Random Thoughts

Tech, words and musings from an Englishman in Seattle

iPod Photo

So I upgraded. It was a no-brainer really once I went to the Apple store and got my hands on one.

The display is just wonderful, and that was the killer feature for me. It's not just the photo stuff (which is cool and just works), but the display, anti-aliased text and use of colour is beautiful. It's very sharp and vibrant.

iTunes got a minor upgrade to support the photo resizing and upload, but is obviously v1.0. It also uploads album art which is viewable in the 'now playing' section on the iPod. I'd still much rather use Windows Media Player. Speaking of which, why can't Apple just support WMA on the iPod. They support it (for import) in iTunes.

Lenn Pryor (of Microsoft) obviously likes it and he talks about it in the latest Engadget podcast. There are a bunch of photos up on iPodLounge (note, their server is slow - it's getting hammered).

A lot of people are saying "Why bother? Colour and photos isn't worth it." Just go play with it.

Nice device. Steep price.

I Hate It When That Happens

Yesterday I buy an iPod, today Apple rolls out iPodPhoto.

Rationalize, rationalize - I don't need to spend an additional $100 for a colour display. Or do I?


John Peel, one of the most influencial men in music has passed away. He introduced me and millions to such wonderful music.

BBC News

'nuff said.

Obviously Flying Isn't That Hard

Too wierd... Over in Florida, they're doing some cool research...

A University of Florida scientist has grown a living 'brain' that can fly a simulated plane, giving scientists a novel way to observe how brain cells function as a network.


DeMarse experimental "brain" interacts with an F-22 fighter jet flight simulator through a specially designed plate called a multi-electrode array and a common desktop computer.

Perhaps we need to support that "interface"...

A Gig To Remember

I just got back from the Van Halen concert at Key Arena in Seattle.

Wow. Just wow.

Dawn scored us (CJ, Darwin, Tim, Andy and I) suite tickets - the suite was directly opposite the stage and had a great view. I'd never seen Van Halen before, but have been a huge fan since my late teens. I've seen DLR a couple of times, but boy am I glad I got to see them with Sammy Hagar. The Red Rocker just, well, rocks!

The entire show was very impressive - the multimedia screen above the stage was put to great use - whoever was directing did a great job - the screen looked like a live MTV (circa late '80s) video.

There are few sights that will stick in my mind forever - watching my beautiful wife walk down the aisle, seeing my son for the first time and watching his first steps. And seeing Eddie Van Halen completely rock out...

My ears are ringing...

In Other News

Coming to you live from the Triple J Cafe in Kirkland. Man, are there a lot of live wireless networks around here...

I picked up a HD Tivo at the weekend. I've been wanting to get one for ages and finally got around to it. Setup was a breeze. For a detailed review, check out Andy Pennell's website.

I stopped watching HD about six months ago, as switching backwards and forwards between my DirecTivo and the HD box was just too annoying. Plus the HD box wasn't a Tivo-type unit, so I couldn't record anything - and I basically don't watch anything live anymore.

The content available now is just great - yesterday I watched the baseball in HD on Fox, then American Chopper on Discovery HD Theater. Almost everything worth watching on the major networks is now in HD, plus with Bravo, HBO, Showtime, Discovery, ESPN, etc... now in HD on DirecTV, TV life is great.

And it's recordable too.

Taking The Week Off

I decided to take this week off from work. Everything is in hand there and I have a bunch of vacation stacked up. Anyhow, I needed a little downtime, and some time to do a little recreational coding. For the past few months I've been building up a list of ideas I'd like to try out given some time.

Looks like this week is that time...

Turns Out…

She doesn't have insurance. The police just called to tell me, and they're writing her a ticket now. I can't believe that she could just outright lie to the police and me like that.

Anyhow, over to SafeCo...

Accidents Will Happen

It's around 9am this morning and I'm driving Julian to daycare when I reach the four-way stop at 6th Street and Kirkland Way. There are three cars queued to the right of me, so I let the first one go. My turn and off I go when the second car takes off. I slam on the breaks, but to no avail as she hits me, taking off the front of my car...

The engine is still running so I pull forward and park, the lady driving the other car also parks. Behind her was a very nice lady (who happens to work for the city). She pulled in behind me, called the police and checked on Julian and I. I was basically in shock, just holding Julian.

She hung around for a while, whilst the woman that hit me didn't seem to care less. Shortly the police arrived. The first policeman took all the details. He was cool - he'd just got back from a trip to the UK where he stayed in Brighton! Then a policewoman arrived and took over.

I called BMW assist and they arranged a tow truck to take me to R&R Automotive in Bellevue. The policewoman was cool - checked all the details, filled out the report, etc... She checked Julian's car seat and took his details. She also says the woman that hit me basically admitted it - but it's likely she hasn't got insurance.

I then called my insurance agent, MacDonald Insurance in Kirkland. They were just incredible and walked me through everything (having never been involved in an accident in the States, this was very reassuring). She also ran me through what happens with the uninsured driver scenario. We'll see how that goes. You should have seen her face when I explained just what sort of car a BMW M3 is. Her face just dropped and she asked me if it had to go to BMW for repair. Hell Yes.

Nabila arrived pretty quickly while I sorted out everything else. She arranged for a trip to the doctors to get Julian checked out. The accident itself felt pretty gentle - as one of my coworkers said "you pay a good deal of money for a very safe car".

In pretty short order the tow truck arrived and we toodle off to R&R who in turn were great - explaining everything and arranging for a rental (a Volvo S60) from Enterprise. They also eased my mind about their knowledge about the M3.

It was pretty much all sorted by 11.30am - handily as the doctors appointment was for 11.40am, so I met Julian and Nabila there. Julian is fine. As the doctor said: "First rule of pediatrics - if it takes three of us the hold him for an exam and he's screaming - he's OK."

Next step. We'll see if her insurance calls me tomorrow. If not, then I call MacDonalds Insurance and they get the ball rolling with SafeCo under my uninsured drivers policy.

This just keeps reinforcing the fact that you can't pay enough for safety and why I continue to buy BMW (the M3 is my third). The M3 may be a fine looking sports car - but it's damn safe too. It just shrugged off the strike.

I can't wait to get her back on the road, poor thing.

Podcasting Name Change Idea Hits Podcasts

So today Chris Pirillo and Adam Curry discuss the issue in their podcasts. Chris is vehemently for a name change, and Adam is "whatever dude" ;-)

Neither comes up with an idea for a name - I still think mobcasting is a great name (found at Russell Beattie's site - note to Russell, give up on the "Oh we thought of this N years ago"). It evokes the idea of a "mob" broadcasting (i.e. the people) and encompases the mobile idea in the same way (albeit in a platform agnostic way) as podcasting.

Although I still have the nagging thought that it isn't just mobile. I've been listening to podcasts via my Audiotron in the living room...

Podcasting - Mobcasting?

The name "Podcasting" has always sounded a little trite to me. It gets it's root obviously from the iPod, but why imply a limit to a particular platform? There is obviously a bunch of confusion out there right now as many people have been posting "but it's not just for the iPod, it'll work with other players too". So why name the "idea" podcasting, and the apps "iPodder" or the directory "iPodder.org"? It just confuses the issue.

I like the meme that's floating around the 'sphere right now of renaming as Mobcasting. As in mobile. All digital audio players can take play the podcasting content - don't artificially limit the promise of an idea with a bad name.

Anyhow, those ubiquitous cell phones are gonna be the platform this tech needs to hit.

PodCasting Part Deux

PodCasts are generally quite long - longer than your average musical track and definitely longer than my usual drive.

Yesterday I started listening to Adam Curry's latest missive and about 20 minutes into it I arrived home, so I switched off the PocketPC. Upon resuming it though, Media Player had reset and was showing the first track in the track list. Damn. Fast forward through to where I thought I left off; listen whilst driving to Costco; buy stuff; do the fast forward dance again. Damn.

Time to dig out the Windows Mobile SDK. Handily, it should be fairly easy to host WMP in a .Net app and have it do exactly what I want.

Update 10/11/04: After updating the firmware on my PocketPC, the pause issue has disappeared, and I can resuming playing from where I left off. It would be nice though, if WMP remembered where I last stopped listening on a per track basis, so I could skip around.


So is it PodCasting or Podcasting? The world needs to know...

Anyhow, I digress. So yesterday I did pick up the Monster Cable FM transmitter cable so I can listen to podcasts in my car from my PocketPC. I like this product as the black and silver styling match my car's interior styling exactly ;-)

Seeing as I was listening to podcasts I thought I'd try this skin for Media Player too...

After reading the article Robert Scoble linked to yesterday about getting Media Player to auto-sync to media devices, I thought I'd try it out. It all works except that I can't get it to automatically do the sync, or delete stuff from the folder I point it at on the PocketPC when it's no longer in the auto-playlist. Am I missing something? Or maybe I need to write some code ;-)

Channel 9 Visits The Flight Simulator Team

Yesterday, Robert Scoble from the Channel 9 team came to visit the team - Robert and I walked around the halls, chatting whilst the video camera was running and talked with various developers in their offices (Victor, Gene and Adam), testers (Brent and Hal) and PM (Mike). It was a blast!

I think we got some really good video which I hope the developers out there (as well as the Flight Simulator community) will enjoy.

Robert talks about his visit over here.

It was a fun way to do a video - totally unscripted. Robert seemed to be enjoying himself and I know we on the team did.

The video itself should be appearing on the Channel 9 site very soon.


So Robert commented on a blog entry of mine, which I wrote in response to an blog entry of his, and suddenly the hit count for my humble blog goes through the roof! Cool!

I also checked out iPodder for the first time after reading Robert's entry about it. Very cool - the play list integration with Window's Media Player just worked and then so did syncing those 'casts to my PocketPC. Of course now I need to get one of those FM transmitter thingies so I can listen to the 'casts in my car...

Any recommendations? The Monster Cable one looks pretty nifty.

The Tao Of Flight Simulator

Robert Scoble asks:

What's your product's philosophy?


What's MSN's philosophy? What's Longhorn's philosophy? What's the Tablet PC's philosophy? What is Visual Studio's philosophy? What's Internet Explorer's? Xbox's? Sharepoint's? Exchange's? Office's? Media Center's? SmartPhone's? CRM's? MapPoint's? Flight Simulator's? SQL Server's? Windows?

That's what I'm wondering. How about you?

So what about Flight Simulator? Well, I guess our tagline sums it up quite nicely: "As Real As It Gets" - with all the breadth and depth that the tagline implies.

Of course we have a mission statement, but that probably doesn't get to the point as much as the tagline.


Since no one else seems to have mentioned this, Jim Borgmans's blogger cartoon appeared in the Seattle PI today.


The Weekend In Review

A nice and quiet weekend. What more could you ask for... On Saturday, we went to the Cougar Mountain Zoo, where their mission is the protection of endangered species. A very nice zoo. Not much else really.

Another cool thing is the Food Network is doing a week long "Cook With Your Kids" special. I particularly enjoyed Alton Brown's "Good Eats" specials. Alton is a cooking god, everyone should check his show out - I love the way he approaches cooking from a "why" perspective, rather than just laying out recipies. It's like a science show...

I can't wait to start teaching Julian to cook.

Update 11/1/04: Added photos from the trip to Cougar Mountain Zoo.

DJ's Swap Decks For Guitars

Fatboy Slim, UK DJ extrordinaire has recently been dumping the decks and samplers in favour of his Rock'n'Roll roots. Apparently 'electronica' is waning...

From this month's Wired Magazine:

"Four years ago, every kid wanted a pair of Technics turntables for Christmas," says Cook. "Now they want an electric guitar."

For his new album, Palookaville, the 41-year-old producer ignored the high-end recording gear in his studio and cut back on the samples. He dusted off his ax and recruited friends like funk legend Bootsy Collins and Blur's Damon Albarn to flesh out a big beat sound.

Cook, whose rock-and-roll cred stretches back to the '80s, when he played bass for the lilting pop band the Housemartins, isn't abandoning technology altogether. After all, this guy built his career on synths and drum machines. But Cook thinks live musicians add nuance and spontaneity that he could never capture with the perfect repetition of digital playback.

"It's looser live because you don't play samples and retrigger the same thing every time," he says. "It's easier to get a groove."

© 2001 to present, Steve Lacey.