Posts tagged tech
That Disastrous Car Homer Simpson Designed Was Actually Ahead of Its Time
I’ll admit that I’m not a Simpsons “fan,” in that I don’t go out of my way to watch the show. However, I have seen the 1991 episode “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” in which Homer discovers his long lost brother is an auto exec and then designs a car.
It’s the story of love, of loss, and, ultimately, Homer designs a car so terrible that the company goes bankrupt. Now, 23 years later, Wired investigates those designs. Were they bad ideas, or just ahead of their time?
It’s a great look at a very memorable Simpsons episode (even to me). Here are some of my favorite points from the article:
- Multiples horns, all of which play “La Cucaracha” - Automakers have stuck with standard noises (good choice), but today’s steering wheels do have multiple spots to hit for the horn. As Homer says, “You can never find a horn when you’re mad.”
- A separate soundproof bubble dome for kids, with optional restraints and muzzles - The auto industry has gotten more and more careful about putting kids as old as 12 in child and booster seats, but the focus there is safety, not keeping them quiet.
- An engine that will make people think “the world is coming to an end” - The roaring V-12s of which Homer spoke came in the 90s with Dodge Vipers and Lamborghini Diablos. Growing concern for avoiding actual Armageddon has brought us fuel-saving systems that disengage cylinders at lower speeds, turn of the engine at idle, or go silent altogether
Check out the whole list at Wired.
June 26th 1994 - Aerosmith releases “Head First” on the internet
Aerosmith is first major band to premiere a new song on the Internet. "Head First" was downloaded to over 10,000 CompuServe subscribers within its first eight days of availability.
I wasn’t able to find the file size that was uploaded but Given that the average user had a 28.8 kbps modem it’s likely that the song took 20-30 minutes to download.
Here’s what’s weird “Head First” is not a popular song. Actually, the song is so obscure that it doesn’t even have it’s own wikipedia page (though it is sometimes incorrectly mentioned as a “Cryin’” b-side). Nice to see that even in the early days of the internet, no one was able to manufacture popularity. Internet users are a mysterious bunch and you’ll never know what’s going to blow up, and what’s going to flop. Even when Aerosmith, one of the biggest bands in the world, released a new song on the internet it didn’t gain any traction. At least the internet is consistent.
Remember when it took 20-30 minutes to download a song? Now I download an album in about a minute. I love living in the future.
Three years ago streaming music was just starting to take off and I wrote a lengthily article comparing the two most popular services, Rdio and Spotify. Last time I was on a journey to find out which service was better for me.
I know this is a cop out but I don’t actually know which service is better for me. Spotify’s use of my tracks and playlists gives it more functionality but Rdio’s desktop and mobile applications are more user friendly.
At the end of the day, using iTunes and my iPod app is better than Rdio or Spotify. I don’t have access to everything but it’s easier to use the things I want to listen to or already have. I know I spend more than 120 dollars a year on music but not much more, so the it’s more beneficial for me to spend the money on the music I want.
I drilled Spotify’s mobile offering for being ugly and useless without internet connection. While both music collections were lacking, Spotify earned points for incorporating my existing library. So what now? As the streaming landscape has changed I felt it was time to give you an update.
It obviously doesn’t matter what is better for me. It’s very obvious that people like using streaming services and that Spotify is the winner right now, at least in mindshare. They plugged themselves into Facebook and if you want, every single song you play can be sent to your Facebook feed. They’ve also plugged themselves into Tumblr, so if you want to make a music post you search and stream every track in their library (even if it’s just a glorified remote control for the Spotify desktop application).
Whenever i see someone sharing music on Twitter it’s always a Spotify link. I don’t recall the last time I saw Rdio, and I’ve never seen Google Play, or Beats music links. I think this has been aided by Spotify moving to an ad model as well as a paid subscription model. But just because it’s “winning” doesn’t mean it’s the best service.
[click on images to see higher res images in their own window]
I searched the services far and wide, for deep cuts, and mainstream hits. Overall I’d say that Rdio and Spotify are equally matched. I spot checked them both and I was hard pressed to find something that was missing. And the stuff that was missing, was missing from both services, like the Beatles, but this just highlights Spotify’s greatest strength – the ability to seamlessly incorporate music you’ve already purchased.
As someone who has been curating a digital music library since 2002 it’s hard to just leap into a service that ignores everything I already own. Especially bands like the Beatles (where I keep 3 copies of each album stored locally on my computer).
Both kind of trail on some high profile new releases. The recent Black Keys album for example, was released on May 9th and doesn’t appear in Spotify or Rdio’s library at the time of this writing.
Spotify has made tremendous leaps in design and functionality since I wrote about them last. Their desktop app looks better, and functions better since they recently rolled out a “Your Music” section. Now you can add music to your own collection so when you’re browsing, you can just look at the music you’d like to call your own, rather than the entirety of Spotify’s enormous library.
Rdio always had a “Collection” view. It was their biggest differentiator three years ago (and actually, biggest differentiator until a couple of months ago). It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why, but their implementation of collection just feels better. It has a little to do with layout. Spotify has some insane obsession with lists that seam to go on forever. They’re happy to show you what you want, but it’s almost like, it must be in list form.
Both allow you to “follow artists”. It’s a weird functionality that notifies you if an artist you follow releases new music. Rdio’s desktop gives it you a very quick and easy way to send music to be stored locally on your phone. It’s super helpful to enable that right from the desktop.
A pretty big downside is that there’s neither desktop application has a mini player. Especially since Apple recently made the iTunes mini player so much more useful by adding search, “add to queue,” and “play next.” When I use iTunes it’s almost always in that mini player.
The Apple Keynote just finished and there were a TON of announcements. Basically anything that’s been on people’s iOS wish list including updated Messages, and replying from the lock screen which I didn’t think they were going to go anywhere near.
Let’s start from the start. OS X:
- OS X 10.10 is called Yosemite and is coming this fall
- iCloud Drive is a Dropbox competitor - but don’t worry, it doesn’t seem as deep… just yet.
- Finally you can Air Drop from OS X to iOS and send SMS messages.
OS X looks great. They’ve definitely added a ton of power user stuff.
iOS has been completely blown out.
- Third party keyboards
- Touch ID open to developers
- Third party widgets in notification center
- Replying to messages from the lock screen
- Muting group message threads
- Family App shring
And Continuity. Continuity is inter-OS communication between iOS and OS X. This is the biggest news. It means if you start an email on your computer then pick up your phone you’ll get a little icon in the bottom left (similar to the camera icon in the bottom right). Swipe up and you’ll see the email you started writing. That will work across many of Apple’s applications, but no word yet if will be open to developers.
What is clear is that it’s going to change the way we use our computers. It’s certainly going to make me switch to Safari and Mail.
With these moves iOS is going to take on a drastically different look and feel. One where your thumb print can turn on the lights in your house, and you use a Swift Key keyboard to reply to messages from the lock screen. And I like it.
ISS HD Earth Viewing Experiment
Watch a live stream of the earth from the International Space Station. It’s just beautiful. I could watch this all day, forever.
From the Livestream Page:
Black Image = International Space Station (ISS) is on the night side of the Earth.
Gray Image = Switching between cameras, or communications with the ISS is not available.
No Audio = Normal. There is no audio on purpose. Add your own soundtrack.
Dress with solar panels
Dutch designer Pauline van Dongen recently released an experimental line of clothes that harnesses the power of the sun to charge small gadgets like your phone. Enabling constant connectedness through your clothes is a feat in and of itself. But even better? You might actually want to wear these things.
Ok, I don’t know I’d go as far as to say I “might want to actually wear these” clothes but I am very happy to see clothing heading in this direction. I love to see anything that can move the needle on solar tech and functional clothing.
The biggest problem with solar panels is that they’re not very efficient. I dream of a world where a cell phone has a solar panel on it’s back that can actually make a dent in charging a devices battery.
From Game Boy to skyscraper: Playing the world’s largest game of Tetris
I don’t know how I missed this video from Ars Technica earlier this month but I did. And I’m sorry. And I’m making up for it right now.