nullstream weblog - Reviews
November 15, 2008 12:04 AM PST
I have friends and family who are not "web enabled". Heck, some are not even phone enabled. While I could just ignore everyone not monitoring my RSS feeds, I've been sending postcards of images through Premium Postcards
. This service is affiliated with the US Post Office, and lets you print one-off postcards to be mailed directly to any US address. Although the site is decidedly web 1.0, it does allow you to create/import address books and even do mail-merge if you want to personalize the same postcard to multiple recipients. A single photo is printed on the front, and two photos and text, in addition to the sender and receiver address can be printed on the back.
For some reason, you must create an account to see the prices, which I thought must be astronomical. They aren't. A single 4x6 postcard is $1.12, postage included. They should shout this from the trees, rather than hiding it. Buying multiple credits provides discounts, eg. for 50 cards, it's $0.97 per. And I stress that these don't need to have the same picture or the same address! Nice pricing model. A full bleed 5.5x8.5in starts at $1.53. And you get one of each type of card free for signing up.
The ability to simply upload a photo from anywhere online and have it printed and sent to anyone in the US is awesome not only for techno-luddites, but also when you are traveling. Rather than buying a postcard, finding a pen, local stamps and local post office, you can just snap your own picture, upload it and send it to someone in your address book. Much easier and cheaper!
I highly recommend Premium Postcards.
November 14, 2008 11:37 PM PST
I've been buying a bunch of t-shirts lately at shirt.woot.com
. The shirt of the day is $10 out the door, and usually arrives in about a week. The shirts are user designed and of a certain theme every week. The quality is good and shirts are limited enough run that you won't likely run across someone else with the same shirt. Following are the other shirts I've "collected" so far...
Continue reading "shirt.woot.com"...
September 22, 2008 12:05 AM PST
Earlier this year I dropped a 30GB iPod Video at the gym and broke the screen. The screen didn't actually have that split crystal look to it, but was just a scramble of lines and blank spaces. After looking around for a while, I decided to get a do-it-yourself iPod Video screen replacement kit from Kokopelli Music
for $37 shipped, including tools and instructions. I figured that doing it myself woud be cheaper and also save me from having to ship my iPod in.
I'm happy to report that I did the transplant myself using the excellent instructions and am really happy with the new screen. I think it's brighter than the old one. There are a lot of vendors out there doing iPod repair, and I just wanted to thank and recommend Kokopelli Music for being fast and honest to deal with by doing this unsolicited post and link back. Thanks, guys.
October 24, 2007 12:08 AM PST
Doh. I just Netflixed up 24 and after 20 minutes of episode 1, I'm hooked, so awesome. Next up: The Sopranos.
December 1, 2005 05:40 PM PST
I downloaded and installed Firefox 1.5. It's pretty much the same for me. I'm mainly just hoping it solves the memory leak issues
. I was a bit worried about losing all my tabs or having incompatible extensions. Luckily, it all worked out. The main extension that wasn't supported was SessionSaver, but I found a link for an updated version of it - sessionsaver-02-dev
. SessionSaver automatically remembers the tabs you have open in your browser, so you can close it at any time and when you open it again, all your tabs will pop up (although they'll be reloaded, clearing out any form fields you've entered, and also refreshing any news pages you're on). I was really amazed that after installing the updated SessionSaver, it remembered all my tabs from the previous install! Pretty painless upgrade.
The other extension I have that didn't update was FeedView, which is just a pretty RSS formatter that I don't really need anyway because of the Sage reader extension. Plus I heard FeedView was going to be part of Firefox eventually.
The other extensions I have that do continue to work are: Adblock, IEView, Coralize, Tabbrowser Preferences and Sage.
The only two obvious changes to Firefox from the previous 1.x versions are things I don't like. The layout of the Firefox options dialog has all the categories along the top, rather than on the side. I don't know what UI model this comes from, but it looks pretty horrible to me. To top that, there are multiple tabs under each category. Firefox is only one step away from the nasty configuration UI in Outlook 2003. The other change is that the little RSS broadcast icon is no longer in the bottom bar, but rather in the address bar now. I guess that's OK, but I can't figure out how to choose which feed format I want now. It used to be a menu that let you pick between ATOM, RSS 1 and RSS 2 for example if the sites supported it. Now it just tries to create a bookmark directly. Seems like a step back.
There are, of course other updates to the browser but none that I noticed immedately. I suppose the new "ctrl-shift-del" to remove all personal data is a nice touch after browsing on public computers. It's the kind of privacy touch that MS really should feel more responsible for, given their market position.
Basically, I'm just glad the install went smoothly. Besides that - I don't notice much difference, although I'm secretly hoping that this browser has changes under the hood that make it faster and less of a memory pig-dog.
August 23, 2005 10:31 PM PST
Google's answer to Skype.Google Talk
. I'm using it now; initial review:
- Supports voice and IM
- It docks in the new Google sidebar
- It only supports a single person in the conversation at once (for now)
- It does "gmail notifier", so your new gmail pops up.
- Very simple interface (a good thing), 900KB download, low cpu and 12MB memory usage in active conversation.
- Currently doesn't appear to support file transfer.
- It's not clear that the conversations or IMs are secure.
- It uses Jabber and SIP under the hood. The API is open and looks very extensible
- Supports a "snap-to" windows interface, like Skype. Handy.
So currently, Skype has more features, but more frustrations. I would imagine Google will catch up. This actually leaves Skype as a good acquisition target from Yahoo or Microsoft. Or InfoSpace, the 0.5% search leader. :-)
July 15, 2005 02:33 PM PST
I've been using Skype
for a while now with a $6 headset from buy.com. It's a free p2p phone service that includes IM and file transfer features. You can also make calls from your computer to a regular phone number using a feature called SkypeOut. The per-minute rates to most countries are extremely low, and the sound quality is quite good.
The three issues I found were the first time I installed the software, I got an incoming ring while I was going through the install wizard. My CPU pegged to 100% and it took several minutes just to get task manager up to kill it. Since then it's been fine. In general, though, it takes a lot of cpu, maybe a minimum of 450mhz if you're doing nothing else. The second issue is that Skype often shows your friends as offline, when they are actually online. It's so bad that I just use messenger to see if people are online and then ring them up on skype (which still works if they appear offline). They can send voice data halfway around the world, but apparently can't synchronize presence data. The third annoyance is that they seem to come out with at least one new version a week, and some break compatibility with users who arent up-to-the-minute. It makes me nervous they have to update the code so often.
A tip: the voice quality (especially for multi-person conference calls) depends on who initiates and adds people to the call. The conference initiator should have the highest (upstream) bandwidth.
Overall Skype has better quality than older solutions such as Roger Wilco, or XBox Live, and it traverses NAT and firewalls well. I have yet to try it while playing an online game, but for voice chat it works really well. Also, I should mention that although it's by the developers of KaZaA, it does not contain spyware (seems they've found a viable business model that doesn't revolve around that junk).
Here's an interesting article on Skype
which also has choice words from their main competitor, Vonage:
Vonage CEO Jeffrey Citron says the pricing models are different because the products themselves are different. In fact, Citron labels Skype an “ancillary service” and not a direct competitor. “Skype says it themselves, they are not a replacement for your home telephone -- they are an ancillary communication service.
Basically Vonage is just pissed because someone came along and developed a very attractive free version of their product. Vonage wants to charge $25 per month minimum, just like your local phone company. If anything, I'd say that a company getting into home phone service is ancilliary to what's really happening - people replacing their land lines with cellular. Finally, Skype is working with hardware vendors on phones, and is currently betaing their SkypeIn service where you can get one or more physical phone numbers for your account, to allow incoming as well as outoging calls through the phone system. So they are competing directly with Vonage - and winning.
July 6, 2005 09:36 PM PST
I've been using the D-Link DSM-320 Network Media Player
for a few months now and am quite happy with it. It's basically a box the size of a dvd player that exclusively plays content from a PC, including images, music and video (yes, Jimmy; including divx).
Continue reading "D-Link DSM-320 Media Player"...
June 21, 2005 06:06 PM PST
I recently watched The Corporation, a Canadian documentary about the power of modern corporations. (I forego the IMDB link since they now require registration just to view the customer supplied
This movie is somewhat in the vein of Bowling for Columbine or Super Size Me, although it doesn't have the outlandish stunts that either of these movies have. The only time it falls into obvious left-wing propaganda is how the descriptions of the benefits of corporations are done through old black and white 50s footage, making them seem very "square" and antiquated. I realize it's not an unbiased documentary, but this type of thing seems uncalled for. If you want to see this type of not-so-subtle visual propaganda (which I find insulting) non-stop, watch Fahrenheit 9/11.
The authors structure the movie in a way that shows they're only scratching the surface of the problems caused by corporate capitalism. I enjoyed the movie and found many of the case studies interesting. It's one of those documentaries that kind of makes you want to get out and help people - so I recommend it.
The most significant point I found in common with my own views is: "How much is enough?". As the film points out - corporations are legal entities on par with people in terms of property ownership and indemnity. Corporations have aspirations for growth and increased wealth just like most people do. The problem is - they don't have any other goals. They don't feel bad, they don't feel morals, they don't care about things other than the bottom line.
I'll follow up this post with a few observations I have about corporations. But for now, here's a link to a bit torrent download of The Corporation
You're only downloading it because the copy at the library is checked out, or it's a "long wait" on your netflix queue, right?
June 13, 2005 09:36 PM PST
is one of the most popular BitTorrent
clients out there. It's written in Java which I typically avoid due to massive memory and CPU hogging, but I decided to try it out on my AMD64 machine anyway. I'm actually pretty happy with it. It is a nerd's paradise of statistics graphs and tweakable settings for each download. It is also open source and spyware free, which is a lot better than the recent crop of spyware laden p2p apps.
A few things... Make sure you've mapped port 6881 on your router to the machine running the BitTorrent client. Without opening this port to your computer, your download speeds will be severely limited. Azareus has a built in test menu option to test if the port is properly accesible from the outside world.
Also, from the menu "Plugins -> Installation Wizard -> From sourceforge.net", select SafePeer and install it (takes a few minutes). This is basically an IP blacklist that will "optimize" your client. Notice that downloading plugins and updates for Azareus happen over BitTorrent! Pretty cool; they "eat their own dogfood".
Azareus likes to keep seeding files long after you've downloaded them, but you can tweak this behavior by tweaking the Options -> Queue -> Seeding -> Ignore Rules section and ignoring torrents with a low number of seeds and peers. Also, there is no anonymity in standard BitTorrent (there's a reason the index is called a "tracker").
BitTorrent was developed to distribute very popular, large files over the internets, such as Linux distributions, game demos and movie trailers. Of course all manner of other data is available from sites that always are at risk of being shut down, such as mininova, torrentreactor.to and torrentspy. Regardless of your socialist leanings or personal feelings about fair use - do not download executable files from any untrusted P2P system
! Even a virus scanner cannot detect custom modifications that add trojan horses to an executable.
May 26, 2005 09:49 PM PST
Channel register writes a not quite so favorable review of Tiger.
May 19, 2005 07:01 PM PST
Paul's seen the new Star Wars movie with his illustrious company, and the rest of us will be doing the same tomorrow. In fact, we had to rent a whole chunk of the Galleria to fit our whole crew.
Let's get your first impressions...
May 13, 2005 10:51 AM PST
Shiri is the biggest budget action movie to come out of South Korea at about $5 million It's pretty a pretty standard plot, with some typically asian ultra violent scenes out of the blue. The depiction of North Korean troops and training reminds me a lot of how US films used to portray the USSR, and I found that interesting. It's worth seeing if you like this type of movie, and it stars the Korean gal from the "Lost" TV show. Now that that's out of the way...
Shiri has a scene or two where characters are typing on the computer in Korean characters. I noticed that in order to get the characters with a western keyboard, they were hitting the same key multiple times to cycle through to the right one. If I have this wrong, please let me know. It's one of those things I can't believe I haven't run across before, but I guess I never thought about it.
The interesting thing about this input method, is that it provides a clue as to one of the reasons text messaging is so popular in Asia! Obviously in crowded spaces and such, it's less intrusive to text message than just talk, but I've never been able to get over the nastiness of 10 key input for typing out full messages. "Press '7' 4 times for 'S'" - No thanks! But if I was used to each key (on the keyboard) cycling through an Asian character set, I wouldn't think twice about doing it on a cell phone number pad. Does this seem like a reasonable factor? Is this already painfully obvious to people?
May 5, 2005 11:47 PM PST
I saw U2 in Seattle and Vancouver and ran across a sweet U2 Flickr slideshow
where people had posted pictures of various shows on the tour. This is one of those photos (not taken by me):
Continue reading "U2 Tour"...
April 16, 2005 07:29 PM PST
I finally installed the OmniFi DMP1 MP3 car audio player I bought for $200 off Woot
a couple of weeks ago. I currently also have an Aiwa CDC-MP3 player that plays MP3 CDs.
This player is similar to the Kenwood music Keg, but was much cheaper because it's been discontinued by the manufacturer, despite being a highlight of the 2003 CES show. It's a faceplace that can be mounted pretty much anywhere, an under-seat mountable drive dock, and a 20GB ejectable laptop drive. The laptop drive is formatted as FAT32 and can be connected to a PC via USB for normal data storage. The Woot package also included the home media player DMS1 and two USB Wi-Fi adapters.
That's right - the coolest thing about the player is that it supports synching with your PC based music repository via Wi-Fi.
Continue reading "OmniFi DMP1 Wireless Car Stereo"...
April 6, 2005 12:01 AM PST
After a long email discussion GPL ASP loophole
, sparked by a silly article about Sun Microsystems knocking the GPL
, I wanted to get into something a little lighter.
I've watched the first two DVDs of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex recently and really like the series. The original movie is a must-see, but I didn't like the second movie (Innocence) as much. Stand Alone Complex is a TV series that tackles the same issues of consciousnes with an overarching plot that is tied together by each individual episode. The virtual cinematography is incredible and the vision of the future is so ingrained in the story, they don't even bother to explain it. Here's a well written review of the first DVD.
While various networks have become deeply rooted,
and thoughts have been sent out as light
and electrons in a singular direction,
this era has yet to digitize/computerize to the degree necessary
for individuals to become a single complex entity.
What they're saying (and the wikipedia link explains this more) is that not only are artificial intelligences forming (as we saw in Ghost in the Shell), but the next evolution is for complex intelligence formed from multiple individuals. I've only seen the first 8 episodes, but I can totally see the story arc going this way.
March 27, 2005 05:23 PM PST
Large format, high resolution desktop wallpapers and backgrounds (1600x1200) and larger aren't easy to find. Even through Google's image search, there's not a whole lot that comes up. This will hopefully change with the increase of high quality digital cameras, photoblogs and creative commons licenses.
Here are two sites that have awesome large format desktop wallpaper:
- Blatte's Fractal Backgrounds - Hundreds of high resolution fractal images. Since fractals can be generated at any resolution, these really look awesome on a large format monitor.
- Mandolux - For both single monitor AND dual monitors up to 1920x1200 EACH MONITOR! You lucky dogs with 2x 20" flat panels will have to let me know how they look. Click on the "archive" link to see the other images.
- Tenser's Large Backgrounds Post - Some other sites, other than the ones listed above. Many of the generic background sites have a lot of smaller images to wade through, which is why I highlighted the two above.
I'll follow up with a post to freeware that can be used to cycle your dektop backgrounds automatically.
March 21, 2005 03:33 PM PST
The Office on BBC
is the funniest set of shows/DVDs of 2004. Funnier than Napoleon Dynamite? Yes. More memorable lines than Dynamite? Yes.
Rent and watch at least the first DVD before you even think of watching the upcoming American version which starts Thursday. From what I've seen of the previews on the web of the US version, it looks horrible. They seem to be characterizing the boss as an obnoxious boor, and that's not true to the original. They appear to be channeling Lumberg from Office Space rather than David Brent from the original. I don't know why they don't just play the UK version here.
The beauty of The Office is that it is funny, but is also quite tragic. David Brent manages to be a horrible boss that you actually have empathy for - it's a fine line that reflects really amazing character development. The last few episodes are more sad than anything, and it's not until the Christmas specials that the characters are redeemed.
I'm really worried that the US version will totally ruin the experience of the UK show if you haven't already seen it, and that would be a shame. So check it out on DVD. I'll let you know how the new one is.
March 19, 2005 06:50 PM PST
There's been recent talk of dual monitors and flat panels. I recently bought Dell's Ultrasharp 2001FP
, and absolutely love it. It's my first flat panel monitor, and I have no idea why I waited this long (well, the price maybe). These monitors via coupons on techbargains.com
are typically $530 - $570 every couple of weeks. Nothing touches Dell on price/performance of LCD monitors.
I was initially torn between the 2005FPW (widescreen, 1680x1050, 12ms response), and the 2001FP (1600x1200, 16ms response). For games, and video cards that can't drive a full UXGA resolution, the widescreen might work out well. But for anything else, the 1600x1200 is the way to go. There's also a new 24" model that is 1920x1200 at 12ms, but it's about double the price.
I was worried the pixels (and hence, icons and text) would be too small - on a 19" CRT I run 1280x1024. An LCD, via DVI cable is so crisp that the size of the pixels don't bother me at all. Combined with ClearType for subpixel text antialiasing, this resolution is awesome. I was also concerned with the 16ms response, given that the latest panels have 12ms. I don't notice any ghosting at all on this display in common use or movie playback (don't have the video card for games yet).
The other obvious benefits of LCD are ease on the eyes, power savings and desktop footprint. My CRT looks totally blurry to me now that I'm used to flat panel. I'd almost suggest going LCD just to save your eyesight if you're a 8+ hour a day computer user.
This monitor also has some cool features like built in 4 port USB2 hub and vga, dvi, s-video and composite inputs that can be switched, and any input can be Picture in Picture. The monitor also rotates 90 degrees if you're into that.
The coolest thing about LCD via DVI is that you're looking directly at video memory
! No analog interpolation, or blurry dots. When you look at those pixels - you're looking at the bits, man! The bits!
March 5, 2005 12:03 AM PST
Microsoft released a desktop search application
a few months after Google. I never installed the Google app because I didn't like that it installed a little webserver/proxy on my machine. As far as I understand, it combined the contents of the Google web search with the contents of my drive. I'm sure it's an elegant solution, but it just goes beyond what I want to commit to for something as simple as searching my files.
I recently set up some new machines and therefore did the "install newest versions of software I could find" song and dance. I installed MS desktop search because the regular search is super slow and I was interested in also searching network drives and my email.
In the initial phase, you can specify what folders to scan. I picked a network drive, as well as my HDD, email, etc. I didn't think it would work correctly on the network drive. After a relatively quick initial indexing, I found that a search is incredibly fast! Just type a word or two, and up pops a window with 300 hits and their summaries, spanning emails, documents and files on the shared drive. Enter a contact name and all the emails, contact info, and any saved documents show up. You can easily filter on just emails, documents, or Web results. Pretty easy. Why wasn't this just implemented in the OS?
MS: junk the built-in indexer, don't wait for longhorn and include this badboy in XP SP3.
Continue reading "Microsoft Desktop Search"...
March 4, 2005 05:12 PM PST
I've avoided seriously considering Gmail since it came out because the site would not work on my mobile device. Earlier in the week I read a rumor that Google had implemented a basic HTML view for GMail in order to support older browsers and mobile devices - but it didn't work for me. - Until today that is! I guess it just took a while to roll it out. Now when I hit Gmail on my Ipaq I get a comment at the top of the page that says "For a better Gmail experience, use a fully supported browser." But other than that, the interface looks pretty usable.
March 1, 2005 10:59 PM PST
I had written a long article about the tradeoffs of RSS and HTML for reading news, but Firefox crashed on me for the first time and I lost it. So the short version is: download the Sage Firefox extension for reading RSS feeds
This extension is only 42KB and does exactly what I was looking for. It's a great, lightweight newsreader that is integrated well into Firefox. I still like reading news directly from the site, but Sage lets you know when there are new articles and you can preview them in a nicely laid out format. I thought I would miss the ability to automatically check for updates, but I find that the manual refresh to check all sites actually fits my browsing habits much more. I don't really want to be distracted by new posts popping up all the time.
You'll notice that there's now an RSS icon underneath the comments section in the navigation bar. Since you'll see updated sites with Sage, this feed is a listing of the latest comments for each entry. So you can not only subscribe to our posts (the main RSS feed), but also to comments people make to the posts. This is useful because it's not just John, Paul and I that generate interesting content here.
February 22, 2005 10:21 AM PST
So I finally got around to watching this movie. I watched it twice in fact and then showed it to my youngest daughter. Some really nice quoteable material. My wife didn't really care for it though.
Now I can finally appreciate the sound links site that the O sent me.
February 19, 2005 07:15 PM PST
is a photo management program that has became a free download when the company was acquired by Google. It is a full commercial quality application, along the lines of iPhoto for the Mac. I felt that the initial rev of the product has some stability issues, but I have seen no problem with the latest version 2.0.
Image Management on Disk
The disk image management features are the best I've seen. Picasa can monitor arbitrary directories for images, and auto-update its index of thumbnails. You can move, add and delete images in explorer and picasa reflects these changes in real time. One of the only drawbacks I saw to the program, is that it will scan your My Documents folder or the entire hard drive for images and video files when first installed. There's no option to not watch your entire documents directory on install, but this can be changed once the program is up and running. Be aware that by default, Picasa won't scan the directories for PNG files, and you must explicitly enable this type of file in the program options.
Continue reading "Picasa 2"...
February 15, 2005 10:47 AM PST
We've been a bit slow in posting lately... but several good articles are forthcoming. For now, head over to daily dose of imagery
. This guy takes pictures mostly around Toronto and posts one daily.
He seems to be able to capture interesting scenes in daily life, and gets me to think a bit more about the "little things" around me. I also like this site because the photography seems attainable, and something we could do with a little practice (and a digital SLR camera).
I came across this photoblog while browsing the 2005 Bloggies
awards. Of all the sites and all the categories, this was the one I liked the best. Take a look, you may find a new blog or two you'd like to follow.
I should also shout out to the yo-yodyne
photoblog. It is in the same style as daily dose of imagery, only updated less frequently by the creator of metrotronic
February 7, 2005 08:20 PM PST
The first thing to note about messenger, is that Windows Messenger is different than MSN Messenger. Windows messenger comes with XP and works fine. It doesn't have background images, custom user images and auto save conversations or games. What it also doesn't have is ads, tabs or a huge screenspace requirement. I upgraged to MSN 6.2 because of the autosave conversations feature, and the ability to see the XBox online status of friends.
I installed messenger 7.0 beta because I am already used to ads, tabs, etc., and this version added some cool little features that sounded fun to play with (once). There are obviously more cool features than the pros I list below, but these are the features I find important.
Continue reading "Messenger 7.0b"...
- Abilty to sign in with a status other than "online". Helps with stealthy "appear offline" signins.
- Past conversations are easily accessible in new IM windows to the associated contact, when message history is enabled.
January 9, 2005 01:00 AM PST
Yes as part of the new year I am fully embracing the wireless lifestyle. I’m just plain tired of wires. Since J brought it up, here is a mini-review of the HP Bluetooth headphones also known as “Lobot” phones.
Continue reading "HP Bluetooth Headphones"...