Thursday, July 31, 2003

The RIAA and You

If you swap songs on any of the major public file-sharing networks (such as KaZaA), you're now running the risk of being sued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The RIAA has already issued several hundred subpoenas to ISPs (Internet Service Providers) across the USA, requesting the real names of people offering copyrighted music on these networks.

The RIAA is trying identify and shutdown these individual song swappers, making good on its threats to expand its legal battle against copyright theft. If you do get subpoenaed by the RIAA, there is a very good chance that your going to lose your case if you fight it. They have been very successful at winning these cases against file swappers.

If you think your at risk of being used or have already been subpoenaed by the RIAA, then the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has some resources that might help you.:

RIAA vs. Everyone
I believe that all forms of piracy are wrong, but I also believe that the way that the RIAA is handling situation is wrong. There should be a better way of handling this situation, then suing your current and future customers.

It is only recently that businesses like Apple with their iTunes music store and other service like it, are making commercial music affordable, and usable. These businesses are allowing people to download the music tracks they like, and play it the way they want to.

The MP3 revolution changed the way we listen to music. We now play the song tracks we want to hear in our computers, cars, and portable players; without worrying about what type media (CD, cassette, etc..) that it is stored on. With CDs you have to worry about them being scratched or lost. With MP3s and other digital formats, you can burn the music tracks you want to hear on inexpensive CDs, or download them to a portable device.

Personally, I hate the fact that you have to spend $16 dollars (US) for CD when you may only like three songs or less on it. The on-line music stores allow you download the music you want hear, and play it where you want to.

These on-line music stores have taken the first steps in correcting a flawed business model that has existed for years. By allowing you download the music you want listen too for a reasonable price.

Now they need work on improving the 'fair use' rights of this music, so that after you download it you can use it the way you want too. They also, need to work on expanding the selection of music that they have available.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Star Wars Kid

You may seen or heard about the 'Star Wars Kid' videos that have been circulating around the Internet these last few months. They're the about as popular as the 'dancing baby' videos that circulated a few years earlier.

If you have not seen or heard of these videos, they contain video footage of an overweight teenage boy that was trying to mimic the fighting moves of the Jedi knights from the recent Star Wars movies. Although, he is not very graceful; I am not sure if I could do a better job trying these moves myself.

I have to admit when I first saw the videos I thought they were funny. I was also amused how people took this video made short Star Wars and Matrix trails from them.

Then after I read the following article in Wired, I did not find it funny anymore:

Whether you think these videos are funny, or you find them demoralizing this is you to decide. The facts are: these videos were NOT made with this person's permission, and this is a real person who was humiliated by these videos.

I feel the tone of this post comes across like I have an agenda to condemn these videos. I am trying to keep this post as un-bias as I possibly can without avoiding the facts of the matter. I won't say that I approve them, but I think it important that you draw your own conclusions.

Well after a two week hiatus I am back...
Did anyone miss me?

On the lighter side...

You may have seen or heard about the mock Internet Explorer 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' 404 error message page that was created by Anthony Cox, a British blogger. At the top of the page it states 'These Weapons of Mass Destruction cannot be displayed' The text goes on to state 'The weapons you are looking for are currently unavailable. The country may be experiencing technical difficulties, or you may need to adjust your weapons inspectors mandate.'

There is also another 404 error page about the Iraq Dis-Information Minister.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Blog Name Change

First of all, I am changing the name of my blog from 'Hello World...' to 'In My Humble Opinion'. I chose the first title "Hello World..." from a very famous code sample that most new programmer use when they're first learning how to program.

For example, here is the Hello World program in BASIC:
10 Print "Hello World..."

Hello World...

The reason for changing the name to 'In My Humble Opinion', is because the phrase has always stood out to me. I believe if you start a statement with this phrase you automatically invalidate the humbleness of your comment. The phrase is almost an oxymoron. because of the contradiction between humility and while trying to express ones opinion.

Okay, I am going to stop ranting here about this subject. I really don't believe that anyone really cares why I did this, but just in case anyone wondered why I choose the strange titles.

Now for Something Completely Different...

Stamp It Out
Ever wanted your own first class stamps? All you have to do is upload your own pictures, and presto you have your own stamps. Note: If you think that you can use these images to create stamps to fool the post office, you will be sorely disappointed, but is still a cool site.

Automatic Bad Movie Trailer Generator
This site creates bad movie trailers like the ones you see on TV and in theaters, only these are randomly generated on the fly. Each trailer is made up of random elements that are combined differently every time you view it. You can play it over and over repeatedly and you'll never get quite the same trailer.

Window RG (RG stand for 'Really Good')
It's a Flash version of a Windows XP spoof...

Monday, July 14, 2003

My first blog...

This is my first blog, and I have to admit I like the technology, but I can also see its short comings too. Blogging to me is the HTML equivalent of UseNet for the World-Wide Web. When the UseNet first appeared on the Internet almost 30 years ago, I am pretty sure it was a phenomena similar to blogging. All of sudden people around the world were able to post their views, ideas, interests, etc..; without having to worry about what the other people or governments think.

(Note: for those people who don't know what UseNet is, here is a brief explanation. In the 1970s the UseNet was developed to allow people to post their views and ideas on the Internet. Over the years it has evolved into a huge archive of everything under the sun [and I mean everything])

The primarily thing that differentiates Blogging from the UseNet (besides the back-end technologies); is the UseNet posting only supports plain text, where blog postings can use HTML (which means it can support: pictures, sounds, and much more). Also, if you know anything about HTML, then you know it supports a much richer set of formating options then plain-text. It is kind of like comparing Windows Notepad to Microsoft Word.

Blogging vs. Creating Web Pages
One of the best things about blogging is if you know how to use a web browser, then you should be about to do it. It only took me about five minutes or less to setup this blog on Blogger.

The great thing about Blogger is that you don't have to know HTML, CSS, Java-Script, etc.. to post (although it does help to know these technologies). If you had to reproduce the posting process using a regular web site it would require that you have a great deal more knowledge about how to create and maintain a web site.

For example, to post a web page on a regular web site you would first have a web server to host your pages; a web page editor to create your web pages; and some type of file transfer program (such as an FTP program) to manage the files. Then after you have all that, you then need to know use different web page technologies such as: HTML, CSS, Java-Script, etc..

Blogger Shortcomings
Some of the main shortcoming that I found in the free version of Blogger:

  • No storage is provided to host additional files (such as images).

  • No web site usage tracking statistics

  • Knowledge/support areas are outdated.

If you need any of these features then you will have to pay for them. Personally, I am pretty frugal when it comes to money, so I found some free alternatives to help offset some of these shortcomings.

First, the 'Blogger Unofficial FAQ blog' has some of the best and most update information about Blogger. If you're having a problem, or needed to know about what special tags that Blogger supports; this is the place to go.

Free Web Site Usage Trackers
If you spend your free time ranting (like me), and want to know if anybody is even looking at what you're typing. Then you will want to install a web site usage tracker. This technology requires that you insert a HTML code fragment into your template. Then anytime someone comes to your blog, this site will capture information about the page they visited, what type of browser they have.

Free Search Engine/Directory Submissions
If you want to promote your blog, then I would submit it to the search engines and directories for inclusion (note: if you have a commercial blog, then some search engines/directories will change you for inclusion.)

Host Web Content
If you need to include graphics, and/or other types of content in your blog you should be able to use a free web host service like GeoCities. Also, if you need an alternate free email address to prevent your real email address from being flooded by unwanted message, Yahoo Mail is great service.

Fun web sites...

Stamp It Out
Ever wanted your own first class stamps? This web site lets you create you own personal stamps.

Automatic Bad Movie Trailer Generator
This site creates bad movie trailers like the ones you see on TV and in theaters, only these are randomly generated on the fly. Each trailer is made up of random elements that are combined differently every time you view it. You can play it over and over repeatedly and you'll never get quite the same trailer.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

More Cool Articles

Wired magazine's science fact articles:

  • Being Invisible
    Next generation optical camouflage.

  • A User's Guide to Time Travel
    Once confined to fantasy and science fiction, time travel is now simply an engineering problem.

  • 8 Super Powers
    These super powers include:

    • X-Ray Vision

    • Regeneration

    • Total Recall

    • Teleportation

    • Weather Control

    • Force Fields

    • Underwater Breathing

    • Super Strength

Friday, July 11, 2003

Cool Articles

P2P's little secret

It's a great article about privacy on the Internet.

New Memory That Doesn't Forget

MRAM (Magneto-resistive Random Access Memory) could be the next generation memory for computers and other handheld electronic devices. What makes MRAM better then today's conventional RAM technologies is:

- It consumes less power
- Its faster
- Its non-volatile, meaning that it doesn't require power to keep it alive.

The Anti-gravity Underground

Have you ever seen those anti-gravy vehicles and device in Sci-Fi movies and wondered what it would be like to have one. Check out this article to find out more.

Kensington WiFi detector

If you're in data security and you need to find rogue wireless access points, then you might want to check out the Kensington WiFi detector. I believe it might be a great alternative to a laptop with a WiFi card and NetStumbler (or equivalent software). Some of the features of this device are:

- Detects WiFi networks with the press of a button
- Compact and lightweight
- Detects 802.11b and 802.11g signals up to 200 feet away
- No software or computer required

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

The State of Recoding Television

As short as a few years ago, TVs could internally handle the two main signals that they received, which were either an analog cable signal or over the air TV transmissions. Now that we have digital satellite (DSS), and digital cable, and High-Definition TV (HDTV) technologies, things have all changed.

With all these new technologies, it means that making the correct component choices the first time is critical so that everything works together. This also means, that the equipment setup will now become more complex.

For example, lets say that you want to get a new HDTV, with a HDTV satellite receiver, a Tivo PVR, and a Gateway Connected DVD player. The first thing that you need to consider is the HDTV monitor that you want to buy, some of these monitors require the purchase of an additional receiver. Then if you want to record your HDTV programming, you will need a PVR that can record this signal. DirecTV and Tivo are suppose to have a satellite HDTV receiver with that can do this (although, all I could find was press release about it 'coming soon').

Then once you have the TV, PVR, and HDTV receiver selected, you now you consider which DVD player you want. I personally like the idea of the Gateway connected DVD player because of it's feature set.

Hooking It All Together:
Hopefully when you bought your TV you had enough forethought to buy one with extra video connectors to handle hooking up all these different components. If that wasn't enough to worry about, you also need to consider which video/audio connections (such as: Composite, RCA, Component, and S-Video) each of devices use, and which will give you the best picture quality.

Then there's the other devices that we hook up to our TVs, such as:
- Camcorders
- Game consoles
- Home theater systems
- etc..

The Future:
As more entertainment devices are being developed, hooking all these components together is going to become a worse nightmare. The manufactures need to rally together to standardize one connection type, that allows you daisy chain the devices together. These devices also need to allow one device to become the master of the chain so that when you press the play button you don't have to set each device's video selection mode to allow that device to play through to the TV.

For example, if you have an older TV that only has two video inputs, and you have a VCR, and a DVR player. When you want to play the DVD, you first have to switch the video input on the TV so that it will display the video output of the DVD player. Then you can can press the play button on your DVD player to watch your movie. It would would be nice if you just pressed play button on the DVD player, and the player communicated with the TV that it need to switch the video inputs.

Personal Note: For some reason I feel this strong rant to talk about home entertainment devices. So, over the next few days I am going to state my opinions of these technologies. If you find this subject boring, I have a great deal of different topics planned for the future...

Personal Video Recorders

I have to admit I personally love the PVR (Personal Video Recorders) technology, it has changed the way I watch TV. I can watch my favorite TV programs when I want too, and I don't have to be subject to the television programming schedules.

The technology to record and playback TV programming has been available since the 70's with invention of the VCR, but it still doesn't match the experience of a PVR. The features I love most about PVRs is that you can pause, rewind, stop live TV, plus you can skip through commercials on any of your recorded programming. You can also search for new programming to record.

So, If you don't have a PVR go out and buy one now! Once you start using one of these devices you will wonder how you lived without it.

There are a few things that you need to know before you go out and buy a PVR.
- The most popular PVR makers are Tivo and ReplayTV
- If you get your TV reception from analog cable or over the air TV transmissions. Then you should be in pretty good shape to use one of these devices out of the box.
- If get your TV programming from a digital cable system or satellite provider then things get more complicated.

If you have DishNet as your satellite provider then you have to use their proprietary PVR technology. If you have DirecTV as your satellite provider then you can get their PVR with Tivo technology. As far as digital cable is concerned contact your cable provider.

As much as I love the PVR, this technology also has it short comings. Having used by current PVR system for more then a year now, and having seen what is available; I see the biggest problems with this technology is:

- You can't offload content to a removable media such a CD or DVD.
- Doesn't support HDTV programming, yet! (this should be coming soon, hopefully before 2004)
- Not enough disk storage space to hold all the programming. Most PVRs come with 40 or 80 hours of recording time. I sounds like a lot time, but it is not if you're trying to save your favorite shows to watch at a later.

While I believe that the future of PVRs is bright. I also believe it can be sum up in one word 'convergence'. The next generation of these devices needs to include:

- Support the ability to save recorded content to a DVD disk.
- The ability play DVDs.
- Network-enabled with the ability play/display content (music, pictures or video) off your computer.
- Support larger hard drives.

Personally I admit I am a big fan of the Tivo technology because of the amazing range of enhancements products that are available for it. They range from open source software, to 3rd party hardware modifications. For more information about these product see: DealDatabase

Privacy Note: Tivo tracks all the information about your viewing habits, the arrogates the data and sells it movie and television companies.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Digital Hubs Future or Fad

'Digital hubs' are not a new product category for consumers, but they're an interesting one, and one that is about to really take off. I believe that Tivo and Replay laid the foundation for digital hub revolution with their PVR (Personal Video Records) technology. Microsoft later popularized (notice I didn't say 'invented') it with it's Windows XP Media Center Edition.

There are now several different companies, selling several different products, with many different features, all competing to define the digital hub category. For example, I have seen special enhancements for Microsoft's XBox that enhances it's multimedia capabilities, TIVO has their Home Media Option, Sony is creating the PSX, etc..

One exceptional product that seems to really stand out in this category is the Gateway Connected DVD Player. What is really great about this product is its features and the price ($250 US). Not only is it a DVD player, but it can also play several different digital audio/video file formats stored on your PC (such as: JPEG, MP3, MPEG, etc..) over the network. Below is a list of the different digital media formats it can play, and diffent types of LAN capabilities it supports:

Media: DVD, CD, VCD/SVCD, Kodak Picture CD and MP3 files on CD-R/CD-RW
Formats: MPEG1/MPEG2 video, JPG photos and MP3/WMA audio files
Connectivity: Support either wired Ethernet or Wi-Fie (802.11b) connectivity to a Microsoft-based home network.

There is one major problem with all of these devices that will kill this market in the near future if it not addressed. There needs to be some form of interoperability standards so that these devices can communicate seemlessly with each other. These products can be 'jerry-ridged' to work together, but the integration is not very seamless. As these devices become more and more complex you have to become a 'home media architect' to hook it all up.

For example: What components, and connections would you need to hookup a DirecTV satellite receiver, Tivo Series 2, and a Gateway Connected DVD Player to your TV. You could use an integrated DirecTV/Tivo PVR, but you lose the ability to do some major modifications to the device. But if you a DirecTV receiver, with a regular Tivo Series 2 you loose the ability to record the digital content right to the hard drive. There are also several other things that you would have to consider in this configuration.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Wearable Glove Keyboard

Dr. Carsten Mehring invented a wearable glove-type input device designed to simulate Qwerty-style keyboard. This device could replace the current input technologies (such as: pen type stylus, thumb keyboards, etc..) that we use today to enter information into palm-sized computers. Dr. Mehring device is called 'KITTY' (which stand for: Keyboard Independent Touch Typing), which uses sensors worn on each finger and three sensors on each thumb.

There is a competing technology from a company called Senseboard Technologies that is based on a similar idea. Instead of being a glove, they use devices that clip on to your hands and senses the motion of your fingers as you pretend to touch type on an invisible keyboard.

Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle

DARPA is planning on building an unmanned reusable 'hypersonic cruise vehicle' (HCV) capable of striking any target in the world within two hours. This aircraft will also have the ability to carry a payload up to 12,000 pounds in munitions.

The potential of such a weapon, has several advantages over most modern day conventional weapon technologies. Such as: You don't have to worry about losing your own people; or finding airbase in a foreign country to host your equipment; or worrying about it getting shoot down by conventional weapons. It also has a whole host of other advantages, but most of all it should be able deliver it's payload before it's target even knew it was there.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003


I recently saw a very cool technology, it is called 'DataGlyphs' from PARC (or Palo Alto Research Center, and formerly known as Xerox PARC). DataGlyphs are 45-degree diagonal lines that can be as small as one one-hundredth of an inch or less. Each glyph is designed to represents a single binary number (such as: '0' or '1'), depending on whether it slopes to the left or right. The main limitation to the size of the glyph is the resolution of the printer and scanner used to print it and to read it, the higher the resolution of these devices the smaller the glyph can be.

One of the cool things about this technology is that you can embed binary information into images, create special watermarks, etc...; and people might not even realize that they're there. Another great thing about the technology is that it has a lot of built-in error correction so that you should be able to crumble, burn holes, spill coffee, etc.. on the page; and the software should still be able to decode the message.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003


Today, I am going to start by posting a very funny site I came across this morning, it is called UberGeek.TV. The only thing worthwhile about the site is the flash animation on the right-hand side of the content on the front-page.