iPhone hack: reading strap

I use my iPhone quite heavily as an ebook reader. I read in various situations, but one of the most frequent is when I’m in bed. When you’re lying down, either on your back or on your side, it can be quite a strain on your hand muscles to grip the phone and also use your thumb to scroll the pages. So a while back, I came up with a super-cheap way to improve the situation by adding a strap that holds the phone to your hand (actually, it holds it to just your index finger).

Infocom games, using your voice

I have a long history with Infocom games (“text adventures” was what I called them as a kid, and “interactive fiction” is the new name). People still write these games, did you know that? There’s a big archive and an annual competition. I haven’t played any of the non-Infocom variety, though I think I ought to try one. I have copies of all the data files for all the original Infocom games from the 80s, and for years there has been an open-source program to load these files and let you play the games.

Microsoft engineers couldn't care less

Microsoft Excel was released in 1985 for the Mac and in 1987 for Windows. Today I was using the 2007 version. After 20 years of work by countless engineers, it cannot open two files with the same name, and the dialog is quite shameless about it. That’s a good word: “shameless.” Details are everything. Click to see the full size.

I won my fight with Windows Media Player

As you know, I want to stream movies and music from my PC to my TV. I have an all-star lineup of tools: * PC running Vista with Windows Media Player 11 (WMP11), iTunes, and Zune software * Xbox 360 * PlayStation 3 * TiVo * Airport Express And a selection of Xvid, Divx, MPEG 4, MP3, and AAC files to stream. These are all extremely widely used formats, the most popular in their categories (the first three are video, the last two are audio).

How old is the term 'bug'?

Robert X. Cringely, my favorite tech pundit, had an interesting aside in this week’s column (which is otherwise about Apple and Blu-Ray). He ran across a use of the term ‘bug’ to mean a glitch in a technical system in a magazine article from the 1930s. I found this fascinating, since we always assume “we” invented the term when computers came along. He closes with this: Read the full article.

More on Zune (Moron Zune?)

The Zune software turned out not to be so great at working with iTunes playlists. It’s not a dynamic synchronization, just a one-time thing. So after asking the Zune to read my iTunes playlists, it did so, but after I changed my playlists in iTunes, the Zune did not see the change. Also, the Zune does not attempt to pull in the smart playlists, just the static ones. Even just treating the smart playlists as regular ones and pulling in their current contents would have been great, but no.

Two reasons to download Microsoft's Zune software

Microsoft includes a Windows-based desktop media player with their Zune portable media players, to manage your music and sync it with the Zune. It’s a lot like Windows Media Player, which I despise, but actually if you own an Xbox 360 there are two reasons to install the Zune software even if you don’t own a Zune: It can serve MPEG4 and H.264 movies to the Xbox. It can synchronize its music library and playlists with iTunes automatically, and serve those to the Xbox as well.

Struggles with new computer

Recently I bought all the bits and pieces to build a new PC for home. My old one is a few years old now, and isn’t up for all the video transcoding I throw at it these days (mainly converting Xvid and Divx TV shows into MP4 for use on Xbox). I’m not a real hardware guru, but every few years I read enough to know what the state of the art is and roll up my sleeves for a few weeks.

Amazon music downloads

Ars Technica is a wonderful tech news site that’s fast becoming more and more like a real news source, with journalists and investigation and everything! Anyway, recently they reviewed Amazon’s new MP3 store. It sounded very positive because they sell straight MP3 files with no rights management, and so the files will play on my iPod. So yesterday I went to the store and browsed. The top 100 albums are all on sale for $8.

One view on the state of media-in-the-home

Within the last year, I’ve purchased both an Xbox 360 and an HDTV (a 37” Sharp Aquos LCD). I have a TiVo, a home network, a Powerbook, and a fast PC with lots of storage. Surely somewhere in all of that is a viable, clean, easy to use method of expanding what I can enjoy on my home entertainment center to include my iTunes music, any downloaded video files, saved TiVo videos, and personal photos.