Tuesday, January 29, 2008

iTunes and Device Control- Another Opinion

One of my big theories about the internet is that it's always hard to evaluate anything based on what's written on the internet. People who really like things seem to be slugs for the most part, while the haters out there seem to have a ton of energy.

Now don't get me wrong. I hate the record companies as much as the next guy. I'm also a pragmatist. The iTunes store would never have happened without DRM, and the DRM (FairPlay) has never caused me a problem. I've never been unable to play a song when I wanted to and where I wanted to. And I'm way outside the curve. I actually have 5 computers that get daily use- a MacBook Pro, a MacBook, a G5, a Mac Mini, and an HP PC of dubious origin.

The MacBook Pro has, for the entire time I've had it, been my primary iTunes box. It's the machine all my iPods, my iPhone, and my MacTV are linked to. It's also dead as a doorstop due to an odd series of circumstances. I wasted no time moving my portable needs to the MacBook, but with the MacBook Pro on its way to Texas to get some Applecare, I didn't want to set the MacBook up as my iTunes home. For one thing, the hard drive isn't big enough. For another, if the MacBook Pro does come back alive I don't want to have to do all that work twice.

Now, if you don't set iTunes up properly, when you sync your iDevice, it will wipe out whatever is on it and replace it with whatever you've told iTunes to autofill the device with from that computer- usually nothing.

But if you do set it properly, you can still plug in, get a charge- and transfer all the purchased items from the iTunes store that are on it to the computer, but only if you want to.

That device control- which usually gets knocked as a DRM-centric, crippling liability- actually has allowed me to keep my devices charged and full of their own music, and not have to cross-pollinate the different iTunes libraries that are divergent on my different computers.

I like it. I don't feel crippled. i just feel like I have the control that I want.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

What a week !

By 9 PM Monday night I was sitting in an ambulance, with my son throwing up on me. He tripped and fell at IKEA and ended up with a mild concussion, a CAT scan, and an overnight stay at Yale-New Haven. That was a little disconcerting.

He wasn't really the same until Thursday, and as each day went by some other major or minor catastrophe seemed to creep into frame. I'd missed half a day of work on Tuesday after being off Monday. On Thursday I had my six-month dentist's appointment. Five hours later I no longer could find my MacBook Pro- it would eventually turn up, but dead as a doorstop. I was, however, the proud owner of a faxed, partially hand-written list of new students for our meal plan- that's right, hand-written.

Saturday morning I woke up (at 5 AM) to one cat dropping a load on the kitchen floor, another one vomiting all over the closet. That night we we at a party in the Bronx until 12:30 and it was 2AM by the time we hit the sack to call it a day.

But the point isn't to complain here. Some of these things are serious, others just mild inconveniences. The high points were two fold- one, watching my son return to perfectly normal behaviour- the rapidly expanding vocabulary, the curiosity, but most of all, the willingness to continue to run around exuberantly (although often in ill-advised ways). After a head injury, you worry that there is going to be some permanent deficit. As someone that has had their bell rung several times as an adult, it's a scary thing.

The other thing that went right this weekend were the workouts- the 2 hours of spinning and half an hour of running Saturday, the 90 minute run today. It's nice to be able to unplug from returning students, domestic disasters, dead computers, and focus on something simple, direct, and know that, if you're following your plan, you're accomplishing something. then of course, it's time for a shower and back at the world, but feeling refreshed.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Polar Plunge 2008

Thanks to everyone who donated. It was a nice cold day, the water was pretty damn frigid, and there was a great turn-out as always, thanks to EH, to does a great job with this event.

Only one picture, but it should give you an idea of the type of day it was.

Ian was a real trooper, downing pop'em donut holes, playing with his Pollys and blowing bubbles while Dad ran into the cold water of the sound. My feet were cold for a solid hour, but hey, at least I got a good deal on a digital camera on the way home (Comp USA is going out of business).

I have to say I cannot image who in their right mind would do a plunge without some bigger reason, like charity. Jumping in ice cold water just for the hell of it ? No thanks.

Again, thanks for the donations...

Friday, January 18, 2008

Polar Plunge Tomorrow

The Polar Plunge is tomorrow and I'll be diving into the water down in Southport for charity at some time between 8:30 and 9:00 AM (http://www.hodska.com/plunge2008.html). We're supporting a small boy with Kawasaki's disease. If you're reading this there's a good chance I already asked you to donate 5.00 to the cause. If you'd like to donate, Paypal Eric Hodska- http://www.hodska.com/paypal.html

I'll post pictures tomorrow when I get them. It's gonna be cold !

I am going to work to get my whole body under the water this year. It's always easy in your mind, but hard in reality, to actually get under that frigid, nasty water.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wow ! Steve Jobs Delivers again...

The MacBook Air is certainly the big deal in the set of announcements today from Steve Jobs, and it looks like the notebook everyone has been wanting. However, having just gotten a new MacBook Pro at work in late 2006, I'm not up for a new laptop until 2008, so I'll save the salivating for another day.

However, it was much of what was in the rest of the keynote that really made me happy. I started pushing for direct purchase/downloads to the iPhone the day I got it, and I'd been at least able to get that feedback passed along to people inside Apple. The same can't be said about my desire to be able to do the same. The people I know at Apple certainly want to hear my thoughts on the iPhone and Podcasting (I can't wait to get that new X-serve set up), but my Apple TV ? Please.

The biggest negative about the Apple TV (which I love), has been that I couldn't buy content directly on it and have had to clog up my MacBook Pro hard drive with TV shows and so on. And it's always struck me as a bit bizarre that I can watch movie trailers on the Apple TV, but not buy movies to watch. Well, in two weeks, that all changes. I'm not sure how many movies I'll really buy or rent. I've bought 30 songs on my iPhone so far, which is a few dollars a month, nothing big. But as I find myself spinning on my bike 4 days a week in the basement, a little purchasing power right on my Apple TV- sweet.

I'm also looking forward to getting my time capsule next month. Now I know Apple and January product announcements. when they say February as a ship date they do not mean February 1st. Fortunately, there's only 27 other days in the month- oops, 28 days. I have several fairly large external hard drives. I also have a small son, and for that reason I haven't bothered implementing Time Machine- I can barely negotiate with him to keep my MacBook Pro plugged in at night as he thinks the mag-safe power cord is a fire hose...

Anyway, I'm psyched, and to me, the biggest innovation won't cost me a penny... I was hoping for my iPhone apps, but hey, I can wait.

Keynote Coming at Noon

Could be a big product announcement day...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sunday Run, Trail Run

I'm in that period of my training where the Sunday workout is a 90 minute run.

Well, I have to be honest, any Sunday I don't race is usually a 90 minute run (sometimes longer or shorter, but I haven't done 2 hours since late October or less than 75 minutes that I can remember). But this time of year that run is especially ingrained.

I usually run alone, although occasionally I'll get together with one of my Force 5 teammates to run. Today, one of the team, Jay, invited us over to run the trails in Guilford and with an offer to watch Ian from his wife, that gave Margit and I a rare chance to get our workouts in together, and actually run together as well.

We had a really heavy frost down by the shore last night, so once we got into the woods it was an interesting run, because there was standing water in some places, safe ice in others and a few places where it was slick. The sun was out and the sky was bright blue so it was a beautiful day to be in the woods.

I let Jay, as the host, pick the route and follow the trail and just kind of hung back a little and enjoyed the run. It's good to go out with a group sometimes and let the group sort of lead the way. Otherwise I end up out in front, not because I'm faster but because I have a tendency to want to lead the run. That's why it's also good to run with EH sometimes, where my goal is to survive.

It was a good time. We were able to talk as a group, caught some great views, bushwacked just a little and got in just enough technical trail running to make it a nice change of pace. Steve even helped me not spend an extra half hour tracking down my Oakleys.

If you always run alone, find a local group, and even if it's once or twice a month, get out with someone besides yourself, unplug the ipod and have a good time. Groups like Force 5 and Sound Runner here in Branford do several runs most weeks...

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Apple Store is Offline !

The charming back soon sign is up. Let's find out what's going to be on offer... should be new MacPros and Xserves.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Primaries- Like the Electoral College All Over Again ?

Well, it has always threatened to be a political blog, hasn't it ?

When I was a little kid, I actually thought the Electoral College was a good idea, and also oh so American. Yes, a little quirky. That's a good thing right ? Quirky. Unique. I actually thought it meant that any state could grow up to be important to the electoral process. Hawaii's 4 votes ? Could decide the election, right ? The swing state.

Of course, I was eight. I also, rather embarrassing using my Light Brite to spell out 'Yeah, Nixon' back in 1973.

By the time I'd hit high school I came to understand how the electoral college really worked. Little states with a few electoral votes ? Who needs you, Vermont ? I think that Dewey was the last president to make a campaign visit there which lasted more than about two hours, and that was because his train had broken down in Poultney during a blizzard. Of course, I lived in New York State at the time, which back then was the holder of 36 glorious electoral votes- 5 more than today- damn you, US Census ! so it wasn't such a big deal that we were 12 Vermonts.

It was also obvious by the time I'd hit my late teens that the only thing the electoral college was good for was sending a candidate who lost the popular vote to the White House. And wow, would that come back to affect the nation in spades.

I have to admit to feeling the same way about our crazy primary system, right up until the other day. Over the last year I've listened to a lot of complaining from states that felt disenfranchised by our primary system about how unfair it was and I'm really embarrassed to say that I had the same reaction to it I had as a young child to the electoral college. So what ? It's cute. Let Iowa and New Hampshire have their little moment in the sun.

The idea of dividing the nation into four geographic regions and letting each one take turns going first ? Sounds OK, but do we really need to change the primary system ? Can't anyone win by winning enough big states ?

Well, there's two problems with this thinking. One is that letting Iowa and New Hampshire go first allows two of the most non-representative states in the Union speak first and speak disproportionally loudly and second, because the press spends so much time talking about who can and can't win the election and so little time actually talking about the candidates that one single caucus (and let's not even talk about how skewed and unfair the entire caucus process in Iowa is) can dictate not what has happened, but who people should vote for. People want to vote for a winner after all, and if the press is going to paint one candidate or another as having unstoppable moment after winning one tiny non-representative caucus where the total number of votes are literally in the thousands...

Then again, the press will turn (a la Howard Dean), so maybe a few early wins can be the worst thing that happens to you. Either way, having early results in small states actually determine who stays and who leaves the process is just not the right way to get the best candidates. Listening to candidates contort their messages to win votes in Iowa ? Disturbing.

Who wins Iowa, or in fact who wins Iowa and New Hampshire, should mean about as much as two states' 11 electoral votes mean in the general election. Since the press isn't likely to stop the hyperbolic coverage of who can win long enough to really present the candidates in a thoughtful and informative way, it's time- long past time- to scrap the crazy primary system we have and go to a format which makes all the states equally important, that shortens the primary season so that donors are giving less to primary fights and more to the general election campaigns, and that quite frankly, reduces the cynicism the current system generates.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year

Funny how a year that was generally (and unfortunately) warm and dry was ushered out a new year ushered in under the sort of cold and wet conditions that made me glad that my workout was a 60-75 minute run and not the ride my coach was on. I'd been out on the mountain bike several times since Christmas, thanks to the first real pair of booties I've ever had (up until last week I was wearing nothing more than sneakers and heavy socks).

I'm looking forward to this year- I always wanted to do 2 IMs and do Lake Placid again with Margit and this year I'll doing both (I hope).

Here's wishing that everyone finds at least some of what they hope for in 2008 and whether I see you at the races or not, I hope you enjoy yourself, whatever you're doing.