Friday, July 28, 2006

Free Music from Google

Okay, so it's not really "from" Google. That was just a ploy to catch your attention. But the part about free music was correct. Bascially, just enter the following search into google (replacing "ARTIST SONG_NAME" with whatever search criteria you want), and mp3s!

intitle:index.of "mp3" +"ARTIST SONG_NAME" -htm -html -php -asp "Last Modified"

Recently, I got a song stuck in my head and I wanted to hear it, so I used the above search method with the string "be sedated" as in The Ramones "I Wanna Be Sedated"... When I finally got to the mp3 link, this is what I heard: link to mp3.

Turns out there's a website that has a bunch of these songs, called Dictionaraoke. All the songs sound like horrible midi cell phone ring tones with added Microsoft Sam vocals. It's hilarious! Try listening to "Bohemian Rhapsody" without laughing out loud! I dare you!

For some reason the phrase "boom shakalakalaka" comes to mind right now...weird.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

310 Area Code Woes

If you have a 310 area code, be prepared to dial it from now on. Effective today, July 26th, 2006, this new change will affect all those living in Westside, South Bay, Malibu, Beverly Hills, Compton and Inglewood. Here's an excerpt from the LA Times:

Residents of the 310, get your fingers ready. Starting today, everyone who lives within the boundaries of the 310 area code will have to dial 11 digits — 1 plus 310, then the seven-digit number — when making a local call.The new dialing procedure is another step toward implementation of the state's first area code overlay. Service providers are scheduled to begin distributing numbers with the new 424 code Aug. 26. Existing customers will keep their 310 numbers.
(taken from the LA Times article here)

This is just ridiculous! I feel sorry the people who didn't store their cell phone or phone directory numbers this way. Hopefully no one in that area has had to deal with blackouts too.

The Real News

Yesterday I left my iPod in my desk drawer at work, so I decided to listen to a little AM talk radio (my FM doesn't work) on the drive home. I was immediately overwhelmed by the various US and World news stories. Suddenly, the more superficial tech news stories from Digg and Twit seemed trivial and small. Don't get me wrong, I'm still interested in the next rumor about the new ipod or the next mud slinging critique on the console war, but those things have seemed less interesting recently.

These days, I find myself salivating more on tidbits concerning stem cell research, mapping the human genome, net neutrality, nano-technology, digital rights management, global warming, the energy crisis, and petroleum alternatives. Granted those last three are all linked together. But these are the issues much more likely to affect us in the future.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Office: The Accountants

The free, online-only webisodes of the NBC Comedy "The Office" are now available. These short (two-minute) episodes center around the accountants of the Dunder Mifflin Scranton office and their antics in discovering the plot behind some missing company money. So far the first two episodes are ready. The short story arc will come to an end on September 14th with the airing of the 10th webisode. If you don't want to sit through the ads, I'm sure these will hit YouTube soon enough.

Too bad there's no Mike, Pam, or Jim...but I hear Dwight will make an cameo appearance.

Even though it represents very little content, I think the whole webisode concept is a breath of fresh air. Just like The Office's previous PSA's (watch this one about friends not letting friends buy expensive beer), or to an extent, the online Lost experience, the change in format is a welcome addition to the tried-but-true tv delivery method. IPTV here we come!

FYI, they're showing the Pilot again tonight, Thurs (7/13) at 8:30pm PST.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Firefox 2.0 Beta

Despite my previous entry's disdain for desktop apps, I must hold up the latest beta release of Firefox (aptly labeled 2.0) for the update that it is... further improvement on what was already a good thing.

The 2.0 version of Firefox (you can download it here, btw. or here if you want a portable version, that won't interfere with your profiles folder) isn't a major overhaul, so much as a minor facelift. All the tab switching goodness is still here.

First off, a session restore feature was added. Now, after a crash or when some other abrupt action halts Firefox, you will be prompted at the next startup whether you would like to restore all the tabs you were browsing. Also, any recently closed tab can now be reopened using the History menu. Another tweak you may notice is that the integrated search bar is now much wider and boasts and Manage Search Engines feature in the drop down menu. In place of the separate "Extensions" and "Themes" dialogs, "Add-ons" now resides, each one with clearly visible options, disable, and uninstall buttons, and even provides a restart firefox button when updates are applied. The browser even has a new rss feed reader, but will still allow any external feed reader of your choosing.

On the security side of things, there are a number of important fixes. The biggest addition would have to be an anti-phishing protection.

The only downside I see to upgrading to the 2.0 beta now is that some of the Extensions will not work and most of the Themes will be incompatible. There is a way around most of this, by using the "Nightly Tester Tools" extension (download). This allows you to force all your add-ons to be compatible with all versions of Firefox.

Though most of these feature additions are popular extension ideas adopted by the Firefox team, it's nice to see the application evolving in little bits here and there. Even if you ignore the security advantages of using Firefox over IE, I don't think I could go back to using IE simply because of all the extra features extensions can bring. It's those interface updates that really make it feel old. Much like playing an ancient RTS will feel frustrating next to Warcraft III's many helpful automations and AI tweaks.

True, IE7 is coming. But we Firefox users have had an IE7-level browser for ages. IE7 is almost as funny a joke as Vista... almost.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Evolving Web Apps

Web applications have a distinct advantage over their desktop counterparts. Namely, the ability to unnoticeably evolve and grow much more seamlessly. Unlike desktop applications like MS Word or Mozilla's Firefox, web apps can have features added from day to the next, without your knowledge of these changes. Their developers can add a functionality or graphical improvement on the fly, and you can experience that change the next time you visit that website.

In the case of Google Maps, these improvements are a welcome addition. For example, today, I casually looked up some directions by querying my location and destination. When I attempted to refine my view by zooming in, I was pleasantly surprised by a more fluid animation. This was a new feature or at least a refine improvement. Did I have to download an update to the software? Did I need to restart my web browser, or god forbid, restart my computer? No. The update occurred behind the scenes at Google somewhere. And that's the beauty of the web environment.

Imagine, sometime in the not-too-distant future... Instead of those naggingly annoying Windows Update prompts, begging you to restart your computer, the whole thing will be web-driven. An entire OS maintained on the server-side. True, some future, insanely powerful web browser would need to run the OS, but any security update, code improvement, or added feature would infuse itself automatically. The need to restart due to a newly installed software component would be a thing of the past.

Granted this centralization of our OS might pose unforeseen security problems. However, new security holes undoubtedly arise whenever something new takes hold. The OS serving company better be damn secure is all.

One day, an update might only require a push of the F5 key and a refresh of the bits on your screen.