seeking knowledge and laughter, putting a bullseye on inaccuracy

Science & Technology

Thoughts on science, technology, energy, and policy intersecting these spheres.

iPod Decline?

The Observer is running an article pontificating about the recent sustained decline in iPod sales. Is the iPod too ubiquitous to be cool?

Honestly, I never bought into the idea that the iPod was popular because it was cool. I thought it was popular because it was the best personal music player on the market. At this point, the market offers more personal players. The iPod has not really added new features or dropped in price, so its sales are declining. No big surprise.

The iPod is still possibly the best - but that is not because of how innovative it is, it is more due to the total lameness of its competitors. I use both the iPod and a competitor - the Sandisk Sansa. iTunes is better than the Sandisk software. Nonetheless, iTunes has much room for improvement.

I find it slow and unresponsive when trying to find music. There is terrible support for speeding up a podcast - something that I desperately want so I can listen to more podcasts in the same amount of time. We can listen to audio and comprehend it at a faster rate than people can speak. So this would be a handy feature - supposedly iTunes and QuickTime can do it, but I have not figured out how to make it work yet. I want to be able to queue a podcast or song to play after the current song finishes.

Aside from all that remains the problem with Digital Rights Management which limits you to what you can do with the music you purchased. If I buy music, I want to be able to put on a CD, my iPod, my Sansa, all my computers, and sometimes a flash drive.

The larger problem for the iPod though is the shrinking of memory. Do people really want to carry around an iPod and a cell phone? No! As soon as the phone can store and play music at a level comperable to the iPod, people will want that phone. Who wants to carry multiple gadgets when you don't have to?

If Apple wants to rekindle iPod sales, it should release a better product or drop the damn prices. I just don't think it is about "coolness."

Modern War

If you were wondering how technology is impacting the grunt, read this piece from Ars Technica. Soldiers have more comforts in the field now than they ever have - but is that a good thing?

The soldiers appear to overwhelmingly flaunt copyright restrictions - funny how the RIAA and MPAA are willing to sue grandmothers who have never used a computer for file sharing but they have not yet prosecuted any American soldiers. The soldiers not only share with each other but actually encourage piracy by fueling local markets for it wherever they go.

Soldiers are now able to stay in touch with home at an unprecedented rate. But they can also avoid bonding over boredom by pluggin' in the iPod and ignoring everyone around them. Is this good for the unit? Who will outlaw personal music?

Sears doesn't blame the troops, though, and asks, "Who among us would refuse these digital distractions if they were in reach and served to take our minds and bodies waive the perils just outside the gate?" But he does think that the focus on gadgets and convenience says much about "our country and its global priorities," and what it says isn't flattering.

This is an interesting article - and raises some interesting questions for the social/anti-social duality of this technology.

Energista! Moves

We have launched the new Energista! site. Please check it out and give me some feedback. It took some work to get up and running, so be gentle.

CSS Menu

For my fellow web designer types, we no longer have to fret about javascript menu systems! I am excited to link to fully browser compatible, hierarchical menu system built entirely with css and not dependent on javascript.

Javascript is increasingly looking insecure. Some already recommend surfing with it disabled as a default and only enabling it for trusted sites. Thus, we webmaster types need to make sure our navigational elements will work with all browsers, even if javascript is not enabled.

This new system looks great. It degrades nicely on old browsers and is fully in the public domain. That makes it free!

Steve Gibson, a computer security guru, built this with help from many others. I encourage you to support him and his projects at the GRC as his work has already led to safer practices across the net and he will continue to distribute fantastic projects, all hand-coded in assembly.


Are you in the market for a new digital camera? Do not base your purchase on the camera's megapixels. After 5 megapixels, you will not see much of a difference. If you want to know why, read about the megapixel myth and why more megapixels (8 and above) can actually result in poorer photos!

Yahoo Music: No DRM

Looks like Yahoo is experimenting with non-DRM music sales. This could be great news! DRM = Digital Rights Management = Buy the same song multiple times for multiple devices. DRM allows music distributors to control how you use the music you purchase.

When you buy a song from iTunes, it comes with protection to prevent piracy. This has the side effect of restricting how you can use your music. If Yahoo were to sell music without DRM, you can use it however you want. Burn it to a CD. Put it on your iPod and your iRiver and your sanDisk player. Yahoo will be charging slightly more for these, but I think it is well worth it.

I wonder if others will agree? I suspect most people will not understand what DRM means to them and their music collections until these battles are over. When you can not transfer your music library to your 5th iPod in 7 years (they have non-replaceable batteries which means it will eventually become useless) you may wish you had paid the extra 10 cents.

Stem Cells

Days after ranting about Bush's stem cell veto, I read the July/Aug issue of Mother Jones. This has several insightful articles on the subject. "Souls on Ice" by Liza Mundy is a great place to get the basics. Though it is biased in favor of supporting stem cells, it still lays out the relevant facts in an accessible manner.

500,000 frozen embryos in the U.S. now. For a significant proportion, no one even knows who they belong (belonged?) to. For Bush to take this position against using embryos, I don't honestly understand how he can help but regard in vitro fertilisation as blatantly immoral. Many embryos (or people if you are the President) are created just to give the woman a 20-30% chance of pregnancy. This is slaughter!

In fact, if you practice the "rhythm method" (scientific name: Baby Russian Roulette) of birth control, you may actually be perpetuating the embryo genocide that Bush supposedly fears. This crime against humanity kills more embryos than any other method of birth control!

Energy Update

I miss posting energy-related items to this blog but Energista! seems to be sucking up a lot of my time. I have started working on an updated Energista! which will be much better than its current blogspot home.

We recently had a good discussion about ethanol and its viability vs. the hype.

I also posted an update on Toyota's plug-in hybrid efforts and a review of Kerry's energy independence speech.

Get Firefox

Seriously people. If you are not using it already, GET FIREFOX. You need to use a secure program to browse the internet. Internet Explorer is a disaster. Russian Roulette. A Myspace ad used an Internet Explorer vulnerability to install malware on computers. Using IE is inviting disaster onto your computer.

Net Neutrality

The Daily Show explained Net Neutrality in a superbly effective, non-technical but uncannily accurate way. If you prefer choosing the sites your frequent rather than having your ISP choose for you, you need to watch this short clip.

Syndicate content