The App Store as a metric for success.

John Gruber has a great post up on Daring Fireball that really addresses the misconception of “more apps = better”. It’s something I’ve been thinking about too, and talking about with others, as discovery becomes more of a problem with the voluminous amount of software within the store. Until search improves, and the browsing method changes, bragging about having multiple thousands of applications really only helps people who don’t already have iPhones make the decision to buy them. Once you’ve got one, the challenge becomes separating the wheat from the chaff.

Gruber’s thoughts on the App Store

Your brain as mass storage.

So if we only use, what – 10% of our actual brain for living, what else is it for? I like to think that it’s like a big, mushy hard drive, and that all the myriad moments of my life are etched in there, somewhere. Then I like to think that at some point in the future, brain-computer-interface advancements will reach a point where we can actively tap into those furthest reaches of our conscious and sub-conscious mind, to see all those moments again.

I know this is kind of a “pandora’s box” desire, but I’m willing to suffer it. After all, I lived through the stuff once, I can stomach it a second time, right? Perhaps with the distance life’s afforded me from those moments, I can gain a new perspective on them. And just think how awesome it would be to re-live – or even just re-watch – some of the greatest things your life has shown you.

I swear to God, if this happens, I’m going to be ecstatic. Please, PLEASE, science. Make it so.

Oh, and if anyone is going to leave a comment dashing my hopes, be gentle.

Pure online photo ecstasy.

I am a Mac user, and I rely on iPhoto heavily on my systems to keep all my photos in order. However, I also have a sizable Flickr account with a bunch of photosets, some of which duplicate things stored locally, and some which don’t. But what I didn’t have was a good way to interact with Flickr on my laptop. Until today.

Enter flickery, an application by Eternal Storms software, makers of the excellent GimmeSomeTune, for use with iTunes. Flickery is a native Mac app for wrangling the hell out of the content you store on Flickr, and I am absolutely floored by it. I will be spending so much more time using the site now, simply because the interface it provides is far and away an improvement to the web interface. Which is not to say Flickr’s site isn’t useful, because it’s come a long way over the years. But for all that can be done within the confines of http://, it doesn’t even come close to the experience you get with flickery.

What makes it so great is that it looks a lot like iPhoto, but with its hooks straight into your online account, you get to see both your local content and online content in similar fashions, which is fantastic for mentally arranging your photos how you like them. Clean, easy to understand, and powerful – everything a great app should be. God, I love good software. I could go on and on about it, but I really want to play with it more. If you’re a Mac-head and have a Flickr account, you’ve got a 15-day free trial to see if you like it. I’ll definitely be plunking down a few bucks for it. It’s essential as far as I’m concerned.

flickery

Movie nerd boner.

While listening to the always geeky, always hilarious Geek Show Podcast this afternoon, in the episode titled “Brokeback Podcast”, there was a discussion about connections between a lot of Tarantino’s characters in his films. I knew of this phenomenon, but what I didn’t know was that Sgt. Donny Donowitz (played by Eli Roth) from Inglorious Basterds was supposed to be the father of film producer Lee Donowitz (played by Saul Rubinek) in True Romance, which was penned by Tarantino, and also happens to be one of my favorite movies. That little nugget blew my mind clear out of my skull. I love stuff like that, when characters sort of cross over between stories. Awesome.

Epiphanies.

After a delicious Korean dinner with my sister and brother-in-law tonight, I had two thoughts occur to me on the way home, courtesy of my ~18-mo nephew playing with the iPod in the car.

  1. Listening to Kelly Clarkson’s music, and most pop songs in the same vein, is roughly equivalent to the act of an adult eating Pixy Stix. You know it’s a terrible idea, but something is compelling you to do it anyway. Upon starting to eat the overly-sugary treat, you start regetting the decision, and ultimately end up killing the idea 2/3 of the way through, having become comepletely disgusted with yourself. Later, you become angry with yourself for even considering it and do something diametrically opposed to the earlier mistake (either eating healthy food or listening to Nine Inch Nails).

  2. The music of Jason Mraz is the result of the unholy union of Steely Dan and Jamiroquai having sex in the backseat of a Chevy Nova. Mraz has some chops, and some similar studio tricks to Steely Dan, such as the liberal use of overdubs on his vocal tracks, but a peppiness and slightly annoying tinge, as Jamiroquai is pretty ok, but can also get on your nerves after a while. The Chevy Nova comes into play because I feel like it’s the kind of car in which those two entities might fornicate. Also, it seemed funny at the time.

Happy birthday, Dreamcast.

Ten years ago this week (9.9.99), the arrival of the Sega Dreamcast in the US marked the last attempt Sega was to make at owning the home console market. While it had its day in the sun, it was ultimately destroyed by the juggernaut that was the PS2, and its massive install base. Aside from the NES, which has extreme sentimental value to most people in my immediate age group, the Dreamcast was my favorite system of all time.

It came out at a great time in my life, when I was a year out of college, still young enough to make excuses for myself, but not too old to realize that this practice wasn’t a good idea. I hadn’t yet found my path in life, so I had a lot of free time to spend playing video games, and my God, what games these were. Graphics that would make your eyes melt right out of your skull, but so beautiful that as it was happening, you didn’t even care and were prepared to spend the rest of your life as a blind fool. Some really incredible gameplay innovations were made during this time, too, with Soul Calibur dominating (at least in some people’s minds) the fighting space, and games like Jet Grind Radio (Jet Set, if you were outside the US) changing both aesthetic expectations and introducing new gameplay coupled with fantastic music.

Sure, there were stinkers, and a lot of them, but the smart kids figured out how to either mod their systems or use boot discs to play other games. I started buying all kinds of games and related DC paraphernalia from around the world. Mostly from Japanese eBay sellers, these items became so exciting to find and bid on, I spent almost as much time online looking for them as I did using them when they finally arrived. I think I actually have more import titles than domestic ones at this point.

I could go on for days, but I won’t bore the non-gamers out there with more nostalgic nerdery. This year, 9.9.09 is already marked for an annual Apple iPod event, and people are expecting a lot of things to happen there. But I’ll be thinking of another special day, one when the gaming landscape really did shift to the next level. Dreamcast, I love you.

You can purchase Dreamcasts, new in box, as well as other Dreamcast-related accessories at ThinkGeek. And to hear from the man himself, follow @segadreamcast on Twitter. He’s started a campaign called #therealsept9, to remind people that he was the “OG” of 9.9, back in the day.

A belated thank you to ThinkGeek.

In stumbling across my action shot that I sent in to ThinkGeek after getting my new-in-box Dreamcast (my third system, it was my favorite console of that generation), I remembered that I was going to post a public thank you to their impeccable customer service division, and never got around to it. So I’m doing it now.

The reason I had to deal with CS at all is because some of the Dreamcasts had that not-so-fresh feeling, you know? And instead of being douches (wordplay!) about it, they were exemplary in how they handled everything. After a bit of an outcry on the Internets, they offered to replace them, no questions asked, and I was among the few who needed new systems sent out. It came before I even had a chance to put my laptop on standby, and they were awesome throughout the experience, in constant communication through Twitter DMs and emails, and even offered me a gift certificate to the site.

So in a nutshell, ThinkGeek deserves crazy respect, in this day and age of absolute garbage CS, with people rushing to get rid of you so they can post their numbers. Thanks, ThinkGeek. You rock.

And here’s the awesome shot of me with Declan, enjoying the sheer glory of the most underrated home console ever.

 

The great iPhone turn-by-turn nav app showdown has ended.

After deliberating over which turn-by-turn app to get for the iPhone, and hearing from a lot of people that a dedicated nav unit was a better way to spend the money, I decided to get Navigon Mobile Navigator North America, which is currently $69.99 until August 31 (iTunes link). I spent way longer than I probably should have investigating the options, and decided based on a lot of reviews and opinions gathered from people. It’s a solid app, if in need of a few updates. I won’t go into exhaustive detail, since it’s already been covered by many blogs, with a great review up on The iPhone Blog.

I used it all weekend and I like it. It worked pretty well for me: re-routing occurred easily, voice prompts were very clear, and the lane assist function is nice, since it helps you when you need to be on one side of the road or another before making a turn or getting off/on a highway. Handling calls is a little weird, as you leave the app completely, and understandably a limit of the iPhone running background processes, but what I can’t understand is this: if the iPhone doesn’t allow 3rd party processes to run in the background, but will allow things like the iPod to play in other apps, why can’t I get a nav app that takes calls within the app and has basic call controls (as with the iPod pop-up window)? It should be supported, since Apple has no issues with their own apps running in the background, and would make the experience even more seamless. I’m holding out for an update with something like this, but I’m also not holding my breath.

Overall, not the cheapest app, nor the most expensive (for now), but very solid. If you want it, get it before the price goes up.

Hulu needs to get it together.

They were a fledgling challenger to the throne of online video, in a time when YouTube was all anyone knew. Well, not really, but you know. And in those halcyon days of yesteryear (early 2008), life was bliss. You could watch hundreds of hours of TV from years past. I recall watching the entire run of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia based purely on the raucous laughter of my friend Dave when he told me about it. I caught up on an entire run of a show over the course of a couple of years in a few days over the summer. Brilliant! It’s all I ever wanted from TV: be there, when I want to watch you, and I will. Hell, I’ll even sit through ads. I didn’t care! It was the greatest thing to happen to TV since the remote control, as far as I was concerned. I was in on the early beta, and it just got better and better as the weeks went on.

But then something happened. Videos started mysteriously disappearing, replaced with cryptic blog posts and half-hearted apologies. Software that was poised to thrust Hulu into the spotlight even more, like Boxee, was quietly (at least in the beginning) crippled from showing Hulu content over and over. We all speculated why, since the commercials weren’t stripped out, so the idea that the big, archaic content provider logic was decreeing it such wasn’t holding up to scrutiny. Even though it’s often to blame for the asinine decision to only show the last few episodes of a series, as though this would prevent the cannibalization of DVD sales. (PS: I wasn’t buying the DVD anyway, and still won’t, guys, so that incisive, Custer-esque strategy kind of failed. Physical media is dead to me.)

Then the big announcement. Hulu desktop. We got all flustered and downloaded it, and you know what? It’s not that great. Every machine I run it on, Mac OS or Windows, has some issues. Sure, it gets revved up after a while and seems ok, but the experience is just not as smooth as it needs to be. But it suddenly made sense why they would want to kill the Boxee connection. They had their own ball, and Boxee wasn’t allowed to play with it anymore.

So it begs the question: with Hulu limiting/removing available content at any given time based on an ever-changing labyrinth of copyright agreement, and their desktop client not really outpacing the competition in terms of usability, and people clamoring for more, more, more – even to the point of loudly announcing that they would pay a monthly fee to get a better Hulu (myself included) – what exactly is the plan here?

Hulu, seriously. Pull it together. I want to sing your praises from the rooftops again. Please, for the love of all that’s holy in the nerd-tech-TV world, be a force for change and make things work better for all of us. Don’t squander that early lead.

I miss my life.

The one I used to have when I was an idiot kid, and my only concerns were driving my crappy car, listening to music, and girls. I miss the mystery of what hot summer nights could bring. I miss the novelty of having an impromptu party happen around you as people show up to wherever you are. I miss the challenge of figuring out ways to get drunk, and the unbridled excitement and potential that an eagerly awaited liquor delivery from an older brother or friend used to bring. I miss having adventures that involved nothing more than driving around a town that wasn’t mine, and finding fun and trouble. I miss meeting a cute girl and having that moment of unsteady realization that she might like me. I miss sleeping late and being a bum, and having a job that served only to pass the time, until I could hang out with my friends again. I miss reading incendiary books and feeling cool for doing so. I miss defining my existence by the concerts I chose to see, the movies I chose to watch (whose posters undoubtedly adorned my bedroom walls) and the band t-shirts that spoke volumes about me, or so I believed…

Most of all, I think I miss the person I used to be. Not that I’m not happy now, and not that I would give up any of what I’ve worked for, but the world changes you. And those people who prance around like Peter Pan telling you “it doesn’t have to, unless you let it” are retards. It does.

I miss the blind acceptance that cool things will happen because I’m young, and the world is rife with possibilities.

So much time passes so quickly, and none of what I’ve said is new or original, but it’s no less true. Our lives continue to accelerate around us, and we all move at a quicker pace, to what end?

Just got to thinking about some summers past tonight, and the people that filled them, and how young I was as life happened around me, and how I didn’t try to orchestrate. I just let it go. Existential, beat life. Just go.

Truly, I love my life. But I miss that person, too.

Sorry about that overly personal nonsense, but I let my mind wander. It happens sometimes.