Archive for June, 2006

how not to make your band’s website simultaneously suck and blow

June 15th, 2006

  1. Post some music for free. Pick your three or four best songs, and encode them in mp3 format so they’ll work on whatever computer or device your visitor wants to put them on. But, don’t have your music play automatically when the visitor enters the site, as many people — I have heard — use the Internet to occasionally goof off at their day jobs, and if they go to your website during work hours and you start blaring your music out of their computer they will hate you, and they will be right to do so.
  2. Don’t make an “intro” to your site using Flash. Nobody genuinely watches them, and visitors will simply skip over it. They also damage the ability of search engines (like Google) to find and index your site
  3. Get a real domain name for your site; don’t be known as, be known as Domain names used to be fairly expensive, but these days, you should only have to pay around $10-$15 a year.
  4. Sell your music online, and you can reach a lot more people than you could with a couple CD-Rs at Turn it Up! For example, you can use a service like to make your music available on the iTunes Music Store and the like for a paltry $35.
  5. Finally: please, please, do not use MySpace for your main website. MySpace is ostensibly “cool” for bands right now — but trust me, in a year from now the fickle finger of Internet zeitgeist will have moved on to or whatever, and you will look wicked lame.



June 14th, 2006


Remember that cool terminal in Quake that dropped from the top of the screen? Yeah, that was cool. Thanks to a thread at Ars Technica, the maker of Quicksilver has whipped up a quickie drop-down terminal app for Mac OS X: Visor. Follow the directions on the wiki (keeping in mind that once Visor is installed, it’ll show up in your menu items — that threw me for a couple seconds); and for extra style points, use one of these fantastic Quartz Composer graphics as a terminal background courtesy of


someday when you calm down you’ll realize all I was trying to do is help you

June 13th, 2006

Holy God — this is the company that was big enough to buy Time Warner a couple years ago? And they’re reduced to harassing their customers one by one?


new mac ads

June 13th, 2006


All the new Apple ads have been pretty good — but the new one, “Work vs. Home“, made me laugh out loud. John Hodgman is awesome. I’ve really been enjoying his stint on the Daily Show as “Resident Expert”, and his new-ish book “The Areas of my Expertise” can be picked up used on Amazon for $7, which would be the best $7 you’ve ever spent, my friend. The chapter on hobos is worth it alone.


annoying mac os x preview bug #1

June 12th, 2006


  1. Open Preview.
  2. Open a picture file.
  3. Close the picture file.
  4. Throw it away.
  5. Try to empty the trash. You can’t. Preview still thinks it’s open. Doy.

Drives me nuts, this one does, and without exaggeration it makes me want to shoot myself in the face. It’s been a problem since Mac OS X 10.0, and I’ve reported it a bunch of times; oh well, there’s always 10.5.

UPDATE: I might be crazy, as no one else seems to have this going on in their system. That’s always a real possibility, me being crazy, I mean.


quickie movie review of prairie home companion (and cars)

June 11th, 2006

A word about my movie-laden Saturday:

I went to a showing of “A Prairie Home Companion.” The reviews (I admit it. I like to read movie reviews.) were mixed at best. People seemed to knock it just for being a Robert Altman film, and for on top of that, capturing the feel of a radio program displaced in the modern world.
The way I see it, the reviewers are faulting the movie for doing what it does best. No, it doesn’t have a clear, driven plot-line; rather it is a series of interactions, that broadly captures the Prairie Home experience.

It’s pretty simple. If you like Prairie Home Companion, you’ll like the movie. If you don’t (or haven’t heard of it), you’re missing out. My recommendation: go listen to Prairie Home Companion right now. Then go see the movie. You’ll be better for it.

Oh, and Cars: It’s good. It’s Pixar. The Car Talk boys are in it (it was an NPR kind of day) ‘nuff said.

new aqua backgrounds

June 10th, 2006

I’ve always liked the abstract desktop backgrounds that have come with Mac OS X — I find photo desktop backgrounds distracting — but the choice of just bright Aqua Blue or muted Aqua Graphite is a little stingy. For the sake of variety, I’ve fired up Photoshop and made myself a couple different highly fashionable Aqua backgrounds based on the original “Aqua Blue” desktop in Mac OS X 10.4:

  • Aqua Turquoise, a darker greenish tint (my favorite). Looks great with Aluminum PowerBooks/MacBookPros.
  • Aqua Fresh, a variant of Aqua Turquoise, bright like toothpaste.
  • Aqua Ubuntu Orange, a orange/brown desktop tinted to match the “Human” theme introduced in Ubuntu 6.06 “Dapper Drake”.
  • Aqua Lime, a bright green desktop which should look adorable on the white iBooks/MacBooks.
  • Aqua Negative, a dark desktop that should look pretty cool on the new black MacBooks.


hoover fusion v. gillette fusion

June 10th, 2006


Thanks to the enthusiastic urgings of my friend Ben, I took an important step towards adulthood today: I bought my first new vacuum cleaner.


  • Thanks to Dyson, all vacuum cleaners now look like Tonka trucks. Not to say the vacuum is attractive — it’s not — but there is a certain Transformers toy-like quality to it. I guess vacuum cleaner manufacturers finally found out who was buying the vacuum cleaners (men) vs. who was more likely to want a vacuum cleaner bought (women).
  • It’s quite powerful. By then end of our first vacuuming run, I had half a grocery bag full of dirty hair. It should be noted that I haven’t actually vacuumed in about a year, and roomba can only do so much.
  • It’s bagless, which for me is a key point, as I refuse to give any more money in my lifetime to the shiftless vacuum cleaner bag impresarios, with their annoying and constantly unavailable unneccesary permutations of Size B, Size L, Size MM bags. Fuck them.


  • …and this is a big one: you have to buy it ($128.88) from Walmart. Walmart sucks — with apologies to our two readers from Utah, it’s a “red state” store, just like CompUSA — and what’s worse is after I bought the vacuum, the greeter wanted to check my receipt on the way out. Thanks to what what I’ve learned from the Consumerist, though, I didn’t let Flo the Walmart Greeter have her way. She shouted “I’ll call a manager!” at us as we left, but that was weak, and that was about all she apparently had.
  • The cord doesn’t roll back in. I like when they do that.
  • Headlight is not of the blinding, blue Xenon type.
  • Vacuum is an annoying word to type.

I was also disappointed by the lack of integration between the Hoover Fusion and my beloved Gilette Fusion razor. I bought into both in hopes of creating a “Fusion of Fusions” — a quad-fusion if you will* — but my early efforts to integrate the razor onto the handle of the vacuum was met with skepticism and derision. Worse, early prototypes cut my face deeply and profoundly — sure, combining a razor and a vacuum is attractive from an efficiency standpoint, but I’m not sure that this is “the way”:

(click to enlarge detail)

Back to the drawing board.


* and you will!

über-intrusive flash ad

June 9th, 2006

Josh asked me a while back if it was possible to make a .swf with an alpha (transparency) channel — I said I didn’t think so, but I was wrong, although it’s a feature often being used for evil and not good. Por ejemplo, on this page, there’s an iTunes ad which often appears on the left hand side which actually extends into the text in the center*. In a disconcerting intrusion, at some point the ad actually smashes a guitar and whips a headphone cord over the text; cool, technically, but from a readers’ perspective, godawful horrid.

(link fixed, thanks Trevor!)


*probably using the z-index feature of css, although I haven’t actually checked the code.

dictionary of the vulgar tongue

June 8th, 2006


Are you writing a story set in 1811 featuring scalawags, ne’rdowells, and hooligans? You are? Wow, that’s odd. Good luck, and this is really going to help you out — it’s a dictionary of slang from almost 200 years ago:

RIDING SKIMMINGTON. A ludicrous cavalcade, in ridicule of a man beaten by his wife. It consists of a man riding behind a woman, with his face to the horse’s tail, holding a distaff in his hand, at which he seems to work, the woman all the while beating him with a ladle; a smock displayed on a staff is carried before them as an emblematical standard, denoting female superiority: they are accompanied by what is called the ROUGH MUSIC, that is, frying-pans, bulls horns, marrow-bones and cleavers.


css layout from scratch

June 5th, 2006

Max Design has a logical, methodical, pleasingly lucid breakdown of how to lay out a web page using CSS — I wish every step-by-step technical walkthrough on the internet was half as well-written and copiously illustrated as this.


breakdown of a breakbeat

June 5th, 2006

This video gives an interesting if monotone history of the “Amen Brother” break, more or less the cornerstone of jungle and a vital hip-hop staple.


headphone recommendations?

June 5th, 2006


For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, or god forbid have social lives and more important things to do, has gone live with their pretty new CSS design. It’s shiny.

How did they come to this design? They asked the Slashdot horde to do it for free, and they complied. This gave me an idea.

A drunken friend of mine recently attempted to use my glovebox to turn my iPod headphones into a cubist dissection of iPod headphones. He succeeded, and shaved off the stupid third-dimension I didn’t really want them to have anyway. Wait for it…… they sound flat!! Ha! *wipes tear from corner of eye*

But now I’m in need of replacing headphones I never really liked anyway. I’m thinking inner ear headphones, and I have a $100 coupon for J & R burning a hole in my pocket. So, loyal readers, what should I get?

piggyback mountin’

June 5th, 2006

Behold: The non-awaited return of my crittercam. Witness the wacky antics of my two guinea pigs, Shaun and Danny (the boys), or my two rabbits, Sparks and Nutley (the girls). When in a cage together, Shaun and Danny will run around in circles and try to hump each other. I plan to videotape this and set it to the Benny Hill theme. For now you can see them pine for each other behind their respective bars, hoping to join each other for homoerotic pig love.

The Crittercam

P.S. My iSight has a lot of red/green fuzzies in dim light… is that normal or is this thing messed up?

cory doctorow visits a radio shack

June 4th, 2006

(SCENE: a strip mall Radio Shack with a single Radio Shack EMPLOYEE standing behind the sales counter. CORY DOCTOROW enters.)SFX: electronic doorbell goes “Dooo-weee!”

CORY DOCTOROW: Hmmph. I certainly hope that doorbell isn’t keeping private records of who enters and exits the store.

EMPLOYEE: Um, I’m fairly sure it doesn’t. What can I help you with today? RCA cables, perhaps?

CORY DOCTOROW: No, thank you, I’m actually here to purchase a cell phone as you see I am the keynote speaker at a vitally important Web 2.0 conference this week and apparently my current cell phone does not get service in this backwater area… most probably due to the total asshats at the MPAA and RIAA.

EMPLOYEE: Yes, well, we have many excellent phones and plans

CORY DOCTOROW: Listen. Before we even get into this, let me ask you something. Will I be able to transfer all my existing cell phone ringtones to my new phone? Because on my cell phone, I have a hilarious mutant hybrid remix of Queen’s “We Are The Champions” and the side-splitting “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” internet meme.

EMPLOYEE: That can depend on the hardware of your existing —

CORY DOCTOROW: I also have a community flash mob created hip-hopera version of the Dr. Who theme and M.I.A.’s “Galang” released under the Creative Commons license.

EMPlOYEE: I can’t say for sure but I doubt —

CORY DOCTOROW: And I have a background wallpaper skin of the Ontario subway system with all the stop names cleverly rearranged to spell out the names of the characters from “Harry Potter”.


CORY DOCTOROW: Let me ask you this: does this phone play quadraphonic Ogg Vorbis music format? Or FLAC encoded video? What about the Bittorrent client on this phone, is it GPL’d?

EMPLOYEE: I’m not entirely certain that the phone actually has a Bittorrent client. This brochure —

CORY DOCTOROW: You’re not certain? I guess you’ve forced me to ask: is the source code available for this phone? Not that I plan to do anything personally right now with the source, but I’d like to see it. Now, if possible, my good man. Chop chop!

EMPLOYEE: Oh look! I have an informational PDF brochure I could print out for you.

CORY DOCTOROW: Ahh, PDFs are DRM-encumbered as per secret instructions contained in the Patriot Act!

EMPLOYEE: But I could still print it out for you. Listen, let me know if you have any more questions; now I have to get back to my other customers.

CORY DOCTOROW: There’s no one else here.

EMPLOYEE: Oh, I thought maybe there was.


CORY DOCTOROW: Google maps 37Signals with Flickr iPod.


CORY DOCTOROW: I didn’t say anything. Now, about this cell phone

EMPLOYEE: Are you sure you wouldn’t be happier with perhaps a remote controlled buggy? This one goes forward and backs up while turning right. I’ll throw in the “D” cells.

CORY DOCTOROW: No, no — intriguing — but I do need a cell phone. Internet sensation and total hottie Xeni Jardin might be calling me right now!

EMPLOYEE: Well, now I understand the urgency. How about a Sprint flip-phone? $99 with three year contract.

CORY DOCTOROW: Does it have a always-on, 802.11g wifi connection to the podcasted RSS reddit digg instapundit blogosphere?

EMPLOYEE: Uhm, sure. It really does.

CORY DOCTOROW: That will do nicely.



EMPLOYEE: Could I please have your phone number, area code first?



(thanks to w for the epilogue)