Robert Aitchison

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Anybody up for a 32Gb flash drive? (did I mention it's from Samsung?)
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Tue 21 of March, 2006 20:53 PDT  (2901 Reads)

Here is an interesting piece, my new favorite company Samsung is developing a new flash based hard drives. It looks like the primary target market is notebooks, digital media players and other portable (battery powered) devices.

Some of the major advantages seem to be speed (twice as fast) and power consumption (95% less). The power savings should make a huge difference in battery powered devices.

Now 32Gb nowadays isn't all that much, but I could potentially see applications where the operating system and other key (frequently accessed) files are stored on the flash drive while the "bulk" data is stored on a larger hard drive. In a notebook this would mean less spinning of the hard drive which would result in improved battery life, for practically all devices this would mean a decent speed boost, especially during startup.

Found via Slashdot

Good news everyone! - Pshyche!
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Tue 21 of March, 2006 00:52 PDT  (2828 Reads)

Here we have a story that was proven wrong even before I could write about it. I was sick yesterday but checked my E-Mail? and RSS feeds in the evening.

What I noticed on Slashdot was an announcement that they were making additional episodes of Futurama, one of the many excellent shows that Fox saw fit to cancel.

Now I thought this was really cool, I don't just think that Futurama is a good show, I think it's the best animated show ever, even better than The Simpsons were in their prime. On a related note The Simpsons was just recently picked up for another two seasons, that would be the 18th and 19th seasons for those keeping count.

This morning however, the news wasn't so good, they aren't making new Futurama eposides, though the bright spot is that they are making some DVD release shows/movies that I will definitely buy (unless they are priced like Star Trek DVDs)

Canada's RIAA counterpart issues surprising P2P report
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Sat 18 of March, 2006 12:03 PDT  (2803 Reads)

Here is a really interesting report issues from a highly unlikely source. The CRIA, the Canadian counterpart of the US RIAA has issued a report talking about how Peer to Peer (P2P) music downloading afffect music sales.

The surprising part is that it barely impacts it at all. Here is a summary that includes some details like less than a third of music on a P2P user's hard drive comes from P2P sources or that many people download music from P2P sites to try it before they buy it (as I used to) and finally that the availability of P2P music had very little impact on how much music people bought.

For it's part I'm sure that the CRIA thought that the results would be different, they have released the report quietly and without fanfare. I do have to give them credit for releasing it at all, I'm sure the temptation to destroy or bury the report was enormous.

Found via Slashdot

Cult films of our (or at least my) generation
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Fri 17 of March, 2006 19:30 PDT  (3829 Reads)

When people think of a "Cult Film" they probably most often think so called classic films which might include Attack of the Killer TomatoesNight of the Living Dead,  The Rocky Horror Picture ShowPlan 9 from Outer Space,   Reefer Madness,  or maybe the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

A Cult Film frequently wasn't a financial success in it's original theatrical release, in fact more often than not it was a flop. To be sure Cult Films frequently don't have the best acting, storylines or special effects, often they are simply really bad films, so bad that they have a strange appeal that draws a certain type of person in.

Cult films often have brisk DVD sales, and even can be seen in theaters for special events decades after their original release, if you don't "get" a cult film you will be hard pressed to understand it's appeal.

There are potential Cult Films made all the time, of course the overwhelming majority of them never reach the status of a Cult Film and just die. A lucky few have that certain something that can gather the Cult following and resulting immortality.

Of the modern Cult Films, many are not recognized as such because they haven't been around long enough yet, I submit to you a list (in no particular order) of films from the past 25 years that I feel have achieved some level of cult status.

Read on for more

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One year of radio that generally doesn't suck
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Thu 16 of March, 2006 22:04 PDT  (2804 Reads)

Way back when I talked about a new radio station, Jack FM that came to town, playing music, that's right music, and get this, the vast majority of it is pretty good.

Well the station has been around for a year now and tomorrow (Friday) they are having a first birthday party, at Chuck E Cheeses of course.

Now this happens to be about 1/2 a mile from my hose so if I get off work early enough (party ends at 6) I may stop in to see if their parties don't suck as much as their music doesn't.

One interesting thing that I've noticed since Jack came to town, other radio stations have been responded by increasing the amount of music they play as well as the variety, Star especially has mad a big deal out of it. It's a pretty obvious response to Jack FM, and it's a good thing for when a super annoying commercial comes on Jack and forces me to change the dial.

Ghostrider requesting flyby
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Thu 16 of March, 2006 01:14 PDT  (3360 Reads)

Another end to an era. This week the last squadrons of the venerable F-14 Tomcat fighter aircraft returned from their last deployment.

On a related, more personal note, nothing makes you feel old like learning that both ships you served on in the Navy have been decommissioned. The first ship I served on was the USS Valley Forge (CG-50) and the second was the USS Paul F Foster (DD-964). The Foster was pretty long in the tooth but the Forge wasn't that old, less than 20 years old when decommissioned. I figure it must have been cost prohibitive to retrofit her for VLS and she wasn't as versatile without it.

In the highly improbable case that a former Valley Forge sailor reads this, ple join me and pout out a bootle of spray-n-wipe for the Valley Forge

Interview with the creator of Solitaire
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Tue 14 of March, 2006 23:54 PDT  (2886 Reads)

Solitaire, quite possibly the most popular (as far as hours played) video game in history. Bet you never thought about where it came from.

Well here is a little gem, an interview with Wes Cherry, the guy who wrote the game and sold it to Microsoft.

Here's one of my favorite questions:
Q: Did you chose the card-back designs, and are the flappy bats your favourite?
A: Half the card backs were designed by my girlfriend Leslie Kooy. Unfortunately she turned into a flappy bat, so we broke up.

Just how much will TiVo's new pricing plans cost?
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Mon 13 of March, 2006 19:35 PDT  (14676 Reads)

As I mentioned last week TiVo is making some major changes to their pricing structure. Up until now you go out and buy a TiVo, then you paid TiVo for service either monthly, more recently annually, or up until this week you could pay them once and it would be good for as long as the box still ran (there are TiVos? out there that are close to 10 years old and still running).

The major change is that you won't buy the TiVo anymore, but will pay an increased service fee and they will include the TiVo, this will lower the up front cost of getting a TiVo significantly and I have no doubt will cause some people who have perviously dismissed it to take a second look.

There are three new "bundled service" plans, the previous "service only" (the old model) plans will still exist, though it's still unclear if the prices will change and the lifetime service option is going away.

I was curious as to how much the new plans stack up against each other, and how they stack up against the old plans.

details below

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Does that product come in Samsung?
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Thu 09 of March, 2006 18:09 PST  (4087 Reads)

Brand loyalty is an interesting thing, people, myself included tend to develop a bias towards or against a certain brand in my case at least, this exerts significant influence over everyday decisions.

Lately this has manifested itself in my newfound affection for the Samsung brand. Just a couple of months ago I was indifferent towards Samsung, I didn't really own any Samsung devices, David uses Tove's old Samsung X105 but that is a decidedly unexciting device.

This all changed when we recently bought a new Samsung HDTV. Overall I'm pretty happy with the unit, the picture & sound are great, it has lots of inputs, hell it won't even be obsolete once the MPAA shoves HDCP down our throats. It also emits a friendly "do do doodee" tone when it starts up and a "de de dedoo" when it shuts down, these are the kind of tunes that will harken you back to the days when you wasted hours in front of an NES and is strangely endearing considering it's utter pointlessness.

Continued below

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TiVo dramatically changes pricing structure, some good news, some bad
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Wed 08 of March, 2006 17:43 PST  (5030 Reads)

TiVo announced today that they are rolling out a new bundled pricing plans that are set to take effect next week.

The biggest change is moving from a buy the hardware than pay for the service model to pay a monthly fee and get the hardware for "free" plan.

Before you could buy a TiVo for anywhere from $50 to $150 (after rebate) then pay either $12.95/mo or $299 for the lifetime of the unit for service. If you already have a TiVo and were activating service for your second or subsequent units you get the discounted $6.95/mo options. The lifetime subscription paid for itself in just under 2 years over paying monthly and in under 4 years if paying the discounted monthly price. We got the lifetime (back when it was $250) and it paid for itself more than a year ago.

Now you will enter into a one, two or three year commitment, paying between $16.95/mo (3 year commitment) and $19.95/mo (1 year commitment) and they will include the TiVo itself.

Now what concerns me is the related announcement that they will be "revising" their other pricing plans, I suspect that means a price increase, and most disturbingly, buried in the fine print of the announcement, they will be discontinuing the lifetime service altogether next week.

I predict that there will be a run on TiVo's in the coming week once word gets out and people rush to get in under the old plan.

I'd like to take this opportunity to shamelessly trow in a plug for myself. If you find yourself headed to the store to buy a TiVo in the next few days (or beyond) I would definitely appreciate it if you would use my as a referrer. When you are activating your TiVo service enter my E-Mail? address ( in the field when asked about whether someone referred you. Thank you for your support)

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What's the best way to archive my music?
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Tue 07 of March, 2006 17:29 PST  (3473 Reads)

As I've talked about before, I don't buy much mainstream music anymore, primarily because I'm annoyed at the RIAA and the things they do.

I do have a healthy CD collection though, most of my CDs I purchased during the period when I was downloading a lot of music off of services like KaZaA?. I would download a song, if I liked it I might download more songs off that CD, if I liked them I'd go out and buy the CD. The funny thing is that I really had no use of the CD since I already had the song in MP3 format so a good portion of my CD collection is still shrink wrapped.

For every CD I've bought recently, it's been standard practice to immediately rip all the tracks on the CD to 192K MP3 format, usually at that point I'm pretty much done with the CD and it goes on the shelf with it's shrink wrapped brothers & sisters.

Lately I've come to realize that MP3 isn't the best format for archival purposes for a few reasons:

See below for more

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Will the real Windows Vista please stand up?
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Mon 06 of March, 2006 18:12 PST  (3024 Reads)

Windows Vista (AKA "Codename Longhorn") is supposed to come out later this year, this will be the successor to Windows XP (Windows eXtra Profit). One of the changes in Vista is that it will come in multiple different versions, er more different versions.

XP has two basic versions, the stripped down XP Home and the full blown XP Professional, which has all of the features of XP Home plus more that make it actually useful. There are other specialty versions of XP including one for Media Center PCs (think REALLY expensive TiVo) and one for developing nations, and then there's the special versions without Windows Media Player they only sell in Europe.

Vista takes all these versions, adds more to them and then adds some more on top of that. One of the major shifts will be that the bushiness versions won't have features that the home versions will, there's a good reason for that which I'll explore below.

In any case, to poke fun at all this version craziness someone came up with a funny list of 33 versions of Windows Vista, my favorite is "Vista Home I Can't Believe It's Not Server Edition".

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12 ways webmasters annoy their visitors
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Fri 03 of March, 2006 17:06 PST  (3027 Reads)

I don't really do a lot of web development type stories but this article struck a chord with me.

12 Ways to Irritate Your Visitors, lists 12 different things that web sites do that annoy web surfers.

Some of the ones that ring truest to me are #8 (splash pages), #3 (ban right-clicks) and #11 (the IE only page)

Of course the first comment to this three page article, a suggested #13, (making artciles 3 pages long when 1 will do)

Apparently I'm a "Genuine Builder"
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Wed 01 of March, 2006 19:57 PST  (4093 Reads)

Thanks to Thomas Hawk for posing about this little free personality test. This one is similar to the Meyers-Briggs? test, though without the cost.

I've not been tested using Meyers-Briggs? but once was tested using Persogenics which classified me as Dominant/Amiable (which was apparently a somewhat unusual combination)

In any case this test has clasified me as a "Genuine Builder" and I'd say my report seems to be fairly accurate as far as how I view myself.

No doubt if Brian ever gets his web site back up he will list his results next to his Persogenics and Meyers-Briggs? results.

Behold! The Microsoft iPod (human ear edition)
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Mon 27 of Feb., 2006 17:32 PST  (2913 Reads)

Ahh, Microsoft and the iPod, two things that I love to hate, or hate to love, depending on my mood.

Microsoft just announced officially that the next version of Windows, "Windows Vista" will have a total of 6 editions, more if you count the special versions for the european market without Windows Media Player as separate editions.

On to the iPod, I came across this great video that supposes what would happen if the Microsoft "Brand Police" were to get ahold of and repackage the iPod. (thanks to Microsoft Watch for the link)

While we're talking about the iPod, Engadget held a WWJD (What would Jobs do) contest to see who could come up with the best new fake products for Apple to announce tomorrow. Many of the entries are quite good, well worth a minute of your time.

Edit: I noticed that the original link no longer works, so here's an alternate link, and another in case that one goes away too.

Happy Birthday to ME!
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Sat 25 of Feb., 2006 22:13 PST  (3106 Reads)

Whelp, today was my birthday, not content at being over 30 I'm now officially over 35.

Being how my master plan has me dying suddenly of a heart attack in my 50s I figure I'm more than halfway through.

Funny think about your birthday, you get bunches of "Happy Birthday" E-Mails? from web sites you forgot you even egistered for. Though this year I did not get the expected E-Mail? from the Klingon Language Institute as I have in years past wishing me a qoSlIj DatIvjaj.

Oh and the picture of me used on this page is now officially more than 5 years old (actually more than 6, having been taken in December of 99) and despite the fact that it's quite possibly the only good picture that's ever been taken of me I think I'll have to find a different, more up to date one that more accurately represents my older, fatter and balder current self.

DRM will force you to upgrade your PC
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Fri 24 of Feb., 2006 17:42 PST  (5078 Reads)

Sorry for yet another DRM/Copyright/Fair use rant but I figured I'd get the word out on this one.

Ars Technica, an excellent technical news site recently posted an expose of sorts talking about how the new batch of DRM that the copyright cartel is shoving down our throats will be so restrictive that it will only allow you to play the content on devices that they "approve".

What this means is, that the new PC and flat panel monitor or new HDTV you just bought, or for that matter the one you buy in a month will not be able to watch the new DRM "protected" content in its full resolution, not because of any technical limitation, but because or an arbitrary, artificial restriction.

The specific technology we are talking about is HDCP, or "High-Bandwidth? Digital Content Protection". What HDCP does is makes sure that high definition video data is being sent only between approved HDCP certified devices, to make sure that it doesn't get recorded somehow along the way. If you buy a new HD-DVD or Blu Ray DVD player but your TV doesn't support HDCP then the player will intentionally degrade the signal to a much lower quality..

There are practically no HDCP devices out there on the market right now, in fact there was some recent trouble where some high end video cards that were initially advertised as HDCP compliant (ALL devices mush be HDCP complaint, not just your TV or monitor) turned out not to be (would suck if I spent extra for a card just to be HDCP compliant, so I wouldn't have to upgrade again so soon and it turns out that the card wasn't HDCP after all), while I'm sure that more and more devices will be coming out with HDCP support you will still need to upgrade.

And the point of all this, to make sure that most consumers cannot exercise their fair use rights over the content they paid good money for, heaven forbid that you make a legal, personal backup copy of your $25 HD-DVD movie. Of course the copyright cartel tells you it's to prevent piracy, but believe me the pirates are pretty much the only ones that are all ready and set to go for HDCP.

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Make your own web page with Google Pages
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Thu 23 of Feb., 2006 18:19 PST  (2721 Reads)

I swear I intend to update more often than weekly.

Here is an interesting bit of news. Google has released yet another new project, they call it Google Pages. What this allows you to do is create a web site for basic purposes (like a personal home page).

It's designed for people who don't know anything about web site coding, so even if you don't know Jack about HTML you can still make this work. It has a 100Mb limit with isn't bad, even if you are sharing photos or small videos (not sure if there is a bandwidth limit). Unlike other services/applications that have attempted to bring web site creation to the masses, this one reportedly creates halfway decent HTML.

It uses your Google Account, so if you already have a GMail account you are ready to go. I don't think you need an invitation any longer to get a GMail account but if you want one let me know and I'll send one over.

Honestly I haven't played with it yet, because of all the buzz about it it was down since this morning due to high traffic (this freqently happens for new Google services).

Of course this all supports the theory that Google is taking over the world, but surprisingly few people seem to care.

Happy freaking Valentines Day!
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Tue 14 of Feb., 2006 22:00 PST  (3163 Reads)

Ahh, today is Valentines Day, the day that comes every year whether we like it or not.

Luckily I made my annual trek to See's last week so I only had to wait in line half an hour.

Next month is the much less known and much less observed Steak and a Blowjob day, good luck with that guys.

In the same vein, here are some alternative valentines for you that Hallmark mysteriously omitted (not for viewing at work)

Pointless and useless security for everyone - Code 10
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Mon 13 of Feb., 2006 21:34 PST  (3869 Reads)

Anyone who knows me knows that I've been highly critical of what's happened to our society in the name of security since 9/11. Generally it's my opinion that we have sold out our freedoms and changed our way of life and have delivered the terrorists like Bin Laden a victory in doing so.

This is made even worse by the fact that the vast majority of changes add noting in terms of real security and serve to at best provide a false sense of security to mindless sheep, to a more sinister purpose of putting money in people pockets (i.e. security consultants) to worse giving an excuse for those who those who think that we should live in a less free society to at worst giving sadistic people their jollies.

There are examples all over the place, from the USA PATRIOT Act, to removing your shoes at the airport security checkpoint to the NSA wiretaps and more.

I was reminded of this issue recently when news broke about a "foiled" plot to execute a 9/11 style attack in 2002. Why are we hearing about this now? Because the Bush administration is trying to justify to us the necessity of the NSA wiretapping program (though even they admit that the plot and stopping it had nothing at all to do with wiretapping) or at the very least distract us by working up fears of a "Terra" attack.

What's extra interesting about this particular plot was that supposedly the building that was targeted was the very same building I was working in at the time. Yep I worked on the 53rd floor of what was then called the "Library Tower" in 2002, so had this plot gone ahead it's entirely likely that I would have been in the building when the plane hit. See this post on Amy's home page with a nice picture, my office was next to Amy's


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