Photo of worker adjusting a wireless access point.

Worker adjusting the wireless access point outside my window.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006
Work by David Byrne at Radio DavidByrne
David Byrne, of the Talking Heads Byrnes, has a Radio "Station" where he programs a monthly playlist which is always interesting. This month it's Textures, Soundscapes, Melodies Even and it's all his stuff, some unrecorded, that he's done working with other artists or as movie soundtracks. If you like Byrne, this is great stuff.

You can listen via his radio site or in the Radio section of iTunes. tags:

Click Here for the Secret Ingredient
The secret ingredient is your desire to actually do something about it. To take action, to believe that it’s worthwhile, to confront what feels like a risk but really isn’t. The secret ingredient is to ignore excuses, abandon procrastination and stop looking for proof.

This is from a Seth Godin manifesto published over at Hugh Macleod's Gaping Void site (added bonus: a cartoon).

The older I get the more I begin to see that there really is little risk to acting on a new idea or trying to realize a dream. "Risk" is much more defined by our personal inner fears. It's the little devil (or angel) on our shoulder telling us we either aren't ready for the challenge or that somehow it's not what "nice" people do and we should really accept the status quo.

Seeking proof for your new ideas will also be a deal killer because it's lots easier to find evidence of why something will fail rather than why it will work.

Via Garrick. tags:

BitTorrent Sites Reviewed
Ten Torrent sites reviewed at CompareBT blog. (Via Hacking Netflix.)

I am amazed at how easy it is to find these online repositories of last night's tv shows. I tried getting some Battlestar Galactica episodes via the Torrent system but they were older and it seems that older content won't have as many torrents available so the download takes much longer. But if you're hunting last nights episode (well, there wasn't a new episode of the show last night, but you know what I mean) or a current movie, I'm sure your luck will be better.

Caveat: Of course you must make sure that the content can be legally shared before downloading. tags:

Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Minneapolis Muni Wi-Fi News
According to this article by Katharine Grayson at American Business Daily, US Internet, chosen vendor for the Minneapolis Wi-Fi system, is "angling to enter the municipal wireless market in 17 cities." They are partnering with Atlanta-based Charys Holding Co., Inc. They have landed a deal in Atlanta (no details) and they are working on a pilot project in Boston. (More on the Boston Project here.)

via MuniWireless.

I have reported previously how US Internet has begun selling Wi-Fi accounts in the one-square-mile pilot project area at reduced rates. surveys three early buyers about their experiences and so far, US Internet is two for three.

Supposedly there are 250 active accounts out there so you'd think the StarTribune could find a few more folks to query. I can help them out a bit. Roy bought in as soon as he got the offer and so far, I don't think he's been able to get a signal in his home, even with the Ruckus gateway. My own experience, on the other hand, has been very positive. I'm getting a strong signal without a Ruckus.

Final score: US Internet goes three for five.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006
No Broadband Off the Beaten Path or let them use dialup
The town of Rindge, N.H., is just 70 miles from Boston, but to telephone and cable companies it might as well be at the end of the earth. Many of the town’s 5,500 residents cannot get broadband Internet access from the providers in the area, Verizon and Pine Tree Cable, even though communities nearby have had the service for years.

That's from New York Times article about broadband access in rural areas: With a Dish, Broadband Goes Rural

WildBlue Communications comes to the rescue for folks in Rindge with their satellite service. It's not cheap and it's not very broad. Their Value Pak costs $49.95 a month and provides download speeds of 512Kbps and upload speeds of 128Kbps. (So much for vlogging and podcasting will also be painful.) There is free installation but you have to purchase a $299 satellite dish. (Pricing is for my area and may vary around the country.)

Roughly 15 million households cannot get broadband from their phone or cable provider because the [telephone and cable] companies have been slow to expand their high-speed networks in areas where there are not enough customers to generate what they regard as an adequate profit.

So much for a robust internet infrastructure in the US of A. And forget any digital inclusion goals; these prices are too high and many will not be able to afford them. You folks can continue with dial-up.

Broadband is essential to distance-learning programs, health clinics that communicate with bigger hospitals and farmers who rely on the latest market and weather data.

Well that's too bad. Verizon and Pine Tree Cable can't envision enough profit to provide the necessary services for the public good. But don't worry, we can trust them to keep the net neutral. tags:

Monday, November 13, 2006
Wireless in Minneapolis Update
Nov. 2. The City of Minneapolis signs the contract with USI Wireless at Fire Station #7, down the block from where I live. Star Tribune covers it here.

Nov. 13. Downtown Journal has an update on the wireless situation. I got quoted.

Digital Inclusion. The Digital Inclusion Task Force is recommending the creation of an Interim Advisory Board that will "establish a process for selecting members of the Digital Community Advisory Board which may be drawn from members of the Interim Advisory Board and/or the community at large."

The Task Force has also chosen the Minneapolis Foundation as the fund management partner for the Digital Inclusion Fund which will be created with deposits from USI Wireless as outlined in the Community Benefits Agreement which is part of the City's contract with USI.

All this to be presented to the Ways & Means Committee today (item 22).

Read the full report here.

Sunday, November 12, 2006
My dentist fixes cars + Whose teeth are these anyway?
I saw my dentist - Dr. Terry Orr - this week. He's a really good dentist who says things like "If you keep the tooth clean, you may not need any work done." His motto is "Don't intervene unless absolutely necessary." He works at HealthPartners Como Specialty office at Hwy. 280 and Como. I met him when I had an implant last year.

We were looking at my x-rays. HealthParners Dental is completely digital now with x-rays so were looking at thse on a computer screen. One of the x-rays wasn't a picture of my mouth. It was an implant but the wrong tooth. Dr. Orr said there is really no system to figure out who the x-ray belongs to. In the old days, with actual film, they were labeled and you did have a better chance to find the owner if one was misplaced. The computer also makes it easy to flip the x-ray around so sometimes you don't quite know which end is up. Film x-rays had a dot for orientation.

I theorized that it should be easy to attach an ID number to my appt, that also attaches to me, and that would be embedded in the file when the x-ray was made. I'd really like to know more about the whole system and the software that powers it. Something tells me that it's not a Web 2.0 application. Hmm. Maybe there is a business model lurking here.


Besides being a dentist, Dr. Orr works on cars. He's currently working on some cylinder heads for Mini Coopers with his brother. I asked him about programming the computers in the cars. He said that there is a whole auto subgroup that programs auto computers. The problem is that many of them don't really know how the mechanical part of the car works. So there are serious visualization problems when the geeks are working with the mechanics. (Dr. Orr and his brother hate computers so he can't really help the geeks.)

Another business opportunity here. Maybe some social Web sites to try and bridge the gap between the two groups. There's got to be some geeks who do understand the mechanical part or some mechanics who get computers. Bring them together for some serious chats. tags:

A Better Internet Vid at YouTube

Net neutrality video at YouTube. "Let's leave the Internet to the corporations."

TWiT Podcast Features Apple
TWiT=This Week in Tech

This week's episode has the twits adrift on a Mac Geek (now Insight) Cruise somewhere in Carribean discussing Apple issues including an exhausting (but interesting) discussion of the stock option scandal and how this post-dating works and can affect share prices, municipal wireless, the new iPod Shuffle, Wozniak's Colbert appearance, the leaked iPod touch-screen memo, and more.

This is my first time listening to TWiT and it's been added to my iTunes podcast list. tags:

Saturday, November 11, 2006
Did the Beagle 2 Mars Rover really crash?

According to this report, the British government lied in 2003 when they told us the Beagle 2 crashed on Mars. tags:

Friday, November 10, 2006
Startling Composition: The XPVista Fugue
Long Zheng at istartedsomething has compiled a comparison of XP and Vista system sounds. Done up nice in a Quicktime format where the visual displays what the sound is for on the system.

It works (for me at least at 6 a.m.) as music, a call-and-response piece, where Vista is the more demure of the two, the playful little bird responding to the crow. Please listen - tell me what you think!

I hope some audio-meister grabs this and adds OS X system sounds and then mash it into something new. I predict you will be digged, delicioused, redditted, slashed, etc. (Please mention me!)

Robert Fripp (King Crimson founder) recorded (composed?) the Vista sounds. Video of that session here (Windows Media Player format). They are one of my favorite groups, In the Court of the Crimson King (1969) one of my favorite albums.

It all started at Techmeme tags:

Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Now Playing: FCC FU
New rendition of My Country T'is of Thee aimed squarely at the FCC over at YouGooTube. Pass it along.

via bxlight. tags:

Participate in your democracy. VOTE TODAY!
Good Morning! I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA so the following may or may not pertain to your neck of the woods.

Go Vote

For those of us who believe we must see a change in the course of this country's policies, today is an especially important day to get out and cast your ballot. For those who want to "stay the course" with and choose Red, it's just as important that you get to the polls.

We have some of the worst voter participation numbers in the industrialized world. (Go listen to Chris Lydon's Experiments in Democracy for more on shoring up voter participation.)

Local Issues

Transportation Amendment. Basically it says that 100% of the state motor vehicle tax will be devoted to transportation improvements with a minimum of 40% for transit. I'm voting "no." I don't like messing with constitutions and removing control from our legislators. They could potentially ignore serious transit problems (and we have a poor transit system in our metro areas) by pointing towards the amendment which earmarks funds.

There is also a tremendous push to secure the "yes" vote that makes me a bit nervous.

Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)

This is a City of Minneapolis issue only. We need to amend our city charter to bring this about. Here's the ballot language:
Should the City of Minneapolis adopt Single Transferable Vote, sometimes known as Ranked Choice Voting or Instant Runoff Voting, as the method for electing the Mayor, City Council, and members of the Park and Recreation Board, Library Board, and Board of Estimate and Taxation without a separate primary election and with ballot format and rules for counting votes adopted by ordinance?

PF votes "yes." IRV is not without problems but it allows for more participation by the electorate which is critical for maintaining the health of our democracy.

Consider Minnesota's current gubernatorial race. I like the Independent candidate, Peter Hutchinson. But he is polling in the single digits (reference: Minneapolis Star Tribune poll from last weekend). I don't like Tim Pawlenty, the Republican candidate. I will vote for Mike Hatch, the Democrat (DFL), in the hope that we can remove Pawlenty from office.

With IRV, I could vote for Hutchinson with Hatch as my second choice. Once it was decided that Hutchinson was out of the race, my vote would go to Hatch. So I get to vote my first choice and the Independents have a way of gauging their popularity.

(Check Google for more on IRV.)

Monday, November 06, 2006
Frustrations of Digital Life: Getting the Movie to the iPod
It was proof-of-concept this weekend. I wanted to take Mission Impossible 3 from DVD to my iPod. Then, of course, I would erase all the files. This is just a test.

There seemed to be credible help via the Web. Handbrake would grab it right from the DVD and create the MPEG file for the iPod. Mark Pilgrim has a great tutorial. It took forever. He recommends "2-pass encoding" which improves quality, doesn't increase file size, but takes twice as long. I left it running through the night.

Uh oh. I didn't adjust my Mac energy settings and the computer was sleeping when I checked in the morning. Waking, Handbrake listed zero for time left but the program had not officially finished it's processes. I finally force quit but the resulting file was corrupted.

Part 2. Get MacTheRipper software and rip the feature presentation from the DVD to my hard disk. Then work it over with Handbrake. Should be faster with access from the internal disk rather than the DVD.

Mac ripped in less than thirty minutes. I told it "feature only." Then I ran Handbrake. It took forever once again but I remembered to turn "sleep" off. At the end, Handbrake seemed frozen. Zero time left but it wasn't indicating that it was finished. I started checking the Web for information about Handbrake freezing. Then, after what seemed like forever, it said "Done." If you use Handbrake, be very patient.

I had a 450Kb file with a QuickTime icon. Double-clicking opened QuickTime, no errors or anything. Pressing "Play" started it up. But wait, right there at the beginning, during the Paramount logo display, were some annoying voices. Turns out that MacTheRipper had grabbed the feature-with-commentary. Not at all what I wanted. No idea how to grab the real feature.

I consumed a lot of time on this "learning experience." Certainly not for the kids at home to try. I was hoping for quick-and-easy (outside of processing time) and ended up with long-and-drawn-out and nothing to show for it at the end.

The Digital Life often ends in this type of frustration. We accept it and keep struggling but my wife and most of my non-tech friends won't even bother. We still have a ways to go to wash some of the geek out. tags:

State of the Union by Bill Maher
Over at YouTube, Bill Maher assesses the state of the USA.

via Ben at Alt Text . tags:

Thursday, November 02, 2006
DNR Seeking Your Vote
Minnesota DNR wants you to vote on your favorite Critical Habitat license plate. I like the wolf and the wolf is probably more aligned with our state than any other state. (We have the Wolf Center up in Ely.)

via Just Looking tags:

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