Archive for the 'Web/Tech' Category


November 11, 2008

Holy cow:

 YouTube is by far the world’s biggest stage for online video. But in some ways Hulu is stealing the show.

With critical plaudits and advertising dollars flowing to Hulu, the popular online hub for television shows and feature films, YouTube finds itself in the unanticipated position of playing catch-up.

On Monday, YouTube will move forward a little, announcing an agreement to show some full-length television shows and films from MGM, the financially troubled 84-year-old film studio.

With YouTube, Hulu and Fancast (and who knows what site just around the corner), just give me my laptop and park me anywhere.


I can’t HEAR you!

November 7, 2008

I love this sentence from the piece about the Internet generation being lousy jurors: “Orality is the crucial ingredient of the adversarial system.” Really rolls off the tongue. Anyway:

In a speech, Lord Judge of Draycote, the Lord Chief Justice, said it might be better to present information for young jurors on screens because that is how they were used to digesting information.

He said: “Most are technologically proficient. Many get much information from the internet. They consult and refer to it. They are not listening. They are reading. “One potential problem is whether, learning as they do in this way, they will be accustomed, as we were, to listening for prolonged periods.

“Even if they have the ability to endure hours and days of sitting listening, how long would it be before some ask for the information on which they have to make their decision to be provided in forms which adapt to modern technology?

This inability — or unwillingness — to listen probably endangers a lot more than the system of jury trials. A lot of things — classroom learning and military training come to mind — depend on interaction with someone you must pay attention to.

Last year’s model

October 13, 2008

This Editor & Publisher article makes it sound like The Associated Press is going through a small rough patch. I think it’s bigger than that — technology is passing by the whole model AP uses:

 Since the Associated Press announced its controversial rate change last year, many newspapers have started considering other content options. And things are not likely to calm down any time soon.A handful of dailies — including several who admit their AP rates actually fell — have given notice to drop the service, editors in several states are forging content-sharing alliances, and Politico and PA SportsTicker are quickly positioning themselves to help replace the 160-year-old news cooperative in daily news pages.

But is the latest dispute over AP rates and services a real sign that its relationship with newspapers will be forever changed? Can a mid-sized or major daily really exist without the news cooperative? Or is this just a bluff?

“AP is going to lose newspapers, it is a question of how many,” says Editor Dean Miller of the Post Register in Idaho Falls, which several months ago gave its required two years’ notice that it plans to drop the news service. “My guess is most of their losses will be in medium and small markets.” 

Everything newspapers do these days is out there on the Web, and almost immediately. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve commented in this blog about an article I’ve seen online from another Indiana newspaper, then seen that same article show up in one of the local papers after it’s through all the AP selection and transmission processes, usually a couple of days later. That’s stagecoach-against-the train speed. At one time, it took a massive investment in infrastructure to move stories and photos across space, and the AP was willing to make the investment. Now, all it takes is a PC.

The AP is going to last only if it does a lot more original reporting. But there again, AP’s clients can replace that with sharing. Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s already a lot of that going on. Catch how many times one of the local TV stations says, “As reported by our partner,” followed by one of numerous newspapers around the state.

Pocket watch

October 3, 2008

Now, THIS is cool:

Researchers have demonstrated a flexible television screen which could result in people folding up their computer and putting it in their pocket.

The design could be used for television and posters, as well as computers, while it could also pave the way for the development of newspaper display technology which would allow readers to upload daily news to an easy-to-carry display contraption.

We’re getting closer and closer to true convergence — that one device that will slip into pocket or purse and can do everything. Better get here quick if it’s gonna save newspapers, though.

Quiet time

September 4, 2008

Actually, this seems a little high to me:

Television, radio, the internet, and telephones intrude so much on our day that the average person has just over an hour free from “media noise”.

One in three adults do not even have an hour of rest while at home and more than one-in-five (22 per cent) have 30 minutes or less, according to findings from media researchers M-Lab.

I don’t know, but I think definitions may be changing. “Media noise” and “peace and quiet” aren’t necessarily opposite conditions. As someone who lives along, I frequently have the TV on, even if I’m doing something else and not paying attention to it. It’s just part of the background. But, then again, I grew up doing homework to the sound of the radio or a record player, so maybe I’m one of those people who don’t like too much quiet piling up.

Another rat jumps ship

August 28, 2008

And the band kept playing “Nearer My God To Thee”:

In a bombshell announcement in the world of sports journalism, star columnist Jay Mariotti has abruptly resigned from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Only after taping his last ESPN TV from the Sun-Times newsroom today did Mariotti open up.

Mariotti told CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker that he decided to quit after covering the Olympics in Beijing because newspapers are in serious trouble, and he did not want to go down with the ship.

“It’s been a tremendous experience, but I’m going to be honest with you, the profession is dying,” Mariotti said, “I don’t think either paper [Sun-Times or Chicago Tribune] is going to survive.

Sigh. When we talk in terms of print being “a dying industry,” I always think of specific newspapers I’ve liked (not to mention ones I’ve worked at). Reading the Trib and the Sun-Times to see how they each covered specific events differently was one of the great joys I had in the eight years I lived in Michigan City.

Fort on the Web

August 19, 2008

There are so many specialized Web sites out there now, that a lot of Fort Wayne news is going to show up on some of them. Two stories made those sites yesterday. The News-Sentinel’s story on the system breakdown leaving Burmese refugees in need made the Refugee Resettlement Watch, a site dedicated to keeping track of “volags” (volunteer agencies), non-profit groups that contract with the federal government to place refugees in this country. It says:

 I can’t say I’m surprised.   The lid is finally blowing off the Ft. Wayne refugee resettlement program, so who didn’t see this coming?    We started reporting to you last September (Ft. Wayne freaking out) that Ft. Wayne was completely overloaded with refugees.  But, apparently some officials like the head of the Family and Social Services Administration now claim they are surprised.

What the heck?  We live in Maryland and we knew you were getting swamped.

And the awful story of the 53 animals seized from an abandoned home carried by WANE-TV made the site, which listed it in the “hoarding” category, although it’s not a typical case of someone bringing in too many pets into the house. These animals had just been left alone to fend for themselves. I don’t recommend spending a lot of time at this site all at one time.

Why do you think they call it digital, kid?

August 15, 2008

Are you people out there doping yourself up digitally every time I turn my back? First, Digital Goddess Kim Komando warns us that Web sites are targeting our kids with so-called digital drugs, audio files that have the same effect as drugs:

There are different slang terms for digital drugs. They’re often called “idozers” or “idosers.” All rely on the concept of binaural beats.

It is incorrect to call binaural beats music. They’re really ambient sounds designed to affect your brain waves.

For binaural beats to work, you must use headphones. Different sounds are played in each ear. The sounds combine in your brain to create a new frequency. This frequency corresponds to brain wave frequencies.

There are different brain wave frequencies. These frequencies are related to different states like relaxation and alertness.

Digital drugs supposedly synchronize your brain waves with the sound. Hence, they allegedly alter your mental state.

Binaural beats create a beating sound. Other noises may be included with binaural beats. This is intended to mask their unpleasant sound.

Then I see this:

Evidently the reason that Michael Phelps is so fast has nothing to do with his 6’7″ wingspan or his double jointed knees and ankles or his monster heart … according to Alexei Koudonov at The Doping Journal in an article from 2004 titled Doping by the pool and comments in a Baltimore Sun piece from earlier this week from several other scientists, Phelps is guilty of “doping” by using his iPod on the pool deck to artificially increase his performance.

If you didn’t feel like wading through that – the basic summary is that there is some research in human infants that shows that listening to music might help the blood carry more oxygen for some indeterminate period afterwords. How long that period of extra oxygen carrying capacity lasts could vary from seconds to minutes, no one is sure. In his original article, Koudonov opines that Phelps listening to his iPod is tantamount to using a product specifically designed to increase his performance.

These whippersnapper kids today, I tell ya. They have no idea how easy they have it. Why, when I was young, we had to take actual drugs, and we had to walk through the snow barefoot for two miles, and then the drug dealer would make us shovel his walk before we could score, and sometimes he even made us sleep with his girlfriend first. Boy, if all I had to do to get high or have turn my blood into an oxygen-carrying dynamo was pop on a set of headphones, I’d be wasted all the time, man.

Oh, well. Back when I was a yoot, there was a time or two when I just had to try something unknown, despite the risks, just to find out what it was like. I suppose I’m still a little bit like that today, because I just had to go to I-Doser, where they have “digital simulations” of drugs with a couple of free download doses. I’m playing the one called “Sedative” right now.

Man, what a rip-off. Nothing! It’s the digital equivalent of smoking oregano. I mean, I can see where some might feel, but you know, it’s just, well, I don’t know, it just seems that everywhere there is something, but some places just aren’t good enough, and the face is always there and I  daskl;fsdfuqweoprjdfkadsfjasd;lfkdjasfkl;djas

Fairly scary

August 13, 2008

Keep using that First Amendment, bloggers, while you still have it:

There’s a huge concern among conservative talk radio hosts that reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine would all-but destroy the industry due to equal time constraints. But speech limits might not stop at radio. They could even be extended to include the Internet and “government dictating content policy.”

      FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell raised that as a possibility after talking with bloggers at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. McDowell spoke about a recent FCC vote to bar Comcast from engaging in certain Internet practices – expanding the federal agency’s oversight of Internet networks.

The “Fairness” Doctrine may be the most misnamed federal policy ever. This is all about intimidation.

O, plz

August 11, 2008


“Da vp iz?”

In text messaging lingo, that translates to “The vice president is?”

Four years ago, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) announced his vice presidential nominee, then Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), at a morning rally in Pittsburgh.

How times change.

Last night, in a cell phone text message that was quickly followed by an e-mail linking back to a new page on his Web site — — aides to Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) campaign wrote: “Barack will announce his VP candidate choice through txt message between now & the Conv. Tell everyone to text VP to 62262 to be the first to know! Please forward.”

Note three things: the casual reference to the candidate (“Barack”); the call to “forward” the text (to friends, relatives, etc.); the perceived personal appeal of being “the first to know”; and the timing — the text was sent two weeks before the Democratic National Convention kicks off. That gives plenty of time for the text to be passed around.

It also gives the Obama campaign one more way to differentiate itself technologically from its Republican opponent; Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) doesn’t have a text messaging program.

I understand McCain is working on an innovative way of making his veep announcement, too, but the pigeons keep getting loose.

Txtg — w’s t pnt?

July 31, 2008

For God’s sake, don’t give these people any gum:

But in an alert issued this week, the American College of Emergency Physicians warns of the danger of more serious accidents involving oblivious texters. The ER doctors cite rising reports from doctors around the country of injuries involving text-messaging pedestrians, bicyclists, Rollerbladers, even motorists.

Most involve scrapes, cuts and sprains from texters who walked into lampposts or walls or tripped over curbs.

I may be showing my age or revealing my technophobia, but I just don’t get texting. If I want to merely touch bases with someone, I’ll phone or send an e-mail. If I want to reveal more or ask more, I’ll write a letter — or a longer e-mail. Texting doesn’t really accomplish either of those.

Of course, there’s always personal interaction — actually being in the same physical space as someone else — but that’s really old-fashioned.

Same old rule

July 30, 2008

“Scrabulous was great PR for you and you had to ruin it for EVERYONE,” wrote one whiny Facebook user after losing access to the site’s most popular diversion:

It’s game over for Scrabulous; the popular Scrabble knockoff game on Facebook is no longer available as of this morning.

Facebook users who logged on to play the word puzzle game this morning instead got a message that it has been “disabled for U.S. and Canadian users until further notice.”

The game was one of the most popular applications on the social networking site, but Hasbro filed a lawsuit last week accusing Scrabulous makers of having infringed on copyrights with the Facebook game.

The first sentence says it all — the game was a knockoff. Scrabble is trademarked — it is owned by somebody, and you can’t just take somebody’s legal property for your own benefit. This is one of those old rules people online think don’t apply to them. Sometimes, they’re right, and some of the rules are being changed by our collective digital experience. But this isn’t one of them, so far.

Out of touch

July 25, 2008

I was all set to enjoy a pleasant evening of blogging last night. One of my favorite old black-and-white movies, 1935’s “G Men,” with James Cagney and Margaret Lindsay, was playing on Turner Classic Movies. With my laptop set up in front of the TV, I could half pay attention to the movie (old favorites are comfortable background noise) while composing posts to thrill and astound my readers. But at 7:58 p.m., two minutes before the movie’s start — Zap! Comcast Cable went out. “This channel should be available shortly,” the message said — on every channel.

Oh, well. It wouldn’t be quite as much fun, but I could blog while listening to some albums or the radio. Except for the fact that I discovered my Comcast high-speed Internet wasn’t working, either. And I was in complete ignorance — no TV news guy to tell me what was wrong with the Internet, no Internet bulletin to tell me what was wrong with the TV, and nothing from Comcast’s customer service line except a busy signal. I called a friend to see if she could get online and find out what was going on (thank God I still have Verizon phone service), but there was nothing. Finally, after a couple of hours, they were both back on. By then, though, I was ready for bed and not in the mood.

What happened? Here’s the unhelpful story from WANE-TV:

The worker says sometime after 7:30 p.m., the fire alarm went off causing a fire suppression system to kick in. As part of the system, some type of gas was emitted that forced workers to evacuate the building.

Fire alarm? Gas emission? Building evacuation? What pitiful excuses for ruining my evening. Two things:

1. We have the most sophisticated system of communications the world has ever known; anybody can reach anybody else with any message, at any time, in any place, under any set of circumstances.

2. I pay Comcast an obscene amount of money each month.

So, the next time, I want something a little more specific and encouraging than “One moment please, this channel should be available shortly” on every cable station and something better than “This site is currently not available” on every Internet address. I want something like: “We know this is inconvenient and upsetting, Mr. Morris. Our service should return in about two hours. We know you had your heart set on ‘G Men,’ so we will be repeating that from 8 to 9:30 p.m. every night for a week on Cable Channel 400, just for you. And we are sending by mail a check in the amount of quadruple the pro-rated cost for the time you will have been out of service. Half the staff here has already been fired over this regrettable interruption and, rest assured, more heads will roll. If there is anything else we can do, please let us know. Oh, and a piping hot pizza should be at your door any minute now.”

Is that too much to ask?

Analogue John

June 24, 2008

Asked if he used a MAC or a PC, John McCain confessed to being a computer illiterate who depends on his wife for anything digital. Should we care?

I only recently became aware that John McCain doesn’t know how to use a computer. I suppose it’s not that shocking, a lot of people his age aren’t necessarily adept with newish technologies and a U.S. Senator is in a position to have his computing done for him. Still, I could see having some concerns about the leadership of someone who doesn’t use the dominant new technology of our time. Eve Fairbanks reports that Mark SooHoo, deputy e-campaign manager for McCain, had this to say on the matter at the Personal Democracy Forum:

    • You don’t necessarily have to use a computer to understand, you know, how it shapes the country. … John McCain is aware of the Internet.

I dunno. Do you have to use a computer to understand how it shapes the country? I think you might. If we had a president who didn’t know how to drive a car, that would probably strike us as pretty odd. But I think you could plausibly claim that you don’t necessarily have to have a driver’s license in order to understand how automobiles shape the country. But that’s because we assume that even someone who doesn’t have a license has still been in cars sees highways, onramps and offramps, parking lots, quiet winding roads, overpasses, bridges, etc.

Sure, I know, this is another way of reminding voters that McCain is a very old dude, but it’s a troubling point that a potential president doesn’t use the dominant technology of the day. (I almost wrote “doesn’t understand,” as if many people really do.) This is a little more serious than George Bush not knowing that grocery stores had price scanners. It would be like Abraham Lincoln refusing to ride a train or FDR disdaining that silly new thing called the radio. I’m amazed by people in their 50s and even 40s who have purposely let the digital revolution pass them by, especially considering people like my friend Betty Stein, who is in her 80s and took to her first computer like a kid in a toy store. I don’t expect McCain to stay up all night laboring over his Facebook or MySpace page, but can’t somebody for God’s sake walk him through the e-mail procedures?


June 16, 2008

OMG, this is just LOL-unbelievable:

A computer trainer in Lafayette, N.C., says she was oblivious to the profane modern meaning of her license plate “WTF” until her grandchildren told her.

She’s just lucky it wasn’t something like MILF or BITFOB.

Internet Time

June 12, 2008

Both John McCain and Barack Obama distrust the private sector and see government solutions to most problems. That means either one is more than likely to screw up more than once. That’s the bad news. The good news:

Americans have had it so good, for so long, that they seem to have forgotten what government’s heavy hand does to living standards and economic growth. But the same technological innovation that is causing all this dislocation and anxiety has also created an information network that is as near to real-time as the world has ever experienced.

For example, President Bush put steel tariffs in place in March 2002. Less than two years later, in December 2003, he rescinded them. This is something most politicians don’t do. But because the tariffs caused such a sharp rise in the price of steel, small and mid-size businesses complained loudly. The unintended consequences became visible to most American’s very quickly.

Decades ago the feedback mechanism was slow. The unintended consequences of the New Deal took too long to show up in the economy. As a result, by the time the pain was publicized, the connection to misguided government policy could not be made. Today, in the midst of Internet Time, this is no longer a problem. So, despite protestations from staff at the White House, most people understand that food riots in foreign lands and higher prices at U.S. grocery stores are linked to ethanol subsidies in the U.S., which have sent shock waves through the global system.

This is the good news. Policy mistakes will be ferreted out very quickly. As a result, any politician who attempts to change things will be blamed for the unintended consequences right away.

Both Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama view the world from a legislative perspective. Like the populists before them, they seem to believe that government can fix problems in the economy. They seem to believe that what the world needs is a change in the way government attacks problems and fixes the anxiety of voters. This command-and-control approach, however, forces a misallocation of resources. And in Internet Time this will become visible in almost real-time, creating real political pain for the new president.

Of course, it would be better for the mistakes not to be made in the first place. But the polls are closed on that option.


June 12, 2008

Your unexpected explosion entangles us in a web of premature umbrellas and precocious timepieces and other surrealist compliments, randomly generated.

Must-see YouTube

June 3, 2008

Allen County has its own channel at YouTube, though it’s not exactly scintillating viewing so far. There are seven clips there now, and five of them are about . . . drum roll, please . . . septic tanks!

Kindle, Part 2

May 28, 2008

Recently, I linked to Megan McCardle’s review of the Kindle, which she liked a lot, and she was so convincing I seriously thought about buying one. I didn’t, though, and after reading Ann Althouse’s take, I may have to think about it a little longer:

ADDED NOTE TO READERS WHO ARE HAVING TROUBLE UNDERSTANDING THIS POST: I’ve added boldface and enlarged some print in the original post, which was apparently a tad subtle. Let me be sledgehammer clear. The stuff about smell is humor. My problem with the Kindle was AND IS the gray-on-gray screen. I want contrast: black letters on a white background. I want that in a book, and I want that in a computer screen, and of course, I want that in an electronic book. I want easy to read. I don’t want to read ugly gray-on-gray print. Get it?

What’s lost is found

May 22, 2008

No, no, no, I am the stupid one.

I confess that in case there is someone else out there who thinks something has been lost that really hasn’t been. Week before last, I did a post about my cell phone conking out, disappearing a couple of voice mails from my mother that I had saved before she died. But it turns out they are still there. Voice mail is not saved on the cell phone — it is saved on the phone company’s server. Since I stayed with the same service and just replaced the bad phone, the voice mail is just as accessible to me as it always was, and in the same way. I listened to my mother’s voice yesterday, after thinking it was lost to me forever.

(Thanks to Larry and Kevin, for their superior technical knowledge and their kindness in sharing it by e-mail instead of comments on the blog post, in a futile and pointless attempt to spare me public embarrassment.)

Cool Kindle

May 19, 2008

I keep thinking about the Kindle. The $400 price is the main drawback, but reviews like this one might put me over the line:

If possible, I love my Kindle even more than I did when I reviewed it a few weeks ago. I’ve got about 50 books on it, and I love always having something with me to read. I also love the ease of using it one handed, and checking my email from anywhere. As far as I’m concerned, it’s better than a book. The biggest downsides are that not everything I want to read is on it yet, and conversely, that it’s awful easy to spend a hell of a lot of money browsing. But there’s so much cheap content from the public domain that this is not a huge issue.

But I’m also waiting for that one device that will do it all — online, phone, computer, media player, pda, etc., etc. Maybe Kindle 2.0 or 3.0 will be it, and I should wait.

Still hooked up

May 15, 2008

The trend of connecting to people rather than places continues:

For nearly three in 10 households, don’t even bother trying to call them on a landline phone. They either only have a cell phone or seldom if ever take calls on their traditional phone.

The federal figures, released Wednesday, showed that reliance on cells is continuing to rise at the expense of wired telephones. In the second half of last year, 16 percent of households only had cell phones, while 13 percent also had landlines but got all or nearly all their calls on their cells.

The number of wireless-only households grew by 2 percent since the first half of last year. Underscoring the rapid growth, in early 2004 just 5 percent had only cell phones.

I’m almost there. I have cable Internet, so I don’t need the “real” phone for that. Every month at bill time, it galls me to pay two phone bills, and I vow to get rid of the land line. But I keep backing down, because there’s just something frightening about going completely wireless, like my home might be incomplete, you know? I suspect a lot of old fogies feel that way.

Nothing new here

May 5, 2008

Welcome to the wonderful world of the unfiltered Internet, where legitimate history resides side by side with vicious fantasies:

A video showing a longtime supporter of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton using slurs to describe Hoosiers spread through the Web like a virus Friday, triggering a firestorm of protest before the video was finally exposed as a hoax.

It was just the latest example of how the Internet is changing politics.

The video clip, uploaded to the popular video-sharing Web site YouTube and spread via blogs and e-mail, showed former Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor describing Hoosiers using profanity and a racial epithet.

No, this isn’t going to be a lament about the loss of “editors” and “gatekeepers” as we move from the old media to the new. That’s been fairly well chewed over in lots of places, and I suspect we willl end up with some kind of hybrid that combines new-style openness and access with old-style editing and sorting; filters and gatekeepers there will be.

My observation would be that this really isn’t new, just faster. At your dead-tree newstand, you can find copies of The New York Times and Washington Post right next to copies of those tabloids that write about space aliens and Elvis sightings. ON TV, you can see “60 minutes” side by side with “The Jerry Springer Show” and wrestling right next to football and basketball. Most people have been able to sort out the real from the fictional, but some haven’t. Scarily enough, they live and work right along with the rest of us.

The main thing that’s different about the digital age — other than how many information players there are — is how quickly the hoaxes can spread. But they can be debunked just as quickly. Most people will retain the memory of the truth, but a few, unfortunately, will act on the lie.

Doctor, doctor

April 23, 2008

One group of Americans not that interested in the digital revolution:

Kreuziger’s experience is shared by most Americans: They want the convenience of e-mail for non-urgent medical issues, but fewer than a third of U.S. doctors use e-mail to communicate with patients, according to recent physician surveys.

“People are able to file their taxes online, buy and sell household goods, and manage their financial accounts,” said Susannah Fox of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. “The health care industry seems to be lagging behind other industries.”

Of course, even if your doctor did e-mail you, it might not be all that enlightening. Doctor, doctor, what should I do? “Well, txah twx ascpron and cakk mx im teh mnrgin.”

YouTube, WeTube, AllTube

April 21, 2008

Welcome to the digital age:

CLARKSVILLE, Ind. (AP) – Police in Indiana say a group of middle school girls who videotaped the beating of a 12-year-old schoolmate and put it on the Internet may have been inspired by a similar video in Florida.

No charges have been filed yet in the Indiana case, which involves girls aged 12 to 14.

It was bad enough when hideous fashion fads slowly made their way to Indiana.