Archive for the 'software' Category

The Vote

November 7, 2006

I’ll be hopping in my car in six hours to go cast my ballot. I just watched the HBO/Black Box Voting production of “Hacking Democracy” — it’s worth a view. Thanks to Diebold, I have no idea if my vote will count. It’s sad and amazingly frustrating.

Go to http://electoral-vote.com for the latest polling information. As of right now, it’s a tossup in the Senate (50 Dem, 49 GOP, 1 tie). The House should be heavily blue (polling 239 -196 Dems). If the Dems get the house, they can handcuff the White House quite nicely. If the House is still Republican-led after tomorrow, it’s time to burn this place to the ground — there will be no more democracy here.

For more information and what you can do — see http://BlackBoxVoting.org.

Like Music? Pandora.

October 23, 2006

Thanks to another heads-up my from my most excellent friend, Jim, I played all evening (along with about 6 — no, 5 — cups of green tea) with a great new(?) service at Pandora.com. I had other shit stuff to do, and once I got ‘er all tuned up I was able to get that, uh, stuff at least started — all to some similar and many unfamiliar sounds from the uncharacteristically strong sound from the ‘ol Toshiba laptop.

PANDORA was started by the guys at The Music Genome Project. They’ve been listening and catalogueing all sorts of music since 2000. Quite a gig if you can get it. Of course, someone had to catalogue the crap too. I’m not sure if that’s a valid category, but I can think of about 100 bands I’d save some time on and just batch into “crap”. I digress…

It works really well, and looks good to boot. Very clean.

Pandora Player

You can rate all of the songs you hear with a “thumbs up” or the down version. How very TiVo-esque, but it works and it’s intuitive. They start you off with a track from the band you choose (you can also base a “Station” on a song — but that’s not how I listen to music) and then roll out the tracks based on the Music Genomes.

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Hate a song (or somthing about it)? LOVE a song? You can take your feelings a step further by snapping the “Guide Us” button at the bottom right.

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Right away I thought I stumped ’em. “Radiohead” comes up in a “Mountain Goats” station and before I hear it, I giggle. And then — it fits, perfectly. Wanna know why the system popped it in? Just ask.

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  • Mellow rock instrumentation? Not always, but in this case, OK.
  • Folk influences? Check.
  • Acoustic sonority? I like the sound of that — check.
  • Major key tonality? It certainly is, although most of the time gimme a minor chord.
  • Acoustic rhythm guitars? Yes.

Detailed and an interesting insight.

Want to share your “Station” with a friend or find public “Stations” to give a listen to?Couldn’t be easier.

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The player has visual ads and when you sign up you are told that they’ll have audio ads too — gotta support it some way. They give an option to subscribe for $3 – $4 per month (based on length of subscription/donation).

Give ’em a try at http://www.pandora.com

Fcuk You Amazon (with apologies to my female parent who may read this)

September 14, 2006

The following is an open letter to the automatons at Amazon upon the completely screwed-up order for my Sigma 30mm lens for my Olympus dSLR (I have no delusions that this will fall on deaf ears):

Amazon has gone a long way towards ruining my weekend with your half-assed system. I ordered the lens on Friday, September 9th, for a trip to Chicago this weekend. I ordered it from Amazon — paying a premium price — because I believed in you. I paid for the two-day shipping because it told me I would get it by Wednesday — giving me a two-day fudge factor. It sat there in “preparing to ship” mode. I checked hourly for a tracking number. Finally at 3:30PM on Tuesday I looked again and my estimated delivery was pushed back to Sept. 21st.

UNACCEPTABLE!

I searched the web for a phone number (nice job hiding that by the way), and talked to the very pleasant Samantha. She looked into it, told me they were indeed in stock and then assured me it was being packaged and would arrive on my doorstep on Thursday (after a oddly named “upgraded 1-day” shipping). I asked again, explaining the situation I was in, “So I will get this on Thursday?” Her response was “Yes.” I explained to her, “If this isn’t going to be on my doorstep by Friday, I need to cancel the order right now.” She assured me again. The estimated delivery date changed to the 14th and I, apparently wrongheadedly, believed in you.

I continued to watch the order continue NOT being in “shipped” mode.

It continued in this fashion until well after the last FedEx and UPS planes of the day fly over my home and land at Minneapolis International Airport.

Upon arriving at work this morning, still holding out hope that I may magically receive the item today, I checked the status yet again.

It had been bumped to the 19th.

I called again and spoke with the very polite Ahmed. He put me on hold a couple of times to research the situation, told me it was not in stock, and finally relayed that I would receive it “as soon as possible”, and then something about “within 30 days.” I divorced myself from the situation at the “as soon as possible” point and told him to cancel my order immediately. At this point Ahmed told me it was “not cancellable.” WHAT? But it hasn’t shipped yet right? Cancel the order! I don’t want you to make a nickel off of this! You’ve used up all the goodwill I can muster, and gone a long way towards messing up my photo vacation. So now, I’ve got a charged credit card, no lens, no hope that it will arrive, no desire to keep ANYTHING that Amazon would ship me, and anger seething within me.

I’ve been on teams that have built some rather large ecommerce inventory systems. I know all about inventory threshholds and how supply chain works. This is a messed-up situation. There is simply no excuse for it.

Thanks Mr. Bezos.

I could have gone with another vendor. Apparently, I SHOULD HAVE gone with another vendor.

—–

UPDATED at 2:39PM CDT:

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I guess “on hand” and “ships soon” has a different meaning in Amazon-world.

Ruby On Rails (time for this Microsoft-centric developer to check it out — painlessly!)

August 21, 2006

Ruby On Rails resources and tutorials abound on the web and I’ve spent the last couple days plugging away on a few of them. Being a Microsoft developer has afforded me little insight into Ruby. There are a number of reasons, but the most important are the fact that the learning curve for .NET C# has been steep and that Apache and MySQL aren’t things I’d necessarily like to set up and configure on my server — I’d rather get a root canal.

All of that changed when I discovered the existence of InstantRails (http://instantrails.rubyforge.org/wiki/wiki.pl). Now my excuses for avoiding this spectacularly non-Microsoft environment have been at least partially removed. InstantRails encapsulates all of the tools you need to get up and running in a hurry with no install or configuration (a wonderful Ruby trait) necessary.

There are a number of good resources available online to at least get you going — and you’ll be amazed at how far “getting going” will get you.

Here are some of the best I’ve found:

Writely! Open for (beta) Business

August 20, 2006

I’m writing this post using the re-release of Writely(beta!)! If you’ve fallen in love with Google Spreadsheets (like I have), this is exactly the thing you’ve been looking for. It does all of the important things that Word does plus a few things Word has failed on (and avoids all of the bloat and install). Sure you need to be online, but I know I don’t even consider firing up the laptop without an internet connection (it’s akin to sitting in your car without the keys).

Things I like:

  • It kicks out the formatted PDFs.
  • Collaboration.
  • You can post to your blog (I just did!)
  • The craziest thing, and I haven’t found a use for it yet, is that you can subscribe to an RSS feed of a document.

http://www.writely.com