Commanding Chaos for Coworking, Open Source and Creative Communities

October 2006 Posts

Songbird, The Sexiest Jukebox

Tue, 10/31/2006 - 01:43 -- rprice

Songbird, the Sexy Jukebox
If you don't know about Songbird yet, then you are likely not a geek, and that's OK. It's not made by Mozilla, but in fact a standalone commercial venture like Flock. Eerily similar, actually. They even have some of the same developers. Like Flock, Songbird includes the Mozilla Firefox browser, complete with themes, extensions, and a web browser. For geeks, it is built in XULRunner, which is pretty similar to a Konfabulator or Dashboard widget, using XML, Javascript and images to build an application that runs on any platform.

Songbird Has Good Marketing
As we are currently in "Developer Preview" mode (like Flock was last year), the Songbird boys and girls decided to count how many smoothies they make in their bicycle-powered Fender Blender, and the other stats you see. Very good idea. The marketing for songbird is top-notch so far, and they're nowhere near a public release. Building geek loyalty early (like Firefox and Flock) seems to be a new trend in applications. They are also advocating actually paying for your music, hooray for them!

Songbird Web Playlists
Since songbird includes the Firefox browser (or most of it), you can go to any webpage just by typing in the address bar. Once you're there, Songbird will show you a playlist of all the media files linked from the page. Pretty nice. It will even try to give you a preview of the length of the song: not sure how it does that without messing with everybody's server logs, but c'est la vie.

Songbird Subscriptions
After getting a handy playlist of everything on a page (even video), you can easily subscribe to all the content on your favorite web page or mp3 blog. Not quite a podcatcher, but better in some ways. A lot of times a more general solution gets the job done almost as well as a niche tool while allowing for, well, more general uses.

this is a project I will be watching very closely. I have heard a little bit about it in the past, but now having tried it for myself, the only question I have is "How will they monetize a farting bird mascot?"

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The Orlando Weekly Is On Notice

Mon, 10/30/2006 - 01:18 -- rprice

Check it out:
Orlando Weekly - Home Page

Notice anything? Me neither. It's like they packed up their snake oil and left town at the first whiff of kerosene.

Are they rebuilding their crappy site? Fixing the broken search engine? Hiring a new staff writer for movies and theater? Who knows?

Actually, that last one was a bit of a joke. The guy who does most of the movie reviews now, John Thomason, is just a lowly contributor, and deserves to be full-time.

The Weekly has so may great resources and such a great reputation, but they just aren't doing anything that special with them on the internet. How do we get them to change that?

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Firefox 2 and Netvibes

Sun, 10/29/2006 - 01:53 -- rprice

Firefox 2 now has support for external RSS subscriptions instead of stupid Live Bookmarks. This means I can use my favorite reader Netvibes whenever I see the happy little orange icon in my address bar.

Firefox 2 and RSS

Netvibes is not one of the default RSS subscription engines, but this post includes a one-click update that couldn't be simpler.

I also dig the new notification style that just kind of appears at the top of the viewport. I know pop-up blocking and plug-in notifications have been appearing in this space for a while now, but I like this a lot better than an alert window.

Firefox has supported RSS since (I think) version 1.0, but this allows me to consume RSS in exactly the way I like. Why is this important? If I don't read feeds at all, the old school Live Bookmarks feature at least lets me know they exist, and lets me check them out if I am a bookmark whore. Firefox also provides 3 default choices to subscribe, being Bloglines, My Yahoo, and Google Reader; arguably the 3 most popular feed readers, and 3 of my least favorites. Because I know that Mozilla makes money by all sorts of content partnerships, I can imagine that they somehow got sponsored to include these three, and not any others.

Another lowered barrier to entry is the way the browser "skins" unskinned RSS, instead of displying raw XML. NO web browser should display raw XML, but there should be a developer hack to override the default, always.

Apparently Internet Explorer 7 and Windows Vista will have support for RSS. Hooray. Sadly, not for podcasts or netcasts, boo. More on this later.

Oh, and View Source doesn't exist in IE7. Why?

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Mark Baratelli Asks: How Do You Feel?

Sat, 10/28/2006 - 01:24 -- rprice

My good friend and colleague Mark Baratelli has luanched a video version of his audio podcast "How Do You Feel?" On top of that, he has taken the advice of many of his peers and decided to brand all of his podcasts as "Mark Baratelli Presents" (or so it would seem from this page). Now let's watch the Technorati links roll by...

Mark will tell you how you should feel
www.myspace.com/howdoyoufeelpodcast

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Automator Burn to Disc Workflow

Fri, 10/27/2006 - 23:59 -- rprice

In an effort to scratch my own itch, I remembered a time when I wanted to burn some files to data CD or DVD and thinking "there must be an easier way to do this". Enter Automator, basically the most powerful and underused feature on any Mac.

I created a simple workflow I called "Burn to Disc..." that I installed to the right-click menu of my Finder. Now I just select one or more files in the Finder (they need to all be in the same directory in this case) and choose Automator > Burn to Disc... No software needed.
Automator Burn to Disc Workflow
I decided to to use the actions "Get Selected Finder Items" and "Burn a Disc". Then I chose to "Save as Plugin..." to the Finder, which means it shows up in the right-click (ctrl + click) menu.

If you are making workflows that act on files in the Finder, choose File > Save as Plug-in... Then name your plugin and choose Finder. The option will show up when you right-click or ctrl+click on any number of finder items. To select multiple items, use shift+click or cmd+click.
Automator Save as Plug-in

You can also choose to save the plug-ins to Folder Actions, iCal Alarm, Image Capture, Print Workflow or Script Menu. Think: iCal Alarm = CRON Jobs from Unix, or Scheduled Tasks from Windows. Send an email at 3PM, destroy an incriminating file at a future date, send that virus to everyone on the network days after you've left on vacation.

If you are an RSS subscriber, there are also 2 more quick examples there... oooh! RSS only features! How does he do it? Thanks Feedburner!

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eMusic's Catalog Is Impressive, Easy, DRM-Free

Fri, 10/27/2006 - 19:47 -- rprice

A few months ago I purchased a subscription to eMusic, a DRM-free MP3 site that has been around for quite some time. I started out with the basic 40-song plan (about $10/month), but after browsing the site I quickly upgraded to the 90-song plan (more like $20/month) because I wanted to get more than 3 albums in a month. If you do the simple math, songs are $0.25 a piece - 1/4 of iTunes' price, and still beating a $10 CD on sale by at least half, depending on the number of songs. Unlike iTunes, there is no album discount. You get a certain number of songs every month, and once you reach your limit, you either have to upgrade your plan or wait until next month.

I have to say that they make the barrier to entry VERY attractive. Default plans include a free MP3 player (in progressively larger sizes for each plan). If you already have a music player or don't like what they're giving out, you can opt for a plan that saves you 20%, making your song downloads more like $0.20 each at the lowest level. Now that's a 12-song album for less than $2.50 -- not even used record stores or most flea markets can beat that price. You know the quality of the songs you're getting (184kbps, vbr), you know the songs are the full album versions with no DJ speak on top, and now I can also say that they have some really good "indie rock" groups as well, which makes a lot of sense to me.

Oh, did I mention that this is 100% legal?

Just before I cancelled my subscription today (because I lost my paying gig), I noticed some of my favorite artists and labels as part of the eMusic catalog. Some of the more notable examples include the catalogs of some very reputable indie labels like 4AD (formerly Axis Records, The Pixies, The Mountain Goats), Matador (Cornelius, Belle and Sebastian) and ATO (Ben Kweller, Gomez). In the past I have also downloaded records by Eels, The Lemonheads, Joe Jackson, Katherine Whalen and Andrew Bird. It appears the list of albums and artists is changing on fairly consistent basis, so it pays to check back fairly regularly. They send a semi-weekly email telling you about new artists and labels joining the club too.

Just because I cancelled my subscription doesn't mean you will want to. This would make an EXCELLENT stocking stuffer (Christmas is just around the corner) for any music lover. eMusic also has an entire classical section which I never even peeked in to, but I'm sure it has a decent coverage of at least 1/3 of anything a classical buff might desire. In truth, I don't think any download sites (especially torrent sites and P2P communities) can claim a reliable, persistently available, comprehensive and easy to use catalog of ANY music selection WITHOUT DRM.

eMusic is a company I feel comfortable spending my money with.

Did I mention it's very easy to use? Did I mention this will work on every MP3 player? Did I mention it's legal? Did I mention the great catalog? I'm not saying they have everything. The music industry sucks too much to actually have something that great happen.

Update: I just read this post on Boing Boing that says eMusic will be downgrading plans on November 21st. Current subscriptions won't be affected. Here is the breakdown:

Plan Current Downgrade
Basic - $9.99 40 songs 30 songs
Plus - $14.99 65 songs 50 songs
Premium - $19.99 90 songs 75 songs
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David Heinemeier Hansson + Jason Fried = Jim + Tammy Faye Bakker?

Thu, 10/26/2006 - 16:36 -- rprice

Thank you for 37 Signals. I've been watching David Heinemeier Hansson's RailsConf 2006 Keynote Address about CRUD and REST, and some of these quotes are great for people who have been in the trenches.

If you're defining a new schema [in Rails], and you want to use composite primary keys, YOU'RE INSANE!

...and he's right! By creating constraints, they're creating a new generation of competent, agile, powerful programmers.

Also, back to my rant about personalities selling products, services and ideas:
Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson are the right people to bring a Rails way of thinking to the world. Their personality, opinions, practices and public faces are the things that are making this different than a framework. It is more like a religion.

If you think you're the mastermind who can create the perfect pressure cooker and close the lid just once, you get Java.

I am not saying they're going to get sent to jail and become tabloid fodder or anything, but I find it very interesting the number of people who pay such close attention to these guys. It's almost like there are a lot of college Computer Science teachers out there who maybe didn't get their job done right, or that we need a new class of college professors to train the up-and-coming web-savvy developer kids of the future.

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Finally Using My French Press for Coffee

Tue, 10/24/2006 - 23:17 -- rprice

Really, this blog post is an experiment to see how many Gevalia Coffee ads I pull and how much comment spam I get by tomorrow, but just for fun:
French Presses
Wikipedia answers the age-old question: What is a French Press?

I used my French Press (Webster Flea Market, $4) for the first time today and I must say I am pleased. Now I have one method of obtaining hot water for all my beverages, and that's the tea pot. Instead of having to load grounds in the Mr. Coffee, measure out the water, wash the carafe, load the beans in the filter, pour the water, all that junk, I just have one vessel for my coffee, and one way to heat it. My roommate has been talking about getting a single-cup or pod coffee maker like a Senseo, but I remembered my French Press and I must say I like it. Now I'm not wasting money on a fancy machine.

If you are in town, come over and I'll make you a cup. Decaf or regular? I even have hazelnut CoffeeMate in the fridge.

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Films Films Films

Tue, 10/24/2006 - 02:11 -- rprice

This past weekend was the first ever Orlando Film Festival... in case you missed it, and it's likely you did. The people who put this thing together are well-known and respected in the Florida film community. I got a chance to sit down with the programming team, Brian Quain and Michael King. You may recognize Brian as the inventor of a phenomenon only known as "The Game". Michael is known mostly in Orlando for his Writing-Producing-Acting role in his film The Way Back Home.

Go get the Podcast at Make it Short, part of Liberatr.net if you are interested. About 11 minutes. Just use your right mouse button and download it like a good kid, or subscribe.

I found out tonight while watching Vision TV's Behind the Indie Camera with Ralph Clemente that The Way Back Home was produced largely at Valencia... Good to know. A bit pretentious to interview people from a film you were in on your own show, but who doesn't want to be proud of the institution they have put years of blood, sweat and tears into? If I ever get braggy about my projects, let me know.

Also on the film front is local startup Caféshorts. This is the sort of thing you have to see to believe, and now I believe. Brett Jaffe, a local writer/producer and FSU alum, got the idea to help bars and restaurants get some extra patrons on their slow nights by supplying 4 or so short films and (I think) sharing profits that come in from reservations - the reservations are key. They take 10-15 minute breaks to give people time to talk, order another drink, and eat their food with the lights turned on, then they get on to the next film. Pretty simple.

Halfway through we were presented with a comment card. According to the Caféshorts site:

96% of patrons surveyed indicated they want to attend the next caféshorts night and 100% indicated they would bring someone new next time to introduce them to caféshorts

It's true. In fact, I invited friends before my first screening because I knew the programming and the venue would be above average. I hear rumors about places you might be seeing Caféshorts nights soon, but I'm sure I'm not allowed to say...

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‘Add to Netvibes’ bookmarklet « thought.less.ness

Wed, 10/18/2006 - 12:26 -- rprice

Update: With the release of Firefox v2.0 this week, you can now customize your feed subscription engine. Netvibes is not one of the choices, but this post on the Netvibes blog shows you how to set it up.

I have ben on the lookout for a Firefox plugin for Netvibes lately - simple things like adding a feed to my page (and being able to choose the tab perhaps?), especially installing something in the context menu (read: right-click menu) to help me click on a link and add that URI to my dashboard. Sadly, I don't think such a thing exists. Instead, I found a ‘Add to Netvibes’ bookmarklet -- pretty cool.

This is a service provided by netvibes that examines all the feed links on a page and gives you a list of subscription options. If you have a Netvibes account, you'll be asked to log in. All of my blogs also have a handy "+Netvibes" chicklet as well.

Add to Netvibes
Just click and drag this link up into your bookmarks toolbar and you're all set!

Results of the Netvibes Bookmarklet

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