the Invisible Hands bitch slap you.

What happens when programming your digital, wireless only music device needs to be done in the field. Well, we can deal with by making a nice iTunes like interface that makes playlist editing easy beyond compare.... but.... this is a wireless only device, right? Oh yeah, indeed it is, and thus we'll need a nice QWERTY keyboard to edit our playlists, and demand new music when we want it... oh wait, I'm out of the service area? I downloaded that track yesterday, and I want to listen to it again, and I can't? Why can't I just store the music I bought on this thing and listen to it when ever I want?

Good luck answering those questions Mr Recording Industry. In the meantime, my iPod and I will do exactly what we want, when we want to do it, and wherever we please to be.

September 22, 2003 3:30 AM


TiVo icon As noted last week, I've got a network going at home, and have probably radiated my family into sterility by now, but it's worth the benefits. Namely, the TiVo can be remotely scheduled from my AOL account now.

First, I bought one of the Linksys USB/Ethernet adapters and gingerly put the cat-5 cable into the port which uses a pretty flimsy piece of plastic as the backing. The adapter went into the USB port, and the other end of the CAT5 went into the switch, which connects to a wireless bridge, which talks to a wireless router, which talks to a wireless access point, which talks to some crazy/expensive looking wireless gear two miles away, which talks to the internet somehow.

Instantly, the TiVo grabbed an IP, told me what the MAC address is (I filter by MAC address at the router) and was completely configured. Two minutes later, the TiVo was hapily telling me it connected to the mothership, and I turned off phone line based access. I pretty much have no use for the land-line now.

AOL subscribers can remotely schedule their Series 2 TiVo's for free, assuming they have the unit online thru a network, such as the one mentioned above. I like free, but the interface and user interactions for doing the scheduling need to be fixed.

Searching AOL for TiVo scheduling doesn't help out, but if you go to AOL Keyword: "tv" and then look for the TiVo link on the right (who knows how long that will be there) and then tell it where you are, and who your cable operator is, and what service you have, you can get listings. Click on a listing, and then click the 'Record on my TiVo DVR' link, then log into the TiVo service, agree to the Terms of Service, and then submit the scheduling request. Whew.

The next time your TiVo pings the mother ship it will try to schedule the show you scheduled. Yes, that's right, the remote scheduling doesn't push the data to the TiVo, the TiVo has to ask for it, and then be told there's a scheduling request, and then it tries to figure it out.

Looking back on everything I have in place to make this possible, I wonder how many people actually use this feature...

September 17, 2003 9:35 AM


AppleScript scroll logo There are several 'extras' on the iPod including a Calendar thingy, some contacts handling and other junk like Solitaire (which I won while on my beach vacation a few weeks back). The notes functionality is cool too, but what makes it VERY cool, or more to the point, usable and helpful, is the 'clipboard to iPod note' AppleScript.

The script does what it claims to do. It takes whatever text is in the clipboard, and smashes it into a text note, and dumps that onto your iPod. If the text is more than 4k in size (the max size of an iPod note is 4k for some reason) it will automagically split it up into the number of files it needs to cover the data, and links them together, and copies them all to the iPod.

It does a pretty good job at getting the text parsed and written out in a useful way. Tables of data lose their formatting of course, but not in a horribly unuseable way, and the auto linking of long text blobs is extremely helpful.



September 16, 2003 3:44 AM


MechAssaultDue to problems with the physical communications architecture in my community (fiber, not copper, so no DSL for me) and bad local government deals with cable monopolies (I hate you Adelphia) the only broadband option in my neighborhood is wireless. You have to have broadband to play your Xbox Live games, and being a fan of online games (I love you Tribes2) I wanted to get my Xbox online when I originally bought MechAssault (a long time ago in a Best Buy not so far away).

Also, due to the fact that my wife likes the house to be well apportioned and clean, cables laying along the baseboards will simply not be happening. I'd do it if i were alone, in an apartment, playing Quake all day long, but I'm a father, and I don't want my house to look like shit box. Therefore, wireless gear will have to come to the rescue.

So, taking the two points outlines above to heart, I laid out obscene amounts of cash to get all of the gear I need to virtually crush 16 year old boys into the virtual dirt (or the other way around, as the case may be). That gear includes all of the following...

  1. A pizza box shaped wireless receiver
  2. A Linksys BEFW11S4 router and wireless access point
  3. A Linksys WET11 wireless bridge.
  4. A 5 port SMC switch (so i can get my TiVo online too)
  5. An Xbox and the Xbox Live kit
And connected it all in such a way as to make the diagram below factually accurate, but proportionally inaccurate like the London Underground maps...
As noted in another post here at IMX, there are several issues that folks need to deal with when using an Xbox with wireless gear, most notably, Linksys gear. I found one particular point to not be an issue for me...

For all you people having problems with WET11 and not being able to connect 2 xbox's together using system link i have a solution (if you are using a LINKSYS wireless access point router and a LINKSYS WET11 bridge). All you need to do is download the latest version of the firmware for the BRIDGE (version 1.5.4) and install it. Once you have that downloaded and installed you need to download the latest setup wizard (version 1.06) in order to configured the BRIDGE, you cant configure it without it (unless you can figure out the ip address). Then use the setup wizard to set up the bridge (but remember the ip address of the bridge) then once the setup wizard is done and has you exit you need to open internet explorer and put the ip address in the address bar and go to it, both the username and password should be the same (admin). Then once you are in (able to configure the bridge) you NEED TO ENABLE MAC ADDRESS CLONING!!!

1. download firmware update for the bridge and install it
2. download the latest setup wizard, go through the setup
3. enable MAC ADDRESS CLONING on the bridge!!!

4. you can now play with 2 xbox's using system link!!!


Now to any of you who understand my instructions, have fun!

-Posted by laubsterboy on May 31, 2003 01:56 AM

I did not enable MAC cloning, but I do filter by MAC address, and was able to find the Xbox MAC address when I installed the Xbox Live software from the disk that came with the start up kit. Lucky for me, all of the gear I bought had all of the up-to-date firmware installed, so there was no upgrading annoyance involved, instead, I had to enter in all of my personal info into the Xbox using the controller instead of a keyboard. THAT SUCKED but the games I've played have been lag free so far.

September 12, 2003 10:26 AM


The subject of this post is a bit misleading, because I don't exactly understand the Eolas patent. This post is an attempt at grokking the situation.

First, Eolas claims that Microsoft "had stolen browser technology relating to plug-ins." this is, of course, a pretty vague statement. Then consider Microsoft's citation of CNN as being "an example of a site that uses Macromedia Flash--a technology many consider particularly vulnerable to the patent's claims--in a non-infringing way."

Is it the browser implementation that infringes, or the web site implementation that infringes? I'm not sure, but the Eolas patent is described by Eolas thusly...

First demonstrated publicly in 1993, this invention lifted the glass for the first time from the hypermedia browser, enabling Web browsers for the first time to act as platforms for fully-interactive embedded applications. The patent covers Web browsers that support such currently popular technologies as ActiveX components, Java applets, and Navigator plug-ins. Eolas' advanced browser technology makes possible rich interactive online experiences for over 500 million Web users, worldwide.
In the patent abstract, the following line indicates to me (a non-lawyer to be sure) that the devil is in the web site implementation...
The program object is embedded into a hypermedia document much like data objects.
Now, back to the CNN implementation and the way Microsoft suggests that web developers can avoid infringing code. It goes something like this...
One such option would move the data to the Web page itself, rather than pulling it from an external source.
If you haven't read the description of the CNN method, then go read it now... Notice any similarities? I do, and it's a very annoying process, that basically makes the data load external, but not external at the same time.

Anyone else have a clearer idea of what the deal is here?

September 11, 2003 8:46 AM


Two years ago, I could see the smoke rising from my office window.

September 9, 2003 10:42 AM


The Recording Industry Association of America has sued, and settled with, a 12 year old girl over online music file swapping. The RIAA "was pleased with the settlement" that will cost the 12 year old girl $2000. I can't believe that the RIAA thinks that suing kids is good for the music business.

September 9, 2003 2:36 AM


Back at my last job, we had a large room that had numerous couches, over stuffed chairs, small tables a and big ass HDTV with a Playstation attached to it. Mostly, the room was used as a place to have lunch and relax (and unfortunately, to announce layoffs). I mostly used it as a place to go sit down with a manual, O'Reilly book or printed source code.

Where I am now, there's no real comfortable place with a table, chair, and no one there to bother me. I have an office with a door, but a task chair is good for sitting at a computer, not hunkering down with the 1400+ page DHTML book. There's always someone coming by with a question, or a problem or another odd task that needs to be dealt with a.s.a.p.

September 4, 2003 10:39 AM


Here's a quick little JavaScript that steps thru a form and reports the value of each element within that form, whatever the length of the form might be. This is a pretty easy little script to write, but I figured that since I had the need for it, someone else might too. The script looks like this...

function reportFormElements(obj)  {

for (var i = 0; i < obj.length; i++) {

	if (obj.elements[i].type == 'checkbox') {
		alert(obj.elements[i].checked);
	}
	else {
	alert(obj.elements[i].value);
	}
	
  }

}
The basic gist is, for each actual form element in the form, look at the value of the form element and alert that value. If it's a checkbox, then investigate the 'checked' attribute.

There are several ways to do this sort of thing, and one of them reports the value of each child node in the named form, including text nodes, html nodes. We don't want that, and only want to interrogate the actual form elements. A sample form is below, go ahead and try it...





checkbox


September 3, 2003 1:53 AM


One upcoming game, that has gotten almost zero press, but looks like an awesome game, is Freedom Fighters...
In a world where the Soviet Union won the Cold War, a fierce conflict is unfolding in the streets of America. Taking on the role of Christopher Stone, players evolve from an average New Yorker into a fearless patriot who recruits and leads an army of freedom fighters in the streets of New York City. Freedom Fighters combines the depth of a squad based game with the intensity of an action-packed war game that unfolds in the streets, subways, and buildings of the city.
For the UI geeks out there, one of the more interesting UI designs in the game is the circular weapon selection menu seen to the left. I suppose it's ironic though that this type of menu is best suited to a random access, mouse based pointer selection system, rather than the linear tab-like progression used in the game.

I especially love that a huge monkey wrench is in that menu as a selectable weapon. Blunt force trauma baby!

Previews are available at GameSpot and IGN.

September 2, 2003 9:47 AM


In what seems like a desperate attempt to get some press, Forrester has declared that "The end of physical media is nearing." When I read statements like that, I think back to the wired Magazine cover from several years ago that declared that the further is 'Push' technologies. Both statements, were and are utter crap.

I have always understood generational transitions of media technology will (hopefully) achieve the two following goals; increase data density and increase quality (the former usually supports the latter)...

  • Cassettes did indeed increase density by making music more portable, but the quality wasn't that much of a leap forward, if it was a forward movement at all (I'd argue it wasn't).
  • Compact disks achieved both goals, with the added benefit of perfect reproduction at each iteration. 74 minutes of portable music, with no tape hiss and no degradation of the signal after each play. Sweet.
  • DVD's offer us even more data density allowing us to enjoy everything a CD can offer, but with even higher quality and more quantity of material, such as full length movies (with multiple audio tracks for the international crowd).
Streaming data does NOT offer us any advances in quality, but doesn't help out with data density. Streaming is a transient experience, with no ownership after the fact. For many of us, the delivery mechanism for this streaming media is transient, which means that external forces may interrupt the experience as it is happening. When that becomes a cognizant fact, the experience degrades.

Downloading MP3's and dumping them onto CD-R's or iPods is a good way to cram tons of media into a very small physical space. But Forrester is talking about streaming and downloading. The streaming part will indeed make money, but it isn't going to kill physical media. My car doesn't stream.

Downloading will likely enforce and expand the physical media market by forcing consumers to offload their music and movie files to CD-Rs and DVD-Rs so their hard drives don't get packed full. Also, hard drives in computers aren't very portable, and in a way, represent lower data density (due the fact that large box with data in it essentially lowers the density of the data load within it).

If we think forward for a minute, we might see the following occur. The convenience of media downloads offsets the lower levels of quality, and people buy the content. I'm not sure that convenience does indeed trump quality, but let's pretend it does. People download lots of music and movies, and quickly realize that the downloaded movies don't look so great on their computer monitors. So they try to move it to their TV, and realize that their 34 inch Sony Vega's makes it look even worse, and they go back to buying DVD's like "A Bug's Life" which is a pure 100% digital transfer, and is utterly gorgeous in progressive scan.

Do you get my point? Downloading has its place, but so does portable, static, high quality, extremely dense, media formats.

[Note: I was at the beach last week. It was great.]

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