A Headline Right Out of The Wire

In a case of life imitating art imitating life the Baltimore mayor was indicted on 12 counts of felony theft, perjury, fraud and misconduct in office. I can see Lester Freeman and his crew heading the investigation, Bunk and McNulty laughing about the headlines as they pass a bottle of Jameson’s in an empty lot.

And from reading the article, it sounds like the mayor and her attorney are taking pages right out of the Clay Davis/Clarence Royce playbook.

Man, that was a great show, I really look forward to another project from Simon.

Late to the Party—My 99 Dollar iPhone

Though the fact that most who know me consider me to be a “Mac fan boy”, over the years I’ve become quite the hesitant buyer due to the common malady of being always afraid of a new and better version being right around the corner. Add to that my disdain for the requirement of signing a long term contract with cell phone carriers, I have been living with antiquated mobile technology. That is, until AT&T offered $99 refurbished 8 gig 3G iPhones in a post Christmas promotion (the offer was only good through 12/31/08). I figured at that price, no matter what might come around the corner, I wouldn’t feel bitten if a new model came out 3 months after buying. Couple that with the fact that the non-contract plan I had with AT&T was creeping up close to the lowest iPhone plan, I took the plunge. The phone arrived already set up, much to my surprise. I didn’t have to go through any registration to speak of, I plugged it in, named it, updated the software, and it was ready to go. The phone came with the standard headphones, the USB connector, the wall charger attachment, and I would have never known it was a refurbished item aesthetically. The refurbished phone even has the same 1 year warranty that a new iPhone comes with. I haven’t checked on extending the warranty with Apple Care; I’m not even sure if it’s an option.

Primary Hurdle

hurdleAs I’ve blogged about recently, , I have been using Thunderbird 3.0 and the nightly build of Lightning calendar extension, and didn’t want to change that system. The same issues that I had with the Nokia are present with the iPhone. However, goosync wasn’t an option for the iPhone. Something to do with Apple not allowing access to the built in calendar. Some extensive Googling didn’t turn up many options, save using NuevaSync, yet another 3rd party “beta” service. Some of the initial concerns people had with NuevaSync were sharing their Google username and password, however that’s long since been remedied, as they use Google account authentication. Meaning, once you register with Nuevasync, you only provide your Google user name, and Google will authenticate your account with the Nuevasync account, no password is ever passed to Nuevasync. The only downside is if you are already using an Exchange account (for email for instance), you will not be able to also use Nuevasync, as the iPhone only supports one Exchange server synchronization. Set up for Nuevasync is well documented on their site, straight forward and very simple. I did have a bit of trouble actually getting the iPhone calendar to sync with my Google calendar, and quite honestly, I’m not sure what I did to finally get it to sync. Disabling, then re-enabling the account might have been the trick, but as I’ve been suffering a cold, it could have been user error, however, within their documentation, they have several troubleshooting tips and nothing I did was outside their suggestions.. Needless to say, my iPhone calendar is synced to my Google Apps calendar, desktop iCal, and Thunderbird 3.0/Lighting 1.0pre. Unlike with goosync and my Nokia, there is no need to manually sync the calendars. Nuevsnyc also supports sync contacts within your Google account, but I have no need to use that service, as I also believe iSync supports Google contact syncing (something I’ve kvetched about previously in that you have to have an iPhone/iPod to enable that feature).

Moving from calendar, next was email. I had previously used Apple Mail.app with my Google Apps IMAP accounts, so they synced directly to the phone on first sync. I did need to modify some advanced settings regarding mailboxes for things like drafts and sent mail, but that’s common when setting up IMAP accounts and email clients. Google has well documented the settings, so I won’t rehash the obvious. Previously I was using Google’s mobile mail app on the Nokia, and was a bit hesitant about using the native mail client, but so far I’ve been quite pleased with it, and have no qualms.

Syncing my contacts, along with email addresses in my Google Apps account was also a seamless process. It also the catalyst I needed to do a much needed cleaning of my address book. I’ve been a user of the (neglected) Google service Grand Central for some time now, and though it’s a handy one, it’s support for mobile devices leaves more than something to be desired. My only attempt to play a voice message via their mobile site failed to play the .mp3, and from previous use on the Nokia, is all but useless. However, I found a handy iPhone app, Grand Dialer, which allows you to call a contact directly from your address book with your Grand Central number, so for the occasion you need to call a client and do not want to expose your personal cell number, you’re covered. (Google, if you are listening, please, no, make that pretty please give Grand Central some love, even if that means a nominal monthly fee).

LIke any new iPhone user, I spent a fair amount of time perusing the App Store. Again, I won’t rehash the obvious and common popular apps. I didn’t really test any of the alternatives to the mobile versions of the desktop apps I knew I wanted. As I use NetNewsWire on the desktop, it was an obvious choice for the iPhone. My unread feeds are synced with my desktop, so I’m never reading feeds I’ve already read. Also, for Twitter, I simply chose the ad supported version of Twitterific, same as on the desktop.

The Camera

I’d become accustomed to being one of the few people left on the planet to not have a camera on their cell phone, and didn’t think it would be something I’d take much interest in now that I did, but I did explore some of the apps available. Merlin Mann blogged abouttaking pictures with his iphoneright about the time I ordered my phone, so I booked marked the app he mentioned, Camera Bag. It was actually the first app I purchased. My next search for was for an app that would allow me to upload my camera shots to Flickr. Flickr does have the native ability to email photos directly, however the combination of the email client and Flickr (not sure which does it), the images are resized to 640×480. Granted if you get a really good shot and want to post the bigger one, you’ve got the image on the camera, could snyc it to iPhoto, and then upload it, but if an app could save that step, why not give it a shot? So far, the free Klick app seems to fit the bill. Due to the aforementioned cold, I’ve not really explored the Klick too extensively, but I was able to upload a full size image via the 3G network with no problems, though I haven’t figured out if I can add an image to a set via the app. The other app I’ve download is Dark Room (App Store link). This app uses the accelerometer for a “steady cam”. Basically it waits until the camera isn’t moving to snap the pic, which is handy for low light situations. A case I’m curious about is the Griffin Clarifi, which has a built in macro like lens for taking close up shots. Apparently the iPhone lens doesn’t do well at focusing below twelve inches. This would be handy as the technology and apps evolve on snapping UPC codes and doing info/price comparison queries. Also for going paperless, and just snapping business cards, receipts, etc.

The Final Frontier

Like most people, I struggle with being organized and actually productive, and often fall into the trap of perpetually tweaking a system, rather than actually getting things done. I’ve yet to find the right piece of software that just fits, seemingly having tried them all, Actiontastic, Omni Focus, Things, the list goes on. However, I’m leaning towards Remember the Milk, and am testing a combination of using Fluid.app to run RTM on the desktop, and the iPhone app. I’m not sold yet. One iPhone app I found is CheckOff, a relatively simple list app. What is nice about it is something I’ve not really seen in another list type app. You can create templates for often repeated tasks. So each time you want the list, you do not have to recreate it. I’d actually love to have a desktop app that does the same thing. I’m still searching for the set of tools that fit like that favorite pair of jeans, and would sincerely love for any and all suggestions. I’d even entertain scrapping my use of Thunderbird and Lightning if the shoe fit.

Color of the Year

In doing some research for design trends in 2009, I stumbled upon Pantone’s 2009 color of the year. PANTONE® 14-0848 Mimosa, a “warm, engaging yellow…no other color expresses hope and reassurance more than yellow”. Interestingly enough, COLOURlovers has relatively few palettes tagged mimosa, and of those few are inspiring.

I’ll admit color and color theory aren’t my strong suit, I tend to rely on Color Schemer Studio and sites like COLOURlovers. I did put together this palatte based on mimosa.

mimosa palette

Cleaning My Online House

signal focusI’ve started a draft of a post on getting older, New Year’s resolutions, and where I want to be in ‘09, but an aside to that is I’ve come to the realization that I need to limit the “noise” of my online world, which is the predominate one I live in. Specifically, the last couple of days that means cleaning out syndication feeds, and not just pruning dead ones. It means seriously evaluating everything that comes through my reader and determining if it’s a source of information or entertainment that is of value to me; determining if the volume of content justifies a constant bombardment from the source. Because several items in my reader are of time sensitive nature, I generally have my reader always open, fetching content every 15 minutes. Only when I’m in a serious crunch mode do I shut the reader down. I’m sure I could create filters of some nature that only fetched the time sensitive ones at a more regular interval, and the less time sensitive set to a manual updating, however I’ve come to enjoy the steady flow of information throughout the day. It’s just that I need to hone that stream.

One thing that’s also become abundantly clear over the last few weeks is that several of the sources in my feed reader are being duplicated due to my use of Twitter (either automated heralds of new blog posts, or manual linking). Seeing that Twitter contains entertaining and informative tidbits that don’t make it onto most blogs, the obvious choice was to dump the source in my reader, and continue to follow via Twitter.

Ironically enough, the genesis of this revelation was the result of having signal vs. noise, and the 37 signals product blog in my reader, and following @jasonfried on Twitter. There is so much redundancy and overlapping between the 3, that more often than not, all 3 would hit my “inbox” within minutes of each other with the same content. I certainly understand why, as most people aren’t following all 3, so Jason and 37 signals are trying to market and share information to the widest audience. Unfortunately for those like me, it becomes a nuisances, albeit an enlightening one that spurred a much needed tuning of the throughput.

Now that I’m in this mode, it also means that I’m shrewdly evaluating all blog feeds. A perfect example was tonight, Dave Winer’s Scripting News. 5 photos, in separate posts, with no context. Rather I should say, no context to me. Though I generally find his posts about blogging and “social media” thought provoking, whether I agree with his point or not, the majority of his content isn’t germane to my goals and focus. So out it went. That’s not to say when I have some downtime, and want to read a movie review from an amateur film buff ( and I use amateur only in the sense that reviewing films doesn’t put food on his table, as far as I know), that I won’t wander over to the actual site and peruse his site.

Certainly this process is also being applied to whom I follow on Twitter, as evident by this declaration:

when someone incessantly twitters about twitter, I call the line and unfollow.

This also applies to a few of the more recent people I’ve followed who find it necessary to welcome each of their new followers with a new tweet. Is there any harm in using all 140 characters and possibly welcoming more than one at a time? And is it really necessary to welcome them? Why not just provide good and interesting content in your tweets instead? Even better, if they reply to something you talk about, bloody respond to them. That’s the purpose. It’s not all about you…anyway, I digress.

Finally, I feel as though I should clarify that I’ve resurrected this weblog as a means to commit thoughts down to “paper”, and affirm to myself why I’ve chosen this path, the one of an online world. If for some reason it provokes someone else, all the better. If it provokes a discussion, then I’ve succeeded. If at worst, I can look back and provoke myself to get back on track, it’s not all that bad a thing.

Why Even Call it Second Day Air AT&T?

ups scooterSo with AT&T offering $99 refurbished iPhones until the thirty-first, I swallowed my bitterness towards cell phone contracts and ordered a phone Saturday morning. Like 8am on Saturday. They offered free 2nd Day Air, but stupid me didn’t check the method, I just assumed it would be regular US mail. I received an email Sunday saying the item had been shipped, which led me to believe even more so that it had shipped Saturday via US mail. However, yesterday morning, I took a closer look at the email, and saw tracking info. It was being shipped UPS, and the tracking info showed no movement. Today I checked it, and it left Dallas at 8:15pm. So much for 2nd day air.

Aside from now being anxious to start playing with using my iPhone, (I’ll be in a location that doesn’t have any internet to speak of through the weekend), I’ll be leaving for said trip first thing tomorrow morning, so I didn’t want the phone sitting on my porch until Sunday evening. I called UPS thinking that I could simply have them keep the package at the Tampa shipping center, and pick it up before I left. Even if I didn’t have time to activate it, it wouldn’t be sitting there beckoning some noisy teenager to steal it.

UPS’s automated 1-800 number leaves something to be desired to say the least. They must have held a competition for the most annoying voice, because this woman’s voice is disturbing to say the least. I tried the usual “operator” and “help” at the prompts, but each time was met with the recording asking me if I wanted to “trackapackage”. Yes, a new word in the English lexicon, “trackapackage”.

I finally found a human via a local UPS Store, who told me the magic word is “representative”, and to just keep repeating it, ignoring anything the automated prompts tried to use to derail me from talking to a human. This worked, and after a few minutes on hold, I was speaking to a real live person. This woman, Danielle I believe she told me her name was, said that UPS doesn’t “intercept” packages before their first attempted delivery. I grumbled a “thanks AT&T and UPS”, and she said to give her the tracking number, and IF the package were to arrive in Tampa before 6pm, someone might be able to pull it and I could pick it up this evening. However when she saw the timestamp on the origin scan from Dallas, she didn’t sound hopeful that scenario would unfold.

So now I must find a neighbor who can check on the package and hold it for me, which really isn’t a big deal, but had I known that 2nd day Air didn’t really mean 2nd Day air, I would have paid the extra charge to have it overnighted, and avoided the headache altogether.

Fortunately my Nokia has a pretty good 3G connection, and a decent browser, not to mention Google mail/maps, so I won’t be totally disconnected, not that I couldn’t probably stand going dark for a few days, but I’ve got too much work pending to completely go off the grid. Plus, I’m really looking forward to snapping some shots of the last sunset of ‘08 and first sunrise of ‘09 for a New Years day post. The pass on the north end of the island I’ll be on has a great vantage point for taking both, and now that I’m a little more familiar with the little point and shoot camera I’ve got, not to mention sporting a tripod now, I’m really hoping to get some good photos.

Favorite Album of 2008: The Gaslight Anthem’s The ’59 Sound

The '59 SoundFirst, let me reiterate, it’s my favorite album of 2008, not a declaration that’s the best album of the year. From the opening crackles of the old skool sound of a needle on vinyl on Great Expectations to the melancholy anthem-esque The Backseat, The ‘59 Sound is just a great listen all the way through.

The album is ripe with all the things I turn to in the music I listen to regularly—whiskey and cigarette tinged vocals, driving bass lines, and jangly guitar riffs. The subject of the lyrics tend to revolve around mortality, regret, and lost loves, without ever sounding like there’s no chance for redemption.

But every slow mans song
Is a night I’d like to spend with you
Just twisting the night away

From Cassanova, Baby!

Critics of the Jersey based band have sighted the obvious Springsteen influences (think Nebraska era Springsteen, not Born in the U.S.A), which to me isn’t a bad thing. However, they also have a punk tinged sensibility ala another band that’s still in heavy rotation in my music players, Lucero. I lament having missed The Gaslight Anthem this fall when they passed through town, however, they are playing the Langerado Festival this year, which has a line up that reads like my 5 star ratings in iTunes. Ryan Adams, Lucero, The Gaslight Anthem, The Pogues, Bad Brains, the list goes on. I certainly hope to catch them in a club on their way to or from the festival, as that’s really the environment I think they’d be best. Packed, sweaty, and bourbon fueled.

Several other albums were on my list of faves for ‘08. Second place most certainly would go to The Hold Steady’s Stay Positive if for nothing other than the last track, Slapped Actress. However, the whole album simply rocks. Also on the short list would be the Brian Eno/David Byrne collaboration Listen Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.

Other highlights for 2008 were Cat Power’s Jukebox, Drive by Trucker’s Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, Okkervil River’s Stand In, Vampire Weekend’s Vampire Weekend, and Deerhunter’s Microcastle, though that last one was only recently released, and I’ve not listened to it a lot yet, but my initial thoughts are it’s a nice change of pace from my regular listening styles.

Any indie albums at the top of your list for 2008 I should check out? I’m always looking to discover new music (especially indie bands I can get from emusic).

Why Twitter is Just…Cool

First, I’ve oft meant to write something about Twitter, specifically since I read Zeldman’s “Self Publishing is the New Blogging”.

And ch-ching was heard in the land. And the (not citizen) journalists heard it, and it got them pecking into their Blackberries and laptops.

And then the writers and designers, ashamed at rubbing shoulders with common humanity, discovered the 140-character Tweet and the Tumblr post. No stink of commerce, no business model, nothing that could even charitably be called content, and best of all, no effort. Peck, peck, send.

I discovered “blogging” and the culture surrounding it just before what I assume is the time when “…(not citizen) journalists heard it…”. It was an exciting discovery, which ultimately lead me to the career I (usually) enjoy now. And as much I probably contribute to the not citizen “pecking at their Blackberries and laptops”, and as much as Twitter has long lost the purity of “not having a stink of commerce”, I personally enjoy the freedom of 140 character rants, without any concern whether anyone is reading them or not. I use Twitter solely because there’s a certain cathartic release in firing off something like “trying to explain browser differences on form styling is like swimming in 3 day old mashed potatoes”.

Anyway, that wasn’t the original intent of this post. Rather, there really is another reason I enjoy Twitter. It’s a compelling way to get a glimpse into the lives of people that you’ve crossed paths with and whom you find interesting or share common interests with, but haven’t had the opportunity to really get to know.

Then something like today happens. I’d been away from technology the last twenty four hours, and wanted a light hearted way of catching up with what was going on in the world, and the web in particular. Plus, there’s always a few good laughs along the way (see @hotdogsladies).

twitterThen this tweet came across Twitterific. First, I’ve not really ever met either Chris or Sean. Chris I began following after he began following me at blogOrlando3. I wasn’t even sure who he was until the brief encounter we had at the after party. (Chris was the lucky guy handing out the drink tickets. Everyone’s best friend for at least 5 minutes.) Afterward I realized that he helped Josh Hallet with the the conference. I, like many people, truly enjoyed blogOrlando, the vibe surrounding it, and felt anyone who put that together or were involved I’d like to eventually get to know. So I follow several people that were at blogOrlando, including Chris, Josh, and Jeremy.

Sean I first encountered in the Habari IRC channel when he came along looking for help with getting some patches committed so he could fix the s9y importer and migrate his blog to Habari. Always excited for a new user/community member, I committed his patches, and soon noticed him hanging around the channel. Long story short, Sean is now part of the PMC of Habari, and can commit his own damn patches now ;-).

My point? I guess after writing this I don’t have something profound to say. I’d just never seen a correspondence between Chris or Sean on Twitter in the time I’ve been following both. Certainly I don’t know either well enough to know if they actually have met, which wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for two developers (who also share a love of great beer, another reason I enjoy their tweets) to have met.

But it gave me one of those smiles and six degrees of separation moments.

Oh, did I mention it gave me a smile after a couple of shit weeks?

Calendar Syncing: Lightning, Google, iCal and Nokia e62

syncI’m still railing against signing a contract with a cell carrier, so I haven’t purchased a new phone in some time, but the bigger need to have a more robust cell phone these days had me revive my Nokia e62. All in all, it’s a pretty good phone, with a decent built in browser (based on Webkit if I recall) and works well with my existing pay as I go plan. I even managed to coax an unlimited data plan out of AT&T. The e62 also plays pretty well with my Macs—bluetooth syncing of contacts and calendar, the Nokia Media manager will sync an iTunes folder directly to the phone, so a 2GB card gives me a decent amount of music for on the go.

Anyway, I recently began using Thunderbird 3.0, aka Shredder, which is still pre beta. That meant to really use it, I had to use the nightly build of Lightning, 1.0pre. As with any Mozilla alpha product, you can expect most extensions to not work, which certainly is the case with these two. I really like the combination, despite the occasional glitches, and wanted to find a way to sync Lightning with the phone. What an adventure that turned out to be.

Everything I found searching the web suggested using an extension for syncing the Google Calendar with Lightning, which obviously wasn’t compatible with these versions, and even testing it with the stable releases, I couldn’t get it to work, so off I searched for another way. Enter GCALDaemon, something I’d seen written about on several ocassions but had never quite investigated.

Using the Mac OS X installation guidelines (installing in Applications vs usr/local/sbin), and being sure to use the the shell script config-editor definitely is the simplest way. I’m certainly not a black belt in unix-fu, but following the instructions for syncing with Sunbird/Lightning and the config-editor even I was able to get Lighting 1.0pre synced with a Google Apps calendar fairly effortlessly.

The next step was to sync iCal (or so I thought) with the Google Calendar so I could then sync it with my phone. I briefly toyed with GCALDaemon for that too, however my impatience led me to give Google’s Calaboration tool a spin. Fortunately it was quick and painless, and I was soon syncing the same Google Apps calendar with iCal that was synced with Lightning.

However (there’s always a but, isn’t there), I soon found out that you can’t sync from the phone’s calendar to a network calendar. So anything I were to add to the phone, would need to be transferred to the network calendar. I’m pretty lazy as it is, so adding a step like that seemed like a recipe for losing an important date. For iPhone users, this also seems to be the case. So now what?

Another search turned up this post on syncing a Nokia calendar with iCal and Google, and suggested Goosnyc. I wasn’t keen on using a 3rd party service, but I figured I’d test it out at least, and see where it goes. Their SMS to automate the sync settings never arrived, so I followed the Nokia e61/e62 manual syncing instructions, which were spot on (once I figured out that I needed to look in “Office” for the Sync settings), and within a few minutes, my Nokia e62 was synced to my Google Apps calendar which was synced to LIghtning and iCal.

I still need to sort out a few minor issues with the phone now syncing with iCal, as I had some holiday calendars and what not synced to the phone, which then added the dates to the Google Calendar, so in iCal I was getting the same holidays showing up multiple times. That’s easily remedied by not displaying those calendars, but conveniently gives me all of the holidays on the other calendars. I also need to make sure that when I sync the phone to iCal, I don’t get duplicate entries in the local calendar, but again, I think I can get around that by simply creating a “phone” calendar, and hiding it in iCal.

Goosync does require a manual sync to Google Calendar, but that’s less of a hassle than migrating entries from one calendar to the other. All in all, I’m quite pleased now that I can add items directly from an email into my calendar, or right into my phone, and it will conveniently appear in all of my calendars.

If anyone knows of a more seemless method, I’m all ears.

Consolidating, Focusing, and Rookie Mistakes

As my online endeavors grow, I find myself with different sites floating around, doing nothing, as I have so many ideas for each site, I wind up not posting to any of them. I originally started Blogging Meta because I thought I wanted to have a personal site, and a site that I could focus on tech related blogging. Well, as I’ve said, neither came to fruition, and I’ve found myself lately feeling as if I had some dual personality that were just spinning their wheels.

So tonight I decided to merge the two sites, and really try to gain some focus. I still have my cooking site, which I still intend to further focus on, but hopefully by committing to using this site again for everything not cooking related, I just might be able to accomplish both.

The rookie mistakes came from the fact that since Habari doesn’t have an importer in place yet to import one Habari install into another, I was faced with the only option of deleting the existing database, which was basically an import from the original WordPress installation, then dumping the bloggingmeta database, doing a quick search and replace for urls, importing that file directly into the database, then re-importing the old wordpress database using the importer plugin. What I failed to do was check what was active in the plugins. I already had the twitter plugin installed, so I’m guessing that it kept the settings from the old site, thus upon import, all the new posts were twittered. Complete…rookie…mistake. Couple with that that I also left the pingback plugin active, it tried to ping all the posts while importing. Another party foul. So not only did I spam Twitter, my import royally failed, so I was faced with doing the whole process over again, albeit this time I deactivated the offending plugins, and the import went off mostly without a hitch. I might have lost a few old posts and/or comments, but all in all, I’m pleased with the outcome considering I’m doing this at 2 a.m. in the morning, and my focus might not be what it should be. I wish I could write it off as having had a few adult beverages, but alas, I would be lying.

Over the next few days I will be doing some tweaking here and there, and shutting down the other site (and doing a 301 redirect). I really like the typography of Ali’s theme, so I most likely will try to find the custom image I had made for the bottom, and trick out a few plugins. At least for now.

Twitter Productivity

Twitter Productivity. Sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? Well, with the recent announcement of i want sandy’s demise, I came across a Twitter bot that actually seems like a productive tool for the Twitterer. Timer allows you to simply follow it, in which it then follows you. Then you simply send Timer a direct message to remind you of something upcoming, ie, d Timer 60 call client X. You’ll then get a direct message 60 minutes later reminding you to call client X. Seems it only recognizes minutes, so I’m not sure how efficient it is for reminding you of something past the short term, but it’s still an interesting tool. Couple the concept with the fact that the developers of i want sandy are now working for Twitter, we might see similar type tools integrated into Twitter.

Roku Netflix Player First Impressions

Netflix PlayerI had read a few things about the Roku Netflix Player, but hadn’t given it much thought. Then, while watching the 3 DVD’s we had sitting around from Netflix for over 2 weeks collect dust, I began to think more about the player. The 3 DVD at a time subscription is $16.99 a month, and as I said, we really don’t watch that many movies (I’m more a a TV junkie really), so it really hasn’t been a very good deal for us. The Roku player is $100+ shipping and handling (more about that in a bit), and requires the $8.99 a month subscription or greater, which allows one DVD at a time, plus unlimited streaming movies. So my thinking was, I would almost pay for the player in the first year downgrading to the lower subscription, it’s a no-brainer. Plus, there’s a 30 day money back guarantee, so worst case scenario, I get it, it sucks, I send it back, and simply rethink the subscription plan regardless. So a quick discussion with the lady of the house, and we decided to order it and give it a try.

This was last Thursday. We were given an option of spending an extra $10 on 2-day Fedex (on top of the $10 ground), so be the anxious geek, I pony up the extra money, thinking I’d have it on Monday. Well, Roku sent an email saying the player would be shipped from the warehouse in the next 7-10 days on Friday, which rubbed me the wrong way, as that wasn’t mentioned in the order process, but OK. Nothing else to my knowledge was emailed out (we used her email address). So I was resolved to not see it for 2 weeks. However, when I returned from running errands today, there it was sitting on my porch.

Since ordering, I had done a bit more research, and the one downfall I have seen repeated over and over is the limited amount of content available, as Netflix has to obtain digital rights to the content before being able to offer it. Consensus seemed to say that it is mostly older TV series, indie/foreign films, and few older major releases tossed in here and there. I wasn’t too anxious to really look at the selection, as I wasn’t expecting to receive it for another week at least, but I’m more an indie/foreign film kinda fan than Spiderman 3 anyway, so as I said, I’ve got 30 days.

As other reviews mention, it’s nothing but a simple little black box, with an external power supply. A small, boxy remote and RCA cables fill out the included items. Again, as I wasn’t expecting it so soon now, I hadn’t obtained additional cables (like optical audio to connect to the receiver or component video, which are all supported, as well as HDMI and s-video). I admit right up front I’m not the techno-geek when it comes to these aspects, so I’m not really qualified to say one thing or the other about the supported connections, etc. The player can connect via wireless or ethernet (however, as I understand it, it doesn’t support 802.11n). I gave the wireless a shot first, but figured I might have to run an ethernet cable.

Set up was really easy, a simple onscreen walk through entering my WEP key, a quick connection to Netflix, update some (firmware??) and restart, it gives a code that you then enter into your Netflix account. Maybe 5 minutes total, and my account was connected to the TV, any movies in my queue that were available for the Instant Viewing was added to that queue as well, and I could see them on the screen. I poked around quickly on the site, looking for something to add. Dexter season 1 was there, I never saw the first season, and figured it would be a good test. I added it to my queue, and within 30 seconds or so, it showed up on the TV. TV seasons only need the season added, all episodes are available, whereas with DVD’s you have to add each disc. I navigated to episode one, clicked play, a few seconds later it starts downloading, I see •••• quality after it loads (still not sure what that means, but I think it has something to do with my connection. I generally get 18Mb/s or better with my wireless connection, even faster wired). All told, roughly a minute before the show started playing.

Episode played fine, no skipping, no jumping, quality was as good as my FIOS cable (even with the included RCA cables). Fast forwarding is a bit different, as they break shows up into little chapters of sorts, with stills for each section. I haven’t really paid close enough attention yet to see what the time frame of each are, but they seem like 1 minute or so apiece. Different, but easy enough to adapt to.

Being the TV junky that I am, I poked around a bit more, and found that a lot of Law and Order SVU/CI seasons were available. I often find myself watching reruns on TNT and USA Network, as I never really watched the show during it’s first runs, and heck, why not just watch it in order without the annoying commercials on those networks? I added SVU season one, and watched the first two episodes. Again, quality was fine (once I switched the perspective back to 4:3 from 16:9), with no skipping/jumping. One criticism I’ve read about the player is that there’s no hard drive and no real buffering. ( A interview with a Roku exec I read said they did some research, and found people didn’t want to hear a fan/HD spinning, thus one reason it doesn’t have one. Plus, they wanted to hit a price point, as well as eliminate as many parts that could fail. Regardless of the reasons, so far, I don’t see a need for any of that with the connection speed I have.)

Final Thoughts
All in all, first day in, it seems like a fine investment. I found several more movies quickly browsing through the instant available selections (this has to be done on the computer, you can’t search for movies from the TV), so not counting the TV shows, I have 7 films queued up. Plus the 3 DVD’s collecting dust, so I think I’ll be fine for the short term, they seem to be actively adding more content, and I’m sure as the player(s) gain popularity, they will be in a better bargaining position to obtain more. If your goal is to watch a lot of new releases, don’t plan on dropping your regular subscription down anytime soon. However, at $100, the player seems like a fair investment if you are a TV/movie junkie. Also, there seems to be quite a bit of children’s content as well as History channel type documentaries, so the cost might be enticing to parents as well.

I’m sure I’ll discover more as I use it, please don’t hesitate to ask questions if you are interested in the player.

Obligatory Response to New iPhone

I was really looking forward to today’s confirmation of the lower price 3G iPhone. I purposely held off (for a change) on adopting a 1st gen Apple product, knowing the 3G service would be coming. However, now that reports have confirmed that you will have to sign a contract, I’m not so sure now that I will be adopting the new phone. I genuinely do not use a cell phone for talking enough to justify signing such a contract, and being required to have such a plan (what $70 a month?). The previous $20 a month data plan plus minimal talk time per minute was fine with me, as I have used it with other “smartphones”.

I will be curious to see how they treat 1st gen iPhone users who currently are doing pay as you go plus data plans. Perhaps those will still be allowed to use the prepay, and I’ll pick one up on teh cheap, until I can justify signing a contract paying for that much phone usage.

My other option is to wait to see what happens to iPod Touch prices, as I may get just as much use out of one of those as an iPhone.

If anyone has a suggestion for a smartphone that can be used with pay as you go and unlimited data plan with AT&T, has a great web browser support, bluetooth, and is iSync capable, I’d love to hear about it. edit: and can be purchased new/used for $200 or less without a contract.

Words of Wisdom

Without getting into the whys and hows this statement came about, I find it very simple, yet poignant and applicable to many of life’s situations.

We’re still learning to walk, and we’re going to trip every now and then and sometimes when we run, we’re going to fall on our faces. But as long as we get up, try again, and learn something from the experience, in the end, skinned knees and all, it’ll be worth it.

Thanks Sean.

edit – might I add, I’m in a new-ish romantic relationship, which very recently hit a bump, and perhaps this analogy hit home there more than anywhere.

Leaving the Nest

This past week it was proposed and not shot down in flames that my first foray into a Habari theme, mzingi , intended as a simple, image free theme to be used as a foundation for building proper themes, should be included into the core download of Habari.

I was humbled and honored to say the least, and so from here on out, all development for this project will be maintained by the community.

Thanks to all who’ve helped, and shared their appreciation for it’s intended purpose, and I trust the community will continue to use it for creating full fledged themes. Feels a little odd, but satisfying at the same time.

Mac SVN Monitoring Widget

SVN Notifiier is a handy little Mac Dashboard widget that, using Growl, will notify you when a local working copy is out of date. I’ve not quite gotten the “sticky” notice to work, but I just might need to edit the actual Growl settings.

Still, it’s nice to be able at a glance check your dashboard, or see a little growl notice pop up.

Quick Update on Themes

I recently updated my themes, and since that time a change has been made in trunk in how pagination is handled. All 3 three themes have been updated for this change. I will be leaving download links for the previous versions up as well, as I believe those versions should work with 0.4.1. If you experience any problems with either version, please set me know.

Downloads and more info on each theme available on their original post.

Also, I have a demo site up and running to check them out. I still need to tweak the themeswitcher plugin so you can only select certain themes from your theme directories, so note that only my 3 themes have the switcher code.

Apple Drivers in VMware Fusion

I think with the help of a google search and Scott Gruby, I’ve figured out how to use my bluetooth keyboard in VM.

Finally, I found a reference to inserting the Leopard DVD while in Windows. I tried this and when I did, the BootCamp driver installer came up and installed my drivers. Perfect; why couldn’t VMWare say something about this on their website?

Thanks Scott and I agree, why isn’t this documented somewhere.

Edit 8/1/08Seems you also have to disconnect the USB Bluetooth Host Controller to get it to work. Something about only one OS can control the device at a time, so the machine gets confused when the two are both connected. Disconnecting the controller, shutting down the XP install, then restarting VMware Fusion finally got it working.

Updated Themes

I’ve been quite lazy (or busy, you decide) lately, and have been meaning to update the 3 themes I’ve released to work with the latest trunk. Previously, I kept decent todos and a svn repo for mzingi, but this time I simply bore down in some late night frenzy and got everything up-to-date. I’ve got a new svn repo to work with, and will check them in at some point in the next few days, and hopefully will be able to better outline any changes.

Basically the changes to mzingi were minor, just a few code changes for things like atom links, and updating the YUI fonts and style sheet. I also added some styling for draft posts.

As far as swanky and Harvest Field, they have more extensive changes, most evident in the sidebar content. Harvest Field now only uses built in code for the footer content – the about, recent comments and more posts links. The sidebar in Harvest Field is entirely plugin reliant now, sans the search and subscribe link. It supports by default the Twitter, linkoid (for aside like posts – which is also excluded from the more posts offset) and the very nifty blogroll plugin. All three have their own templates in the theme. I also added support for the credits due plugin, with a built in page template, and conditional code in the footer. Also, I borrowed the watermark for draft posts from michaeltwofish’s connections theme, and a little more emphasis on comments in moderation styling.

Swanky was also updated to use the current Twitter plugin/template, as well as added support for the blogroll plugin. If these plugins are not active, nothing will show, nothing will break. Recommended plugins are listed on the themes page. As with Harvest Field, the draft watermark and comments in moderation were addressed.

As usual, if you find a bug, or would like to see something added/need help, please leave a comment either on this post or the original post for the theme in question.

So without further ado :

Also, I’m putting the finishing touches on a demo site, which I’ll be adding links to the aforementioned theme posts. Just need to decide how I want to add the theme switcher code (I’m trying to decide between adding a new fixed element at the top of each theme, or simply adding the dropdown to each sidebar).

As always, much thanks go to the community for the help and assistance in putting these together.

Edit Twitter, linkoid, blogroll, and credit due plugins can be downloaded from Habari extras

Second Edit To clarify the “Credits” feature is accomplished by 1)activating the creditsdue plugin from extras 2)create a page with the slug “credits”, you can add additional content to the page if you want 3) there is no three (I’ve always wanted to say that!).

Migrating Servers

What an experience this has been. I hope to write a comprehensive post at some point about the experience, but suffice to say, it’s been quite the crash course on Apache, Debian, and DNS.

It all started with some curiosity, in which I purchased a Slice, and began poking around with the many tutorials they offer.  Ultimately, Owen provided me with his LAMPME script that did the basic setup for a debain, apache2, PHP 5, MySQL 5 set up, using mod_vhost (please don’t quote me on any of this 😀 ), which sorta got me going.  I got a bit sidetracked, and confused with setting up phpMyAdmin (I’m not that comfortable with CLI yet), and let the whole thing just sit, unused for a month or so.  However, due to the persistent problems with MediaTemple grid-servers, I vowed to stop shelling out money to them for the hassles.  If my sites go down, I want to be the one to blame, and no one else.  Besides, it’s high time that I learn more about this aspect of web development.

So, armed with help from Skippy, and some new found confidence, I got everything set up so as to have a basic understanding of how/where things go, and started moving domains.  I’m just about done, with this being one of the last.  If anyone notices anything wonky, assuming I have visitors, please let me know.

Also which is quite cool so far, is that I’m going to deploy the multi-site functionality of Habari to minimize the number of actual installs I have on the server, as I run everything off of head, this means less outdated installs.  Right now I’m looking at having just 2 actual installations, with everything else running off of those.  So far it’s worked out fine, though it took a little playing to get paths for things like images and files sorted out.  More on that later.  Certainly something that needs more attention, especially as silos mature.

Thanks to everyone who’ve helped in the process.

Verizon Fios Experiences

I just got off the phone with Verizon customer migraine service, and am left completely mystified. My story starts with the fact that Verizon didn’t notify us that their was a shortage of HD DVR boxes when we placed our order. It continued to the installation process, where the affable technician, albeit sporting the classic plumber’s crack while installing, failed to explain to us that while he was connecting the DVR to the HD TV, that in fact, we wouldn’t be able to watch any HD programming. I had to wait until the next business day to speak to anyone about the problem (installation was on a Saturday, and though they advertise 24/7 support, that doesn’t apply to most FIOS issues). I was then explained to that there was a back order on the Motorola HD DVR boxes, and that it would probably be the end of the month (February) before they were in. Sounded fair. They would discount our account the price of the DVR until then, we’d get the new DVR via UPS, swap them out, mail back the standard box at no cost. OK, slightly inconveniencing, but fair.

First of March, I hadn’t heard anything, so I called customer service again. I was given the same basic information, but this time, I was told middle of March. Frustration is growing.

Mid March, I call again, I’d really like to be watching some of the movies and programming I enjoy in HD. This time, I was told it would be the end of the month, and that some boxes had already been swapped out, but there was still a back order. Frustration is reaching the point of wanting to yell and reach through the phone and choke the people on the other end of the line, but I managed to remain calm.

Which brings me to today. I call to ask about this issue, as well as to inquire about picture-in-picture. I get a tech support person who I’m sure isn’t based in the U.S., perhaps Mexico City? Regardless, I inquire about the PIP. This gentleman insists that if my TV supports PIP, then I should have PIP. I explain to him that sure, with an antenna, I can watch PIP, but that PIP with the cable would require the box to split the signal, and when would this be introduced. He doesn’t have a clue to what I’m talking about. I ask to speak to someone else.

The next gentleman I speak with is most likely Indian, again, the primary problem is communication, not nationality for me. This person informs me that if I want PIP, I would need a second box, or use a splitter from the coax entering the house and would get PIP for the first 50 channels. Again, I try to explain that for instance, BrightHouse supports PIP within their DVR boxes, but he doesn’t believe me. After another tech question about using the “last” (previous) button. The Verizon Fios boxes support 9999 channels, so if you want to watch, say channel 8, you can just enter 8, but there’s a delay, so I got into the habit of hitting 0008. Well, to me it’s a bug, to them, I’m stupid, but if you type 0008, then 0084, the previous/last button won’t work. If I do 8/84 it works. What ever. I then asked to be transferred to customer service, as tech support doesn’t know anything about FIOS DVR boxes. Oh, and he comes back and says, “they are working on the PIP as we speak, and might be available in 6 months”, obviously someone was listening in and corrected him to a degree.

I get a very nice lady, most likely U.S. based. She tells me she’s not been given any timeframes for the the swap out, and that she’s been collecting names to call back when she has information. At this point, I’m completely frustrated, and want to just cancel the package, without penalty (technically, we signed a 2 year contract, with a $199 cancellation fee) because they are not providing all the services outlined in the contract. I was transferred to a “retention specialist”, again, most likely American, who said she didn’t know anything about PIP, nor did she have any time frames for when the boxes would be swapped. I said I’d like to confirm I could cancel without penalty, and she said, no, you are still be provided with the bundled service. I then outlined that I had been lied to about the time frame of replacement during the first month when I could have cancelled the service. She simply ignored me. Had I been told in mid February that it might 4 months before HD boxes would be available, I might not have signed on with Verizon at the time. I could have gotten BrightHouse, without a contract, and simply switched when HD was available. But no, Verizon felt is was better to lie and hide information and con us into keeping the contract for a short term gain, and the loss of long term satisfaction.

I will say I have no qualms with the other two services provided, internet connection is as fast as advertised, and the phone service is fine. I don’t like the fact that to use the provided voice mail, I have to call a separate number to check my voice mail, I can’t simply call my own number to do so, but what ever, that’s what the memory is for on the phone I suppose.

I’d love to know just for personal satisfaction if indeed Verizon could be sued for their unscrupulous actions regarding the hiding/lying about HD service. I highly doubt I would have much of a case, as I don’t have any real documentation as to who/when I spoke with about the time frames, which I generally tend to do, and will start doing again when speaking with customer service reps.

Ahh, now I feel better.

Testing Diigo and Habari

Habari Themes :: h0bbel.p0ggel.org

I recently discovered Diigo, and am testing their post to blog feature built into their toolbar with Habari. Figured h0bbel was a good link to use 😀

Did you know that currently there are thirteen publicly available themes ready for download and usage for your Habari install? Some of the themes that are available are ported from other blogging platforms, others are “pure” Habari themes that doesn’t originate anywhere else.

Did you know that currently there are thirteen publicly available themes ready for download and usage for your Habari install? Some of the themes that are available are ported from other blogging platforms, others are “pure” Habari themes that doesn’t originate anywhere else.

Swanky Theme

Updated! See the latest post on details

screenshotThis week an open source design came across my feed reader, and something about it caught my eye. Immediately however, I didn’t think the header matched the design name, so I set about creating something a bit more “swanky”. From there, I began porting it to Habari. The goal was a ready to go theme, with support for several of the popular available plugins. To that end, Swanky supports half a dozen plugins, a couple of which are recommended.

For recommended plugins, Raman Ng’s Related Posts plugin and his Tag Cloud plugin will provide full intent and functionality of the theme.

The theme also supports the Credit Due plugin that is available from the Habari Extras repository. Activation of the plugin and the addition of a Credits page will automatically move the credits from the footer, and create a link to a page on your site at example.com /credits, which will contain the original design credits which are asked to be kept in place, as well as credits for all plugins and the Habari theme itself. (It will also exclude the page /credits from the top navigation) You do not need to add any content to the page, simply creating the page will suffice. If you have any other “shout outs” you’d like to add in addition to the plugins output, that will appear above the default output. Without the plugin and page, the link for the original design and theme design will be shown in the footer.

Suggested plugins include the aforementioned Credit Due, as well as the pingback plugin bundled with Habari, Gravatars (also in Habari Extras), and the Recent Comments plugin in Extras. If the Recent Comments plugin is not installed, it will default to included code in the theme. Using the Recent Comments plugin allows for user definition of some output, including adding a date, and how many recent comments to show. The default code simply displays 5 most recent, comment author and post. The theme is coded to use the unordered list if you use the plugin, changing that would require editing the sidebar.php template.

The theme also supports the Twitter plugin (also in the Extras Repo), and will show on pages that recent posts show. (see below regarding dynamic display).

One small feature of the theme is that the middle sidebar is dynamic based on certain templates being viewed. Single post views will not show the recent posts, rather the posts meta, as well as related posts (if that plugin is active). If the Twitter plugin is active and configured, pages that show recent posts will also show above them your most recent tweet, twitter icon, and a link to your twitter page.

This is considered a .1alpha release, future versions, aside from bug fixing, will support more dynamic options for plugins to output content in the 2nd sidebar, among any other suggestions.

Please direct any comments, bugs, suggestions to the comments on this post.

Download Swanky 0.2.

Users of trunk >r1574

Download Swanky 0.3.1

Current Demo

Edit I failed to mention, if you use the gravatar plugin, there is a default gravatar in the theme’s images directory that you can point to that matches the header (in the plugin options you can point to the image).

FF3 beta alongside FF2

Came across this handy little “app” today. MultiFirefox allows for multiple profiles to use different versions of the FireFox. So you can keep your working copy of FireFox 2 and all your beloved extensions, and test/keep an eye on FireFox 3 beta. So far, the “old-school” del.icio.us extension is the one I’m really anxious to see work in 3.

There’s already a beta of Firebug that works in FF3, which satisfies a few of my itches. I’d also like to see the web developer extension, but it seems the dev of that one won’t release a version until FF goes gold. Scribefire seems to work, though I still haven’t gotten in the habit of using it. Tiny URL extension is another one that I’ve come to rely on, which isn’t FF 3 compatible at this point.

Habari .4 released

It’s official, Habari 0.4 DR has been released. It’s hopefully , the last developer release, and with .5 will enter beta status.

I’ve previously discussed what it is about the community that gives me that warm fuzzy feeling, and that continues to be the case as the project grows. It’s especially enriching to see new community members contributing.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this release possible.

For a little more info about the new release, I’ll let one of the newer community members, Michael Harris, outline some of the big changes.

I’m very excited about where this project is going, and can only imagine where it will be a year from now.

TUAW Loses Credibility

I’m a Mac user. I’m a Mac fan. I’m not, as far as I’m concerned, a Mac fanboy. I do however, read some Mac centric and Mac fanatic blogs. TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog is one. I often scan the feed, as it tends to be subject matter I’m not interested in. I’ve ranted before about some of the fanaticism and over the top coverage before.

So this evening, I was scanning some feeds, and the see the headline Putting the Apple Store Geniuses to the Test and was immediately intrigued. Several years ago, I worked in a retail Apple store. It was quite enlightening in many, many ways, but for me, not really a good experience. However, I did meet some very nice people, some very smart people, and learned a lot.

That said, to call all employees of an Apple Store Geniuses, is ignorant, as the Geniuses, as pointed out in the comments of the post, are trained techs who do not do sales. Of course, they can do sales for customers who come into the Genius Bar for issues, and wind up needing something, but it’s not their primary job description. And as pointed out, Mac Specialists (the sales team) are generally knowledgeable in niché areas. I worked with some extremely knowledgeable people who specialized in graphics, music, networking, you name it. Everyone generally knew each persons strengths, and when they ran into a question they didn’t know, they knew who to ask, or as also pointed out, were savvy enough to Google search to help the customer. I’m sure it’s possible during the holidays that temporary seasonal employees might not be as versed or familiar with everyone, and a customer might not get the technical answers from such an employee. But my experience was that those types of employees also were quick to explain their unfamiliarity with technical issues, and still sought out more experienced Specialists to assist the customer.

All of that said, it’s very disappointing that the author of this post on TUAW didn’t know what he was talking about, and as the post title states, certainly gives me pause to the credibility of the site, and makes me wonder if there’s a certain quota of posts they need to write, and was at a loss to find a relevant topic that he could bust out. Which again, gives me pause to the site’s credibility of a reliable source of pertinent Apple related news.

Also, one thing that I hadn’t seen mentioned in the comments, as everyone was coming to the defense of the Specialists, and pointing out that there was no commission based sales, is that isn’t entirely true. This might have changed, but when I worked for an Apple Store, there were quarterly bonuses for full-time employees based on store sales goals. Generally speaking however, the commenters are right, there isn’t any emphasis on over selling equipment. Meaning, don’t push a Mac Book Pro on a family looking for a laptop for their kid heading to college who’ll only be doing email, word processing, and web surfing, along with the obvious music stuff. However, one of the biggest turn-offs that I dealt with, was the huge emphasis on pushing .Mac on all customers, even if you knew they didn’t need it, or understand it. Certainly since then, .Mac has grown in it’s uses, and I can see how maybe it’s slightly more attractive for users, but then it was crap, and I felt dirty pushing it on everyone.

Anyway, this wasn’t meant to be a post slagging Apple retail, rather as a response to the post and comments in the aforementioned post. Also note, this post was started late last night, and finished today without re-visiting the post to see if the author has amended or commented about his perspective, though my feed reader does pick up edited posts, and it hasn’t come through. Ultimately though, there should be some level of responsibility and editing in a “pro” blog such as that one, part of a bigger network of blogs whom make a pretty penny I’m sure in advertising. Shame on you Blogsmith and TUAW for shoddy writing and editing.

Redarry Theme

If you are looking for an XHTML 1.1 valid mod of Habari’s k2, be sure to check out Harry’s Redarry Theme, complete with “Red-dy” goodness. I really like the subtle gradient for the tabs in the header.

Welcome to the Habari community Harry, we look forward to seeing you around!