Sunday, December 27, 2009

let us give you our bit.ly api key

The major twitter clients do a great job, but I don't think any of them allow for a bit.ly/j.mp api key that would allow you to keep track of the links you have shared.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ideas I have for little hacks

potential little projects to add bits of functionality here and there

-Delicious archival for ReaditLater (from within app, list, etc)

-Something that automagically grabs and saves all the links sent to me via SMS message inbox. Same could be applied with filtering to emails, RSS, etc. I like the idea of automatic link fetching for communications apps

-Mapping/accessing javascript browser bookmarklets via context/right-click menus (so you could easily highlight text and trigger action) 

-a browser extension that counts characters with space (instead of words)


I've searched and can't find hacks that do any of the above. They're just little hang-nail things, but it would be fun to try to solve them. If I had some time, I'd be trying to do it instead of writing about it. ;-p


Friday, December 25, 2009

escalating privilege, Vertically

I jailbroke my iPhone yesterday. I used blackra1n and have installed both the Cydia and the Rock APT installers. I've got mine turbocharged now (even got a bittorrent client & webserver running on it!)

It's really quite amazing how much it opens the phone up. It was a nice product before, but this makes it no different than running a beautiful, robust little multi-touch UNIX computer in the palm of your hand.

I don't know why I was so previously opposed to jailbreaking and was so embarrassingly far off. This device is head and shoulders above anything out there. (All Android devices included in that not-so-humble assessment) Unlocking the file system on the phone & providing a means to install 3rd party software on it outside of the AppStore (which is all that jailbreaking really is) is a no brainer and totally enhances the experience of owning this device.

Looking back, looking forward

If you're a friend or reader of this blog, you know it's something I've never been consistent with.

From this point forward, I'm going to try to keep my posts more informal and observational, but much more frequent. I intend for this to be a personal record of thoughts, ideas, and findings about tech products & services, and any other interesting stuff that I may find.

For a time, I hoped to make a 'serious' technology blog out of this domain, regurgitating news releases and other 'analysis' from the blogesphere. I can't guarantee I won't occasionally fall into that claptrap now and again (it's the nature of tech blogs, I think), but going forward, the best way I can be serious about any effort is to simply be genuine.

(whether or not that's always interesting is another story...but I believe there's better odds going this way)

So anyway, that's my apology post, dated 12/25/2009.

My resolution for 2010 is to capture more stuff here, with more frequency as well as face-lift in terms of design and more.

Thanks for reading and following me!

Merry Christmas.
Chris Duffy aka Spinchange

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sunday, September 06, 2009

My 1st Genius Playlist

By Genius, I refer to this feature of Apple's iTunes. I'm rebuilding a music collection on my new iPhone. this is what it came up with from my small, but eclectic collection. Pretty interesting.

Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex - CSS Cansei de Ser - Sexy 
What Sarah Said - Death Cab For Cutie - Plans 
Help I'm Alive - Metric - Fantasies   
Everything In Its Right Place - Radiohead - Kid A  
Out of Control (State of Emotion) - Kenna - Make Sure They See My Face 
Creep (Live) - Pretenders - Pirate Radio (Digital Version) 
The Crystal Ship - The Doors - The Future Stars Here 
Missed the Boat - Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank 
Welcome to England -Tori Amos - Abnormally Attracted to Sin   
1901 - Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix  
Maps - Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever to Tell  
One Headlight - The Wallflowers - Collected: 1996-2005 Rock  
Walk It Off -The Breeders - Mountain Battles (Bonus Track Version)  
Pyramid Song - Radiohead - Amnesiac  
I Guess You're Right - The Posies - Every Kind of Light 
Are You Gonna Be My Girl - JET Get Born 
Sun Red Sky Blue - Kenna - Make Sure They See My Face 
Give - Tori Amos - Abnormally Attracted to Sin  
Love Comes - The Posies - Every Kind of Light 
Loose Wires/Blink Radio - Kenna - Make Sure They See My Face 
Flavor - Tori Amos - Abnormally Attracted to Sin 


Sunday, August 23, 2009

the iPhone conundrum

The elegance and beauty of the iPhone lies in the fact that it's basically really, really great software.

Just look at a powered-down device: It's just a shiny piece of polished consumer electronics –its black, blank, stateless screen waiting for the logic to pass you control of the device's inherent capacity.

Though a sight now copied by numerous other brands and makers, Apple’s was the first and is still the best. But why? It’s not inherently that much different from any other? And it costs much more.

It’s the software. It’s the way the phone reacts to you.

Fundamental to the Apple design ethos is a unified user experience. This means that all the components of it’s software share the same behavioral characteristics and gracefulness. One can posit that It also means for Apple that everything serve to reinforce the platform itself.

Google’s sin against the platform is that the Voice app literally spoofs core or low-level functions of the OS. It’s doing basic phone functions thats Apple feels their software should do. 

If you’ve bought and paid for an iPhone a logical reaction might be, “Wait a minute, it’s my phone, right? I can put what I want to on it, can't I?” 

Well, not really. Read the fine print, that iPhone, is still their phone. At least the software is. And that's what counts. Of course you can jailbreak it, but in doing that you are violating the thing that makes the phone special in the first place, the Apple experience.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

While Visions of Metalic Tsunamis Were Dancing in Everyone's Heads

Another week of Google announcements and vaporware analysis. This isn't the Google of old that just shipped a beta version of something with little -to- no fanfare. This is the new microsoftized Google that announces launches of products at dates forward in the future when anyone else is trying to launch their product of service.

Among this week's examples: Another Wave "announcement" on July 20th that 100,000 invites would be released on, wait for it...September 30th (kthx for heads up, Google. I'll be sure to mark it down on my Gcal)

Meanwhile an actual working real-time communications and collabortaion app was launched on the same day. An upstart called Watchittoo that allows to you share videos together with friends in real time and chat and collaborate about them. Ironically, it's built in part on the YouTube API! (Youtube is owned, of course, by Google) Watchittoo is proudly displaying the Youtube logo/ link all over their site.

Letting these guys get some spotlight wouldn't have exactly killed Mountian View, but who knows, maybe Watchittoo's PR department sucks. It could've just been bad timing, but I'm suspect because...

There was Chrome OS annoucement on the eve of Microsoft's Office online launch. Again, a strategic PR masterstoke carefully desgined to suck out the limited attention supply of the tech press and blogesphere for a cycle or two...

Don't even get me going on Wave...I've been waiting for that. Getting Ridiculous.

I come back to Chairman Jobs's dictum (of whom Google CEO, Eric Schimdt, actually reports too in another capacity in life): "Real Artists Ship"

Watchitoo, Microsoft, Opera:
Their art is launching, not announcing.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Digg break your links? Use Bit.ly instead next time.

JD Rucker aka 0boy has uncovered the story and Mashable confirmed it: Digg's URL shortener 'diggbar' - which shortened web addresses and put a digg iframe on top of their pages - is now redirecting visitors to the digg.com site instead of the destination URL that was initially shortened, once the story is posted as a digg submission that can be voted on.

This isn't exactly the end of the world, but it wasn't previously like this for users. It's being used by a bunch of 3rd party twitter clients & sites as a regular utility URL shortener- not just a digg traffic engine. The appearance is that digg got people using their shortener for its own sake, and then changed how it functions to better benefit them after the fact. In a word: Sneaky

The bottom line is the only reason to use Digg.com to shorten a link is if you're submitting the story to digg.com and want it to be voted on. Period. If you need a vanilla URL shortner, Digg (or any social network, really) probably isn't the one that you want to use.

Going forward, I'm using Bit.ly almost exclusively. I'm doing this mainly because it's not the domain of a social network's service, and because it doesn't have a toolbar that wraps the page in a frame we all know annoys at least 50% of the people who click thru. Bit.ly, as far as can be told, just wants the analytics and metadata (and shares most of it -for now, anyway- which is sweet) 

You don't even need an account to shorten a link with bit.ly, but if you sign up for one, it saves all your URLs on public page like bookmarks but with the aforementioned yummy click and conversation data.

Any bit.ly link then shared on twitter or elsewhere can be looked into further by placing /info/ in between the bit.ly/ and /xxxx hashstring portion of characters in the URL (e.g. http://bit.ly/info/1RPfXx)

Back on their site, They've got a search that's a nice way to look at what links are being shared across twitter. You can use a twitter username as a search operator along with words like " listening to: " (or 'reading,' 'must read' etc.) You can subscribe to your recent bit.ly 'bits' as an RSS feed too.

It's like I've been saying to friends, bit.ly is the new del.icio.us

Update: Here's a screen grab I took that shows off the bitly sidebar for sharing your links:




If you want to try this service out, go to a web page you'd like to shorten the URL for (this one even, ;), and in the address bar of your browser, type ' bit.ly/ ' before the ' http:// ' and hit return. The link's right there for you to copy and paste and much more.

(I have no material interest, financial -or -otherwise in Bit.Ly I just think the service is good. This stunt by digg makes all URL shortners look bad. I don't think bit.ly and some other's are.)


Friday, July 17, 2009

Brass tacks: Can Microsoft hurt Google more in search advertising than Google can hurt Microsoft in selling software?

A Microsoft and Yahoo search partnership deal imminent? According to Kara Swisher at allthingsd that's the word

Redmond is still laser-lock focused on breaking Google's grip over internet search & web advertising. Just consider the enormous launch of Microsoft's shinny-new toy: Bing. Now there's even twitter integration with "Bing Tweets" Early numbers show that Bing is making an impact is terms of sheer size and presence.

Hitting them on the other side of the advertsing equation will be the relaunch of Mircosoft's Ad Publisher "pubCenter" network. I've tried it out and it offers some pretty quick and easy-to-use tools and customizations to get some PPC ads on your site fast. The ad bloc at the bottom right is an example.

(Iroincally I've always wanted to serve Google adsense but have never been able to do it properly in 4 or 5 years that I've had an account. I tried again this week and found that the account was deleted. On top of that, I'm prevented from making a new one or contacting anyone at Google about it. Therefore, Google loses at least 1 potential publisher to Microsoft. I'm sure other people have had problems with the service and would like to look at alternatives too.)

Google's been the only good game in town for advertisers and the same goes for its AdSense network for web publishers.

With Bing off & running + a deal to be Yahoo's search partner- Microsft is finally hitting back at Google's core in meaningful way. Technology trends aside, It certainly seems that Microsoft could hurt google more directly in the pocketbook, than anything Google can do to them. (other than maybe just stealing mind share and a few news cycles with product announcements).

You don't see it being spun that way, but it seems like the case when it comes down to the business of how both companies make money.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

History repeating itself in realtime with Tweetbe.at

The entire world is re-awakening to the phenomena of real-time, short messages, ala Twitter. It was the lone vehicle to carry the news of revolutionary protest in the streets of Tehran following the failed elections in Iran. It's not only captured the attention of the global news media, but stolen it from them. Even the White House and it's State Department validated the site's role and geopolitical importance. One former Bush administration official has called for it to receive a Nobel Prize. Even Oprah's using it these days. Heady stuff.

But this isn't the first time technology like this has 'shrunk the world' and shone a light in dark places- In 1991 the news of Soviet coup d'├ętat attempt was carried over IRC despite a media blackout in the country. Reports from the first Iraq war were carried over its channels as well.

And IRC is as old as the hills. In spite of that, It's always allowed for realtime group conversation -or- private one-to-one dialog. You don't need to create an account, big personal network, or audience of followers to start-up and jump into a conversation. You can monitor channels of topics and come and go as you please. It's a pretty damn efficient twitter, way before Twitter (and cell phones, text messages, even AIM for that matter)

What Twitter's done to the individual messages of SMS (and by extension, chat & IRC) is marry them to hosted nature of the world web web. Individual statements in 140 characters, published as html documents; those documents aggregated into user profiles & feeds.

With so many documents being broadcast and so little inherent organization to it's delivery, Twitter can be very much like being in crowded room where all your friends are shouting at themselves and each other. Third party software like Seesmic Desktop and Tweetdeck are powerful tools that help manage these twitter feeds like mini-email, but neither helps you discover the rest of twitter at random or topically, like you do on IRC.

Thankfully, developer Alex Bosworth has connected the dots and come up with something that marries the two. It's a proof-of-concept alpha called Tweetbe.at.

If you use twitter, you know that putting #hashtags in your messages is a way to tag or catagorize them. The idea behind Tweetbe.at is that #hashtags represent IRC channels of tweets. You need to log-in using your twitter account (not with password, but OAuth) and then you can visit or create and participate in as many channels as you want. If you like, It allows you to fold in other search terms and user's feeds so you can develop and refine the channel. The important thing, whether you want to moderate the channel or just sit back and watch, is that you can now surface more relevant tweets you may have otherwise missed, or use it to get into @reply conversations with new & interesting tweeps you otherwise may not have ever met!

Well done, @p1bx




Saturday, July 11, 2009

"We want to push social down into every experience on the phone"

Andy Rubin, creator of the original Sidekick, driving force behind Android, and VP of mobile engineering at Google wants you to be able to see your friends photo & current facebook status on the caller ID when he calls.

That's one of the things the company's pushing as the launch of the next Andriod phone, the myTouch 3G, approaches in August.

In terms of technological innovation, the biggest steps forward are an enhanced battery life from the G1 and the Voice Search application. According to T-Mobile's site:

Search by voice lets you find what you’re looking for, hands-free. The built-in GPS knows your location. So when you say, “Pizza” you get back your closest pizza places first. Search by Voice also comes in handy to help find long or hard to spell words, like amphitheater.


Over 5,000 applications are available for Android - Contrast that with over 50,000 for the iphone, and it does seem pretty small. However over the long haul there should prove to be more applications available on Anrdoid devices than on Apple ones. Especially given that Andriod is open source and Apple is, well...Apple. Say's Andy:

With Android, there can be 1,000s of different products built, and the magic here is that all those products can be compatible and all of them can be hosted by the same [application] marketplace...it's in an earlier stage of adoption


Other enhancements to Android include a multiple desktop concept which will be familiar to linux users. Another application that looks to figure prominently will be Sherpa a GPS-history app that learns what you do and where you go, and makes search easier.

The phone is available for pre-order now, and hits T-Mobile stores in the US August 5th. It retails for $199.00

The battle for control of user experience will rage on.

Whether on the desktop, in the browser, or the mobile device - The Giants of computing technology want to control the way you interact with the digital word.

The Google announcement of an impending Chrome operating system -as an extension of their browser by the same name- drew a huge reaction this week from all quarters of the web. Speculation and conjecture were rank amongst the bloggeratti. Handicapping Mountain Veiw's strategy & the potential impact to industry titans Microsoft & Apple, was (and still is) the meme de jour.

The take here on the Grid is that controlling the user experience is central to any company making software or interactive applications.

Google's revenue comes from advertising, but they are fundamentally a (web-based) software, or user experience company. Apple's revenue comes from selling hardware and devices, but they are fundamentally a software, or user experience company (the user experience company, many would argue). Even Facebook, Myspace, Digg etc are earning revenue from advertising, but if you stop and think about it, are fundamentally software, or more generally, user experience companies. (made valuable by virtue of facilitating electronic interaction for, and being a destination of multiple users)

Big bad old Microsoft, OTOH, still makes it's money selling software, but has to do web stuff & sell hardware in addition to that just to support and defend the legacy revenue stream.

The problem for a company like Microsoft is that software (like file storage & management, apps, etc) is going to eventually move to a web-centric, subscription based model.

So is Google trying to monetize the experience, bring it out onto the web more often, or get into your machine and control it?

The answer is ALL OF THE ABOVE. Ultimately the web is out in the cloud and on our local machines. It doesn't matter what the form factor is (pc, notebook, netbook, phone) or where the code running it lives.

If Google can control the experience it reinforces their other properties and future ones they roll out. It also paves the way for subscription based services, like file storage.

It's a multifaceted approach to be sure, from all players. At the end of the day, they all want the same thing: To control us, er...the user experience...and we let them, because they usually give us such cool toys to play with :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The browser as a two-way window

Opera has released an alpha build of their new web browser Unite. I don't know if they've fullfilled their promise to, 'reinvent the web' or not, but the software is pretty cool.

Depending on your level of engagement with the internet, your web browser is like your window to the world and much more. While many users passively go with system defaults such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Apple's Safari, 3rd party browsers such Firefox and Opera are perferred by many power users.

So what's all the hype about? It's simple yet powerful: Unite is a robust, multi-tab browser with a literal web server package built right into it. What that means is, this software has the capability to turn *your* computer into a web server, as long as you're online and it's running.

If it's not immediately evident why you would -or- should want to do this, let me explain:

We're already uploading our photos, music, and personal content to different 3rd party websites and social services. We don't need to store our info locally. We can host it somewhere else -for free - and it's publicy available to anyone, anywhere.

Here's the only dilemma with that: While all your content is in the cloud, it's still in various different sites (silos) like Your blog account, Facebook, Flickr, Delicious, YouTube, etc. Projects like Friendfeed go a long way to aggregate & stream all that activity - but it's still push delivery and users interaction with your content or resources isn't granular or ala carte. You're also at the mercy of any one of these sites, should they go down, lose your data, or worse.

The other problem is sharing your music library over the web. You can upload to rapid share and be a dj on blip.fm, but your core library is still likely 'personal' unless you're runing some kind of media server. Apple iTunes can be shared over the web with apps like Simplfymedia, but you need an account and have to run their software.

You can't simply call up your MP3 library or host / transfer large files from your PC to any web-connected browser/device easily - unless you know how to configure & your own ftp server with dyndns, etc...until now.

Opera has pre-configured everything with a nice graphical interface that maps file destinations or directories on your system (music, picture, file folders, etc) to a series of dynamic URLs that you can share with others, selectively, or keep private. You can always change the URLs or even move/delete files if you're concered about too much traffic or exposure/privacy issues - or you can just close it and not run Opera Unite :)

If this catches on it, it could be really, really cool. Opera is encouraging developers to come up with more applications.



More to come...

I've set up a "Chat Lounge" on my notebook using Opera Unite.
Feel free to drop in, if any friends or myself are online, choose a screenname and say "hi"



Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Waiting for Google Wave

I know it's still in developer preview, but I cannot wait to test out Google's Wave platform. The idea is simple, yet transformational: Conversations as live, hosted, documents that your friends are interacting with.

It's the combination of email, chat, twitter, facebook, etc - essentially all the communication services they aim provide but everything, live, at once. Google's social graph, if you will. Google has intentionally set out to make Wave an open source protocol and a federated platform, which means that individuals or even enterprises could run their own private Wave instances.

I tell you what: While Google puts the finishing touches on Wave, Ray Ozzie and Microsoft would do well to pick-up Twitter, or even partner with them. It competes with their investment in facebook, but it doesn't matter. It's worth the hedge.

Twitter, though only 140 characters, is both a destination, ecosystem, and a protocol. Microsoft could keep things exactly as they are right now, so as not hurt the ecosystem or destination aspect, and even open up and extend the twitter api/protocol. (embrace and extend?)

Microsoft typically behaves kind of "evilly" in these instances, but I think under Ray Ozzie it's possible that they could play much nicer and not hurt the buzz and vibe that twitter has going for it. They could eventually normalize it for the enterprise which is where Wave would be going with Google's Apps.


Just some thoughts as I eagerly await a Wave invite...


Edit: I know Twitter is built on Ruby & LAMP or something like that. This obviously is much different from Microsoft and their whole ethos of proprietary .NET stuff. It's completely off the wall, but that's the kind of world we live in these days - off the wall. It's just a damn shame to see Ray Ozzie bad mouth Wave instead of answering to it.


Edit II: Here's some of the video of Ozzie's spin at The Churchhill Club:

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Almost too beautiful for the coffee table

I just found this book and had to share it with you




I think it was Omni magazine introduced me to this guy when I was in high school. I recall writing a term paper on evolution vs. creationism. I managed to work in some citations to McKenna's idea of the 'Stoned Age' from "Food of the Gods"into my evolution argument. Yeah, I was that kind of student ;)


His daughter's photography is stunning.
His legacy was clearly a lot bigger than just his work.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Where we're headed. (or, How I learned to stop worrying and love the Matrix)

Well, this is what's become of dodgeball...the original group location awareness platform that Google acquired a while back.



According to Google, Latitude is a feature of Google Maps for mobile on these phones:

* Android-powered devices, such as the T-Mobile G1
* iPhone and iPod touch devices (coming soon)
* most color BlackBerry devices
* most Windows Mobile 5.0+ devices
* most Symbian S60 devices (Nokia smartphones)
* many Java-enabled (J2ME) mobile phones, such as Sony Ericsson devices (coming soon)

A summary of the post-modern set.

Hipster: The Dead End Of Civilization
(Cover story of Adbusters Issue #79.)

We’ve reached a point in our civilization where counterculture has mutated into a self-obsessed aesthetic vacuum. So while hipsterdom is the end product of all prior countercultures, it’s been stripped of its subversion and originality.
We are a lost generation, desperately clinging to anything that feels real, but too afraid to become it ourselves. We are a defeated generation, resigned to the hypocrisy of those before us, who once sang songs of rebellion and now sell them back to us. We are the last generation, a culmination of all previous things, destroyed by the vapidity that surrounds us. The hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new.


Ouch. Harsh one, dude.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Make your own fake album cover with Web 2.0 sites!

Going through the steps of this is half the fun. Major hat-tip to @Chris Rowe for spreading this meme. Instructions are his (with my inclusion of the ever-sophisticated MS Paint) 

1 - Go to "wikipedia." Hit “random”
or click en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
The first random wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 - Go to "Random quotations"
or click www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title
of your first album.

3 - Go to flickr and click on “explore the last seven days”
or click www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4 - Use MS Paint, or photoshop, or similar to put it all together.


Here's mine:


E.S. Johnny Walker - Meet the morrow most cheerfully

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Unify4Life turns your Blackberry into a Universal Remote

...And soon a garage-door opener, thermostat control, and more. These guys are at the CES this year. Huge hat tip to Scobelizer for posting a video on it also. Seeing as I really need a new phone, and I'm a huge sucker for the sheer geek factor in this, Unify4life makes me want to go out and buy a Blackberry.