TiVo... finally

October 19, 2004

After years (literally!) of putting it off, I finally purchased a TiVo about two weeks ago. People that know me couldn't quite understand how I could be without the technology, and frankly, given my propensity to watch anything and everything under the sun, I can't say that their disbelief wasn't well-founded. Despite my [ir]rational holdout, the service hasn't completely eluded me the past few years; my dad has had it for quite a while (and has seen it through many variations, including the current 250GB HDTV model) and every time I came home from college I swore I was going to get one.

There were two reasons why I held out for so long. The first is that I don't have a phone line; for the longest time TiVo required you to have a phone line for the initial setup. With the introduction of the "Series2" devices, ethernet adapters (wired and wireless) could be plugged into the USB ports on the back of the box and used for service calls, but you were still required to have a phone line for the initial setup (this is no longer the case; see below). The other reason I waited so long was because Comcast kept telling me that they would be offering DVR services "soon." "Soon" has turned into a year and a half of empty promises — you'd think that Silicon Valley might be where they'd like to rollout their new services, but apparently not. So, yah, that's ~$15/mo they'll never see from me.

My machine is a Series2 box running v4.0+ of the operating system; this version allows you to not only do all service calls over your broadband network, but the initial setup can also be done over the network (read: without a phone line). I first tried to get on the network using a very old Netgear USB-to-ethernet adapter I had lying around, but the TiVo didn't recognize it and so I bought a cheap Netgear 802.11b wireless USB adapter. After inserting the adapter, rebooting, and setting up the machine to get on my wireless network (completely mindless), I was in business and immediately began to connect to the TiVo service and pull down channel information. Brilliant.

As usual, I do have some mild complaints. The first, and this is something we've been hearing for years, is that the TiVo "Suggestions" service is broken. My TiVo is constantly recommending (read: recording when there is free space) Spanish soap operas (I've never explicitly told it to record anything from the Spanish-speaking channels, much less a soap opera) and other equally random programs, such as "Totally Nascar!" I'd be much less annoyed by this if there was a way to "mark" multiple programs for deletion instead of having to delete each of them separately, but as far as I can tell this can't be done. Granted, I could turn the feature off completely, but sometimes it grabs shows I wouldn't mind watching.

My main gripe though is with the online scheduling. If you don't know, this allows you to tell your TiVo to record something through the Internet. For example, I had class during the third presidential debate last week and forgot to tell my TiVo to record it. So, I logged into my TiVo account, went to TiVo Central Online and proceeded to tell it to record the debate that was to take place in a few hours. I was immediately sent an e-mail letting me know that my request was noted and that I would receive another e-mail once the TiVo service got confirmation from my machine at home that it would record the program. After not receiving the second e-mail for a couple of hours I began to think something was wrong.

I assumed that as soon as I made the online request my instructions would be immediately forwarded to my machine and that would be that. That's not how it works. Your TiVo doesn't actually see your request until the next time it connects to the TiVo service, which, for Series2 devices connected via broadband like mine, is supposed to be once an hour (or so says the FAQ), but for whatever reason, mine only updates once a day. I haven't yet had time to figure that out, but notwithstanding the infrequent service calls, why doesn't the website simply talk to the TiVo as soon I'm done making the request? Actually, extending that idea to its probable conclusion, why isn't the TiVo a web server? Why can't I simply login to my TiVo when I'm away from it? I'm sure this is just around the corner, but I'm still confused as to why I can't do it now.

Another thing I'd like to see with the online service is the ability to view both the shows currently on my TiVo and the shows to be recorded later that day (again, something that will be taken care of when you can simply connect to your TiVo directly).

On a related note, yesterday Engadget interviewed Mike Ramsay, the CEO of TiVo (whom I met).

A cursory look at the Sendo X

October 12, 2004

To make a long story short, I was recently asked to sell a Sendo X for one of the attorneys I worked for at Ariba this past summer. It was a little awkward because, well, I'm the one who pushed the X to begin with (my constant talk about mobile phones tends to make people listen... eventually), even though I told him that it probably wasn't going to be what he wanted/needed and that the Treo 600 (which he ended up getting) would be the better choice for him.

Given current time constraints and limited time actually spent with the device, I don't have too much to say about it. One thing I can say for sure is that I'm glad I didn't buy it — it's one of those phones that I would have sold rather quickly. Between the Sony Ericsson K700i, the Nokia 7610, and the Sendo X, I think the clear winner, at least for me, is the 7610 (my current phone). While it's not really fair to lump the K700i into the same category as the other phones (it cannot be considered a "smartphone"), I pretty much had my "next phone" narrowed down to the above three. Anyways, I'm getting off course here and should probably bring the focus back to the X.

My main gripe with the X, and something I noticed immediately, was its thickness. This was my biggest worry after seeing pictures of it for the last few months (year?). It's just too thick to carry around in jean pockets (at least for me). The phone also feels a little weird in my hands, which is surely due, at least in part, to its thickness. Sendo would have done well to "squish" the phone and sacrifice narrowness for less depth — usually a good tradeoff if you ask me. The phone is almost a little too narrow, especially in light of its depth — the whole form-factor just 'feels' weird.

It doesn't feel very solid and 'gives' quite a bit if you squeeze it. From pictures I had seen online I was expecting a much more "polished" look, but when I saw it in person it just didn't strike me as something that should cost as much as it does.

The best thing I can say about the phone is the "Sendo Now!" screen, which is an all-in-one display that takes over the screen when other applications aren't in the foreground. It harbors all kinds of information including the last number you called/received, the number of unread e-mails and SMSs you have, your unfinished to-do items, calendar entries for the current day, and the ability to add shortcuts to any program on the phone. This software was one of the main reasons I was looking at this phone to begin with; it reminds me a lot of some of the better "launcher" and calendaring applications available for PalmOS (such as DateBK), or, dare I say, the Windows Mobile "Today" screen.

The "Now!" screen is the first in a series of customizable tabs available to you — you can add, delete, and configure these at will. One of the neater, built-in tabs, is "History," which displays the last few programs you've selected. For each of the tabs, which Sendo calls "Panes," you can also customize the function of the right softkey — very nice.

I'm kind of disappointed that I haven't seen anything like this available for Symbian OS yet (at least not for free). Maybe Sendo will release this for Series 60, though I'm not holding my breath — it's really all that sets the X apart from others in the Series 60 space.

Like I said, this wasn't meant to be a review by any stretch, but more a glancing look at a phone I'd had my eye on for a while. I can say that I'm very happy with the 7610 so far and don't see anything that's going to knock it off its pedestal in the near future (save the Nokia 6670, which is basically the 7610 in a different body), though Russ might disagree with me on this one.

Misplaced love

October 01, 2004

I've never quite understood how I became the #1 result on Google for so many things. The search results that I'm most surprised about lately are those that have to do with mobile phones. At the time of this post, I was #1 for both K700i review and 7610 review (my last two mobile phones). Now, I certainly think that my reviews carry some weight, but even a perfunctory juxtaposition of my write-ups and those done by sites whose purpose is to review phones, would reveal that they can afford to (and have) put much more time and effort into the reviews than I can. I've written about this a couple of times before and I'm certainly not complaining about the traffic I get from Google — I always welcome more hits — it's just that I don't feel like I deserve the top position for some of the things that Google seems to think I do.  *shrug*

4 Sale: One Beleaguered State

September 29, 2004

A friend recently sent me this in an e-mail, apparently from a classified ad in a Florida newspaper:

4 Sale: One Beleaguered State

Lots of waterlogged property, beautiful views of crashing tidal waves. Land already cleared of pesky trees (some cleanup required). Lack of electricity and gasoline makes for fun historic living environment. Increasingly popular "see the stars, feel the rain" roof modifications on housing. Plenty of insurance agents available for consultation, however may experience difficulty getting one to return your call.

Sony's smart about-face

September 22, 2004

It seems that Sony is waking up and starting to heed my advice.

Sony confirmed on Wednesday that it is working to add native MP3 support to its portable music players--a major strategy reversal that could help it compete more effectively with rivals such as Apple Computer.

The company is also considering expanding MP3 support to hard disk devices, sources told ZDNet France, but no decision has yet been made on that front.

It looks like they're still waffling on MP3 compatibility for their hard disk players, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time before they 'fix' those devices as well.

Obviously the iPod is dead

September 20, 2004

This entry is a spinoff of another post I never got around to finishing. That post was about Apple's current stranglehold on the mobile music market and what they're going to have to do if they want to continue to dominate. Essentially, my argument was that Apple needed to start offering devices that could do more than just play music. If Steve Jobs thinks he can fight off the rest of the world with just music, he's sadly mistaken — devices want to converge.

This segues nicely into what I'd like to talk about: the iPod as a mobile phone. At first glance, this might seem a little strange, but turn the logic around (i.e., the mobile phone as a music player) and it might not seem as far off. In fact, it isn't "off" at all — a lot of the new mobile phones are capable of playing various audio formats, including MP3 (like my new Nokia 7610, and my SE K700i before that, and...). Why wouldn't one want to consolidate the two devices? I'm obviously the wrong person to pose this question to because I'm that guy who absolutely can't wait for my mobile phone (or whatever this all-in-one device will finally be called) to "contain" and "control" my life. That said, I can't imagine a typical end-user who wouldn't want to, at the very least, merge their portable music player with their mobile phone.

There are a few kinks in this chain to be sure, but nothing that can't and won't be resolved. The biggest hangup with moving music to a mobile phone is storage space. Currently the best mobile smartphones ship with 64MB or less of internal memory, though many of them also offer memory expansion in the form of various flash media. While the cost of solid-state media continues to fall, the reality is that it will take nothing less than hard drives to achieve the type of storage required for our music collections (solid-state drives will eventually rule this space, but we're talking years). It should come as no surprise that this hurdle has already been cleared and mobile phones with HDDs are already upon us. Though there are serious issues related to hard drives in mobile phones, namely shock-resistance and the tradeoff between spinning platters and battery life, these issues are being taken care of and will soon be non-existent (hell, you need look no further than the iPod itself or Sony's Network Walkman Digital Music Player to get a sense of how long a battery can be made to last and how durable such a device can be). Furthermore, these devices will be rather expensive (the Samsung linked to above will be $800) and I think it goes without saying that they will be treated with care (like most iPods now).

So, here's the deal Apple, if you'd like to keep your competition down and sales of the iPod up, add a GSM or CDMA antenna to the music player and let it ride. I would be the first in line for such a device (shocking, I know) and I imagine that there would be a lot of people behind me.

As soon as smartphones start adding 1" and .85" drive bays, it's not going to take long for end-users to realize that their two or three devices can be made into one, and there is no turning back when that happens. As good as the iPod interface is, and as pretty as the design can get, it's not going to be able to compete with mass storage on a mobile phone.

Surely Apple is aware of the power they could wield if they came out with a mobile phone capable of playing music and has probably been contemplating such a device for a while now. There is some evidence available that leads one to believe that Apple is cognizant of what the future is going to require, most notably the recent deal struck between Apple and Motorola that will allow users to play iTunes AAC (FairPlay DRM) files on some Motorola phones. While this approach seems to belie the iTunes Music Store's end-goal of selling more iPods, it could be working to do just that in the long run if the iPod is no longer just a music player. It's well known that iTMS barely turns a profit and that the money, in this case, is in the device (and not the content... yet). Given this information, it's quite possible that Apple is simply going to 'tease' the public for a while by allowing its files to be played on certain mobile phones. Then, and after the public is convinced that they need their iTMS music on their mobile phone, Apple will announce the 'iPhone.'

I realize that this might sound odd, but quite frankly, there is no other option for Apple. You can't convince me that consumers are going to buy a mobile phone based on whether it can play iTMS files as the Apple-Motorola agreement might have you believe. Nor can you convince me that Apple would be content with simply licensing its DRM technology to every mobile phone manufacturer and banking on iTMS sales. Apple needs to continue selling iPods to stay competitive in the digital music space and to continue selling iPods it is going to have to morph it into a more robust device.

If history is any indication, Microsoft's format will ultimately be king and Apple will be left to fight for a share of the 10% of people that stay away from Microsoft as a rule. With that knowledge as a backdrop and the realization that Windows Mobile (Microsoft's smartphone/PDA OS) is on a rapidly increasing number of smartphones, that Microsoft's music format is competing directly with Apple's, and that HDDs will soon be in mobile phones, one arrives at the logical conclusion that the iPod, as we have come to know it, is dead.

I'm not saying that Apple needs to create a full-fledged mobile platform to compete with Windows Mobile (oh, just imagine an OS X-based mobile phone though), but I am saying that they need a device capable of more than just playing music. It's going to be hard to persuade Joe Public that he needs an iPod after Sprint offers him a Windows Mobile device with a 5GB hard drive and tells him that it can play WMA and MP3 files (in addition to being a, for lack of a better term, "pocket pc").

While most everything I've brought up can be done today, Joe Public either doesn't know about it or can't afford it, and so Apple has a window, albeit a small one, to produce something before the cat's out of the bag and service providers start offering these über-devices for $50 with a two-year service contract.

The quick and dirty solution for Apple would be to use the Palm or Symbian operating system to power a phone-capable device and bundle it with an iPod application that would emulate the Pixo interface (to satisfy those who've come to know and love the iPod user experience). While it's anyone's guess as to what Apple will ultimately come up with, I do hope they come up with something — the opportunity is huge — forget music and think 'life.'

The incredibly satisfying part about all of this is that it doesn't really affect me, at least not negatively. As soon as mobile phones with HDDs become affordable, I'll have one. I couldn't care less what proprietary audio formats it can decode because I don't use, nor will I ever if I can help it, any of them. All I'll require is that it be able to play the open, ubiquitous MP3 format — a very safe bet. Notwithstanding the fact that I'm unaffected either way, I, more than just about anyone, welcome and encourage an Apple mobile phone — let's hope they realize what's at stake here and produce accordingly.

Breaking Vegas

September 19, 2004

This weekend I watched a special on The History Channel called Breaking Vegas. The show walked through, in great detail, the MIT Blackjack Team's very lucrative run at Las Vegas casinos in the early nineties.

BREAKING VEGAS goes inside the riveting story and shows us how the MIT group was founded and stayed in action for decades, eventually evolving into a full-fledged business--one with only one product, money, which it made by legally beating the casinos at their own game. Interviews with casino heads and former members of the team shed light on the opposite sides of this strange cat-and-mouse game, and we'll see how their remarkable run finally came to an end.

Some of you might remember Wired's Hacking Las Vegas, which recounts the same story, and save Bill Joy's Why the future doesn't need us, is probably my favorite Wired article ever. I encourage you to both read the article and watch the show — it's a great (and inspiring) story.

I'm e-mailing like it's 1993

September 12, 2004

I've eliminated nearly all of my spam, which was approaching 3000 a day. I now route my e-mail through both a pre-server-side filter, Postini, and a client-side filter, Mail.app's built-in system (which is exceptional, and something I've touched on before). Since I've implemented the Postini filters only about two spams per day actually make it to my client, and out of those I've yet to have a single junk e-mail slip through Mail.app's filter — I've effectively seen zero spam for the last two months. I actually thought about adding one more hurdle, maybe SpamAssassin or something similar, but given the complete success of my current method, anything more would probably be superfluous.

The main impetus behind my wanting server-side filtering was that e-mail on my phone(s) had become next to impossible — I needed to catch the spam before it got to my POP server. This is where the deal my hosting provider has with Postini comes in; all of my e-mail is now routed through Postini's filters and then to my POP server after the spam has been stripped away. Postini sees 1.3 billion messages a week pass through its servers and claims that it typically blocks 98% of the spam before it reaches end-users (I'd say that's a fairly decent data set to build effective rules upon).

Another nice thing about using Postini is that I've been able to go back to using Mail.appetizer, something that had become completely useless due to the large volume of spam I was receiving (though this was no longer an issue after the program was finally updated).

While Postini obviously works very well (2 << 3000), I do have some complaints (surprising, I know). The first is simply the lack of end-user customizability with respect to the filters. You're essentially given a sliding scale of what you'll allow to pass through — this scale has just five positions ranging from "lenient" to "aggressive." It's probably just as well that I don't have a million options to play around with as I would spend hours doing just that, but I would like the ability there regardless.

The second thing that really bugs me is the fact that you can't add a group of e-mail addresses to the whitelist (addresses that it will always let through and never hold as false-positives). When you see false-positives and tell it to deliver the message, you're offered the option to add the address to your "approved senders" list, but there is no way to do this in the aggregate — I should be able to upload a file containing all of my contacts and have it add those addresses to the whitelist.

Battle in Beslan

September 04, 2004

The siege of a school here in southern Russia ended today in panic, violence and death 52 hours after it began. At least [340] people — most of them students, teachers and parents — died, according to official reports and witnesses, after two large explosions sparked pitched battles between the heavily armed hostage-takers and Russian forces.

Does anyone know why we haven't heard more about this massacre on mainstream TV news? I've been following it some online for the past few days but don't recall ever hearing about it on TV. Now that the seige is over, I see that it is getting quite a bit of coverage, but I didn't notice any while the standoff was taking place (granted, I've been incredibly busy this week and haven't watched much TV, but still, it seems odd).

"Taking advantage of the panic, hostages began to escape," Lev Dzugayev, a spokesman for North Ossetia's president, said in an interview, referring to the initial blasts. "The bandits began shooting them in the back. The special forces on our side had to cover the fleeing hostages. This is unfortunately how it happened."

Scores of hostages survived, staggering from the school even as intense gunfire sputtered and grenades exploded around them. Many were barely dressed, their faces strained with fear and exhaustion, their bodies bloodied by shrapnel and gunshots. Many others never got out. Their bodies lay in the charred wreckage of Middle School No. 1's gymnasium, the roof of which had collapsed and burned, a police officer said.

Men and women filed through lifting the sheets that covered the dead, which included children and Russian soldiers or security officers. Recognition brought wrenching, piercing wails. A mother in a red-and-white blouse knelt on the ground, weeping as she kissed her dead daughter's face.

What a horrible, horrible scene. At least 155 children dead. I don't know what took over, but when I saw the picture on the front page of this article, where the mother is looking down at her dead child, I just wept.

It reminded me of when I was watching the Colombine incident take place. I was sitting in my room in my first college apartment with my back to the TV. I was working on my computer when I heard the channel switch to someone commentating on the events unfolding at the school. I sat there watching and wondering what the hell these kids could be thinking and how their problems could manifest themselves in such an ugly, final way. This marked the first time that I had actually cried while watching some real event on TV. It just struck me like a brick, the sadness and curiosity of it all. In my personal relationships I empathize with others as naturally as I breathe, but never before had some remote, intangible event caught my attention or my heart in such a way. I don't know, this incident in Russia worked pretty well to evoke the same reaction from me.

Get iTunes songs for 99 cents each!

August 28, 2004

Being from a rival school, I'm compelled to rag on FSU whenever the opportunity presents itself. How then, after reading this article in their school newspaper, could I not talk about it here? Some choice excerpts follow below.

In an effort to prevent illegal file sharing on campus, Florida State University is on the verge of finalizing a deal with Apple Computer, Inc. — a deal that would provide free iTunes software to students and allow them to download music for 99 cents per song.

I hate to rain on the parade, but, uhh, iTunes software is already free to everyone. Moreover, 99 cents per song is what it currently charges everyone. Let's see if FSU's man-with-a-plan can clear up some of this confusion.

Baker, the director of university computer systems at the FSU Academic Computing and Network Services Department, was appointed chair of a committee charged with finding a way to stop illegal file sharing on campus.

Baker said the idea originated from a concern for students who live on campus and download music illegally.

Good thinking Baker, I think you're really onto something. The students were probably holding out for the iTunes stamp-of-approval from the university, and now that they have it, watch out 'illegal' file sharing, these kids are ready to pay.

Baker said that students can expect to see the project go into effect sometime in the next month. The license agreement is currently under legal review by FSU officials and will close soon, Baker said.

*Psst* students... *pssst* You don't have to wait for the plan to "go into effect" to buy music through iTunes — Apple will take your money now! No questions asked. Tell them that FSU sent you and you'll be able to get your songs for just 99 cents each.

The guy on the Apple end of this deal was a genius.

Nokia 7610

August 22, 2004

As some of you already know, I chucked my Sony Ericsson K700i about two weeks after I got it. The reason was very simple: the battery life was abysmal! Save that major hiccup, the phone was brilliant, but there was no way I could continue using it with such a broken battery. I might go so far as to say that it was the worst battery I've ever seen on a device.

Enter the Nokia 7610 (I have the white/silver model). This phone was actually the only other phone I was considering when I decided to purchase the K700i (the Sendo X was also on my radar at the time, but it wasn't yet released). The main reason I initially decided in favor of the K700i was simply past experience — I've had good luck with SE phones. The main reason I initially decided against the 7610 was the design. Nokia has a long track record of feeling the need to push the envelope of mobile phone design (if you can call their designs "pushing the envelope"). This phone is no exception and Nokia has made some pretty crazy leaps as far as keypad and case design go, none of which I think will survive this model.

While I'd like to write a lengthy review of this phone similar to those that I've done in the past (most recently the K700i), I just don't have the time and so I'm going to briefly run over some of the things I like/dislike.

I guess I should start with the battery. I have no complaints. I've read every review of this phone (I think :) and a few of them point out that the battery life isn't too great, but I have to respectfully disagree. Battery life is somewhat 'subjective' (unless we're talking about the K700i  :P) and can fluctuate wildly depending on what you actually use your phone for day in and day out. Having said that, I've been rather impressed with the life of the 7610 given my use requirements. I routinely get through two days of heavy usage without having to recharge (this includes taking numerous pictures and videos, talking for extended periods of time, and moving files between my computer and the phone with Bluetooth) — not bad for a full blown "smartphone." I should also mention that the standby time is excellent.

I find the form-factor as close to perfect as it can get. It could stand to be slightly thinner, but that's really the only negative thing I can say about its shape and size. When you consider all that the device contains, the form-factor is pretty impressive. The phone feels very solid; no noticeable creaking or battery-cover movement. Its shape also allows you to stand it up on a flat surface so that you can take timed (or just steadier) pictures and videos.

I use the 1.3MP (1152x864) digital camera all the time — much more so than I've done with past camera phones (I think this is number five). Case in point: when I was at the hospital, I used the camera to take pics of the top of my head so that I could see the gash before they put in the stitches. The white-balancing system works fairly well and I'm quite pleased with the overall quality of the pictures. In fact, the quality is such that I now want to save the pictures I take with it (with previous phones I saved the pictures just because I'm obsessive-compulsive  :P). The refresh rate on the viewfinder is exceptional.

Given the RS-MMC memory-expansion slot and the 64MB card that ships with the phone, I find myself taking video (176x144) of everything. A nice feature of the video recording is that you can mute the microphone if you wish. Playback on the device could be a little smoother, but it's really nothing to complain about.

The phone ships with the Opera browser, which makes for very easy web nagivation when on the move, enhanced further by the large 16-bit TFT screen (176x208). The entire browsing experience has come a long way since I first had Opera on my Sony Ericsson P800 a couple of years back.

Speaking of the P800, that was the first, and until now, only Symbian phone I've owned. The real difference between the 7610 and P800's implementation of the OS is the user interface that sits on top of it — the P800 uses UIQ while the 7610 uses Nokia Series 60 (Second Edition). The two interfaces aren't really comparable though as UIQ is more stylus-centric where Series 60 is focused on keypad navigation. That said, I don't have any real complaints about the interface on the 7610. It could be sped up in certain areas, but for the most part it's pretty solid. I do like the fact that the softkeys are completely customizable and that you can add whatever shortcuts you want to the "Go to" menu, though this could be made a little better by allowing you to point deeper into the menuing system when making shortcuts.

As can be expected nowadays, the interface can be given an entirely new look through the use of themes, which are allowed to change almost everything on the 7610, including the clock faces, default icons, and backgrounds.

The "Gallery" program for viewing images and video (and other files) is pretty nice and like all of the programs on the phone, allows you to easily switch between phone memory and the MMC card. I've actually stopped using the "Gallery" program altogether though, in favor of Nokia Album (Thanks Russ). The Album application allows you to view a time-based thumbnail display of both your videos and images (together). It's great.

The speakerphone and regular speakers could both stand to be a bit louder — I frequently have the volume cranked all the way up. As for voice quality, I've yet to have a single complaint from anyone on the other end.

As I've mentioned many times before, I use my phone as a morning wake-up alarm and the 7610's "Clock" program handles this wonderfully. Once the alarm goes off, the right softkey snoozes for five minutes and the left key turns it off entirely. Like ringtones, the alarm sound can be any audio file, including MP3s. The only thing the application is missing is a recurring alarm option.

I had absolutely no trouble pairing the phone with my PowerBook through Bluetooth. Unfortunately, the 7610 does not sync with iSync. I knew this before I purchased it (another reason I hesitated to get this phone), but assumed that the next version of iSync would add support, especially in light of the fact that the Nokia 6600 and Sendo X, both Symbian Series 60 phones, are suupported. I was wrong, iSync v1.5 was released a few days ago and 7610 support is still missing. Grr. Apparently the hangup has to do with the fact that the 7610 uses SyncML for syncing where the other supported Symbian phones use something called mrouter. Frankly I don't give a shit what it uses, just get it working Apple!

Because syncing with the PowerBook wasn't an option, I actually had to export all of my contacts from Address Book and schedules from iCal, import them into a temp Outlook account on a Windows machine, and then run the Nokia synchronization software from there. This option is fine as a one-time way to move everything over, but the fact that my calendar, contacts, and to-do lists aren't continuously sync'd makes me freaking crazy; hopefully a hack will emerge or the next version of iSync will support it.

And finally, I have to talk about the wacked-out keypad found on the 7610. Oddly enough, like everyone else that has used the funky keypad, I've come to like it and find it very easy to navigate. Don't get it twisted though, if Nokia decided tomorrow to come out with the same model but with a "normal" keypad, I would get it. While the keys feel great when they're pushed, I wouldn't mind for the action to be a bit quieter — the clickety-clack is quite noticeable.

The third semester

August 22, 2004

I've had quite a few people ask what I was taking this semester, and so I've decided to list the classes below.

  • Evidence (required) — with Gerald Uelmen, a member of OJ Simpson's criminal defense team. Given that he can't seem to go 10 minutes without talking about OJ and the fact that one of the required texts is a book he wrote concerning evidence issues from that case, I think it's safe to say that I'll have a good handle on the "trial of the century" (and hopefully evidence) by the end of the semester.
  • Copyright — with Tyler Ochoa, a well-known name in the field.
  • Business Organizations — I think this will be my favorite class of the semester. The professor is very excited about teaching and I find the subject matter pretty interesting.
  • Constitutional Law I (required)
  • Appellate Advocacy (required)

I've purchased 10 books so far for this semester (not including supplements) and the total cost is hovering around $650 — such a fucking racket!

Cut Here

August 20, 2004

"So we meet again!" and I offer my hand
All dry and english slow
And you look at me and I understand
Yeah it's a look I used to know
"Three long years... and your favorite man...
Is that any way to say hello?"
And you hold me... like you'll never let me go

"Oh c'mon and and have a drink with me
Sit down and talk a while..."
"Oh I wish I could... and I will!
But now I just dont have the time..."
And over my shoulder as I walk away
I see you give that look goodbye...
I still see that look in your eye...

It's so hard to think "It ends sometime
And this could be the last
I should really hear you sing again
I should really watch you dance"
Because it's hard to think
"I'll never get another chance
To hold you... to hold you... "

I should've stopped to think - I should've made the time
I could've had that drink - I could've talked a while
I would've done it right - I would've moved us on
But I didn't - now it's all too late
It's over... over
And you're gone..

I miss you I miss you I miss you
I miss you I miss you I miss you so much

But how how many times can I walk away and wish "If only..."
But how many times can I talk this way and wish "If only..."
Keep on making the same mistake
Keep on aching the same heartbreak
I wish "If only..."

But "If only...."
Is a wish too late...

From the The Cure's Cut Here

Note to self

August 17, 2004

Next time you're walking near the side of a building while talking on the phone and looking at the ground, be sure to glance up from time to time so as to save yourself from being nearly knocked out by the metal edge of an air-conditioner and having to wait hours at the ER to get stitches in your head.

Nevermind all of the reckless, throw-caution-to-the-wind things that I've done in my life, it's a damn air-conditioner that almost takes me out.  :P

Thanks Charley

August 16, 2004

It seems that nature didn't think my quick trip home was hectic enough and decided to throw a hurricane into the mix. Hurricane Charley, while leaving most of my friends and family (and their properties) unscathed, still managed to screw up most of my few days back home. Not only did it bar me from seeing certain friends, but I was all set to go wakeboarding with my brother's sick new Hyperlite board and his friend's Ski Nautique, which is equipped with an 8-ft ski-pole and waterbags that can generate a 3.5-ft wake!!! I wanted my brother to capture me doing some flips and other tricks on video, but we couldn't even get into the water on Saturday because of Charley's lingering bad weather.

If you know me only from this site then you probably have no idea of my experience with and love for both skateboarding and wakeboarding — I was really looking forward to getting back in the water, but I guess I'll have to wait a bit longer. Grr. Maybe this winter break will be one of those crazy Florida winters where it's 90° in the middle of December. One can only hope.

While there's much more to write about from the trip, including the obligatory "hurricane party," I'm afraid I'm too tired and have too little time to elaborate here.

I took the picture below a couple of days ago while in the Orlando International Airport before heading back to California; as you can see, my gate and those surrounding it were a bit disheveled from the hurricane. I really wanted to get some aerial shots of the much more serious damage, but my seat position made it impossible.


A short break

August 10, 2004

Yesterday was the last day of my legal internship at Ariba. I'm headed to Florida later today for what are sure to be a few very busy days back home. Too many people to see; too much to do; too little time.

I'll be back in California late Sunday — my second year of law school begins on Monday. Joy.

Sony, put the gun down

August 08, 2004

There is no doubt that Sony's new Network Walkman Digital Music Player is a wonderful little device. It looks great, has an insane battery life, ships with a decent-sized HDD (20GB), and weighs just 3.8oz. The problem though is that it doesn't play MP3 files. The user is left to use Sony's proprietary ATRAC3 or ATRAC3Plus formats, which means that any MP3 file you want to put on the player must first be converted — a very time-consuming process — I'm sure Joe User's just chomping at the bit.

By restricting the player to just its format, Sony has also severely restricted its prospective userbase, which will now be limited to clueless end-users and those few willing (and patient enough) to convert their entire collections. I'd guess that a good number of iPod users, whom I'm sure Sony would like to steal away from Apple, are not iTunes users at all (or only in a very limited capacity), which means that Sony had a chance to move them away from the iPod (hell, I looked at the device myself), but because they locked it down I can't think of anyone who would even consider it. Sony is offering no compelling reason to switch and is likely dissuading most people by requiring them to take the unprecedented step of converting their MP3s. As for those who've actually used iTunes to build up their collections, it seems that Sony is too late to the game and will probably miss that group altogether — I just can't see Joe User cracking the iTunes' AAC files (FairPlay DRM) and then converting these unprotected files to either MP3 or WMV and then finally converting these to ATRAC3.

Advice for Sony and Others

Well, Sony, your first move should probably be to take care of the foot you just shot. Next, and this goes for all of you digital music device manufacturers, make sure your device can play the most ubiquitous and unprotected format available. If it can't, it's a good bet that it's dead in the water and is going to fail, or at least not going to do nearly as well as it would otherwise. I don't think it's too terrible to limit the device to only one proprietary format (after all, the intention is to get people to purchase music from your online store), but don't then deny users the ability to play other open formats, especially the format that's not only the most familiar to consumers but that also spawned all of this digital music madness in the first place.

This point is likely obvious to anyone reading this, which begs an obvious question: why did no one at Sony see the flaw in their logic? Can someone please explain to me what they were trying to accomplish by locking out MP3? I'm serious, if you know (or think you know), I'd like to hear it.

Advice for End-users

If you actually pay for music (I've read that people still do this  :P) and can't find somewhere online that sells what you want as an unprotected MP3 file, then don't buy it online. Buy the CD, rip the album yourself, and keep the CD so that if and when a newer, better format is available and you feel the need to make the transition, it won't cost you anything but time. Oh how I want to discuss on this site the way in which I gather and store music, but, umm, I can't really shouldn't.

I'll be curious to see what happens when the iTunes format (or any of the other online stores' DRM formats) dies out or is improved and all the people who have spent a decent amount of money on their collections want their music in the newer, better format, no doubt arguing that it costs the music provider nothing but bandwidth (as opposed to vinyl --> 8-track --> cassette --> CD --> dvd-audio --> etc).

To steal a line from Goodfellas:

  • "My new device won't play format X, can I re-download my songs in format Y?" "Fuck you, pay me." - iTunes Music Store
  • "You guys just came out with format X². I'd like to upgrade my collection from format X to format X²." "Fuck you, pay me." - Sony Connect
  • "My hard drive died and I need to re-download all of my music." "Fuck you, pay me." - Walmart Music Downloads

I'm not saying that the music provider is right or wrong in these cases, but I'm pretty sure that the above responses will be (or are?) what one can expect.

The Killers

August 02, 2004

The Killers' debut album, Hot Fuss, is shaping up to be my favorite record of the year (and, umm, as most of you are well aware, I listen to a shitload of music). Get it. Love it. You won't be disappointed.

Step two

August 02, 2004

An excerpt from a good friend's recent e-mail:

Ugh... I was just thinking that I am now one of those persons in your stories that buys everything you do.

Step two: figure out a way to make money off of this — the idea I proposed in the Apple Referral Program hasn't quite taken off. I just can't seem to get Apple or mobile phone/PDA manufacturers to adopt the system. It's almost as if they don't want to give me money.  :P