Browsing the archives for the technology category.

RSS: What & Why?

Written on February 10, 2009 by
informative, technology

Out on the wild and untamed frontier of the interweb, many locales are vying for your attention. No doubt there are plenty of “regular stops” on your daily or weekly web safaris; websites that provide you with entertainment, news or time wasters.

But don’t you get tired of typing in those long convoluted web addresses like cnn.com? You might even have to put “h t t p colon forward slash forward slash w w w dot” in front of it! Or how about those websites that don’t update regularly, like when it’s Ringl’s turn to post here on Warptubes! (Hey-o!)

What if I told you that you could go to one place and get everything you wanted from all your favorite websites whenever new content was posted? My friends, the dream is a reality.

Most websites on the internet have something that we in the “biz” call a RSS Feed. What in the world is a RSS feed? Say you find a magazine in the grocery store that you really like. It’s a pain that next month you have to go to the grocery store again to pick up the newest issue. It’s so much easier just to subscribe to the magazine and have the new issues sent to you! That’s the magic of RSS. When you subscribe to an RSS Feed, you will get the latest updates from that website sent directly to you!

Want to get started? Just follow along here. In order to subscribe to a RSS Feed, you need a Feed Reader (called an “Aggregator” in the biz). Blah blah blah, technobabble. You just want a link and a tutorial. Follow along:

Go to http://google.com/reader.

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Google Reader is like the mailbox in which you receive your magazine subscriptions. It grabs the latest news and articles from websites and puts it all in one place for you to access from any computer. For a simple break down of what exactly Google Reader does and how it can assist you, watch this video:

To start adding websites, sign in. If you don’t already have a Google account, click “Create an account” in the bottom right.

Once you’ve made an account or signed in, you’ll see the main screen with some introductory information

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Now for the fun stuff! Click the picture-3 button in the top right and type in one of your favorite websites. For instance, “Warptubes” or “http://warptubes.com”

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Google will then find the website or feed it thinks you want. Look for the one that seems right, then click “Subscribe”

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From then on, your favorite websites will show up on the bottom right under Subscriptions. The number next to the Subscription name is how many new unread items have come in.picture-7

When you’re checking out your Subscriptions, the new articles and updates will come through looking like this:

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It’s not exactly the same as you’re used to seeing from your favorite website, but all of the content will be there and will look much cleaner with a lot fewer ads (if any!). I call that a sweet deal. If you do need to see the article in its original context, just click the title at the top. That link will take you straight to the page where the update was posted.

Not sure if your favorite website has an RSS feed? If Google couldn’t find it when you clicked “Add a subscription”, then look around on the website for a icon that looks like this:

feed-icon-28x28

Click on that and copy and paste the URL into Google Reader’s “Add a subscription” box, and viola! You’re set.

Google Reader has revolutionized my internet browsing and brings all the content I want directly to me. This tutorial will hopefully save you some time, too, while still getting all the news and articles you’re used to!

This ended up being a long post, but if you followed along and can get into the habit of using Google Reader, you will be much better off!
Still not sure about something? Have some questions? Post in the comments below and I’ll give you some advice.

Enjoy!

– Shaw

3 Comments

I Can Make Music!

Written on January 31, 2009 by
technology

A quick note: I haven’t been able to actually try out this software myself, but these results are just horrifying and speak for themselves.

How many times have you come up with a great melody with the perfect lyrics, but just can’t make the music to go with it?

Unless you’re Imogen Heap, the answer is probably never.

But luckily for you, Microsoft is here to solve a problem you didn’t have with SongSmith! This software allows you to sing whatever your heart desires, and it’ll magically create karaoke music to go along with it! Don’t believe me? Watch this astoundingly awful infomercial. (Pause the video at 3:15 for a quick laugh)

The best part? “Microsoft, huh? So, it’s pretty easy to use?” The irony just oozes out!

The results produced by Songsmith range from “Acceptable for a impromtu late night karaoke” to “Where are my earplugs?” People on the Interwebs have used this software to ruin such classics as “Tom Sawyer – The Skating Rink Mix” and “Backwoods White Wedding.” Not even Internet Phenomenons like Chocolate Rain and Never Gonna Give You Up are safe. Song after song after song are processed into this terrible excuse for music.

One possibly useful feature is quickly getting the chords to your vocal part, but the music Songsmith makes in its current state is just… yikes. Microsoft’s terrible advertising for it sure doesn’t help.

Perhaps in a few years, software like this could produce some decent music, but I recommend skipping Songsmith for now, unless you feel compelled to create a Warptubes theme song…

Ringl

I could be mistaken, but isn’t the girls laptop a Macbook Pro? The USB ports are in the right place.

Shaw

You aren’t mistaken. It does appear to be a Macbook (Pro?) with stickers to cover up the logo. Looks like someone’s using Bootcamp!

3 Comments

something new

Written on January 20, 2009 by
blog, technology

I found this and immediately closed the browser window. I’m pretty sure I would have been lost for the rest of the day going through all the possible combinations.

Now some of you skipped clicking on the link and kept reading on. That’s not going to do here… just open it in a new window or tab and go through it once.

Watched it? Good!

I’m sure you’ve all noticed that once something gains popularity it’s inevitable that someone tries to cash in on the fad. And often those copy-cats are necessary in order to progress an industry or technology. Competition, at its core, is a great process.

But I’ve recently been wondering how great competition is for innovation. And while I’m really just talking about making something completely, never-before-thought-of new, I’d be negligent not to mention the innovation that is taking a technology and improving upon it to the point that it’s hardly recognizable. It becomes something completely new while its foundation remains worn and (t)rusted.

Of course, innovation to me isn’t just making something new. Microsoft tried to make something (nearly) completely new when it released its Vista operating system. The overall effect was that there was nothing left that windows users recognized. It became a cold and sterile experience that many seasoned Windows users and devopers fought against. On the flip side of that coin Apple has been seeing huge successes with Mac OS X. When Apple put out OS X it was radically different than its predecessors in that it was built off of BSD, a Unix-like operating system that has seen consistent use due to its reputation of dependability.

Now these two companies are competing. And for us, the consumers, that’s good. Apple is continuing to improve its operating system and is listening to customer demands. Microsoft is now beta testing Windows 7 and so far experiences have been so good that people are nicknaming it “Fix-ta”.

But here’s where I’m having difficulty. All of this competition seems like it will never produce something truly¬†new. Even in the link above people are just adapting newer technology to mimic something old. Heck, even the file-systems on modern computer operating systems are made to mimic a stand-up filing cabinet (metal drawers that tell jokes?). And the hype for new technologies tells us that we’re seeing is something never seen before. Whereas in reality it’s something we’ve been using the entire time, but polished up so that we notice it.

Of course, there is a need for new technologies to have some bit of familiarity just for us to be able to adjust to using it. I couldn’t have made a very good transition from the two-button + D-pad nintendo controller to the 8 button, dual-joystick plus a D-pad Xbox360 controller without some sort of stepping stone to prepare me for that next step. It’s like the difference between driving a big wheel versus piloting a shuttle to the moon and back.

And with the sudden surge of focus on simplistic control schemes and intuitive, touch interfaces, it seems that it’s only a matter of time before the most complex tasks are simplified to flicking a finger across your phone’s display or the waggle of a wii-mote.

And I can’t decide if that’s a good thing.

1 Comment

iTunes

Written on January 13, 2009 by
blog, informative, technology

I like iTunes as a service. For a long time I didn’t bother to use it because I had already been using Windows Media player for as long as I could remember. It played the music that I did load onto my computer and kept it organized in a way that made sense.

What stopped me from using WMP was that it was changing versions frequently, and when it changed things were no longer intuitive to me. So I eventually got tired of it and decided to give iTunes a try since it’s format seemed to have been the same for a long time. When it comes to software, I live and breathe for stability (stop making jokes about Windows).

I had trouble with it at first, and there are still things I don’t like about iTunes as a program to manage my music (nothing outside of Apple’s normal “Form over Function” mentality) but I love that it consolidates my music, videos, podcasts and a music store that I don’t mind using to just find something real fast. But over the past few months I’ve discovered an alternative.

I’m not talking about Napster or Rhapsody where you’re paying a subscription to access all of their songs. I’m also not talking about a service like Walmart’s where if they ever shutdown their activation servers you can kiss all the music you purchased goodbye.

I’m talking about Amazon.

Yes, the online bookstore. As it turns out they also have a DRM free MP3 store that has all I’ll ever need on it.

Now if you’re an Apple fanboy you’re excited about the fact that iTunes+ is now the standard and you’re music is now DRM free as well (and you should be!). But here’s the deal, you’re not DRM free. That’s right, all of your account information is embedded into every track you purchase. And if you want to upgrade all of your old, copy-protected music, then it’s going to cost you dearly.¬†

Now don’t misunderstand me, I’m all for paying for my music. And I’m not against Apple’s new brand of DRM. In fact, it’s some of the most transparent form of copy-protection I could imagine and it provides just enough information in it to keep people from just opening up their library to a P2P network. But developing and putting that system into place costs money. Which is exactly why Amazon MP3 costs less. And for now, that’s exactly where I’ll be purchasing my music… and immeadiately dumping it into iTunes.

Now if either of these digital music giants really wants to get my attention. Start providing a legal way to watch live TV streaming over the internet. When that happens, it’s only a matter of time before I purchase a laptop with an AT&T 3G cellular internet capability and stop talking to people altogether.

–ringl

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iPod Shuffled

Written on November 27, 2008 by
technology

For Turkey Day 2008, I’m not able to give you sweet turkey markers, but I do have a random anecdote from my week for you.

When I’m at work, I prefer to listen to music to help pass the time. My regular routine is to bring in my iPod, set it to shuffle and turn the volume down to a “background” level in respect for my coworkers.

This week was a little different. As the songs played through, I started noticing some patterns. The first thing that caught my attention was a song playing twice. The album version would play, and then a live version would play right after it. At first, it wasn’t too bad with Emery’s “As Your Voice Fades,” where the live version is not screamed and is actually intelligible. However, once the Five Iron Frenzy came up it became extremely repetitive, since the two versions are practically identical.

All of that was pretty weird, but it kept getting stranger. Shuffle decided it was going to start picking songs with similar titles, which I have never noticed before. The first couple of times, it barely caught my attention but then it just started getting excessive.

Here is the actual songs my iPod chose for me, in order:

  • A Beautiful Collision, David Crowder Band
  • Beautiful Jesus, Kristian Stanfill
  • The Beautiful Letdown, Switchfoot
  • Beautiful Lord, Leeland
  • Beautiful The Blood, Steve Fee

Hm… Notice any similarities there?

I know that the iPod’s shuffle is not completely random; I’ve seen it give preferences to artists, albums and high rated music before. But this… This was something completely new. Could it be that Genius is now influencing the shuffle?

Anyone else had this happen? Perhaps while doing the iPod Challenge?

Ringl replied on November 28, 2008 at 6:19 pm

Hm… Notice any similarities there?

Yeah… all your music sucks

–Ringl

Shaw replied on November 29, 2008 at 8:53 am

That was just a random sampling of my music! I can’t help it shuffle picks badly sometimes. At any rate, I bet all of those tracks can be found on your iPod right now… assuming your iPod would boot up so we could check.

-Shaw

Ringl replied on November 30, 2008 at 5:44 pm

Touche…

–Ringl

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