Known Johnson

January 6, 2009

Consolation prize

Filed under: Annoyances,Ipod/Iphone,Music — Tom @ 4:28 pm

Alyssa I am consoling myself over the loss, again, of my old girlfriend, Alyssa Milano, to some shlumpy dude who she could clearly do better than. It’s okay, because Apple has finally given up on both that crappy DRM scheme and is offering upgrades to higher sound quality music. Amazon started selling DRM-free, high-quality mp3s a while back, and it apparently forced Apple’s and the labels’ hands. We’re edging closer to a day when we won’t have to even think about lossy compression of music anymore – it’ll just be high quality lossless stuff. But for now, this is okay.

Me, personally . . . well, if you ask, I only have a few things purchased from the Itunes store. Brad Mehldau’s complete Live In Tokyo, as it was originally a sickeningly expensive two-CD Japan-only release and is now out of print . . . except it’s available in its entirety on Itunes, but at the lowly 128kbps quality. Son Volt’s excellent The Search, expanded by 8 songs only on vinyl . . . and on Itunes. And Elbow’s recent exclusive Itunes Live set, which is so excellent – I am assuming Apple will be upgrading their own material, too, right?

Alyssa chose the goofy looking dude (seriously, you see this guy?) and I get files. Alissa (coincidence?) understands I may need some time to cope with this. Right, honey? Right?

November 18, 2008

What’s up?

Filed under: Baby makes FOUR,General,Ipod/Iphone — Tom @ 3:38 pm

It’s an adverb. But that’s beside the point. It’s been a while, and there’s been a lot going on. I’ll forget most of it as soon as I start typing.

If you’re not keeping tabs, in two weeks, we will someone be given access to another tiny little person who will, in the words of Amanda, our first tiny little person, “pop out” of Alissa’s stomach. And because I’ve been asked this a million times at work, yes, we actually finally have a name . . . but you’re going to have to wait a couple weeks to find that out.

Unless things change drastically, this tiny little lady will “pop out” in almost exactly two weeks. It seems she is breech and has chosen to stay that way. I’m not going to go into details, because they’re complicated and medically . . . stuff . . . but C-section is the way to go – no turning her around prior to birth. No worries, however, neither mother nor daughter are in any danger whatsoever. It’s just that things, as they are wont to do, got complicated, and she will be coming out “the other way.” Everyone is perfectly healthy.

Our Christmas tree is up. Yes, it’s early, but I’ve got to get the damned box out of the house so we can clean up before the baby arrives. Priorities . . . Hey, at least we waited to actually decorate it.

Speaking of decorating . . . with the economy the way it is, it looks like people really aren’t going to be out buying houses, so we’re going to have to settle in to dealing with our now over-small house for a while, which means I’ll be busy soon decorating our new resident’s room like I did Amanda’s three years ago. I had held off a while back because we had every intention of selling, but things just got worse and worse, and I think we’re just kind of stuck now for a while. I’m looking at it this way, however: how cute and irresistible to a young family is a house with two custom, hand-painted kids’ rooms? We’re just going to have to figure out how to deal with no storage, no space, etc. for far longer than we’d planned.

Now I know why they call it “commercial radio.” I installed a new CD player in my truck this weekend, one through which I can use both my Ipod and Iphone with one plug that also charges whichever is connected at the time (this is more difficult that it seems – Apple likes to change things up and screwed up car installs with the latest Iphones and Ipods) but also allows me to use USB flash drives, which is pretty neat-o. Anyway, I have been playing with Pandora internet radio on my Iphone the past few days and have to say it’s pretty great – very good sound quality, very good song choices, and free – and so have been taking my Ipod cable, used in my truck for sound, into work to charge while I listen. I went out at lunch today, grabbing my Ipod to listen while I drove . . . but forgot that cable. I was forced to listen to radio on the approximately 20 minutes of drive-time that I endured. Do you know how many songs I heard in that entire time? One full song, and one partial song. The rest of the time was commercials – most of them, strangely, for insurance or cars, two things I would think very few people are actually shopping for all that often. Oh, and beer. An interesting, possibly dangerous, mix, to be sure.

And, like I said, as soon as I started in on this, all my intended news would just go drizzling away. Such is life with my brain lately. I set out with good intentions, only to stand, confused, in the aisles of life’s grocery store, an empty cart before me, and no idea what I was there to put in it.

November 2, 2008


Filed under: Ipod/Iphone — Tom @ 9:14 pm

I really am a pretty big fan of Brian Eno, in a general sense, not just for his music. I like the way he thinks, even if sometimes he drifts off into floofy new-aginess once in a while. That’s okay because sometimes that’s just how truly unique individuals are, and when they keep coming up with just plain nice stuff like the album he did with David Byrne this year (Everything That Happens Will Happen Today – yes, you need it) I say, let ’em be a little “off.” And once again, he’s turned out something just plain nice, this time with fellow musician Peter Chilvers, for the Iphone/Touch, in the form of an app that creates music in a unique way – touch the screen and a chimey note rings out. Where most music apps are focusing on trying to recreate a particular instrument’s environment in the artificial world of the Iphone, Eno and Chilvers opted to treat the Iphone as its own instrument that works in its own way. It also features an Eno staple, delay, that is variable by the user, so what is played eventually becomes looped back and incorporated into the ongoing music, which should be no surprise to fans of Eno’s ambient music. Or it can simply create random new music on its own. Its simplicity is its beauty. The name pretty much defines it: Bloom.

I love it. Even more a testament to how brilliant and simple it was, Amanda loved it too – she simply tapped her fingers around the screen and created circle patterns while the sound chimed away around her. But you really need to hear this thing on good headphones – it’s beautiful. If you have an Iphone or a Touch, grab a copy for $3.99 on Itunes. It’s one of the few apps I’ve paid for and if you’re into ambient music, it is easily worth the money.

October 10, 2008

King Crimson 80s-period Iphone wallpaper

Filed under: Ipod/Iphone,Music — Tom @ 7:26 am

Express your inner music geek with these Iphone wallpapers that I created – two for each of the three iconic albums King Crimson released in the 80s (one with the band name and album title, one without.) They’re all centered, and I took some artistic license by adding a shadowed edge so they fade to near-black – otherwise, I thought they looked kind of cheap. Check them all out by clicking through the image below:

Discipline Iphone wallpaper

Be sure and grab the full-size image – it has to be 480×320 to look correct on the Iphone. And, yes, I’m hoping to add more album covers as time permits.

September 25, 2008

Totally a coincidence

Filed under: Ipod/Iphone — Tom @ 12:53 pm

Google wouldn’t have any stakes at all in pushing all this pro-“g-phone” news would it? Nah, of course not, it’s not like they don’t have a huge investment in it or anything . . .

Google Bias

For what it’s worth, I don’t see how this thing is a true Iphone competitor, at least not in this form. No headphone jack (must use a USB-based attachment)? It’s not an Ipod like the Iphone is. 1gb of memory, expandable to 8gb with SD cards? Doesn’t this thing seem a bit expensive to be that low on memory? A few months ago, I might have liked the idea of a physical keyboard, but after more than two months with the Iphone on-screen keyboard, I honestly don’t even think about it. The open App Store “Android Market” sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, but maybe it’ll spur Apple into loosening its grip a little on what apps can be put on the App Store (big Itunes gripe: have separate sections for everything in the the free area. It’s really annoying to have to dig through 40 pages of apps, most of which are games, when you’re not looking for games.)

And, to me, it’s just ugly, and it looks kind of flimsy in the videos I’ve seen where they slide out the keyboard. Maybe that’s just due to early prototypes being used or something, I don’t know. People have called the Iphone a toy, but I got much more of a toy feeling out of watching the G1 being handled (admittedly, I obviously haven’t held one yet.) Pick up an Iphone and you don’t feel like you’re holding a toy – it is solid, and that’s exactly the way Apple intended it, and exactly why there are so few buttons on it.

I’m no Apple fanboy, okay – I realize I may sound like it sometimes because I really am pretty much thrilled with my Iphone. I also realize that the Iphone does what I need it to do the way I need it to do things, and there are some who may prefer a much more PC-like interface. The G1/Android phone may be exactly what they need. I just can’t imagine why – I use the Iphone because it’s quick and easy, and while Android looks like a very similar user experience, it still looks clunky compared to the Iphone interface.

And one more thing: where is all the bitching now that we know Google’s phone is locked to T-Mobile just like the Iphone is to AT&T? Things are suspiciously quiet on that front, aren’t they? There has been an awful lot of hot air blown about until now because Apple locked their phone to AT&T, but when Google does it, no one says a word. Hmm.

September 19, 2008


Filed under: Ipod/Iphone,Music — Tom @ 8:27 am

I had to chuckle out loud (not LOL, but COL, I guess) when I saw Oblique Strategies listed among the free apps in the Itunes App store this morning. Oblique Strategies, if you’re not aware, is a set of cards Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt came up with to help creative people get out of a rut, and Eno’s been employing them for the past 30 years or so with everyone he works with. If you scoff, think about the very first Strategy, which was “Honor thy error as a hidden intention,” and how, if you were a musician, stuck beating your head against a particularly difficult piece of music, that could help you turn the music another direction by using the mistake in your favor. Seems obvious now that I say it, but people need help thinking like that, even creative people like musicians.

Anyway, as an Eno fan, I had to install the App on my Iphone. Now I can have Eno helping me get through my creative ruts just like Talking Heads, U2, James, Coldplay, and many others. I’m sure people will recognize the change immediately.

September 9, 2008

Itunes 8

Filed under: Ipod/Iphone — Tom @ 8:26 pm

I just installed Itunes 8. Oh my God . . . it’s creating thumbnails for each of my 3663 albums. The ones I painstakingly added my own damned artwork for in Media Monkey because they would be higher quality than what Itunes, if they had anything to offer at all (many times it did not.) If this screws those up, I’m going to be so pissed.

This view: blows. So slow. Every time you revisit any section it has to reload the artwork. Artwork can be resized so they are small thumbnails or larger previews. Nice but totally unnecessary, and with the constant reloading, it’s a total waste of time. I have already given up on it. Nice idea, Apple. Badly implemented, however.

New feature “Genius” is now s-l-o-w-l-y trawling through my 43,000 song library to figure out to make neat-o playlists of stuff that supposedly “goes great together” for me that I will likely never use. I’m only doing this out of curiosity. You can opt out of letting Genius have its way with your library, but in the interest of “science” I decided to see what it would do with a library the size of mine. I’ll probably find out when it’s done in, oh, 5 days or so. Who knows, maybe it will actually be useful to me. Ah, who am I kidding? The days I don’t listen to albums are few and far between.

Update, several hours later: Sweet. Itunes crashed while attempting to upload the data to the servers, apparently. So far: very impressive, Steve Jobs!

Updated update It seems that the Genius function works ONLY off of Itunes Music Store, so if they don’t sell and it’s in your collection, it will yield only an error! Awesome! That means that like half of my collection will produce no Genius results – or maybe that’s why Itunes crashed last night. It just threw up its proverbial hands and said “I give up! This guy’s a weirdo. I don’t know ANY of this stuff!”

Farewell, 160gb Ipod, we hardly knew ye

Filed under: Ipod/Iphone — Tom @ 3:13 pm

And we may be saying the same thing about the Classic, in general, soon.

Today’s completely underwhelming Apple event barely even mentioned the hard-drive based Classic lineup, only pausing long enough to basically say “Hey, you know, those 80gb and 160gb ones? Well, we’re dumping the 160gb and just going to sell a 120gb one now.” This is the kind of stupid move that has the Apple fanboys making ridiculous, but lovingly worded excuses, such as that it isn’t so much the end of the 160gb but the “advancement” of the 80gb. Dur, okay! I, and many others, fully expected to see a larger capacity companion, as has always been the case. The section on the Classic was a mere footnote, quickly noted and moved on from. This can’t be a good sign for those of us with large collections.

I’m sad. The flash-based players will take years to catch up to the big brother Classic’s storage capacity, and now I have the added worry of making sure I take super extra-special care of this now out-of-production unit, a worry that you don’t have when there are newer, better, bigger ones to replace it should you do something stupid to it. Now, well, I don’t feel quite so secure. I’ve never had a problem, but now that I don’t have backup . . .

Update: Just another thought that has fermented . . . you don’t think perhaps Apple is baiting the large-capacity lovers by dropping capacity now, and then next year going “you talked, we listened!” by unveiling something like a 300gb Ipod. Nah, they would never do that, would they?

Besides, it’s entirely probable Apple is banking on the fact that we’ll all be sucked into one of the mini-black holes the Large Hadron Collider is going to create tomorrow, or whatever this guy is talking about.

August 14, 2008

Of course

Filed under: Annoyances,Ipod/Iphone — Tom @ 12:22 pm

. . . right after I post something about how happy I am with my Iphone, I go to the grocery store on the way home from work and find that I am unable to call Alissa from there to tell her about a special on milk: “No Service.”

Am I suffering the dreaded Infineon chip issue that seems to be all the rage among the news services this week? No idea. All I know is that we’re in an area that is definitely covered by Edge (the network, not The Edge of U2, which would be especially cool) and is on the fringe of the 3G network, which is where I read these Infineon chip issues are rearing their ugly heads the most. I was happy to read in the article linked above that there will reportedly be a software fix (I think they mean “firmware,” but I won’t hold that against them) to take care of this, but still no official word from Apple, who have grown strangely Microsoftian in their silence about problems lately. This is particularly troublesome to someone like me who is very much on the verge of making The Switch, having about had ENOUGH with PC problems lately and kind of wanting to pick up one of them sweet little MacBooks . . .

August 13, 2008

Ads that are (gasp!) misleading?!

Filed under: Ipod/Iphone — Tom @ 5:00 pm

After a full month with my Iphone I can happily say that it is a fantastic addition to my life. Never before did I imagine I’d have a phone I wanted to type on (as badly as thumbing my way over the keypad can be called “typing,” anyway,) or use the internet features of, or use the camera. But it’s all there in one handy little device that works way better than any other that has combined them, and even some dedicated devices. I’m sure there are some reasons for which the Iphone simply isn’t a good match for particular users, but I certainly haven’t experienced them.

I do find the advertising campaign a bit “funny” in that it clearly is so far from reality, and apparently so does someone else who put the ad to the test, filming his results so he could compare them side by side with the ad:

The Iphone simply can’t function as shown in the original ad:

Apps don’t even open as fast as they show in there, let alone internet activity!

Don’t lump me in with the complainers about the Iphone itself. I just find advertising to be a weird world where deception is not only commonplace, it’s accepted and encouraged, and understood by most people as “just one of those things.” Isn’t that kind of weird? Who’s more screwed up? The advertising world for clearly advertising what doesn’t exist, or us for mindlessly going along with it? And, for that matter, which came first? Rather a “chicken or the egg” type of question, isn’t it?

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