Monday, February 28, 2005

Picasa 2 - Photo Albums Done Right

After finally getting fed up with Adobe's Photoshop Album software last night, I went ahead and downloaded Google's new(ish) Picasa 2 - and I'm so excited about it that I just have to share. It's hard for me to get excited about any software application, but this one does exactly what I want from a photo album app, it looks slick and has a great interface, and by God, it's free.

Most reviewers don't seem to quite understand how people really use these things or why Picasa 2 is so much better than everything else. Let me explain my situation to you. My wife and I own two digital cameras between us, and a decent scanner that I've used to scan a whole mess of older film negatives, which are mostly in tif format. We also have a few RAW photos of our formal wedding pictures. And of course, tons of jpegs from our digicams.

I use Photoshop for heavy editing or retouching, such as I had to do for the RAW wedding photos, which I then organized and printed into a photo book using Shutterfly. Shutterfly's another great service, but I may get into talking about online photo services in another post. Anyway, the problem is while Photoshop is great for heavy retouching work, it has absolutely no capability for cataloging and organizing photos, and it is terrible if all you want to do is something like removing redeye from snapshots. (You can get a plug-in to do it automatically, but you've still gotta take two minutes to launch the app, then find the file, then edit it, then re-save it, which itself is another three step process.)

So a large photo collection demands an album or catalog application. Adobe themselves released Photoshop Album a while back, but it has several problems which, to me, make it basically useless. For one thing, it is not free - itself not a deal-breaker, but definitely an issue when there are free options available. The bigger problem, though, is that with large collections the app takes progressively more and more memory, and demands progressively greater CPU usage, until the point at which it simply chugs to a halt. It is simply a poorly-written application, bloatware of the worst kind. Its sluggishness is unacceptable, and combined with an unintuitive interface (for the life of me, I never could figure out how to view a photo full-size), it makes the program nearly impossible to use.

Enter Picasa 2, which suffers from none of the same problems and includes features I would never expect from a free application. Its red-eye removal algorithm is amazing. It includes several useful filters, and a workable (i.e. not too aggressive) auto-color and auto-contrast function. It includes a search feature, something Photoshop Album lacks, and you can search by both keyword and technical aspects (based on EXIF data). It includes a chronological timeline, like Photoshop Album, but Picasa's the only free app that I know of that does. These are all amazing features. But the thing that just bowls me over, and that would slay almost anybody who knows anything about digital photo editing, is this:

Unlimited undos. Forever.

Not even top-end image editors can do this. Photoshop can't. Photoshop Album sure can't. I don't mean multiple undos until your memory's used up. I mean edit the photo, move on to a different photo, close Picasa, shut down your computer, boot the next day, open up Picasa, move to that photo, and you can still undo everything. You could come back to a photo a year later and still have that undo button lit up.

I'm not sure how it works - I have a feeling it's not actually doing anything to your photos until/unless you export (which is actually good), but this doesn't matter. This application was written to take advantage of the way people actually work, not to force you to adapt to the way your computer stores files and folders on a disk. It's a very Mac way of looking at things, in a PC application. I wouldn't want Photoshop to work this way, but this is not Photoshop. I don't want Photoshop in an image catalog app. I love the way Picasa 2 works. It is great at what it does.

There are so many little things that make Picasa a pleasure as well; just little touches that the developers came up with that show an attention to detail that other applications lack. I love the way, for example, a little progress meter stays on top of my other applications if I'm uploading a large number of photos to Shutterfly through Picasa (so, for example, I can browse the web and still know what's going on with my upload). It's unobtrusive and informative and I'm glad it's there. I love the way scrolling through a catalog works - you can use the standard page-up/page-down keys, but Google has added a custom scroll slider where a normal scrollbar would be that functions more similarly to a gas pedal (the harder you pull it in one direction, the faster the scrolling). For a decent-size collection, this works much better than a standard scrollbar, which is far too imprecise when the content to scroll through is very large.

Picasa 2 supports pretty much every image format under the sun, and a bunch of movie formats too (for cameras that can shoot videos, like mine). It even supports RAW files, which is highly unusual for an app of this type, but a very welcome feature for me.

I cannot recommend this program highly enough. You'll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Apple "updates" the iPod

The world needs another iPod blog like I need a hole in my head, and I'm doing my damndest to ensure that mine doesn't turn into one, but I can't let today's new iPod announcement pass without comment.

As you know, I purchased a 20GB iPod only a few short weeks ago. I'd been reading the latest rumors regarding this update with trepidation since then. I know all about this stuff; I'd visited Thinksecret and Macrumors before taking the plunge, and was self-assured that I'd have at least six months before Apple forced my fourth-generation iPod into obsolescence. But then the rumors picked up, and finally reached a fever pitch yesterday - the entire lineup would receive color screens, the 40GB model would be reduced to $349, bluetooth would be added, direct camera connectors would be standard, and the Mini would receive a bump in capacity. Many began to speculate that this was going to be the generational leap set for later this year, moved up in the calendar.

Lucky for me, and maybe not so lucky for some others, most of the rumors turned out to be false - as is so often the case where Apple's concerned. (Those of us "in the know" about such things will tell you that most of these rumors are PR department plants designed to throw off the scent in case any real info does manage to get out.) The Mini did get both a capacity and a battery boost, though the older 4GB models stay on at a reduced price. There's a new 30GB iPod Photo at the $349 price point, though it does not include the iPod dock (like the 40GB and 60GB models used to), nor does it include a firewire cable - both of which have been removed from the 60GB package too as it drops to $449. The 20GB monochrome-screen model stays on the market at $299.

The end result being that, while the 30GB model seems like a half-decent deal and one I may have considered over my 20GB, the fact that it includes no firewire cable makes it rather useless for me in practice (see my earlier post). In fact, I may have even given up on trying to get the thing to work at all before realizing all I needed to do was buy a firewire cable. (And because current iPods only include the dock connector, an iPod firewire cable is a $20 part, raising the total cost to $370, or actually around $85 more than I paid for my discounted 20GB model). So I'm still reasonably happy I went the direction I did, although if USB actually worked reliably with the iPod, I might feel differently.

For those of you expecting bigger and better things than what we seem to have gotten here, especially after getting smashed over the head repeatedly by the non-stop rumor-mill the past few days, I'm fairly confident the predicted full line refresh will still happen towards late summer and we'll see color screens throughout the line and a new design for the "big" iPod. Depending on the pricing, I may decide to upgrade at that point myself, although we'll see how compelling the upgrade actually is.

I will say that it's sort of lamentable to see Apple removing stuff to lower the price on even the top-end iPods. The entire lineup is slowly losing whatever cachet it's got left. I mean, even at $449 for the 60GB model I still might expect a freakin' dock. Come on, Apple - this is a cheap little piece of plastic with a connector port on it, it can't cost you more than two bucks to make. Do you really want to go this route? Do you really want to try to compete with Sony, Dell, Creative and iRiver based solely on price and capacity? Because you know what happened when you tried to do that with computers in the late 80's and early 90's. You really want to try that again?

I'm just waiting for the day when all iPods ship in those unopenable plastic bubble containers.

Friday, February 18, 2005


So you probably all pretty much know about this by now, but the other day Canon dropped a bomb on the photographic world in the form of this monster:

Click the picture for a link to the press release and some good info on the new sensor (you may also find the images there somehow familiar). DPReview has also posted an in-depth preview that should tell you all you need to know about the camera's specs and capabilities.

Now, I know there are fans of other camera makers out there, and I've personally used and enjoyed cameras and lenses from Pentax, Nikon and others. Canon's certainly not the only name in cameras, but they are sort of the Apple of the photographic world, or perhaps a more appropriate analogy would be a Sony in their heyday. They're just innovative enough to stay ahead of their competitors, their products are always among the most refined available, and they just seem to have a knack for knowing which few extra features will put them over the top, and at what price point are people not only willing to pay, but likely to be bowled over.

They were the first to release a sub-$1,000 digital SLR, and that was the original Digital Rebel (the 300D in Europe, the Kiss Digital in Japan). And that camera sent shockwaves through the industry, just as their original film Rebel had years before. I would argue that the Rebel XT (or 350D, or Kiss n Digital) is even more important, as it's bringing truly top-class features and performance to the sub-$1,000 market. Honestly, this is the camera I've been dreaming of - 8 megapixels, DIGIC II, 3fps continuous shooting with a 14 frame burst mode, flash exposure compensation (Canon listened to their critics on that one), a true RAW+JPG mode, USB 2.0 transfers, 0.2 second startup time, mirror lockup, and a slew of other features. And it's smaller and lighter than the original Digital Rebel.

All this for under a grand, or right at a grand with the kit lens. I'm so all over this it's not even funny. Set for release in late March, I'll probably have one soon after, and without question eventually. This is no "entry level" DSLR, but it's being sold at an entry level price.

I'm posting this not just because I'm interested in this model, but because I encourage any of you now looking at a "prosumer" non-SLR to take a look at the Rebel XT. Prosumer point-and-shoots are pointless cameras to begin with - I don't even understand how they can sell well enough to be profitable - and now with a camera like the Rebel XT soon to be on the market, there is just no excuse to settle for the poor-quality fixed lenses and image sensors these cameras invariably come with.

(By the way, if you're an amateur photographer who's now wondering why the pros spend the big bucks on even more expensive cameras, well, you do get extra features and performance from the truly top end... including things like full-size 35mm image sensors that do away with the field-of-view crop inherent to most DSLR's, higher ISO settings, faster shutter speeds and flash sync speeds, and more. But the Rebel XT looks to be a mid-range camera sold at an entry-level price, and easily the best deal out there in DSLR's. It will raise the bar for what's expected at the sub-$1,000 price point.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Desktop Linux Summit

So the Desktop Linux Summit apparently happened a few days ago and nobody seems to have paid it much mind. This is supposed to be the event that showcases all the progress that those Constitution-burning, anti-copyright communists like Novell and IBM have made in bringing Linux to the unwashed masses who wouldn't know where to even start using an OS without a big green button that says "start". Those limey geeks over at The Register have one of the more in-depth writeups about it, although they don't seem entirely enthusiastic about what went on there. I suppose you can't expect to go from skid row to The Hamptons overnight, but personally I'd have to say desktop Linux is in a far better state than most (including El Reg) seem to give it credit for. If only somebody - anybody - would notice.

I'm taking the liberty of including a few screenshots for illustrative purposes only. Now, I should explain first that eye candy is not what an OS is really about, but as we all know blondes do have more fun, and looks do matter. I will explain these shots - and provide some more substantive arguments in favor of desktop Linux - a bit further down.

The screenshot herewith known as Shot One:

The screenshot herewith known as Shot Two:

Now, ignoring my ridiculous 1024x768 screen resolution (resized to 640x480 for server space), which chunkifies all my desktop objects, there's all sorts of good things happening here. Even three or four years ago, fonts were a major problem on Linux - they aren't anymore. Both KDE and Gnome have progressed to a point where they are quite functional GUI's, offering as many features as you want (or don't want). Files are drag and drop, thumbnail previews are available for most file types, and all major forms of media are supported.

There's also some obvious eye candy going on in these shots, which I've added in myself... true translucency is not a standard feature of either X or KDE (it's built into X but turned off by default), but I like to play around with it, and am showing it here just to illustrate how far the Linux GUI has progressed. Developers are well beyond adding functionality and have now moved on to pure fluff. Actually, that's being harsh - there are practical reasons for desktop translucency. Being able to look underneath windows without having to move them does have its uses.

True translucency is not yet stable on X (though unlike Windows, if the composite module crashes, you simply lose translucency and not your entire OS or even your GUI). "Fake" translucency - where a part of the image below is simply drawn on top of what's above it - is supported, is available via checkbox in the KDE control center, and works fairly well, but is slower and not as clean. Again, though, the point is, the GUI itself works so well now that developers have in large part simply moved on to making things pleasant to look at.

You'll also notice some other niceties in those shots, such as the Karamba themes running on the desktop. For a Windows equivalent you'd have to think of something like MS's "active desktop", although both more limited in scope and narrower in focus, with none of the security or stability concerns of that crap Windows "feature". I think I can go so far as to say that Liquid Weather, which you see running in the bottom right, is about the most useful application of any kind that I've ever seen. And it sure is pretty. (The skin I'm using is just one of many - I have it set to a muted palette to blend in with whatever my constantly-changing desktop background is). Karamba makes heavy use of translucency effects, with no noticeable performance hit. This is advanced stuff, though - most users will not apply these customizations, but it's nice to know you can. A Linux desktop is whatever you want it to be.

I'm tempted to go beyond the GUI and talk a little about the underlying OS, but honestly, on the desktop it's the GUI that makes all the difference. A lot of people are still afraid of Linux because they associate it with command line interfaces - I can honestly say that since installing SUSE 9.2, there is not a single case when I have ever been forced to use the command line. Installing software is a one-click process, and running applications works exactly the same as Windows or Mac, for better or worse. (In fact, one thing I dislike about KDE and Gnome is that their default taskbars encourage you to close your apps when done with them - this is not the right way to use a PC, and it's only because of Windows' instability and security issues that we've been brainwashed into doing it. The Mac does a better job with its dock, which encourages you to leave all of your commonly-used applications open at all times - a much more efficient way to work.)

And obviously, Linux makes a better desktop OS because it's more secure. Honestly, I'm not sure how anyone can advocate using Windows knowing just how many zombie machines there are out there; how many virus-infected, spyware-infected, or other malware-infected PC's exist on this planet. It's ludicrous, and yes, this affects "grandma" way more than it does more experienced users. Windows has trained us that fully-updated anti-virus and anti-spyware applications are necessary components to security, which they are not if your OS is written properly to begin with.

What desktop Linux is missing is commercial application support, and for that reason alone I keep Windows on all of my machines and dual-boot when I have to. It sucks having to do it, but I play games and I use Adobe and Macromedia products - I have no real choice, as is true for a lot of others as well. I'd love to ditch Windows, but until the applications I want to run are supported on it, I can't, and application developers have no incentive to port to Linux as long as even the early adopters continue to run Windows. Chicken, meet egg.

But the OS itself is so there. And not just for the "freak mainstream", as The Register apparently likes to refer to half-nerds like myself. It's your grandma's OS, right now. Just as long as your grandma ain't gonna be playing no Half Life 2.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Not just me...

Ok, so apparently I'm not the only one having iPod connection problems. At this moment, this thread on iPodlounge is 233 messages long, with the general consensus being that it's an iPod firmware problem with no real solution. You either have problems or you don't, and if you have problems there's no easy or foolproof fix.

Now that I have Firewire working, though, I'm just not going to mess with USB for a little while. I'll revisit it in a couple weeks and try the scorched-earth strategy a few people have advocated in that thread - uninstalling and reinstalling all of the Apple software and reformatting the iPod through Windows (as Apple themselves suggest on their site).

What a pain in the butt.

No USB for you!

So after two more reformats, I've now given up on using USB 2.0 with my iPod. It's supposed to work, but it doesn't. What it does do is corrupt my iPod database. Why it does this when every other USB device I have works fine with my new USB card is a mystery, but I guess I'm stuck using Firewire until I figure something else out. Yes, I realize Firewire is marginally better than USB 2.0, but the problem is convenience, or lack thereof - my PC only has rear Firewire ports (it has front USB), which means either reaching around in back of my entertainment center to connect the cable every time or just leaving a bare wire sitting on top of my machine. This just doesn't seem like something that fits into the whole Apple philosophy. (What would fit into the Apple philosophy would be wasting another $40 on the piece of white plastic that they call a "dock", as this would allow me to have that bare wire connected to something at all times... and I'm seriously contemplating such a move.)

As for my thoughts on the iPod itself, I can see it becoming a life-altering device. I see people with these things on and running at all times - including when they're conversing with others - and I can already see why. Having thousands of songs at your fingertips is a sort of power that is just difficult to give up. Already I have lost two nights' worth of sleep just sitting up and listening to the thing on shuffle.

Objectively speaking, though, and I say this as someone who's always a bit more forward-looking than most, it still feels like an immature device. I'm apparently among the few people who feel this way, but it has quite a few rough edges - from the plastic casing that immediately scratches itself up when put in contact with tissue paper to the hard drive that vibrates noticeably in your hand to the ugly interface (it may be simple and user-friendly, but it ain't much to look at) to the pretty poor battery life, there's a lot of room for improvement here. To me, it feels like a work in progress.

The iPod's reputation as the best all-around and most refined overall player out there suggests to me that the competition must be pretty atrocious. I'm curious to try out players like the Creative Zen Touch and Dell DJ to see just how bad they can possibly be. The iPod is certainly not a bad player, but if I separate the experience of owning a hard-drive based music player from the experience of owning an iPod, it's not the product itself that gives me pleasure - it's the music it contains. It seems to me that whoever produces a player that gets in the way of the music the least is who will have the best player on the market, and for all I know that could be Apple right now. But this is not the best that music players will ever be.

At least I hope it isn't.

Friday, February 11, 2005

I bought an iPod.

Update: This post has been up for more than a year now and it continues to get quite a few hits through Google searches. Most of you seem to be looking for a solution to the "itunes does not detect iPod" problem that was one of the issues I had. After I wrote this post, I continued to have these issues - until I ripped out my new USB/Firewire card and threw in a different motherboard that had USB 2.0 ports built-in. All was fine after that. I now have moved all my music over to my laptop and again, no problems there either. The moral of the story is that apparently not all USB ports are created equal - even if they're labeled USB 2.0. I no longer blame Apple for this; this seems more like the kind of issue Apple fans make fun of us PC guys over. Anyway, read on for the original post, but be aware that with my initial frustration overwith, I am now madly in love with my iPod.

So the tax man arrived (in a good way) and I finally bought myself an iPod. Those of you who know me will recall that I have been pining for one for more than two years, and I finally broke down. I have absolutely no allegiance to Apple, but I did want a player that syncs with iTunes, hence my first purchase of an Apple product since my Apple IIc in 1985.

It arrived direct from China today, along with my separately-purchased USB/Firewire combo card, so I figured I was all set to go. Just plop in the USB card and I'm good, right?

You can tell I'm a PC guy. Here's a shot that'll give Mac users the shakes:

Holy crap, it's like, a bunch of circuits, or something! We're all going to die.

The PC it went in:

Yeah, I like to get my hands dirty.

And the same PC back sitting on its shelf:

(Excuse the dust on the keyboard - it's not like I use it much.)

This is my "media server" or "home theater PC" or whatever you want to call it. It's a work in progress and probably always will be. It doesn't look much like a media PC - it looks a lot more like a regular old tower - but there's a good reason for that.

It was cheaper.

I started putting this thing together back before anyone really even knew what a media PC was supposed to be. There was no such thing as Hush, for example - nobody making really slick looking media PC's yet. There were smaller cases than what I went with, but the only reason I really even bothered was that I realized I literally had enough old, used, spare parts lying around to build a whole PC out of. All I was missing was a case. So I picked up this Lian-Li PC-0716S for around $50 and I was all set.

The problem with old parts, though, is that they're old. My hard drive is only an 80 gigger - far too small for timeshifting TV and all the other stuff I expect this thing to do. My CPU is slow by today's standards - it's an Athlon XP 1700+ - and it takes forever to transcode video. My memory is similarly laid back - it's the oldie but goodie PC133 variety. And until today, I was stuck with the excruciatingly painful USB 1.1 for peripheral connections.

I've been updating this machine little by little, and tinkering around with it at the same time. It gets a bit better all the time. I first added a DVD reader, then a digital sound card that supports 7.1 audio, at which point I could legitimately use this PC to watch DVD's on through my TV set and listen to real hi-fi audio (letting my receiver handle the D/A conversion, just as it would with any decent CD player). Next came a TV tuner that doubles as an s-video capture card, so I could both watch TV and digitize my old VHS tapes (though watching TV has never worked right - I have a cable box, which makes it pretty difficult). And finally, just a few weeks ago, I added a DVD burner, which now not only lets me pretty conveniently turn my remaining VHS tapes into DVD's, but along with TiVotoGo, lets me pretty conveniently burn any TV show I watch to DVD as well. (Nevermind how slow it is.)

Anyway, so this thing's really turning into a pretty useful little machine, even as slow and old as some of its parts are. And now it's hosting my iPod.

Or at least, that's the idea. So far, my iPod experience has been pretty frustrating, to say the least. Honestly, I know that Mac people like to talk about how easy their stuff is to use, they plug it in and it "just works", yadda yadda yadda, but really, it's been that way on the PC for at least a decade too. I've grown completely accustomed to just adding a piece of hardware, turning on the machine and there it is - no drivers to install, no software, no nothing - it's just there and working, with absolutely no input from me.

This is not the way it works with the iPod, apparently.

The manual states that you're first supposed to charge the iPod for two hours, then hook it up to the PC with either a USB or Firewire connection using the enclosed cables. I followed these instructions to the letter, and, after verifying that my new USB card was working (again, nothing to install - I just plugged it in and Windows found it), I plugged in my iPod using my front USB ports. Windows saw it, recognized it as an iPod, and up popped a message from iTunes saying an iPod had been inserted but could not be read, and would I kindly install the iPodSetup software that came with my iPod or download an updated version from Apple?

What? Ok, so I go back to read the manual again, and yes, it says you need to install the software there too. Why? Doesn't Apple pre-load the little iPod OS onto these things at the factory, and don't I have this stupid little service called "iPodService" already running on my PC through iTunes? Is this not basically just a portable hard drive? (In fact, Windows recognized it as such in Explorer, and actually asked me if I wanted to format it!) This is not plug and play as I'm used to it.

So I dutifully follow instructions and head to Apple's web site to download this 40 megabyte file (I always download the latest version of anything; I never install from CD). This seems excessive, but whatever - I click the download button and wait. And wait. And wait. Apple's server seems to have crashed, because I can't get past 216k no matter what I do. I try several more times before practically giving up and cracking open the CD - but on a lark, I switch from Firefox to Internet Explorer, and lo and behold, the download works. Wtf? Apple's server only supports IE? Seems a little strange, but I finally manage to get the software install.

So I re-connect my iPod and run the iPodSetup thingy. It doesn't detect my iPod. I try a few more times, and it finally tells me I need to "restore" it. What!? I just bought the stupid thing! I start thinking the damn thing is just plain defective and begin to wonder what my options are for returning it (can I return it to the Apple store in New York if I bought it online?). But before I give up completely, I've got a few more angles to try - like I said, I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty, and this ain't the only PC I've got.

First, I connect it through the USB wire to my laptop. Again, Windows detects it, but iTunes does not. I then try connecting through Firewire on my laptop. Same deal.

Knowing the iPod is not totally dead - Windows sees it fine - I start trying all four USB ports on my media PC. No dice on the first three. I hit up the last one, and manage to finally get the iPod Updater to see it again. I figure I'll just go ahead and restore it, if that's what it really wants. Except...

This is what I got. Now you tell me what's wrong with this picture. It hung like this for about 5 minutes. Now that's a great piece of software!

Eventually, I managed to actually get it to work, seemingly:

Problem is, it seemed to get stuck at this point - it sat there like that for about half an hour. Eventually I tried to close it and got this:

So I wait about another fifteen minutes, and nothing happens. I eventually kill the iPodUpdater process, stop the iPod from the systray, and decide to try Firewire again. I reach around the back of my PC (no front Firewire ports on this case), which is a major pain in the ass, and get it connected. Again, Windows sees it, but iTunes does not. Jesus H. Fricking Christ! Who the hell designed this stupid thing?

So I decide to re-download iTunes, for no good reason, but it's basically my last resort. iTunes has been working fine, mind you, and I like it so much that it's the reason I bought the iPod in the first place. But I download it again, and select the "repair" option, then wait as it restarts automatically.

Success! iTunes now sees my iPod, and four hours after starting, I am now on step three in the iPod manual:


I don't know what to think about this. I'm fairly sure that within a week, I will forget all about it. But there were definitely times during this process when I thought to myself "you know, if I'd just bought a Dell DJ I'd be listening to music right now." iTunes no longer seems like the elegant wunder-app that I thought it was previously. The iPod has similarly lost a bit of its luster in my eyes, at least in the ease-of-use department for which it's so well known. If I'd bought this thing two years ago, I'd probably have said something smarmy like "this does not bode well for Apple in their quest to dominate the portable music industry..." But I'd look like a complete idiot today, of course.

I just can't believe I'm the only one out there that's had an experience like this, and it's hard for me to understand, then, why Apple's got the stranglehold that it does on the portable music market. I no longer feel that the iPod is the player I had to have - a Dell or iRiver or Creative player probably would have been a lot easier to get up and running, and they're cheaper and most of them sound just as good. I guess it really is a cult, and I'm part of it now, for better or worse. And I'll probably keep buying iPods, because I will forget about this and it will never seem worth switching all of my music over to Windows Media Player. So I'm part of the problem now and I admit it freely.

By the way, one last thing - I wanted to comment on the case I got, because I really like it. It's an Agent 18 case, available through the Apple store, and if you ask me, it's pretty sharp:

(If something looks a little strange, it's probably the film I left on over the wheel in order to protect it, since otherwise it's just "out there.")

It's just two cheap pieces of plastic stuck together, for which I had the privilege of paying $24, but it looks fairly nice and will protect against scratches and blemishes. I recommend it for those that are looking for a nice-looking case that lets them see their iPod - though I can confidently say that it will not protect your iPod against drops. It is purely protection against cosmetic damage. On the plus side, it is so small that it seems like you can still use pretty much any soft outer case you'd like to in conjunction with the Agent 18.

See ya for now...

Thursday, February 10, 2005

It's been a while.

Jesus, I forgot I even had this thing. I guess the problem is I never could figure out a use for it - I'm really not a blog type of person, despite the fact that I'm on approximately seven hundred different message boards and probably write about that many posts per week. I also read other people's blogs, including some of the big ones like Engadget and Gizmodo, so it's not as if I am dead-set against the idea to begin with. I just didn't much see the point in going on at length about my daily life, as if anybody would actually be interested - I think the days when people actually found that sort of thing compelling ended when AOL mailed out its first unsolicited floppy disk.

So I've decided to narrow my focus a bit, and maybe that will lead me to post here a bit more, and maybe some people will actually find what I write worthy of actually being read.

I'm going to focus on technology. How original!

But I'm going to come at it from a different sort of angle; I mean this is still a personal blog, after all. I am a tech-head, a gadget freak, a gamer... I have a networked household with four PC's, a TiVo, and an Xbox interconnected via both wires and wi-fi, I used to work at Rockstar Games (leaving of my own free will) and I am now employed as a web producer for a company-that-shall-remain-nameless. I dabble in Linux, I build my own PC's, I am a classic video game collector. I can't walk through my living room without tripping over wires. It drives me crazy sometimes, and other times I can do nothing but wonder at the times in which we live.

I figure I'll write about my various forays in all forms of personal technology - whether it's trying to silence my too-loud PC's, trying to install the newest release on my Linux box, shopping for a new laptop, hacking my TiVo, reviewing a new video game, or conveying the nuances of buying classic video game consoles on Ebay, I'll be writing from a very personal perspective on a pretty wide variety of consumer-oriented tech-related topics. Though I may throw in some curve balls here and there; we'll see how it goes.

Next post coming pretty soon. Honest.

About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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