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.

iPods and Zunes in School: Banned

There’s been a lot of internal talk at work about the fact that some school districts are taking note and [banning iPods and Zunes](http://www.cnn.com/2007/EDUCATION/04/27/ipod.cheating.ap/index.html?eref=rss_tech) due to concerns about cheating. A co-worker of mine responded to the discussions about this with a brilliant comment:

> Funny, I remember in HS when taking tests class the teachers actually watched us taking tests. Cheating using a device (let alone plain cheating) was pretty much impossible. Not sure why this isn’t the case now.

So true. I love how policy becomes a surrogate for actual attention. (Thanks for letting me quote you, [Mike](http://meddle.spaces.live.com/)).

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.

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.

Wishful Thinking: TODO List Entry for Steve Jobs

Enough said. Now with my laptop, I've got USB to hookup the iPod, USB mouse, USB to sync my calendar/contacts into my cell phone.. The phone does Bluetooth, a bluetooth mouse would be a cheap addition. If I could just get bluetooth for the iPod, I'd be set. Oh, and for my thumb drive. 😉

I bought an iPod photo this weekend. The thing rocks. Only have ~13GB of music on it currently out of the possible 40GB. 13GB would get me through 7.5 days of non-stop music without a repeat, so I think I'm set for the moment. Been pretty impressed with iTunes as well, especially the store.