Archive for March, 2010« Older Entries | Newer Entries »
It’s a shame that one in three Americans wouldn’t understand half of the FCC report their Internet connection is too slow to download.
My favorite new way to start a sentence is “well, now that we got that health care problem licked, we can…” because you can say almost anything after that, and no-one will hear a word of that you say. Which I fear will end up being the problem with the political topic du jour of the last few days, i.e. The National Broadband Plan. While Americans are still seeing little birdies and stars circling their heads after going a bunch of rounds with the health care fight, the administration is following up with the rollout of the massive plan to give everyone in America broadband . One interesting thing about the plan is that according to the report itself, it would take 6% of Americans 27 minutes to download the 11.5MB PDF file. Yes, not only are 35% of Americans still without broadband, but almost 1 in 5 of those are on dial-up! Strangely, in spite of all the billions being raked in by American service providers like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T, the US ranks 15th globally in both broadband speed and availability. Although part of me cynically thinks that making sure that this disenfranchised 35% has broadband just means we’ll see more talking smiley banner ads, more porn consumption, more security exploits, and heavier YouTube server loads, the more hopeful and human part of me knows that the impact on education, innovation, and commerce could only be positive. And my faith in the core of the plan is reinforced when I read articles like this Information Week piece that suggest that America’s feeble broadband standing – so far driven by monopolistic private enterprise – is good enough. And by the fact that the that the only parties questioning the plans so far are politicians who suggest that the government running ANYTHING is bad . I mean, am I the only one who finds irony in the fact that a person whose job it is to run the country suggests that the government doesn’t know how to run anything? It’ll be interesting to see what kind of partisan spin the new broadband plan receives over the next few weeks. Some think the Hatorade will flow freely. What do you think about the new broadband initiatives? Read the rest of this entry »
That massive music collection you’ve compiled by buying songs on iTunes? The songs are probably worth just about every one of those 99 cents you paid for them. MP3′s intrinsically suck as an audio file format.
A long time ago we pointed out why your music selections might suck. Well, now we’re going to tell you why your collection sucks. How many songs would you say you have on your hard drive? A few hundred? A few thousand? Did you buy or otherwise download them online as mp3′s? If your answer is “yes”, we can fairly safely say your music collection sucks a little bit. Why? There are two reasons. One is that mp3′s – at any bitrate – simply will never contain the content of the original recording. The methods used for compression in an mp3 file are based on psychoacoustic modeling that by its very nature removes sound that you pay less attention to in the first place. Although you’ll find audio nuts arguing about .mp3 vs .flac vs .wav ’til the end of time on discussion boards, it’s a moot point. If you can’t hear the difference between a high-quality CD and an mp3 rip of it, that just means you can’t hear the difference. It absolutely is there. It may not bother you – which in fact seems to be the case with the iPod generation – but that in fact is just another psychoacoustic phenomena. The other reason your music collection probably sucks is that since the late 80′s, producers and engineers have engaged in what some in the industry call the Loudness War, which is the recording industry’s tendency to abandon dynamic range altogether for the sake of pure volume. If you think this is some sort of obnoxious audiophile whining, see the graph and brief video below, or if you’re interested in an in-depth technical rundown, see A Chronology of the Loudness War (scroll down). The difference is pretty astounding. So how can you resuscitate the quality of your music collection? Well, if you’re listening to it on your iPod or through your computer speakers, don’t worry about it, you won’t be able to hear many of these differences anyway. On the other hand, if you have a lot of disposable income, you could start replacing it all on vinyl and high-quality import CD’s, and play them on your $554,000 stereo system. If you haven’t listened to your music on a full-blown stereo system for a while, see the clip and graphic below to visualize just how bad this problem really is. Read the rest of this entry »
One of the world’s most respected and longest-running indy film festivals is in the tiny college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and if opening night is any indication, this year’s festival promises to be a winner.
I always think of myself as film lover until I find myself surrounded by the passionate fanatics that will comprise a festival like the amazingly long-lived Ann Arbor Film Festival, now in its 48th year. It’s quite a feat filling a classic venue like the 1700+ capacity Michigan Theater on a Wednesday night, especially showing short films that no-one has heard of, but the AAFF did well on their opening night; I didn’t check the balcony, but there were very few seats open on the main floor. I was a little anxious about attending a full evening of indy film festival shorts; the luxury of time-shifted viewing and Internet access to an amazing variety of indy media has made me something of an on-demand media monster. But the festival didn’t disappoint, which is another impressive feat. The double-edged sword of creating a successful festival like the AAFF is that – yes, of course, you’re guaranteed a lot of quality submissions from around the world – but as the festival’s Executive Director Donald Harrison pointed out in his introduction to the festival tonight, their screeners and programmers had to sift through over 2500 submissions this year. I get a headache just thinking about what that must be like. Combine the sheer quantity with the multiple media formats and preparation required for simply projecting the material, and if the festival takes place at all, a monumental task has been accomplished. Think about that if you happen to be lucky enough to attend the festival this year. If you aren’t able to attend the festival, a surprising number of the films are readily available on line. Of course nothing compares to seeing them on a huge classic theater screen like the Michigan, but below are a few highlights from tonight’s entries for your perusal. See the AAFF’s YouTube channel for more previews, and their web site for the week’s schedule and other festival details. Read the rest of this entry »
Longing for a lightweight tablet PC but not too thrilled with the iPad? Don’t worry, there’s an avalanche of contenders.
The tech industry is a brutal world. Every time a product or service establishes some kind of dominance, every few months you’ll hear about its impending murder. Google Killers, Facebook Killers, Twitter Killers …well, now it’s the iPad’s turn. I already explained why I probably won’t be buying one even though I drooled for months awaiting its release. If you feel the same way I do, but long for a tablet PC to replace your laptop, we may be in luck. With the iPad hitting the market soon, the existing tablet industry is tooling up to cash in on its notoriety. We’ve rounded up most of the major players below. Read the rest of this entry »
If America were one hundred people, one would have forty-two bucks while eighty others shared seven dollars.
Now that they seem to have that “health care for all” thing fixed, maybe America should get to work on WEALTH care for all. I mean, somebody besides the Billionaires For Wealth Care that is, whose motto is “if we’re not broke, don’t fix it”. Yeah, it’s nice that Ben Bernanke is all outraged now that the money has changed hands and he still has a job. But I bet he’s still against the idea of wealth redistribution otherwise, even though he was behind one of the most epic examples of it. But seriously, what is wrong with redistribution of wealth? And when did so many working stiffs start thinking it’s a horrible idea? Let’s ponder for a moment the concepts of “fairness” as it pertains to wealth distribution. If, because of our God-given right to explore our Darwinian right to survival of the fittest in our laissez-faire capitalist society, I guess it’s fair that if you can horde a few billion dollars for yourself, well, more power to ya. At the point where you have 6 or 7 houses and as many cars, as well as virtually no worries in terms of food, clothing, shelter, and FU luxury items, still we might say well, go ahead. You’re a selfish ass, but go ahead. But when you reach this level of surplus and the citizens of the country that got you there are literally starving, I think any reasonable person would say maybe it’s time for you to cut a few bucks loose simply out of human decency. I mean really, you can’t drive seven cars at once, can you? In my opinion, if by this point you haven’t decided on a little serious philanthropy, that’s still your choice. But in the interest of maintaining the “survival of the fittest, every man for himself” theories that you justify your behavior with, I think that’s when it becomes fair for the rest of us to kill you and eat you. Because science shows that money only makes you happy when you know that you have more than others, and you can’t see us anymore through your smoked-glass limo windows. And we just want you to be happy. So once we’ve wrecked your life and you’re unemployed (we weren’t really gonna eat you, you probably taste like crap) you can rediscover that giving even feels good when you’re jobless. On a serious note: you always hear statements like “one percent of Americans have ninety-nine percent of the wealth”, but no-one ever gets the infographic right. They always use plot lines and pie charts. We have a better example below, feel free to share it. Read the rest of this entry »