Pseudo-random changes to iTunes Store application pricing

04/23/09 | by Adam | Categories: iPhone


I keep tabs on applications in the iTunes Store that drop to free as it's a chance to try out an application that otherwise I wouldn't bother with.

Sometimes when looking at the apps, you see some very odd behaviour. At the link is a program called "MyGPS". Since its introduction in mid-February this year, it's changed price just under 40 times, typically dropping to free and then back up, usually on the same day.

The main reason this price volatility caught my eye is probably the same reason that the author does this: I downloaded it thinking it was free when in fact it had just gone back up in price. I wasn't paying enough attention as I should have been (caveat emptor and all that) but this isn't what I would have called upstanding ethical behaviour on the part of the author. I've not spent much time seeing how many others do this, but I frankly wouldn't be too surprised to see that it's widespread.


Staples MailMate Compact Shredder

04/22/09 | by Adam | Categories: Technology, Reviews


Pluses: Small, attractive shredder capable of destroying CDs and credit cards. Staples will replace it when it fails within the warranty period.

Minuses: Randomly decides that it's going to no longer turn on. Small paper bin means frequent changes; removal of paper bin to empty it shuts off power; see first minus.

Conclusion: Lump of junk. Avoid.


Queen & George Michael's "Killer"/"Papa Was A Rolling Stone" mashup

04/21/09 | by Adam | Categories: Music


While trawling my way through a used CD store down in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I found an EP ("Five Live") credited to George Michael and Queen. The recordings on it were recorded for a concert to benefit charities in Freddy Mercury's name. I'd never heard of it before so decided to give it a try.

The conventional Queen songs ("Somebody to Love", "There Are The Days Of Our Lives") were well done but basically not terribly interesting. Where it gets fun is where the band mixes together Seal's "Killer" and Barrett Strong's "Papa Was A Rolling Stone". It's not a combination I would have expected to work but it does.

If you can find a copy, well worth a look.


Fallout: New Vegas

04/21/09 | by Adam | Categories: Games


Oooh oooh oooh. There is no way that The Pitt is going to tide me over until then though.

Hm, I think I may have a copy of WoW:WOTLK lying around which might fit the bill.


Dreaming of electric sheep

04/20/09 | by Adam | Categories: Silly


This is another Xkcd classic: a simple joke that's incomprehensible without a certain understanding of programming issues and popular convention.


Slipstreaming OSX install discs

04/18/09 | by Adam | Categories: Macintosh

The short of it is that you can't.

Slightly longer explanation: one of the generally unheralded positive things about Microsoft Windows is that you can use various tools -- including one from Microsoft themselves -- that allow you to build custom install discs. This includes the ability to add later service packs to one's install disc, meaning that they don't need to be downloaded and installed one by one should a reinstall of the operating system be required. When I installed Boot Camp on my MacBook, an XP install with Service Pack 2 already applied was required. You couldn't install XP in its original form and then upgrade, it had to be SP2 from the get go. As I have a bad habit of buying software, frequently when it's new, all I had was the original XP release CD. With slipstreaming I was able to build a new one and move along.

Apple has never supported this. There was a third party tool called "Slipy" which performed a similar task but it seems to have disappeared from the internet, leaving only dead links in its wake. So, if your OSX partition goes south while you don't have an internet connection and you do manage to reinstall from the OSX install disk you smartly brought with you, that's as far as you can go. No patches, no updates, no nothing. It's vanilla OSX for you, baby.

There is an argument to be made that what you really need is a complete backup; that merely reinstalling the operating system won't get you anywhere. After all, if you don't have any internet access you won't be able to download and reinstall any of the required software anyway, and who carries around DVDs of absolutely *everything* necessary to restore their portable? Besides, in these days of high speed internet, 800 MB downloads are chickenfeed and don't take that long.

Frankly, no. That's a needless waste of time and bandwith. Most of the software I use could easily fit onto a second single DVD and when traveling I'm more inclined to trust a static piece of plastic in a CD wallet than a delicate external harddrive.

There's a further argument to be made that since, at least in the case of OSX 10.5, the install DVD is dual layer and doesn't fit on a single 4.7 GB DVD, this is pointless. It's true that writable 8 GB media is expensive and the drives capable of doing it are still thin on the ground, but darn it, it should be possible. With BluRay media available now -- albeit still not officially supported on the Mac -- that's an utterly arbitrary limit that's begging to be superseded.

I do like my Mac but sometimes it's Microsoft that gets it right, not Apple.


Airfoil Speakers Touch

04/17/09 | by Adam | Categories: Macintosh, iPhone


I really wanted to like this. I've been waiting for someone to come up with a decent application that I could use to spool audio from my Mac to my iPhone while at home. It would be -- so to speak -- "Radio Adam: The Next Generation".

I thought this was it. Alas, no.

There are a couple of problems with the software. The first is that it's a push, not pull, approach. You need to start the application on the iTouch/iPhone and then tell the desktop app to connect to it; you can't just have the desktop side up and start the iPhone app when you need it. So that's rather cumbersome.

The second is that when it's up, it's purely a receiving stream. If you're playing audio via iTunes and want to skip the song, you need to exit the app (which stops it playing), start up the Apple Remote app, change the song there, then go back to the Airfoil Speaker app and find that you now need to go back to the desktop -- wherever that happens to be -- to restart the communication. It is, in a word, clunky; clunky to the point of being unusable.

Too bad really; Rogue Amoeba have put out some sterling applications in the past -- I really love Radioshift Touch -- but this one isn't worth the effort.


On Twitter

04/14/09 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

I'm up in the air over the value of Twitter but I think I figured out some of the attraction today. We had a minor power outage and I wasn't sure if it was my house or more widespread. When I started seeing messages about it in #yyc, that pretty much answered my questions. I've now added a few local resources such #calgary, @cbccalgary, @ctvcalgary, @calgarycitynews and @cityofcalgary which should pretty much cover the road closures, garbage pickups, street cleaning and all the other local minutae it's useful to know about but somehow I never manage to do so. For those wondering about the at and hash/pound/gate symbols preceding the name, it merely defines whether it's an interest group ("#") for automated searches or an actual Twitter account ("@").

All that said, I still don't get the whole following thing of what I refer to as "twitter bugs", you know, the ones with what could be best described as 140 character verbal diarrohea.


Best item from April Fools 2009

04/01/09 | by Adam | Categories: Silly


It absolutely definitely has to be ThinkGeek's Tauntaun sleeping bag.


Why I dislike rebates #60

03/20/09 | by Adam | Categories: Whining


In the post from a few weeks ago, I commented on why I dislike mail-in rebates. The cheque for the rebate that sparked the comment arrived in the other day, two and a half months after sending in the form. Now I have another item to add to the list:

They invariably forget to rebate the tax too.

When you buy an item for, say, $100 with a $25 rebate, you get charged tax on the full amount. In Alberta that's 7%, so it's a $107 bill at the cash register. If you only get the $25 back, you're being shortchanged to the tune of $1.75. It's not a lot to be sure, but you get the multiplication factor back in action again. I don't know who gets to keep that money, whether it's the government, the vendor or the rebate operator, but it shouldn't be any of them.


No triskaidekaphobia here!

03/15/09 | by dena | Categories: Announcements, Raves

It was a happy, happy Friday the 13th for us!

Full story »


Making music out of YouTube

03/12/09 | by Adam | Categories: Music, YouTube


This is quite impressive. Someone with a significant amount of free time has trawled YouTube, picking up videos of people jamming in their basements, instructional segments, practice sessions, music recitals and miscellaneous audio hackery, and has somehow rearranged and combined them into a superb collection of songs with fascinating videos.

Highly recommended if you have an hour to spare.

(Via BoingBoing)


How about them apples?

03/10/09 | by Adam | Categories: Technology


There's a distinct logic -- and irony -- in a comment from a British IT outsourcer:

“In the IT industry women earn a massive 23 per cent less than male counterparts, despite being equally capable,” says Craig-Wood. “IT companies should conduct a quick pay audit, then let go those who are on higher wages for the same job."

From a bloodless business standpoint, she's absolutely right. If you have two resources that cost different amounts but contribute the same to the bottom line and you need to get rid of one of them, it's the more expensive that should go. That this imbalance is due to unequal employment practices gives it a bit more, um, frisson.

I believe there's a old saying about engineers and petards that covers this.


Man Cold

03/08/09 | by Adam | Categories: Silly, YouTube


I wonder quite how unsympathetic EMS would be with me right now if I gave them a call.

(Via Warren Kinsella)


The effect of sub-oceanic terrain on sea level

03/07/09 | by Adam | Categories: Technology


I realised that the gravity of the moon causes sea level to change (y'know, tides and all that) but I didn't know that underwater geography would have a similar effect.


(Via Kottke)


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