What’s on your wifi?

Things typically running on our home wifi:

Amazon Fresh: Delivery #2 (and iFatigue)

We tried Amazon Fresh again today.  We’re throwing a fajita party this weekend, and I noticed that Amazon Fresh had really awesome prices on flank steak. 

I scheduled the order this time for Thursday night between 8:00 and 9:00pm, as opposed to the Saturday morning delivery we had last time.  Groceries looked great again. Produce in good shape: bell peppers (yellow, red, and green), onions, etc.

I will say this about the Amazon Fresh delivery folks: wow, they are the most punctual bunch I’ve ever run across.  Last time they rang the doorbell at 9:00am (literally, 9:00 — not 9:01, but 9:00) which was the first moment available in my delivery window.  Today, they rang my doorbell at 8:01pm.  They’re slacking by a minute. 🙂

Oh, and Diann mentioned last night that she’s got iFatigue from hearing all the buzz about the various Apple iPod and iPhone announcements. A quick bit of searching shows me that she didn’t originate this phrase, but I think it’s pretty brilliant.

EDIT: Oh, I’m deducing that the Amazon Fresh delivery drivers have some sort of wireless connectivity back to the mothership.  About 2 minutes before my groceries have been delivered, I’ve received an email saying my order is ready for pickup.

Apple: What are they thinking?

So, at this morning's Showtime Event Apple unveiled several things, most of which were expected. Notably absent: the rumored full screen video iPod.

At any rate, one of the things they announced that people did expect was the ability to download movies from iTunes. Good idea, poor execution.

You see, Apple set the price point for movies at $12.99 for pre-order and first-week sales, and $14.99 thereafter.

Visiting Amazon, it looks as though the average price of their top-sellers are around $17.50 now. Yeah, but you have to wait a few days for those, and maybe have to pay shipping. Visiting Best Buy, price points are all over the place, but I'd say it averages out to around $17 for normal DVDs.

So, for that extra $2-$2.50, you get the pretty DVD casing (meh), and the physical media. In addition, you probably get the extras that go on DVDs: deleted scenes, multiple languages, subtitles, outtakes, etc. Also, as part of your extra $2-$2.50, you get actual DVD quality (Steve Jobs said “near DVD quality 640×480″ for iTMS movies (and come on, 3:2 format?)). As a bonus for your hard-earned $2-$2.50, you also get real surround sound: Dolby Digital, DTS, THX. Steve Jobs says you get “Dolby Surround” – anyone that knows the difference between Pro Logic and Dolby Digital or DTS or THX knows that it makes a huge difference.

And seriously, I don't know when the last time I bought a DVD was. For $10/month, I get as many movies as the USPS can shuttle around with Netflix.

My point is: Apple had a huge opportunity to get a major win in this market, but they basically blew it.

(also of note: Steve Jobs didn't wear a black turtleneck!)

My other thoughts on the keynote:

  • gapless playback: about time.
  • games: not bad. Though the picture of Bejeweled saying “Just for iPod”? Funny, they must've missed Xbox Live Arcade's rendition of the same. Otherwise, the games hit list reads a lot like the Xbox Live Arcade line-up: Zuma, Hold-em, PacMan…
  • iTunes 7: woah, looks like the copy machines are going in Cupertino as well – a lot of these features are in the recently announced Windows Media Player 11.
  • NFL: Maybe interesting. At $1.99 per game, it's not badly priced. But, but there seems to be a catch: Steve Jobs says that “game highlights” are coming to iTMS — not the game, just a highlight reel.
  • iTV: Could be interesting and compelling. We'll see in Q1 2007. Potential to compete with what Windows Media Center and Xbox 360 already do, as well as what the Playstation 3 is supposed to do.

Problem with the RIAA and Recording Industry

So I've been following all the Engadget and Gizmodo posts about the rumored Argo and Zune. One of the things that jumped out at me was this Engadget article that talked about the possibility that Microsoft would be allowing people to download whatever music they've purchased in iTunes for free — but that “Microsoft will still have to pay the rights-holders for the songs”. (Note that this was later refuted here on Gizmodo)

Whether or not it's true, I do think this points out a serious flaw with having multiple formats of proprietary DRM: you've paid for the song in one, but you can't get it in the others — even though you paid for the license to the song! I guess what you're paying for when you pay $0.99 in iTMS or any of the other content providers is a license to that song, using that service. Makes the “buy this song” links seem kind of like false advertising.

I've said before I have no problem with the concept of DRM, so long as it's done right; the current ways, however, aren't. This is one aspect that I think a unified approach that would work on multiple platforms would be a boon to consumers. I'm having this problem currently with the music that I've bought from iTMS since I sold my iPod in favor of a Toshiba Gigabeat S60. So far, I'm leaning towards (and have been checking out) for two months MTV's URGE music store subscriptions – so I can just re-download what music I had previously encountered in iTMS.

TV Shows I’m Hooked On

So, in the same realm as the “what gadgets are in my bag” style of posts, another listing-style topic. Yeah, everyone reading this probably cares as much about what TV shows I watch as what gadgets I lug around with me, but, it's my blog. So there.

  • Sunday Night
    • The West Wing – Very disappointed that this show is getting cancelled after this season.
    • Desperate Housewives – This one may fall off the list; season two is much more blah than season one.
    • Grey's Anatomy – Excellent show. Probably the best on the list. Seattle-spotting is a fun hobby, but let me debunk a few myths from the show: no one in Seattle actually uses an umbrella, it never rains as hard as it does in the show, and it doesn't thunder/lightning here very often.
  • Monday Night
    • Las Vegas – Good show, but it, too, is on it's way downhill. It's just gotten very gimicky lately.
  • Tuesday Night
    • Dirty Jobs – Excellent stuff here; makes me glad I sit in an air-conditioned office all day long.
  • Wednesday Night
    • Lost – So, wow. Just started watching this; a co-worker let me borrow Season 1 DVDs, and we watched all of them in four nights. Rather than wait for Season 2 to come out on DVD, we bought them all on iTunes and watched them in three nights. Now we're caught up. This show is excellent.
    • Mythbusters – Who doesn't love the Mythbusters, seriously?
    • Good Eats – Good Eats is, well, Good Eats.

Luckily, TiVo manages all the conflicts for me and irons out making sure we never miss an episode. Good stuff.

Sharing iTunes Libaries with Multiple Users in Windows XP

Diann & I have both had our iPods for quite some time now, and I've always had it setup where the iTunes libary is stored within my home directory. Kind of irritating, especially when she needed to update her iPod, I'd have to log in as me.

I realized today that someone out there must have solved the problem, and some quick searching on the Internet led me to this site. I'm not a big fan of the font they used (yeah, it's a normal font, but with so much text I found it hard to read!), so I'll replicate/paraphrase what they've written up here (names changed to make it more akin to my situation, some file locations changed to more adequately reflect how my system is setup, if you want the original, well, the link is just above):

Which means now we have two users on a Windows XP computer, both of whom want to use the same music library and such. So for folks in a similar boat, here's how you do it.

Note that I'm assuming you have Administrator rights on the computer (so you can get into everyone else's My Documents folders) and you know how to work command prompts and stuff…

  1. Go to SysInternals and download a copy of junction if you don't already have it. Put it somewhere in your path; you're going to need to use it from the command prompt later.
  2. Your music library (the file iTunes 4 Music Library.itl) is stored in your My Music\iTunes folder. Your actual music might be too. Point is, if you look in the C:\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music folder, you'll see a folder iTunes that contains all of that stuff. We need to centralize that. Move that folder to the Shared Music folder: C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\My Music
  3. You now have all of your iTunes stuff in C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\My Music\iTunes right? Cool. Now you have to link to it.
  4. Open a command prompt in your My Music folder.
  5. At the prompt, execute: junction iTunes "C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\My Music\iTunes"
  6. You now have a hard link to the iTunes shared folder instead of a physical folder in your My Music folder. (Junction makes a sort of “shortcut” to other folders, but Windows thinks it's the real thing. That's how we're going to fool iTunes into allowing everyone to use the same iTunes library.) Repeat that command prompt “junction” action in all the other users' My Music folders who are going to share your iTunes library.
  7. Everyone who's sharing now has a junction to the shared iTunes folder, right? Now, have each user log in, one user at a time (not “switch users,” but actually have only one user logged in at a time) and open iTunes. They will all have to set up their own preferences (like their iTunes account, their shopping preferences, etc.) but they will all have access to the same music library and the same playlists.

That's it! You're done!

There are a couple of interesting caveats to note when working in this scenario. Some good, some not so good.

Since you're all sharing the same library and ratings are stored in the library, if one person changes ratings, they get changed for everyone. If you're anal like me, that means you'll tell everyone else not to rate anything. Hopefully Diann won't make all our U2 music 5 stars anytime soon.

This setup does allow all of you to automatically sync your iPods with individual settings. So I can sync my iPod with playlists X, Y, Z and Diann can sync hers automatically with playlists A, B, C. No problems there.

You can't have multiple users simultaneously logged in and using iTunes. That includes the “fast user switching” thing Windows XP provides. If one person is using iTunes, no one else can be using iTunes on that computer.

Important Note: These instructions are for Windows XP. If you're on a different OS/version, you're going to have to adapt paths accordingly. Also, I've only ever run any of this with an account that has Administrator privileges. If you're trying to get this working with limited accounts, you're on your own. All instructions here are provided for your unsupported use and at your own risk. Because, well… “it works for me.”

Regarding that last note, it seems to work as a standard user account as well. That's because the Shared Music folder has Everyone/Everything permissions by default. Ahh happiness, now I can just plug in an iPod and get it to sync without worrying about who is logged in!

UPDATE: Updated to reflect that you do have to put quotes in the junction command.

Griffin AirClick: How to improve performance?

So, a few weeks ago, I bought a Griffin AirClick for my iPod. Their FAQ indicates that its range is tested at up to 60 feet, but I'm calling shenanigans on that. Mine doesn't work for more than 15 feet at the most, and that's not even going through walls – that's just open space.

Anyone have a homebrew hack to improve the performance and range of this thing? I opened it up today, and just by taking the back plastic cover off, range went up dramatically. Before I resort to that and just run electrical tape over it, I was wondering if anyone had tweaked the antenna on the PCB to make things work better. It looks like a simple half-wave etched right on the board.

iPod Click Wheel Stops Working

My iPod photo’s click wheel stopped working this afternoon, and I was getting ready to make an appointment at the so-called "Genius Bar" at the local Apple store.

A quick search online found the answer to the problem, though, and I figured I’d document it here so more people can find it later:

iPod calibrates its touch-sensitive surfaces when you turn off the Hold switch. Touching the buttons or the touch wheel on a sleeping iPod at the same time that you turn off the Hold switch causes iPod to calibrate to the capacitance of your finger instead of the air. This can cause iPod to turn on but appear unresponsive when waking from sleep.

So the solution might be to just switch HOLD ON and then OFF again, without touching the wheel in the process

In my case, this solved the problem. Beauty!

Momentous Occasion: Podcasting

Well, a momentous occasion for me, at least. Listening, for the first time, to a podcast. And you thought I was gonna podcast my blog. Heck no. With the new release of iTunes 4.9 yesterday, pulling podcast subscriptions is simple and handy. My first podcast? Democracy Now! Pretty cool stuff, if you ask me. Especially handy since KUOW doesn't carry Democracy Now, and I haven't heard it since the KEOS days back in College Station, around a year ago.

Can't wait for Prairie Home Companion to come out with a podcast.

iPod Photo Bug?

I think I've stumbled across a bug in the iPod Photo v1.1 (it may have been in v1.0, but I just found it so I can't confirm).

If you're playing a song with associated album artwork, and hit the selector button to view the artwork, and then hit the previous or forward button to move songs to a song that does not have album artwork, you get stuck. Previous/Forward doesn't work, you have to hit select (which doesn't actually change the display) as if you went back to the normal view, then previous/forward work.