Homebrewed Combo Twitter+Jaiku Web page…

Well, I cobbled together a combo Twitter+Jaiku web page. I could prolly do a better job on the independent Twitter and Jaiku pages, but I just displayed their respective pages in their own frames–yeah shoot me you webdev snobs ;-) The hard part was figuring out their APIs and putting together the dual-posting form ASP page at the top. It requires a Windows web server to run, but it’s classic ASP so .NET isn’t necessary. It’s not yet ready for public consumption and I don’t know if it will ever be. I’m sure someone will write a nicer Windows app or FF extension. For now, this works for me :-)

Belkin class action suit = free router!

I just got this email informing me of a class action suit again Belkin. I sort of can’t believe the reason. Ready?

...37 different wireless routers, modems and adapters, the packaging for which, at the time of retail purchase, did not state that the actual data transmission rates and/or connectivity ranges would be lower than the rate and/or range, respectively, identified on the product.

My Pre-N router, which I felt was pretty good, distancewise is on the list. Here’s a link to the notice.

Well I bought mine almost 2 years ago and fortunately Buy.com still has the receipt online. Apparently, I will be entitled to a full refund. Wow, that’s amazing. Personally, though, I always look at speed/range claims with a YMMV attitude. Kinda like the EPA mileage estimates on cars. I guess they gotta be held accountable and should be more careful, but the likely outcome is more disclaimer lawyer-speak goobledeegook on advertising, packaging, etc. No one really wins. 

Great micro speaker for portable devices

Every other portable speaker I could find relied on bulky batteries. I chanced upon this cube-shaped speakers that actually uses a Li-Ion battery and recharges with the help of a small USB adapter. It uses the less-common rectangular-shaped mini USB connector on the device end, as opposed to the typical trapezoid-shaped mini-B connector–about my only complaint.

Only $6.87 shipped from China. The eBay store is AmyNConnor and it’s called the “Micro Cube Speaker”

Obviously, it’s not the best fidelity, but its good enough for times you don’t have headphones or don’t want to get them out. I like using them to listen to podcasts walking around the house or after I disconnect my player from my car.

As you can see, it’s smaller than my Zen V Plus–roughly a cubic inch in size.�

For the price I really don’t expect it to last long, but it seems very sturdy. It has an on-off switch, power indicator and that’s about it.

It’s got unofficial–I’m guessing–iPod and Apple logos on it and the box.�

I give. Lakers are terrible…

What a bunch of lazy people… Lack of effort, period. It’s disgusting and embarrassing. At least try to earn your paychecks. I’m looking for wholesale trades this summer. Personally though, I hope they don’t. I really feel talent-wise the Lakers are pretty good. I think injuries are playing a bigger role here than most ppl think. If you aren’t healthy, you can’t get in shape. If you aren’t in shape, you can’t play hard. This excludes Kobe and Smush would have stayed pretty healthy all year. ‘Course Smush has no excuse.

Say what you want about the Shaq trade, but remember how lazy he was when he was here. He didn’t get motivated until he got to Miami. Still, its a shame that Kobe and Shaq couldn’t work things out–that was a dynasty. Looks like Shaq ain’t faring any better this year. Sure, he had one more in him, but apparently that was it. He ain’t getting any younger or healthier.

Rhapsody may be a better subscription music service than Napster

Well my Nokia N800 only has a Rhapsody client so although I already have a Napster account, I now have both Rhapsody and Napster–a dollar a day for both, basically. Sounds crazy I know, but with my wife and daughter on Napster, I’m now one over the limit of 3 PCs and 3 players…I’m not sure if the Nokia N800 counts as a PC or player. Doesn’t really matter since either will put me over the limit.

The library of songs–so far at least–seem pretty equal. I’ve only found a few albums that are on one, but not the other. Actually, a couple recent releases started out a buy-only on Napster, but downloadable on Rhapsody. Eventually they became downloadable on Napster.

Anyways, so far I kinda like the Rhapsody software better than Napster. It’s laid out nicer and clearer. It also lets you group and browse your library and songs on your MP3 player by genre and artist, which is handy. Rhapsody also doesn’t store all the songs you transfer to your player on your hard drive, saving tons of space. It also seems to sync your library (mostly just lists of songs) between PCs, but I really haven’t tested this thoroughly.

One thing I definitely do not like about Rhapsody is that it doesn’t differentiate between Rhapsody and non-Rhapsody songs on your player.  Napster uses a little icon for this.

Well, these are my initial thoughts and experience. More comments to come… 

No one has seen this Lakers team in a long while

I know that most folks don’t think the Lakers are going to even challenge the Suns in the first round, much less win the series. I, however, think it will be a battle and the Lakers may even triumph. Why? Because we didn’t have a full roster until the last few games. No one has seen this Lakers team since the early part of the season. Lamar, Kwame, Luke, VladRad, Mo Evans and Brian Cook have all had very long stints on the injured list.

At the  beginning of the season, the Lakers were surprisingly good and people were starting to consider them among the top teams. The only thing that changed was injuries.

Now, on the good side, everyone is back and that gives them a chance. The bad part is that none of those guys I listed are 100% and even worse, the whole team is not used to playing together. Hopefully, it will come back quickly. Being used to your teammates, anticipating their moves, intuitively knowing where they are or will be is what makes the elite teams great. They can pass to where guys are going to be and not wait until they get there and the defense has time to react.

The Suns have dismissed the Lakers and are already looking to the next round. THAT is a cardinal sin and may cause their undoing. Didn’t the same thing happen last year? Last year the Lakers were one shot from taking that series and took that team to a 7th game. You’d think they’d show more respect for the Lakers and show a little humility. As a Lakers fan, I like their attitude… Lakers in 6!

Charge Creative Zen V Plus Without Software Installed

For whatever stupid reason, many devices will not charge via USB unless their proprietary software is installed on the PC first. The Creative Zen V Plus is such a device. The problem arises when you are, say, at work and you don’t/can’t have the Creative software installed. For the Creative Zen V, the solution is to allocate some of the memory to act as normal removable storage. Here are the steps:

  1. With the Zen V not connected to the PC, go to Extras > Removable Disk
  2. The first time you do this, you will need to set the amount of memory. I set it at the minimum of 128MB.
  3. Then connect to the PC using a USB cable. The Zen V will display the message “Do not Disconnect!” and you will notice that the battery meter in the top right will flash the lighting bolt charging indicator.

I would assume this would work on other Creative players and perhaps other players as well, if they can act as standard removable storage.

Note: Read the comments below. This hack works for most, but not everyone apparently. Obviously, no guarantees. However, worst case is you’ll lose 128MB of storage or have to re-format and reload all your songs–ie not a big downside.

Also read my recent Perfect universal charging system…even charges Creative Zen V entry

Credit: from a post on the epiZENter.net site by ChabbyAlonso.

Original post on offbe.at including all comments (obviously none of the links will work.)

Creative Zen V Plus is near perfect

Readers of my blog know that I’ve been agonizing over the perfect media player for listening to Podcasts in my car. My solution up to now has been the Palm TX. The reason its a good podcast player is the Pocket Tunes player has a robust bookmarking feature. It also has a built-in speaker and since I always have it with me, it was handy. Pocket Tunes also supports PlaysForSure, so I can use it with my Napster music subscription service. The downside is that it is difficult and dangerous to operate the TX while driving. Also, even with a hard case, the TX is somewhat breakable, so not good for when I’m in the garage or yard.

In any event, I was able to pick up an 8GB Creative Zen V Plus for $159 with free shipping and no rebates. So I bit. The cool features of the Zen V Plus are well documented on the Net, like in this CNet review or PC mag review, so I’ll focus on some features that are important to me and not covered in depth elsewhere.�

Bookmarks�

Bookmarking is essential if you listen to long podcasts or audio books. I’ve researched it to death and determined that only Creative has bookmarking. iRiver, Sandisk, Samsung, and Toshiba all do not. Rio does, but not sure if they are still in business. I even looked for an app to convert mp3s to Audible format, which auto-bookmarks, but no such animal. Note that iPod and Zune don’t have formal bookmarking either and neither supports PlaysForSure.

Bookmarking on the Zen V is easy. Just hold down the button and set
a bookmark in one of the ten available slots. It uses the track title as the bookmark name.

Speaker

Now, only Sandisk and Samsung offer players with a built-in speaker. The Creative lacks this. My solution is to use a small speaker that plugs into the headphone jack. I got a really small cube-shaped one on order from eBay. Uses a Lithium Ion battery. Not the highest audio quality I’ll admit, but its just for podcasts mostly. In the meantime, I’ll use one that I have that was made from the iPod. Actually,

Charging/Connection

The Zen V uses a standard mini-USB connector. This probably doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the Sansa Connect, iPods, and even Creative’s own Zen Vision M, all have a special connector on the device side. It’s nice to be able to use a standard cable away from home.

I’ve also found that many USB devices won’t charge unless you have their special software installed. I believe it has something to do with the need to be in the special MTP mode that is required to support PlaysForSure. In other words, the device’s unique MTP device driver has to be installed. If its not installed, Windows doesn’t see a USB device connected. It can be a problem if you want to charge the device, say, at work or in the car. (Note: there are special chargers available, but that’s just something else to carry around.)

Anyways, the work around–which I blogged earlier about–is to put the Zen V into removable disk mode. When its in this mode, Windows will see the Zen as a removable drive and also charge it. The only downside is that you must dedicate a portion of memory; 128MB being the minimum. Note that this part of memory is totally independent of the MTS side and you can’t play music stored here. Since I’ve got 8GB,� I was happy to throw the 128MB away for the added functionality.

Software

After you get the Zen software installed, you can use the Zen Media Explorer to manage your media. The Zen also appears as a device in normal Windows Explorer; however, although it looks like a removable drive, there are subtle differences. You can only copy and delete–no move function. You can’t directly create a folder, but you can copy a folder into a folder and achieve the same result.

I like the fact that you can delete a music file right on the player which I couldn’t do on my iPod.�

The ZenCast Organizer is a very basic podcatching app. There are a few pre-defined ones you can select from. No OPML import/export so you’ll have to add most of your subscriptions one by one. It will do automatic syncing to the player so it might be a workable solution for me. It is very slow to download though.

The SyncManager app will sync contacts, calendar and tasks with Outlook. There is no way to edit or add. It’s a straight copy job from your PC app. It’s very fast.

Other

The OLED screen is gorgeous and pictures/videos look nice, but its unlikely you’ll do much extended viewing on this 1.5″ screen.

The navigation controls are logical and straight forward. No scrollwheel so scanning through long lists can be tedious, but not too bad.

It’s pretty light and the case seems pretty sturdy. I haven’t dropped it yet, but it looks like it could take a licking. I’m thinking about living dangerously and going caseless with maybe just a screen protector. The reason is that it is so small, the buttons are all over and a case I fear would just get in the way.

Anyways, so far, I’m quite happy with this device. I’m not happy that I must carry around yet another gadget, but hopefully I’ll get used to it.

CA will never agree to online sales tax

CNet has an article entitled “Days numbered for tax-free Net sales” The article declares that online sales will all be subject to sales tax very soon. Well, people have been saying that since the days of catalog sales (ie pre-Internet) and I’ve been saying no way for as long.

Writers that push this notion have no concept of how things really work. There are three reasons this will never gain traction in CA:

  1. CA already taxes these out-of-state purchases under the Use tax laws.
  2. CA has an army of auditors that shake out CA taxpayers for unpaid use tax. Although this is targeted mostly at businesses, that is definitely where the juice is.
  3. Agreeing to an online sales tax will give these use tax dollars to other states 

It’s not a coincidence that the most populous states, CA and NY are not part of the efforts to come up with a national streamlined sales tax. They have the most ot lose and any uniform sales tax would cost them tons of tax revenue.

I also doubt the feds would pass something because sales tax law varies so much from state to state. Heck, some states don’t even have a sales tax. A federal law would cause kaos.

So rest easy Californians (and New Yorkers) your out of state purchases will remain tax free.