Archive for the Tech category


So many buttons! Which to choose?

Tech No Comment

Now that Google’s +1 button is available I’ve got 4 buttons at the bottom of every post: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google. Why? I see the potential of each, I just don’t see any of my friends using them. I’m not just looking at my site here for that proof. I rarely see a friend liking anything on Facebook. I have very few friends even on Twitter, but they at least share links. Tumblr? Maybe I’m hopeful. It’s so easy to use, I think everyone should have one. It allows for the bit of creativity that Facebook lacks.

Now there is +1. Again, I see potential. However, it all lies in how Google ties it in to everything else. Will there be a stream with the +1’s of everyone that I follow? Will it be in my Buzz feed? Maybe the answer is already there, I just haven’t seen it yet.

The most linked that I get shared are via Google Reader. A total of 3 people share things that I get to see. It was my favorite way to share things. It’s quick. It gives you the option to comment. It just pops up in my Google Reader and I have the option to check it out at my leisure. Most of it is Facebook-like. The key differences: anyone can follow and, like I said, it says unread, it doesn’t vanish into the endless FB stream.


Hulu Desktop

Mike, Tech No Comment

I’ve had Hulu Desktop on my machine probably since it came out a while back but never really used it. They haven’t really figured out a good way to navigate around all the content they have. It is designed to be able to be used with just a remote, but you quickly get lost in layer and layer of menus.

So why did I try it out tonight?

I have my MacBook hooked up to a 20″ LCD. It sits on my desk, closed unless I take it for a trip. I decided tonight that I wanted to watch Hulu on the MacBook screen while I do stuff on the LCD. It kind of works but the Hulu video is always so small. I attempted to put it in full screen on the MacBook. It works if you have no desire to do anything else with the computer. As soon as I click anything on the monitor it jumps out of full screen mode. With dual monitor setups becoming more and more common I can’t believe this simple feature hasn’t been figured out.

I remembered having Hulu Desktop around and figured I’d give it a shot. It doesn’t solve the full screen issue but comes pretty close. The video fits to the window and you can resize the window. So I have the window maximized, which is 95% as good as full screen. It also solves some of my other issues with Hulu, such as always having to select 480p and it shows the buffer without having to pause.

Now that I’m aware of this I think Hulu Desktop will be how I Hulu. I just haven’t found how to get embed code from inside the application. After using it, hopefully I’ll get used to the interface and see what the designers were going for.

Update: Actually fullscreen does work for Hulu Desktop. I just had to find it.


ABCs of Firefox

Mike, Tech No Comment

My favorite feature of Firefox 3 (I think that’s when it was added) is the Awesome Bar. It searches your history based on what you type in, instead of just matching the beginning of previous URLs. I was curious what the Awesome Bar would point me to for each letter. Here’s the list:

A – Amazon
B – Borderline Fantastic
C – Crutchfield
D – Google Docs
F – Facebook
G – Penn State Sports
H – Hulu
I – Ice Cream Helmet
J – Joystiq
K – Kentucky Derby
L –
M –
N –
O – Orbitcast
P – Phillies
Q – Game FAQs
R – Rotten Tomatoes
S – Star Tribune
T – Twitter
U – Uni Watch
V – Verizon Fios
W – Wikipedia
X – Random things like Amazon items with x in the URL
Y – YouTube
Z – Zillow

Not too many surprises. I was shocked by S. You’d think there would be a ton of S-sites. I wouldn’t ever pick the Star Tribune. It’s likely on there because I went there a lot for news on the Senate election.


XBox 360 and Connect360

Mike, Tech, Video Games No Comment

I’ve had the XBox 360 for a while. In fact, I’ve got all 3 systems now. Although I don’t own any games for the PS3, just played a few demos. The PS3 is just for my Blu-Ray needs.

The XBox 360 was an impulse buy after I saw it at someone’s house and Madden just looked spectacular in HD. That, along with the network connectivity has made it my favorite out of the bunch. The Wii is more fun with a crowd, but the XBox wins when I just want to blow stuff up.

I tried hooking the XBox up to the network to watch videos from my computer a few times since I’ve had it. Never with much success. The photo and music streaming worked just fine, but that doesn’t really interest me.

This past week I had a lot of videos that I wanted to try and stream so I could watch them on TV. I had my fingers crossed that the NXE update might have worked out some of the issues that held me back previously. I’m not sure if it’s the videos I have are just better suited or if the update really did fix things. The videos look great and fill the widescreen nicely. It also has had no issues resuming from the spot I was previously at.

I have a Mac, so I have to use Connect360 to get the XBox to see my files. It took next to no effort to get working. The trial let’s you share 5 video files to the XBox. It’s only $20. If I find that I’m still using this next week, which is likely, I’m going to purchase it.


The Story of My New MacBook

Tech No Comment

The old MacBook was just over 2 years old. My usual update schedule is 2 years but that was when building my own average spec’d Windows machine. With Macs, if you buy right after a refresh, the specs are just about top of the line. The machine was starting to slow down, but not dramatically. The real need for the replacement was my hard drive filling up and the new model MacBook looking to offer quite a bit.

Things I wanted in the new MacBook
250gb Hard Drive – The old MacBook’s hard drive was 160gb. I had it upgraded at time of purchase from Apple. With a Windows partition, it cut the size down even more. Now with a 250gb drive my main concern is that my 320gb external is not going to be enough for Time Machine and some decent amount of backup space.

Backlit Keys – I usually use my MacBook as a desktop machine. Meaning it’s connected to an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse. A few months ago I started using it more as an actual laptop. It was pretty nice but it really bothered me that I couldn’t see the keys.

Better Video Card – Not that I game but just the OSX animations need something decent to run. My only concern is the shared 256mb that comes out of my 2gb of RAM. I think it will be fine for now, I will likely upgrade the RAM once the DDR3 sticks come down a bit in price.

Things Lost with the New MacBook
FireWire – I used FireWire for my external hard drive. It has the option for USB, so not a huge deal. I also used FireWire for my video camera. This could be a pain but I’m not sure the camera still works. If I have to, I will use one of the old Macs with FireWire around the house.

I didn’t go with a MacBook Pro because I thought it might be a little larger than I wanted. I thought my MacBook screen was a little small. I compared it to my HP Laptop, which is the perfect size. I had always thought the HP was 15″. Turns out, I was wrong. It was 14″. I don’t know of many 14″ laptops so I’ve excused my stupidity. I think my feeling that the MacBook was took small when it is almost the same size as my HP comes down to what I use it for. On my HP I’m using a web browser 98% of the time. On the MacBook I was trying to use it just like I do on my 20″ widescreen monitor. Obviously that’s going to be different.

I ordered the MacBook from Amazon, their deal was the best I saw from a place I knew I could trust. The free shipping took about as long as it would have from Apple. Fast shipping from China (Apple) vs Slow shipping from Maryland (Amazon). I also didn’t need to customize, which I could have only done with Apple. If the prices were the same I likely would have ordered from Apple and upgraded the RAM, but in a few months it will still be cheaper to have ordered from Amazon and buying the RAM and putting it in myself.

I opened it up and started with the Migration Assistant. This was my first experience using the tool. All I had to do was connected an Ethernet cable between the 2 MacBooks. Then it went on its way transferring about 120gb. It took a little more than 3 hours to complete the process. Easy enough. I was then presented with a registration screen. As I typed in my email address, I came across a problem. The O key didn’t feel right when I was typing in .com. It felt like it was stuck. Thanks to the backlit keyboard, I was able to see a piece of plastic under the key keeping it from being pressed down normally like the others.

I was upset that I hadn’t realized the problem before spending the 3 hours waiting for everything to copy to the new machine. It only took clicks to do that process, I didn’t have to use the keyboard at all. Since it would be going back somewhere I had to clear the hard drive and reinstall OSX.

I gave my first ever call to Apple Tech Support. I expected to just be told to go deal with Amazon, but I’ve heard stories of Apple having excellent Tech Support, so I figured I’d at least give it a shot. I was given 2 options: return to Amazon for a new replacement or return to Apple to be repaired. Since it was the 1st day with the machine I knew I wanted a new machine. Before hanging up I asked for a case number in case Amazon was too much of a hassle and I decided I wanted to do the repair. As he was typing in the description of the problem he told me something popped up on his screen and he put me on hold. When he came back he said I was being transferred to a specialist.

When I first got to the specialist I described my problem again, but it didn’t seem like it was going any differently than the previous rep. I figured I would still be calling Amazon. Then he explained to me that this broken key issue was a problem Apple was investigating so they wanted my machine to take a look at it. I was given 2 options: repair or replacement from Apple. The replacement would take a few more days, which doesn’t seem to make sense. My only guess is that they’d rather repair so they need some difference to get some people to opt for the repair. I went with the replacement but then I asked if I could speed things up by going to the Apple Store. At the very least I figured they would handle the shipping back to Apple and then I would wait for my new unit. I was told that would be just fine and (as I was hoping) if they had any in stock I would given a replacement in the store. Score! I scheduled a Genius Bar appointment for early Saturday morning.

I chose an early Genius Bar time because the Apple Store is always a zoo and the mall this time of year would make things exponentially more ridiculous. When I got the the mall the Apple Store was already a little busy and getting crowded by the time I left.

I got to my Genius and he took a look at the machine. He was perplexed when he tried and the key seemed to work alright to him. I was getting a little nervous that this was actually a problem and I didn’t tend to make up problems just so I could take a trip to the Apple Store. The fact that the key might be fine now was not at all shocking since I had hit the key a few times trying to get it to work originally and now I’ve put it back in the box and transported it to the store. If the bused piece wasn’t in the way, they key might work fine forever. But knowing it was busted in some way, I wanted it replaced. After some more attempts he finally noticed the problem. He had to fill out some stuff on his computer and find a manger. Then I was given a brand new MacBook and sent on my way.

After getting it home the first thing I did was play with all the keys. I almost asked to do that in the store. The keys were fine so I initiated the migration again and anxiously waited the 3+ hours.

So far the machine has been just fine. I haven’t done anything all that intense. I have hard drive space and flash videos don’t seem as choppy.

My lesson from all of this is that Apple does indeed have solid Tech Support. I may even consider AppleCare for this machine ($199 at Amazon doesn’t seem terrible). My tip for any dealings with them is to have a ticket created. If I wouldn’t have asked for that, I’m not sure it would have been flagged and I’d be waiting to get my new machine for another week or two.


Original Content

Tech No Comment

Lately I’ve found that in my internet travels I read the same story on twenty different sites. Most of these blogs just wind up linking to each other. Maybe one site will have a little more information or insight, but not usually. The other difference would be in the comments, but that’s not really my thing. Why do I continue to go to all these sites on a daily basis? On the off chance that there is something new or different. Most sites I check out once a day, others that I like a little more I will check out multiple times. My favorite sites that don’t update a whole lot I have added to Google Reader so it can let me know that there is something new. Google Reader has come in very handy. I forget about sites that only update occasionally since I get out of the habit. Now I’m on top of things.

Don’t get me wrong, I often repost things. I try not to do it too often, but then that leads to weeks with me posting nothing at all. I try to find a balance and will post if I have something to add.

These are some of the sites that I think really put an effort in.

ESPN – For all the reasons I hate ESPN the channel, I love ESPN the web site. All of the random stories and editorializing is perfect for the web since I can ignore most of it. Just look at baseball: Jason Stark and Buster Olney alone are great but you get to add Gammons, Neyer, and others. My home page is actually SI. The main reason for that is I just want the sports news and not all the other clutter on the page, especially video. Other than the basics I only like SI for their rumor coverage on Fan Nation. Don’t get me started on Peter King.

Sports Guy – Yes he is part of ESPN but it could stand alone so I’m putting it separate. Also, check out his podcast. I enjoy it for its content and the fact that I think my production quality on Inter-Dis Material is up to ESPN standards.

The Dilbert Blog – I might talk about this one too much. There is a new post everyday and just about everyone is quality and thought provoking. The strangest thing is I don’t even like the Dilbert comics.

Uni Watch – I had always glanced over the Uni Watch posts on Page 2. A few weeks ago I finally checked out the original blog and its really amazing. There is so much information on here. I love all these little details about logos and uniforms.

My Secret Public Journal – This one is rarely updated, which is why Google Reader is the greatest. You can also sign up for the newsletter to stay up to date. This is Mike Birbiglia’s blog, he’s a comedian. Usually its a story about something that happened to him. Usually its a very simple premise, but somehow always hilarious.

Those are the important ones at the top of my list. I’m always looking for suggestions.


TouchGraph – Visualize Facebook

Tech No Comment

Its been a while since Facebook has been all that addicting. When it first started my roommates and I spent about a week looking up people and finding groups. Every couple weeks you could do it again since a whole new wave of people had signed up. At this point everyone who is going to sign up has done so. There are a few holdouts that refuse to sign up for whatever reasons.

When Facebook first started they let you view an image with the relationships between your friends. Sometimes you could get it to work and it was interesting. Not too long ago I was looking into SVG, which is what Facebook had used, and remembered that feature that disappeared so long ago and wished they had it back in some way.

Today I found TouchGraph. It does just what I was hoping for. It displays all your friends and their relationships to each other. It uses friends as well as groups. People with more common relationships appear closer together. People are also color coded into cliques. It correctly setup my cliques. There are 3 major ones, which are my middle school friends, high school friends, and college friends. Then there are smaller ones for jobs or small school groups. The odd colored cliques, or only one person having a particular color, stand out and you can see which of your Facebook friends don’t know any of your other friends. When you highlight over someone or a group it shows all the connections. If you double-click you will get profile information and pictures. There is the option to upload a picture to Facebook, but to get any sort of detail you need a much larger image.

TouchGraph also has applications for Amazon and Google.

Now I just need to find a program that will do this with my own set of inputs. I want to map a particular set of friends that includes some that are not on Facebook. My friends in one group get confused by the relationships between people in my other groups.


Back to

Tech No Comment

I decided to start using again. iTunes does a fine job of keeping track of how many times I’ve listened to songs and I have some ratings in there to keep track of my favorites and songs I never want to hear again, but don’t want to delete. lets me keep track of what I’ve listened to over the past week or month. More stats the better I always say.

The major reason I had stopped using it was that I don’t want it to count podcasts in my stats. The software lets you pick which directories to track. It took a little while to set that up to ignore my podcast directory and it didn’t work. This is a new version of the software, but I haven’t tested to see if it works now. I’ll survive by going to the site and manually deleting what I don’t want tracked. At least they give me that option. We’ll see if I get sick of it again soon. has all sorts of other cool ideas. Add a large user base and you can see why CBS bought them.

The recommendation or neighbor radio both sound cool if you are looking for something new. I’ve never used any of the radio features. I’m content with all the music I have to listen to. I have other ways of finding new artists. Usually by visiting Absolute Punk a few times a day.

I mentioned how much I love stats. Well, not only do they keep track of your own stats, but for everyone collectively. You can also have groups and see what’s most popular within your group. I was a little shocked when I looked at the Overall Charts. The Weekly Top Tracks have a lot of new stuff except at #7 where Oasis – Wonderwall sneaks in. Its a great song, but seems completely out of place on that list.

The feature that could be the coolest but turns out to be the scariest is the Neighbors. Based on what you listen to it shows you the most similar people. To me this is the best way to find new bands to listen to. Its just quicker than the Recommendation Radio. The scary part? My closest neighbor is a 16 year old girl. I should expect this, but I don’t like it being told to me. I’ve only seen music advertised on I’m thankful for that, I’m scared what sorts of ads I’d be getting otherwise based on my music tastes.

I’m going to go do my part to get Champagne Supernova into the Top 10.

My Profile


Macworld 2007

Tech No Comment

From time to time I will share some computer/technology related items that I think will be of interest to more than just me. I’ll do my best to keep it to the important stuff that normal people might care about.

Today Apple announced some major new products including the iPhone and Apple TV. Here is my quick overview of what was announced.