Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Small World

In another example proving that it truly is a small world, I ran into the guy that helped me with my bike problems at Babies R Us this weekend. That was a little strange.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Fun with iTunes Video

I recently got into the whole Lost phenomenon and just finished watching all of season 1 from Netflix. Naturally I wanted to jump right into season 2, but since I came late to the party I missed recording it on Tivo. What was I to do? Normally I would wait it out, but I really wanted to find out what was in that hatch. So, I decided to see if I could find it online.

My first attempt was to find the missing episodes using BitTorrent. It took all of a few minutes to find my fix, but I wanted to find a more legitimate way. Ideally, I also wanted to be able to watch on my TV, not on a computer.

After a little more research I ended up installing iTunes and found that I could purchase episodes for $1.99. I also noticed that my laptop had an s-video output. Score! After a relatively quick download I plugged my laptop into my receiver and sat back to get my Lost fix. The picture was definitely not perfect and the relatively dark Lost scenes only helped highlight compression artifacts, but it was good enough. I'll be purchasing the rest of the episodes I missed right away.

I think (hope) this is the future of content distribution. Obviously it needs to be much easier, but I love being able to get exactly what I want, when I want it. With the introduction of Google Video and other video services, things are going to be very exciting over the next few years.

So, my $2 got me the show I wanted, on demand. Obviously this price includes some cost of distribution, but also needs to take into account that all commercials were removed. I was wondering, why don't they offer free version with commercials included? Since iTunes is handling playback they could even disable fast forwarding. Why not let the customer make the time/money tradeoff rather than making it for them? Besides, you could do some very cool things with the advertisements in the show. Ads could be selected on a per customer basis and the whole show could be woven together just before downloading.. could be very cool.

One final thought. It is amazing (but not surprising) that is it really the content that matters. I didn't need HD TV or 7.1 surround sound. Nope, I just wanted to watch my show and was willing to spend money to watch it at a lower quality.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

My wish came true (but with a cost)

Friday's commute was rain free! Well, pretty much. The streets were wet and I did hit a small shower, but it was a much needed relief. There were even good stretches where the roads were dry.

Life just couldn't be that easy on me though. On my commute home I was on Mercer Island, which is about 17 miles from my house. As I was coming out of an intersection, I downshifted my front chainring and the chain broke completely in half as a link or two went bouncing down the street, never to be seen again. This wouldn't be such a big deal except that I wasn't carrying a chain tool (used to insert and remove chain links). I never thought I would break a chain on the road so I only carry them when mountain biking. Guess I was wrong.

I called my wife to arrange a ride and realized my priority in the household has definitely dropped. I got something along the lines of.. well, the baby just went to sleep and then he needs to eat, and so on. In other words, I was going to be waiting for a while.

I decided to walk up to a nearby coffee shop to wait things out and see if there was a bike shop in the area. As I walked into the parking lot a guy saw me and asked if there was a problem. I explained the whole situation to him and by chance, he was on his way back from a mountain biking trip and had all of his tools on him, including a chain tool. He was kind of enough to let me use it for 10 or 15 minutes while I fumbled in the dark to remove some links from my chain and put it back together. I managed to ride it home without shifting (which could have caused the chain to break again) and I am incredibly thankful for the kindness of this stranger.

According to Jim's fantasy bike commuting score sheet this day would earn me 29 points (30 for the ride, plus 4 for temperature and moisture bonuses, minus 5 for the mechanical).

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Please, no more rain!

I know, I know.. I'm in the Pacific Northwest, what should I expect? I'm just so tired of it. Well, not the rain, but riding in the rain. In my last 2 weeks of commuting I have ridden in rain every single day. Fortunately I had a rest week in the middle of those two weeks so I did get a break, but seriously, it is getting to be a bit much.

I thought today would be different. When I went outside this morning it was unusually warm and perfectly dry so I opted for a longer route to work (through Kirkland and Bellevue rather than following I-90 into the city). About 20 minutes in the ride I felt the first drops. I can live with this, I thought.. the roads aren't even wet. By the time I was approaching Kirkland it was full fledged rain, not even Seattle spit.. and I had a long way go to work.

I'm not exactly looking forward to the commute tomorrow.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Hangin' Out on the Early Adopter Curve

I used to think I was an early adopter. The fact of the matter is, I'm not. Not with most things anyway. For example, I've only started looking at HDTV seriously for the first time and I just set up Vonage. Even though this isn't exactly news, I figured the perspective of these products from a difference place on the curve might be interesting.

Vonage... so far so good. I picked up the trial kit at Best Buy yesterday and had it running in no time. I made a couple of calls and everything just worked and sounded great. I guess you can't ask for more than that. I'll be curious to see how it works when there is some network congestion.

Vonage sounds really great on paper. Good features, great price. So, why did I wait? Simple, 911 service. When I first looked at them a while back, 911 was still in the works. With a newborn in the house, 911 was a requirement, so I waited. I'm still a little nervous about my phone service being dependent on my internet connection and power, but I'm willing to take the risk. Generally, my internet connection is fine and my power service only flickers once in a while. I suppose if anything really goes wrong I can run to a neighbors house.

Next time I'll cover my explorations into HDTV.