Adam Fields (weblog) » Entertainment entertaining hundreds of millions of eyeball atoms every day Mon, 08 Apr 2013 17:49:20 +0000 en hourly 1 My problem with the Netflix restructuring Tue, 20 Sep 2011 20:47:59 +0000 adam I can accept that DVDs are a dying business with no future growth and _escalating_ costs. I can accept that Netflix wants to get out of that business and move forward, even if the streaming product is still nascent and not competitive yet. I like Netflix, and I’ve been a loyal customer since before they had unlimited plans (I was the first person I knew to get a DVD player).

I accept that all of this might be necessary and painful to grow the business. But the thing is – it’s not our burden as customers to carry those costs, and it’s disingenuous to ask us to do so. The fact is, while DVDs are limited in growth, they’re still the better product with far more selection, and the DVD business you’re jettisoning is still profitable. If you want us to switch to a worse product that may be better in the future, great. Lower your prices to compensate. All of this brouhaha could have been avoided if you’d announced that everyone’s plan was a dollar per month cheaper until the streaming selection got better.

We’ll bear with you to make a difficult transition. Asking us to do so while giving us a worse experience and making us pay more for the privilege feels like taking advantage.

It’s not too late to change your mind.

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My Huck Finn edit Sat, 08 Jan 2011 19:17:15 +0000 adam “Jim was monstrous proud about it, and he got so he wouldn’t hardly notice the other dudes. Dudes would come miles to hear Jim tell about it, and he was more looked up to than any dude in that country. Strange dudes would stand with their mouths open and look him all over, same as if he was a wonder. Dudes is always talking about witches in the dark by the kitchen fire; but whenever one was talking and letting on to know all about such things, Jim would happen in and say, ‘Hm! What you know ’bout witches?’ and that dude was corked up and had to take a back seat.”

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Something interesting about scarcity Wed, 22 Jul 2009 21:07:13 +0000 adam We used to have a 6-at-a-time Netflix plan. We’d get 6 movies, but then sometimes we’d go months before watching them, or even just deciding that enough was enough and sending them back. And frequently, even among those 6 movies, there would be nothing we wanted to watch on any given night. And then an interesting thing happened. As part of a general cost trimming in our house, we dropped down to a 3-at-a-time plan. And suddenly we started watching a lot more Netflix movies. With 6 movies to choose from, there was always “something else” to watch, and we didn’t have to worry about clearing out all of the cruft to make room for something we really wanted to watch. As a result, we didn’t think as carefully about whether we’d really want to watch a new movie, because just renting something wouldn’t really block something else that we wanted to see more if it came along. But when we introduced a little artificial scarcity into the mix, a slot became something worth protecting from something we didn’t really want to see, and we started thinking more about which movies to put to the top of the queue, and then actually being more aggressive about watching them and sending them back.

This seems like a strange effect to me – we’re paying less, we’re technically using less (3 out instead of 6 out), but we’re turning over more, so the net effect is probably that we’re heavier users now than at 6-out. Because the pricing is only on the number out instead of the turnover, we’re unarguably paying less and using more, even though we’re technically on a “lower usage” plan. At this point, even if we wanted to spend the extra money, I have no desire to go back to a 6-out plan, because I like the extra sense of urgency that comes from having the out slots be a scarce resource, and it makes me want to use the service more.

I don’t know if this makes me a better Netflix customer or not, from their perspective. Obviously I’m paying less money to them per month and using more in mailing fees, but I’m also holding onto premium movies for a lot less time than I used to, freeing them up to be sent to other customers.

Anyone notice the same thing?

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Thoughts on the new Star Trek Mon, 11 May 2009 14:58:54 +0000 adam First, I loved it. I think it was the best movie I’ve seen in a long time. It treated the source material with respect, but established its own direction. The casting was basically flawless, and each of the major characters settled into their respective roles as gracefully as putting on a new pair of shoes from the same brand in the same size you were wearing before. The IMAX version is huge, but sit back more than you think you need to. We ended up being a little too close and it was sometimes hard to focus on the fast action scenes.

Spoilers ahead.

I loved the new bridge, and I was completely wowed at the omnipresent reflections and lens flares going on in the foreground. It really added the sense of being there and catching light bouncing off of some shiny panel, of which there are now many. Similarly, I loved the scope of the new engineering. Finally… it looks big.

All of the performances were grand and Zachary Quinto was impressive as a young Spock, but I think Karl Urban gets a special callout for really nailing the crotchety Bones. (And he was shafted a special commendation for saving the entire universe by sneaking Kirk on the Enterprise in the first place.)

I thought the time travel execution was very successful, and I very much liked that they didn’t take the standard “everything gets resolved at the end of the episode” tack and left things messy instead. The seamless shift into what otherwise would have been a reboot or a lifeless prequel… completely works for me. This is a different universe, most notably in the way that six billion Vulcans are now missing. As the Vulcans are the main ambassadors of the Federation for first contact, this has drastic implications on the influence and power of the Federation. But, as a mitigating factor, Spock is back from the future with 130 years of accumulated knowledge. Vulcans have essentially photographic memories and the ability to share thoughts widely without having to explain them, and Spock apparently doesn’t seem shy about applying this where necessary to rebalance things. And it’s not just technological knowledge – he’s one of the most well-versed people ever in galactic politics. He knows where all of the hidden enemies and backstabbing and power grabs are going to come from, he knows which alliances are likely to form, and he knows which resources people are going to be fighting about. This is a unique position – he can prepare the Federation in advance to deal with all of these threats before they fully manifest. As time goes on and the timelines diverge, his knowledge will become less useful, but should still provide the Federation with a significant advantage in the short run, enough to make up for the lack of influcence of most of the Vulcans (and they’ll still have the thousands who survived to carry on at least some of the legacy).

Going forward, this is a very different universe, and I very much look forward to seeing how it unfolds. I hope they consider returning to a serial format, though not necessarily TV. There’s way too much rich material to mine here now to only tease us with a single movie every few years, and I think it would be a waste of this potential to fully focus on the action stories which the movies tend to favor (which is not to say that they’re not a ton of fun). But for the first time in a long time, I need to go see it in the theater again.

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Why I’m not going to see Watchmen tonight Fri, 06 Mar 2009 17:24:09 +0000 adam It just doesn’t look like a very good movie to me. I didn’t like 300 terribly much. It was visually accurate with the book, but I found it fairly boring for most of the way through. I’m tired of ILM demo reels masquerading as masterwork films. The actors, with the exception of Silk Spectre, all seem about 10-15 years too young, and far too shiny. Watchmen is not supposed to be a shiny movie, except in very specific parts. Also, by and large, it’s not an action movie, again except in very specific parts.

The goal of “I’m doing this so someone else won’t fuck it up worse” is laudable, but ultimately flawed.

I expect it’s going to be a lot like the Hitchhiker’s Guide movie – visually accurate but stripped of everything great except glancing references to everything great in the book. I don’t really need a reminder to go read the book again.

One of the most striking moments of the book is when you realize that even the visual panel structure in issue 5 is symmetrical around the assassination attempt on Veidt and is flanked on both sides by about eighty thousand important plot elements that have been carefully arranged for you, by hand, in advance. That is when you realize that what you’re holding in your hands is really something special. It can’t be done as a movie, because it’s not something that can make its impact when it just flashes by. You have to sit there and stare at the page, and flip back and forth, and let it sink in, and sometimes take a few minutes to just absorb everything in one panel.

I’m guessing… not. Maybe I’ll see it eventually, but not tonight.

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My photos featured briefly in Tom Mylan interview Mon, 21 Jul 2008 22:26:39 +0000 adam Grace Piper interviewed local butcher Tom Mylan at the Unfancy Food Show, and used some of my pictures to illustrate:

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Coming to a Rational First Sale Doctrine for Digital Works Mon, 24 Mar 2008 13:15:10 +0000 adam In reference to this Gizmodo piece analyzing the rights granted by the Kindle and Sony e-reader:

I think the analysis in that article is flawed. It doesn’t make any sense to be able to resell the reader with the books on it, because the license for the books is assigned to you, not to the reader. For example, if your Kindle breaks, you can move your books to another one. I’ve never heard anything other than the opinion that you can’t resell the digital copy – the assumption has always been that these sorts of transactions break the first sale doctrine. The problem then becomes “what are you buying?”, if there’s nothing you can resell.

The first sale doctrine has to apply to the license, not the bits themselves, because under the scenario in which it applies to the bits, arguably Amazon retains no rights whatsoever. They had no direct hand in arranging the bits of your copy the way they are – they merely sent instructions to your computer about how to arrange them in a certain pattern. The article asserts that you can’t “transfer” the bits, but in the same way, in downloading a copy, Amazon hasn’t actually “transferred” anything to you, either.

There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to sell your Kindle, and the books don’t necessarily go with it, but if you want to sell the books separately, you can do that too. Legally, if you do that, you’d be obligated to destroy all of the copies you’ve made. Amazon’s inability to police that is as relevant as their inability to police the fact that you haven’t made a photocopy of the physical book you sold when you were done with it. There’s no weight to the argument that this will encourage rampant piracy, given that unencrypted cracked copies of all of these things are available to those who want them anyway, and always will be. People comply with reasonable laws willingly because they’re honest, it’s the “right thing to do”, and they feel that the laws are an acceptable tradeoff for living in a civilized society where sometimes you have to make compromises and not just do whatever you want. People do not comply with one-sided laws where they feel like they’re being ripped off for no reason. A law which turns your sale into a non-sellable license is of the latter kind. It turns normal users into petty criminals who don’t care when they break the law, because the law is stupid. Once they’ve ignored some of the terms, it’s a shorter step to ignore others, or ignore similar terms for other products. People like consistency, especially in legal treatments. I would argue that it’s in Amazon’s interest (and the others) to not niggle on this point, because a reasonable license with terms that look like a sale makes for happier customers who aren’t interested in trodding on the license terms, and that’s better for everyone.

(Yes, I’m arguing that restrictive license “sales” are anti-civilization.)

The Kindle ToS not only prohibits selling the Kindle with your books on it, it prohibits anyone else from even looking at it. If someone reads over your shoulder on the train, you’re in violation.

This is, of course, ridiculous.

The right legal response here seems to me to be to not dicker about with splitting hairs about whether you can sell your digital copies if they’re on a physical device and you can’t if they’re not, but to declare that anything sufficiently close to a “right to view, use, and display [...] an unlimited number of times” de facto consitutes a sale, and with it comes certain buyer’s rights regardless of what kinds of outrageous restrictions the licensor tries to bundle in the ToS. The fact that this also seems to be the right business response reinforces my belief that this is the correct path. This kind of a transaction is different from renting, which is by nature a temporary one.

It is the right thing for society to declare that if you’ve bought something that isn’t time or use limited, you’ve therefore also bought the right to resell it, whether it’s a physical object or a license.


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PS3s used for science Thu, 13 Mar 2008 21:37:06 +0000 adam It’s just extraordinary to me what a boon the PS3 is to the scientific community.

“Overall, a single PS3 performs better than the highest-end desktops available and compares to as many as 25 nodes of an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer. And there is still tremendous scope left for extracting more performance through further optimization. More on that soon.”

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What the Apple Keynote should have delivered Wed, 16 Jan 2008 15:08:51 +0000 adam Here’s the thing. The past few years have overwhelmingly delivered a whole class of Apple devices I simply want. I’ve bought a number of them. Not so for anything announced this year. Here’s what we got, and what I would have liked to see Apple have announced instead:

We got: A new super slim but otherwise really limited laptop aimed at… who exactly? Not mobile creatives, executives, or cost-sensitive casual users, given the spec and upgrade limitations.

I wanted instead: Two new laptops – a super portable Macbook Mini, and a Macbook Pro upgrade (thinner, bigger drives/battery, more RAM, higher resolution screen in the same size package). Both thin and light. Touchscreen tablet versions would have been interesting, but even upgrades to the standard laptop package would have been good. The Macbook Mini would be roughly the size of three iPhones side by side (maybe 7.5″ x 5″ or so), running full Mac OS X.

We got: A $20 software bundle for the iPod, but only for the lucky customers who paid 15 or 20 times that already for the top of the line iPod only a few months ago.

I wanted instead: to be honest, I didn’t care much about this one, not owning an iPod Touch or an iPhone. Still, if I did, I’d probably be disappointed.

We got: A software upgrade to Time Machine masquerading as completely new hardware (Time Capsule).

I wanted instead: Allow Time Machine to work with something other than locally plugged in external drives, particularly external drives attached to existing (again only months old) Airport Extremes.

We got: Overpriced limited “movie rentals” and a minor supporting upgrade to the miscast living room product that no one bought last year and which is still a hard sell because it lags behind its competitors in features and doesn’t make up for it with anything that’s great about Apple products.

I wanted instead: Remove whatever restriction is preventing Netflix from doing Watch Now on the Mac. Treat movie rentals like digital media instead of overpriced restricted analogues to going to the video store. Why the 24-hour limit?!? Give me 30 days for a video rental so I don’t feel like I’m being ripped off. Give me TV shows in HD for less than it costs to buy the disc. Let me watch whatever I want to watch on the set top box. In fact, forget the set top box and morph the Mac Mini into the set top box. Anyone watching movies on an HD screen also probably wants to do computing tasks on that screen too. That’s why I have a Mac Mini attached to my living room projector. For not too much more than the Apple TV, you could buy a used Mac Mini and get 100 times the functionality. What I want to see here is making it easier to watch more kinds of digital media on the Mac Mini in a living room setting – Front Row is just awful and limited.

Bonus: Where’s OpenDocument support in iWork?!? Come on man, don’t be like Microsoft on this one. There’s no possible way that .pages and .numbers are going to become the dominant interchangeable file formats that will make people have to buy iWork anytime this century. People buy iWork because they like your applications, not because they have to in order to read a file someone sent them. It doesn’t hurt you to support the open standards, and it helps the users.

[update: I was thoroughly shocked to discover that, of all things, reads .odt files. There's also Quick Look support for them.]

After all, ranting about this stuff is fun, and I enjoy picking it apart, but sometimes it helps to be productive too. So, those are my suggestions for things I’d actually hand over some cash to Apple for this year.

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Warner Bros. goes Blu-ray exclusive Sat, 05 Jan 2008 17:15:04 +0000 adam Warner Bros., one of the big dual-format holdouts in HD video, announced yesterday that they’re switching to Blu-ray only as of May 2008, abandoning HD DVD. The format war isn’t quite “over” yet, but this is a significant victory for Blu-ray.

This leaves Paramount as the only major studio still backing HD DVD [update: oops, Universal too.].,20812,1700383,00.html

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All about audio options on HD discs Thu, 25 Oct 2007 12:35:54 +0000 adam Just to add to the confusion:

“On Standard-Def DVD, there are essentially only two competing sound formats to choose from: Dolby Digital or DTS.[...]The reality of the situation is that both Dolby Digital and DTS are capable of delivering very good, sometimes even exceptional sound quality on DVD.[...]The advent of Blu-ray and HD DVD has brought a dramatic increase in picture quality from Standard Definition to High Definition.[...]High Definition video deserves High Definition audio to go with it.”

And thus begins the litany of the seven different options for audio tracks on HD discs, and how they’re supported on HD DVD vs. Blu-ray.

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Dear Netflix Thu, 04 Oct 2007 15:32:03 +0000 adam Dear Netflix:

I would very much like your website to stop redirecting me to a page that tells me that Im using an unsupported browser. I know I use Opera. I like it. I understand if you dont want to support it, but at least set a cookie so I can just tell you once that I dont care, instead of making me click through your tedious “only browsers we like are supported” splash page every time I want to check my queue.

Thanks. Have a wonderful day.

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The HD format war is lost by existing Fri, 28 Sep 2007 20:55:18 +0000 adam [I've posted this as a comment on a few HD DVD vs. Blu-ray blog posts elsewhere, so I thought I'd put it up here as well.]

An HD format war is simply the height of stupidity, given the nice example of how quickly DVD was adopted by… everybody.

This happened for a few reasons, none of which are being replicated by the HD formats/players:

1) One alternative with no difficult competing choices.

2) Fit into existing home theater setups easily.

3) Clear, obvious quality advantages, even if you set it up incorrectly.

4) Significant convenience advantages – pause with no quality loss (anyone here remember VHS tracking?!), random access, extra features, multiple languages, etc…

5) More convenient and durable physical medium.

So – let’s look at what HD formats offer over DVD in these areas:

1) Multiple competing incompatible choices. Not just between HD DVD and Blu-ray, but also between different HD formats. 720p/1080i vs. 1080p, HDMI/HDCP vs. component. People aren’t adopting HD formats because they’re confusing.

2) Does not fit into existing home theater setups easily. If you had a DVD home theater, chances are you’re replacing most, if not all of your components to get to HD – you need a new TV/projector, you probably need some new switches, you need all new cabling, and you need at least three new players to do it right (HD DVD, Blu-ray, and an upscaling DVD player so your old DVDs look good). Not to mention a new programmable remote to control the now 7 or more components in your new setup (receiver, projector/tv, 3 players, HDMI switch, audio/component switch).

3) Clear, obvious quality advantages, but only if properly tuned and all of them work properly together. I can easily tell the difference between even HD movies and upscaled DVD movies. Upscaled DVD movies look fantastic, but HD movies really pop off the screen. But if things aren’t properly configured or you’re using the wrong cabling, these advantages disappear.

4) No significant convenience advantages, with some disadvantages. Pretty much the same extras, but most discs now won’t let you resume playback from the same place if you press stop in the middle, and they make you watch the warnings and splash screens again.

5) Indistinguishable physical medium. Maybe the Blu-ray coating helps, but we’ll see about that.

I’ve gone the HD route, because I really care about very high video quality, and I love tinkering with this stuff. Most people don’t, and find it incredibly confusing and expensive.

Is it really any wonder that people are holding off?

The HD format war is already lost, by existing at all, and every day that both formats are available for sale just makes things worse. The only good way out of it is to erase the distinction between the two formats – dual format players that reach the killer price point and aren’t filled with bugs.

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New Star Trek movie apparently reboots with an open time loop Sun, 02 Sep 2007 15:15:58 +0000 adam “Picture an incident that throws a group of Romulans back in time. Picture that group of Romulans figuring out where they are in the timeline, then deciding to take advantage of the accident to kill someone’s father, to erase them from the timeline before they exist, thereby changing all of the TREK universe as a result. Who would you erase? Whose erasure would leave the biggest hole in the TREK universe is the question you should be asking.

Who else, of course, but James T. Kirk?”

Although I don’t think it would work as a standalone movie, I’m still waiting for the followup series they hinted at the end of TNG – the continual use of warp drive is found to be definitively unraveling the fabric of space-time. How do you deal with that? What does that do to interplanetary politics? How do you develop alternate forms of travel that don’t use warp technology? How do you stop everyone from using warp drive, and how do you police that? How do you impose that restriction on hostile entities? Nothing like a good galactic environmental crisis to bring Star Trek back into relevance.

(Of course, in TNG, the answer obviously lies in Wesley Crusher’s newly acquired godlike Traveler capabilities, but I think there are a lot of people who would find that objectionable.)

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Newer PS3s apparently use software emulation for PS2 games Sun, 02 Sep 2007 13:35:25 +0000 adam Apparently, Sony dropped including the PS2 hardware in the 80GB model, and the last version that includes it is the now discontinued, recently price-cut $499 60GB model. If you care about playing older PS2 games and are thinking about getting a PS3, you probably want to get that one, before it disappears. It should also be noted that the HD is user-replaceable, so there’s actually very little tradeoff there.

The new model includes a software emulator, but a fairly large number of the older games have at least some problems.

I’ve really been pretty blown away by how much fun the PS3 is, both for the newer games (which are huge and gorgeous) and for how much better it makes the PS2 experience – all games that support it can play in widescreen, everything’s faster, using the hard drive instead of memory cards is both more convenient and MUCH faster, and the analog sticks are more precise. I think dropping the hardware emulator is an unfortunate cost-saving move that will probably diminish the experience, if you care about that.

Also interesting – I found this list of current and upcoming PS3 exclusives, including PSN (downloadable) games:–a1079-p0.php

I think the PS3 has only shown a mere fraction of its power, and Sony didn’t do even a passable job of promoting it properly at launch, but the slate of games on the list for the next six months and beyond has me very excited.

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Will the iPhone experience be as good when winter rolls around? Thu, 05 Jul 2007 14:35:25 +0000 adam It seems to be a serious problem for those who live in places where it’s not warm all the time that the iPhone will be completely unusable while wearing gloves.

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Transformers was the most fun I’ve had in a movie theater in a while Tue, 03 Jul 2007 16:48:47 +0000 adam Since I live in the land of the future, we got to see Transformers last night. It was silly, the plot was thinner than the sheen of sweat on hot girl mechanic’s belly, and it had faults. The pacing fell apart after the first 2/3 or so, and it was pretty clear that they went through a few different endings.

Who cares?!? Giant Fighting Robots!!

Where did they find all of those robots, and why aren’t they doing any other movies?

Short review – this was the most fun I’ve had in a movie theater in a long time.

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I have been stunned into submission by Marc Andreessen’s new blog Tue, 19 Jun 2007 21:49:24 +0000 adam It is simply great. Post after post is just captivating, interesting, and relevant if you have anything to do with tech these days.

Go read that for a while:

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The end of DRM is nigh Mon, 02 Apr 2007 16:27:57 +0000 adam The iTunes store is about to start selling the entire EMI catalog DRM-free. It’s slightly more expensive, but also higher quality.

This completely destroys the rationale behind having any DRM at all. It can’t be because they’re afraid of the higher quality recordings getting out, because those are the ones they’re releasing without DRM. All that remains is shafting the customer, which is of course all that DRM is actually good for.

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Does your old PS2 play dual-layer DVD games? Mon, 19 Mar 2007 22:21:08 +0000 adam I have an old Playstation 2 (30001 series). It has never played dual-layer DVD movies – it plays the first layer, and then freezes. Everyone I know with this model has the same issue with it. It was never a problem, because all of the games on DVD that I had were single layer. But now they’ve started releasing games on dual-layer DVD, notably God of War 2. And, of course, it won’t play on my old player. The official word from Sony is that this is a problem isolated to my machine (which also, incidentally, has stopped playing the purple CD-ROM games too), and they want me to pay $45 for a refurbished machine of the same old model. Before I do that, I’d like to locate some corroborating opinions.

Do you have an older PS2? Can it play God of War 2?

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Don’t look at the Fnords Fri, 12 Jan 2007 14:50:44 +0000 adam Robert Anton Wilson is dead.

I can’t say enough about the importance of his writing to our national culture of weirdness. He will be missed.

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iPhony Wed, 10 Jan 2007 23:29:21 +0000 adam Cisco owns the trademark on “iPhone”. Apple was apparently in negotiations to license the term, but had not actually completed doing so prior to the product announcement. Negotations would not seem to be going well, as Cisco has filed a suit against Apple for trademark infringment:

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The water’s GOOD, come on in Fri, 22 Dec 2006 06:01:02 +0000 adam Last week, we relaunched the GOOD site, with the very first round of new community features. We’ve got a lot planned for the next few months – this is just the beginning. But now, you can register with the site, comment on articles and posts, and vote for your favorites.

Check it out!

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NYT on the Iraqi version of the Daily Show Tue, 24 Oct 2006 13:45:11 +0000 adam This is a NYT article about an Iraqi show which seems to be called “Hurry Up, He’s Dead”.

The description is painful to read, a horrible ironic reminder of the awfulness:

“In a recent episode, the host, Saad Khalifa, reported that Iraq’s Ministry of Water and Sewage had decided to change its name to simply the Ministry of Sewage — because it had given up on the water part.”

“Mr. Sudani, the writer, said he has lost hope for his country. Iraq’s leaders are incompetent, he said. He fears that services will never be restored. The American experiment in democracy, he said, was born dead.

All anyone can do, he said, is laugh.”

Via Perry Metzger:

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Songbird media player looks pretty cool Mon, 09 Oct 2006 17:03:27 +0000 adam This looks VERY promsing.

Open source, cross-platform, extensible media player based on Mozilla to browse, collect, and play web and local media files. Sure.

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GOOD Magazine Wed, 20 Sep 2006 14:59:07 +0000 adam One of the projects I’m working on is GOOD Magazine. We have some incredible things planned for their site in the next few months, and there will be future updates about that. In the meantime, the magazine itself is pretty good. The first issue has come out, and it’s an interesting read. These guys are genuinely interested in the phenomenon of doing good, and they’ve uncovered some great stories.

For a $20 subscription, you get a year’s subscription (six issues), and 100% of your subscription fee goes to your choice of 12 partner organizations.

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Amazon Unbox is a travesty Sun, 17 Sep 2006 15:13:45 +0000 adam I was going to write something about this, but Cory beat me to it.

Amazon Unbox has the worst terms of service I’ve seen in a long time. Like Cory, I’m a longtime Amazon supporter, and I think their customer service is outstanding, and this is a travesty. Way to fuck over the people who won’t actually read the terms because they just want to download a movie.

I only really have one thing to add with respect to the “if it has value then we have a right to charge money for it” proposition. Does the MPAA reserve the right to charge more retroactively if you enjoy a movie more than you expected to? That’s hidden value, right? This madness has to stop.

Mr. Bezos, you should be ashamed of yourself, and also whoever you put in charge of this.

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]]> 0 Thu, 03 Aug 2006 15:02:46 +0000 adam This is a great video of the ZDNet Executive Editor explaining what’s wrong with DRM.

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How to troubleshoot your HD picture Sat, 15 Jul 2006 02:46:36 +0000 adam Seems like a useful article from Popular Mechanics on some common things that can go wrong with HD.

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I’m with Ebert Tue, 04 Jul 2006 18:44:06 +0000 adam After that last debacle, we saw Superman Returns on Sunday, at a different theater (but also an AMC one, since they seem to have acquired almost all of the good Manhattan theaters), and our experience was ruined in an entirely different way. We went to the DLP showing, for ENHANCED PICTURE AND SOUND. The sound was great admittedly, but the projector was miscalibrated and about 2-3 stops too dark. Many scenes were missing shadow detail, and some were entirely black. When we complained, the people at the theater first said “there’s nothing wrong with it”, then “that’s how it’s supposed to be”, then “it can’t be calibrated on our end”, then finally “we’ve been complaining to the projector people and we have someone coming to look at it next week”.

WTF?!?! Why are you lying to me? Just come right out and say it’s broken, we fucked up, and give me my money back?!

Anyway, I now have six free tickets to AMC theaters. I’ll have to find something interesting to do with them, since I don’t envision wanting to go back to the theater anytime soon.

As for the movie itself, I was thoroughly underwhelmed. Mainly, I was pretty strongly appalled that they seemed to have not decided if this was a sequel or a reboot, and as a result many things about it were confused. If this is 5 years later, why does everyone appear 7 years younger? We’ve already done the “Lex Luthor does something diabolical to increase his real estate holdings” and the “Miss Tessmacher gets all upset when people are going to die and crosses Lex at the last minute” plot elements, and they simply feel repeated here without any significant evolution. Why is there no mention of the last time Superman simply disappeared for no apparent reason, in Superman II?
Other random comments:

  • I’m not going to comment on the physics, because that’s a losing battle.
  • Yes, once again, please read Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex before making a movie like this.
  • On a DLP screen, you can see entirely too much of Brandon Routh’s makeup. In some closeup scenes, his face looks like it was added in after the fact with CGI.
  • Where’s all the rest of that great Kryptonian technology that Lex was going to use to defend his giant island?
  • Kate Bosworth was simply not the right choice for Lois Lane. James Marsden is not terribly compelling. The rest of the casting was pretty much on-target. Kevin Spacey was great, but should have toned down the tag lines a bit. Okay, a lot. Show me the money or something.
  • That kid should totally have had Batman Underoos.
  • My favorite scene was the one where the lights go back on and everyone else realizes that Lex has backed away from the pool.

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Another nail in the theater experience coffin Fri, 30 Jun 2006 23:55:25 +0000 adam I’ve just about had it with theaters.

We tried to go see the new Superman movie this evening. I bought tickets on Fandango a few weeks ago. We arrived at the theater about 45 minutes early, which would have been plenty of time, except that the machines for some reason couldn’t find my ticket. After being shunted around to three desks, I finally arrived at the Guest Services counter, where they told me I could just use my printed receipt (which I’d thoughtfully brought) as a ticket. Of course, by this time, it was only 25 minutes before the show, and the theater was already getting pretty packed.

There were plenty of empty seats, but they were all “saved”. Normally, I expect that a few seats will be saved. Maybe even half. But we’re talking several rows of more than 12 seats. Saved. I approached a manager who seemed to be guarding them, who simply told me that they were saved. He “informed” me that there were plenty of places where we could get two seats together, and he couldn’t release any of the seats. I asked him where, and he pointed out two of them. I went to check it out. Saved. I went back and told him that, and he pointed out two more. Saved.

Saved, saved, saved.

Sorry, AMC IMAX theater, but no. Just no. I came expecting some competition for seats, and I arrived early. But I didn’t expect to be denied seats by your staff for actually being there, and told that I was just shit out of luck. For as long as I’ve been going to the movies, there have always been rules about general seating. One of them is that you can’t save more than two seats, three tops. But twelve?
I got a refund and was given two free additional tickets, but I still feel shafted. After all of the complaining about how people aren’t going to the movies anymore, the theaters should be falling over themselves that there’s actually this excitement.

I wanted to go to the movies to have some kind of shared experience, and instead I encountered a complete lack of any hospitality whatsoever. To be honest, I’m still kind of confused by the whole situation. I don’t know if I encountered some kind of special VIP situation, or just incompetence. But I do know that my time was wasted in going to the theater and going through all this, and the whole thing was pretty frustrating and unpleasant. I suppose it’s naive of me to expect them to recognize that their business lies in providing pleasant experiences.

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Jim Baen died yesterday Thu, 29 Jun 2006 16:34:40 +0000 adam Not just a luminary in science fiction, but also a guiding light on free ebooks.

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I’m about to waste your whole day (and your wallet won’t like me either) Fri, 23 Jun 2006 14:48:55 +0000 adam Pandora is a music recommendation network.

It’s extremely easy to use.

You tell it a song or artist you like, and it builds you a customized “station” based on songs that are like that. At each song, you tell it whether you like it or not, and it learns. Alternately, you can branch off a new station based on any song playing.

I have not yet signed up or reviewed the privacy policy, but this seems intensely cool.

Also, it’s integrated with the Squeezebox, which I’ve recently obtained, and about which I’ll be writing a full review.

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All video is suspect Tue, 20 Jun 2006 15:18:20 +0000 adam Fascinating movie about the process of making Marlon Brando speak new lines for Superman Returns.

Remember when you first realized that everything you saw in a photo could be faked and you couldn’t tell the difference? It’s here for video too.

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Paul McCartney is 64 today Sun, 18 Jun 2006 22:19:18 +0000 adam

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Oh, the hairmanity. Wed, 24 May 2006 22:01:04 +0000 adam Some sort of canonical list of bad 80s videos on YouTube.

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Pink something Tue, 23 May 2006 18:43:42 +0000 adam I have no idea what this is about, but it is… pink.

(Via Doc)

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Not terribly impressed with the flickr redesign Tue, 23 May 2006 14:53:45 +0000 adam Flickr got a big redesign this week. Some of the visual tweaks are good, but overall, my feeling is “really? that’s it?”.

The thumbnails are bigger, and there are more per page by default. Brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that?

I don’t understand why the sets moved from the left to the right, but there’s still a whole bunch of wasted white space on the page.

The new organizational structure doesn’t really seem to make navigating the site much easier, except that the archive page is easier to find. That’s good.

The new Organizr is AJAX instead of Flash, and it doesn’t work in Opera. Ditto for basically all of the other new dynamic elements on the page. Thanks for that, I guess. Everyone else seems to be able to make AJAX pages that work fine in Opera. Why can’t you?

Where’s the large version slideshow? Where’s the setting to view all pictures from your contacts? Where’s the ability to navigate your contacts’ pictures as if they were a set or a group?

Flickr’s still great, of course, but I’m thoroughly underwhelmed by the changes.

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Dinner with Britt and Doc Mon, 15 May 2006 13:26:12 +0000 adam I had the rare and interesting pleasure of having dinner with Britt Blaser and Doc Searls last night, since Doc is in town for Syndicate (which I’ve never attended, but which does seem to attract fascinating conversations to my doorstep every year).

Doc and Britt

Asked to pick a restaurant for our gathering, I suggested D’Or Ahn, a newish Korean fusion place in west Chelsea. I’d eaten there a few times, and the food has always been top-rate. Unfortunately, the sushi chef was out for the evening (for reasons I didn’t entirely catch, but which seemed to involve some sort of surgery), so their wonderful raw bar was closed. However, the rest of their selection more than makes up for it. The menu is somewhat confusing, separated into “raw”, “cold”, “hot”, and “main” (which are also hot) sections, but the best advice is simply to ignore that, order for the table, and share everything. Flavor is the overriding component here, and everything is full of it, with rich but not overpowering sauces.

Scallops are outstanding now, so we opted for those, prepared a few ways, from a simple pan sear to encased in a crispy sesame leaf (the latter was delightful). The slightly seared duck breast with droplets of foie gras was, as expected, delicious (and it’s hard to go wrong with those ingredients). I’m a huge fan of braised meats in general, and their short rib preparation is beautiful, with a celeriac puree that’s ethereal mixed with slightly crunchy green onion slivers. Their take on the classic Korean dish bibimbop rounded out our selection of “appetizers”. I would have liked to have the rice a bit crunchier, but the flavor of the mushrooms mixed with a lightly soft cooked egg mixed into the rice leaves nothing to complain about. For the “main”, we split the lobster, which is literally a split lobster served spiced and grilled with a melon confit and a lobster claw chunk porridge. Lobster and melon is a combination I first discovered a few years ago in Maine, and I was instantly hooked. The sweet fruit complements every one of the notes in the sweet meat.

We paired everything with one of my favorite sakes – Otokoyama – served cold in boxes.

For dessert, we did an apple (a cake with sorbet) and cheese course (a Fourme d’Ambert “grilled cheese”), which were the two choices we wanted to try. Much as they did not go together in the least, both were still excellent. Their desserts tend to range from enjoyable to outstanding, and I’ve never been disappointed. A few glasses of port rounded out the libations.


But of course, the food was secondary to the conversation. With these two heavyweights across the table, the topics ranged across the board, from social networking, to how to handle spam and read email with mutt, to hacks for piloting a zero-g suspension flight (I’ve never had the honor), and of course to politics and the role of technology. Some portion of what was said can not or should not be replicated in a public forum, and so I won’t, but there was one great new idea (to me) mentioned in the course of a discussion about Doc’s new Santa Barbara community trying to get very high speed internet access and looking to bypass the traditional carriers who refuse to provide the kind of speeds they want. Britt mentioned Free Entry, a term which I’d never heard before. In a certain sense, this concept defines the growth of disruptive web services – if the current provider isn’t doing a good enough job, they should be replaced by someone who’s selling what people want to buy. This goes right to the heart of why lock-in legislation to protect antiquated business models is a bad bad bad idea. It doesn’t protect competition, it’s not an incentive to develop, it’s simply “protection” for companies to foist bad products on consumers who want something better. Disruptive business models work, because they’re good for the consumer.

It’s such a simple idea, yet so rarely practiced. If people don’t want to buy what you’re selling, sell something better. It’s almost the opposite of traditional advertising. It was a strong theme of the evening.

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(Larger photos)

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MIT hacked out party dorm room Sat, 13 May 2006 14:21:27 +0000 adam “Since moving into my dorm this last fall, my roommate RJ Ryan and I have been working on creating the most elaborate automation system we could envision. Featuring everything from web control, voice activation, and a security system, to large continuously running information displays, electric blinds, and one-touch parties, the
custom designed MIDAS Automation System has brought ease to our lives (if one doesn’t count all the time it took to actually build and program the system).”

One doesn’t.


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Original Star Wars coming to DVD in September Thu, 04 May 2006 14:40:25 +0000 adam I have two things to say about this.


The original films’ video quality will not match up to that of the restored versions. “It is state of the art, as of 1993, and that’s not as good as state of the art 2006,” Ward said.

You have no idea why we like Star Wars, do you?

Wait… what was that? 1993?

Two-disc special editions? Come ON. Everyone who’s going to buy this either already has the revised DVD edition, or doesn’t want it.

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Sony can’t make up its mind if music is sold or licensed Sun, 30 Apr 2006 14:21:13 +0000 adam

At issue is whether the music sold through these services is a “license” or a “sale.” Sony pays less to its artists for sales than for licensing (Sony artists reportedly earn $0.045 for each $0.99 song sold on iTunes). Naturally, Sony claims that the songs sold on iTunes are sales and not licensing deals.

This is where it gets interesting. As Brad Templeton and others have pointed out, Sony and others have long maintained that what you get when you buy an iTune is a license, not ownership of a product. That license prohibits you from doing all kinds of otherwise lawful things, like selling your music to a used-record store, loaning it to a friend, or playing it on someone else’s program.

But if Sony says that it’s selling products (and therefore only liable for 4.5 cents in royalties to its artists) and not licenses, then how can it bind us, its customers, to licensing terms?

Good question.

The distinction between sale and license is VERY important. The trend has been towards licensing instead of selling, and the difference has not been a big part of the public dialogue.

I wrote about this a while ago, with respect to DRM, consumer usage rights, and how this pattern might affect other kinds of consumer transactions if they followed the same rules:

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Turning off the Blizzard background downloader Tue, 04 Apr 2006 13:10:34 +0000 adam Apparently, with a recent update, the Blizzard background downloader defaults to on all the time. Since it uses Bittorrent, this means that even if you’re not actively downloading updates, you’re still using your bandwidth for uploading pieces of it to other players.

Maybe that’s okay with you, but it really ought to be a personal decision and not something that’s foisted off on you. Here’s how to turn it off if not:

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Claim your settlement from Sony Thu, 16 Mar 2006 00:11:48 +0000 adam If you bought an infected CD from Sony, you’re entitled to some benefits under the lawsuit settlement:

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Firefly complete series on Amazon for $20 Thu, 02 Mar 2006 15:31:56 +0000 adam We watched the broadcast, and thought it was stupid, and didn’t give it an adequate chance. Turns out the part we watched was the worst 15 minutes of the series. I was prodded by a few people to give it another try, and was pleasantly surprised.

If you haven’t watched it, you should. Amazon has the DVD series for $20:

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First movie shot on camera phones Sun, 26 Feb 2006 16:53:25 +0000 adam “Early this year, production wrapped on the first ever feature film to be shot entirely with cell phone cameras. Directed by South African filmmaker, Aryan Kaganof, “SMS Sugar Man” is the story of a pimp and two high class prostitutes driving around Johannesburg on Christmas Eve. It was shot for less than 1 million rand ($164,000) in just twelve days.”

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That song from the Ultraviolet trailer Fri, 17 Feb 2006 23:17:08 +0000 adam That second song from the Ultraviolet trailer (not the one from the Matrix) is 24 by Jem, on this album:

Finally Woken

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New Beastles mashup album Thu, 16 Feb 2006 05:50:31 +0000 adam There’s a new Beastles mashup album, and it’s fantastic.

(The direct links seem to be broken, but the torrent link still works.)

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All cute, all the time Fri, 16 Dec 2005 18:52:56 +0000 adam

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X-men 3 Trailer Tue, 06 Dec 2005 23:57:19 +0000 adam X-men 3 trailer is out.

Well now, that looks very interesting.
(or just jump to the large one at:

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