June 6, 2007

Portland No. 2 City for Dogs

Filed under: Portland, Portland Lifestyle — Tom @ 12:42 pm

Tolstoy and the red ballMen’s Health has named Portland as the number two best city for dogs.

Portland is definitely a dog-friendly city. Dogs are everywhere. Tons of people are dog owners and you often see dogs hanging out at outdoor bars and restaurants. There are a lot of dog parks. Tolstoy, at left, certainly seems to enjoy the upgrade from a Chicago condo to a Portland home. Back yard time is red ball time.


June 3, 2007

When DRM-Free Isn’t Good Enough — The Debate Over iTunes 7.2

Filed under: Apple, DRM — Tom @ 7:27 pm

It seems that to many, Apple’s new DRM-free music store isn’t enough. Now Geeks R Us has posted a response to all the nonsense — and it’s a good one.

I love the work Cory Doctorow has done to raise awareness about DRM issues. I hate DRM and have posted about it in the past. The problem is that the EFF and Cory are sometimes so rabid that they go off half-cocked.

First they spread a half-assed report from Playlist Mag that the new version of iTunes prevents DRM’d tracks that have been burned and ripped as MP3s from loading on the iPod. It doesn’t.

Several people posted in the Playlist Mag forum that they haven’t had any problems with burned and ripped tracks. It appears to be a bug — the problem can be corrected by rebuilding the iTunes library file. Cory updated his story with a weak follow-up that “some people have figured out how to get iTunes to load burned and ripped tracks” — I’m still waiting for a Boing Boing headline “iTunes 7.2 Restriction Total Fiction.”

Now some folks are complaining that the new DRM-free tracks have the user’s name and email address embedded in them. But this information has ALWAYS been included in purchased music’s metadata. There’s nothing new here.

It’s pathetic everyone has been desperately looking for a way to point at the new iTunes Plus service and say, “Look, they’ve removed the DRM but NOW look what they’ve done!” The fact is that the DRM is gone. This is a Good Thing. All the anti-DRM advocates who have always complained about not being able to play their music on the device of their choice have gotten their wish. Except they’re still complaining — now they’re crying foul because Apple didn’t make their music files totally anonymous.

In other words, this isn’t good enough because they don’t really want to play music they’ve purchased on all their devices — they just want to steal music. (Don’t bother entering into a debate on semantics; I’m fully aware of the distinction between theft and infringement. But for purposes of this discussion, “steal” works just fine.)

Apple isn’t obligated to facilitate illegal file-sharing. There’s still a question of EFF’s claims of some additional data encoded in the iTunes Plus tracks, but I doubt they’re going to find anything there that’s going to outrage me. This is my music. I’ve purchased it for my use. I’m about as upset that my name’s in the track metadata as I am that the dry cleaners writes my name on the inside of my collar.

Anti-DRM folks — including Cory — it’s time to put your money where your mouth is and buy some of this DRM-free music. iTunes is “crippleware”, but the new version that enables DRM-free music is a “downgrade”? Come on, guys. Enough’s enough.

(Although I’m all for writing to my congress-critters in support of legislation to roll back the copyright extensions, ban software patents or kill the DMCA. So keep fighting the good fight.)

May 31, 2007

Apple Delivers DRM-Free Music, YouTube for Apple TV

Filed under: Apple, DRM, Media — Tom @ 4:43 pm

Yesterday Apple made good on its promise to put DRM-free content in the iTunes store. It comes in the form of iTunes Plus, a separate section of the iTunes store dedicated to the higher-quality, DRM-free audio announced last month. After updating to iTunes 7.2, I was able visit the iTunes Plus section.

A banner at the top of the iTunes Plus page told me there were only 15 songs I could upgrade out of the 236 iTunes Store purchases in my library. I’m hoping the remaining labels go DRM-free soon.

Apple TV + YouTubeApple also announced a software update for the Apple TV that will add the ability to stream YouTube video. It looks like you’ll be able to browse featured videos, the most recent videos and the most popular videos, in addition to being able to search for content.

The Apple TV also received a build-to-order option for a 160 GB hard drive for $399. Additional storage on the Apple TV has been one of the most common requests and its great to see this upgrade. I hope that we’ll continue to see enhancements to the Apple TV.

Apple also announced iTunes U, a section of the iTunes Store that carries audio and video content from major universities. The content includes MIT’s OpenCourseWare, MIT’s initiative to provide open access to their course materials.

Pretty cool stuff.

May 28, 2007

iPhone Hysteria Spawns Dumbest Study Ever

Filed under: Apple, iPhone — Tom @ 9:46 am

The iPhone is magic. Many are lusting after it. Many more are talking about it. And really dumb speculation abounds.

But the latest is over the top. In a report issued by a company called Strategy Analytics and getting picked up by numerous blogs, they claim that 90% of mobile handset owners prefer the iPhone experience over their existing phone. Wow! 90%!

There’s no mention that Apple participated in the study in their press release. They say they “explored the appeal of iPhone features, developed comparisons with current products, investigated the nature of the iPhone experience, and gained insights on design criteria for future devices.” In other words, they speculated about what it would be like to use an iPhone and then got a bunch of people to discuss their speculation. And then they issued a press release.

Here’s the secret — the study appears to be a ploy to get people to register at the Strategy Analytics website. Registering and downloading the study gets you a document that links back to information on Strategy Analytics and their services. Searching for the report on their site shows that the latest iPhone report is dated February 28.

So this is little more than a press release about a discussion with some people who use mobile phones. If I was a professional in the wireless telecomm industry, registered for this report and found their was nothing behind this study? I suspect I’d do my shopping for strategic analysis elsewhere.

May 25, 2007

Sony Announces Flexible OLED Display

Filed under: Technology — Tom @ 10:01 pm

Boing Boing points to a YouTube video of Sony’s new OLED display prototype. It’s pretty incredible stuff, with the display unaffected as it’s curled into a semi-circle.

It’s unfortunate that Sony so frequently fumbles. The Playstation 3 still hasn’t found its footing after giving the XBox 360 a massive lead and getting upstaged by the cheaper, more innovative Wii. And their obsession with DRM led to the rootkit fiasco and years of ATRAC-only devices while the iPod and Creative ran away with the market. It’s obvious they can still make cool stuff — now let’s hope they do something cool with it.

Three arrested for Portland car arsons

Filed under: Portland — Tom @ 10:56 am

Wow. There’s been some mini-excitement in Portland lately. Last Tuesday, there was a rash of car fires that claimed seven SUVs over two days.

Now the Oregonian reports that three people have been charged with arson in these cases and they don’t seem to have any ties to enviro-extremists. How do three people ranging in age from 29 to 14 decide to start torching vehicles? Just out from some pre-dawn fun? Was the Playstation broken? Couldn’t find a Wii? I can’t wait to hear the explanation for this one.

Please note that the OregonLive link in this post has a life of 14 days, after which it will slide into the Oregonian’s paid archives. This is apparently a strategy on the part of the Oregonian (and many other newspapers) to hasten their obsolescence.

May 23, 2007

I Am Missing Chicago Food

Filed under: Chicago, Food, Travel — Tom @ 12:47 pm

One of the things I miss most here in Portland was the Chicago food scene. While Portland has some great food, the pizza here is no match and I have some other favorites that I wish I could find.

Last weekend, my girlfriend was in Chicago. That left me begging her to bring back some blue cheese steak fries and buffalo chicken strips from Leona’s and a stuffed pizza from Giordano’s.

Leona’s has always been one of my favorites even though they’ve become a little more corporate as they’ve expanded. There was a time when Leona’s had the best pizza in the city — its stuffed pizza was second to none. I suspect it was sacrificed to move the customers through more quickly. A popular dish with an hour-long cooking time can really slow things down.

While I understand the business logic behind the stuffed pizza assassination, I’ve always been puzzled by Leona’s decision to replace ordinary hot fudge with Ghirardelli chocolate sauce a few years back. I don’t understand businesses that buy into the idea of having a named brand on their menu for its own sake. I like Ghirardelli chocolate, but their sauce was a nasty substitute for the delicious hot fudge it replaced. I asked the wait staff about it; they also didn’t understand the change and confirmed that my reaction was pretty common.

Leona’s redeemed themselves shortly after the Ghirardelli incident by introducing the blue cheese steak fries. Wedge fries. Alfredo sauce. Blue cheese. Bacon. Awesome. Not health food.

Unfortunately, we decided that the blue cheese steak fries appetizer wasn’t going to travel well and an entire pizza was a bit awkward to bring back. I did get a couple orders of buffalo chicken strips and some blue cheese sauce. Extra buffalo sauce to be used in the reheating didn’t make it to Portland — the O’Hare TSA confiscated it, keeping America safe from that particular tub of spicy condiment.

May 15, 2007

Portland’s Polite Drivers

Filed under: Portland, Portland Traffic — Tom @ 10:41 am

Despite all of my complaining, the fact is that Portland’s drivers (while slow and infuriating at times) are unbelievably nice. The other day I was at a stop sign waiting to make a right hand turn. There was a stop light right around the corner and stopped traffic was lined up past my intersection. Some guy was blocking me but the woman behind him stopped and left some room, indicating that I should go ahead when the intersection cleared.

The guy in front of me notices me and he’s genuinely embarrassed that he blocked me. There’s completely no harm done here — traffic’s already stopped and the woman has already given me room to slide in behind the guy. But he actually backs up and lets me into his place in traffic.

2007 Road Rage Survey Results Now a survey of 25 metro areas finds that Portland is the most courteous city of all.

The survey, commissioned by AutoVantage for the second year in a row, also found that Portland had the fewest tailgaters.

Miami topped the list with the rudest drivers. Have you ever driven in Miami? What a zoo. Portland drivers, you have been warned. Those people will eat you alive.

I was surprised to find Dallas as number 5 on the most courteous list. In my experience, Texas drivers have always been one of the worst when it comes to boxing you out while you try to merge onto the freeway. They really, really don’t want be stuck in traffic behind you.

So I guess I should cut Portland drivers a break. I promise I’m going to honk at you guys less. Well, I promise to try.

May 12, 2007

Charges Dropped Against Boston Guerilla Marketers

Filed under: Weird — Tom @ 4:06 pm

Boing Boing’s got the latest on the Mooninite drama in Boston.

So the unfortunate guys who installed the light screens promoting Aqua Teen Hunger Force will not be going to trial. Maybe prosecutors in Boston decided that they’d have a hard time proving the two guys intended to induce a panic.

The mayor, however, stands firmly behind his decision to throw the city into chaos in the first place.

“I hope the message goes out to all guerrilla marketers who plan on doing business in Boston that we take the public safety of those who live and work here very seriously,” Menino said yesterday in a statement.”

Who knows? Maybe it’ll send the message to everyone that it’s easier to just not do business in Boston.

May 11, 2007

BarCamp Portland Starts Tonight

Filed under: Media, Portland, Technology — Tom @ 3:38 pm

I’m thinking of going to BarCamp Portland tonight.

I’ll admit that the BarCamp site has me a little nervous — rules about no tourists and everyone must contribute or present or something. I don’t consider myself much of a blogger. I haven’t been doing this very long and don’t have many people visit here. I’m not a technical guy and couldn’t code my way out of a paper bag. I’m not certain that my interest in the social aspects of technology and media provide a whole lot of material to fuel my contribution.

What the hell. I’ll show up and see if they throw me out.

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