Archive for November, 2007

My Favorite Blogs

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Whoops, I forgot to post this yesterday!

Boing Boing – Boing Boing is only one of two blogs that I’ve continuously subscribed to since I began using newsfeeds in 2004 (the other feed is the very-awesome-but-not-top-five-for-me Kottke.org). The team of bloggers that powers their posts is the best writing team on the web. While for the most part the blog covers the weird and the wonderful, it has healthy doses of politics, current events, important technology-related legal issues (thanks to Cory Doctorow), pictures of unicorns and furries (good going, Xeni Jardin) and a zillion other things. Boing Boing is certainly the center of the ‘blogosphere‘ – there’s no use linking to a post there because chances are if your blog has readers, they’re reading Boing Boing too!

Freakonomics – I’ve only been reading this blog for a few months since I read the book by the same name – and it’s indispensable for helping me to look at things from an economists’ perspective. As novel as the stories mentioned in the book are – they only show how the rationalization that an economic perspective. I was particularly moved by Steven Levitt’s vlog about voting from an economist’s perspective – that one vote isn’t worth the effort to actually cast it – which comes across as very counter-intuitive. But really, how much power does one person have against the masses? There’s always going to be blocks of people voting because they’re part of the political subculture (politics is it’s own subculture now, btw – most people don’t care about politics anymore and the hardcore ones who do have their own rules and slang. Anyway, Freakonomics is a must-have blog for anyone with an shred of interest in how society works.

TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog) – I’m an unapologetic Mac nerd. And I need a constant feed of Apple-related news – which TUAW gives me with irreverency and an objective, if Apple-centric, perspective.

Lifehacker – “Self improvement is masturbation,” said Tyler Durden in my favorite movie. I personally think of it as applying to people who exercise and eat healthy foods because they think it will make them more beautiful – not those of us trying to live a more full life. Lifehacker, along with a dozen other websites (I’d mention them but they all really say the same things), is an excellent resource for tips on living happy, healthy, and getting things done.

Core77’s Design Blog – I like things that are well-designed and clever. And Core77 more than delivers.

I didn’t add it to my original top 5 blogs list because there was already an Apple-related blog, but John Gruber’s Daring Fireball, despite it’s somewhat limited niche (advanced level and above Mac users), is one of the best written and most thought out blogs currently being maintained. He’s thought out everything about his blog – from the logo to the page layout to the font used to the scope of Daring Fireball’s content. It’s an attention to detail I can only try to attain. Maybe when I have a better grasp of web development. This post was the one that got me to re-do Budaeli.

The next post will be on my favorite podcasts, I promise!

My top five favorite blogs and podcasts

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Top 5 Blogs

  1. Boing Boing
  2. Freakonomics
  3. TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog)
  4. Lifehacker
  5. Core77′s Design Blog

Top 5 Podcasts

(note: I like video podcasts more than audio-only podcasts, mainly because when I have time to listen to audio podcasts I really want to hear music.)

  1. Lynchland
  2. Mr. Diety
  3. Boing Boing TV
  4. Onion News Network
  5. Web Drifter

Runner-Up: Break a Leg (This is a runner-up because I saw the first two episodes a long time back and haven’t gotten up-to-date…yet. Once I catch up It may knock at least Web Drifter off the list.)

Tomorrow I’ll explain my rankings.

I’m not on Facebook or MySpace or any other social site

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

About once every two weeks I get an email from Facebook telling me someone wants me to be their friend and create an account. I’m told that this is because when you first set up a Facebook account, it asks for email addresses of your friends and checks to see if they have an account.

So far I’ve ignored every request, as well as peer pressure from other friends to get a page up.

To be honest, originally I didn’t want an account on any social site because I was afraid it’d show how pitifully few friends I really have (I have a problem with keeping up with others and general self-centeredness). But the longer I held out the more I realized that these sites had disadvantages that I didn’t like. One of my heroes, Cory Doctorow, just wrote an article articulating what I’ve been feeling about these sites. The crux of his argument is that these sites don’t help you to segment what you tell your friends – either you show them everything or show everyone nothing. In addition, you may ‘friend’ people that are really ‘acquaintances’ rather than ‘friends’ – those words seem to be interchangeable nowadays but there’s a whole spectrum of how we relate to others – from the coworker who occasionally goes out for drinks to the person you know from college who knows all the right things to irritate you and can generally pick out thoughtful gifts for you…all the way to the guy who grew up down the street from you who listens to the same music and likes the same movies and can guess how you would react to certain situations. This range of relationships isn’t really supported by most, if not all, of the social sites.

And don’t get me started on MySpace. How people came to use that to connect with friends is beyond my comprehension. MySpace makes it too easy to connect to others, too easy to become friends, too easy to show your bad taste to everyone.

So, if you want to be my friend, email me and let’s strike up a conversation. But don’t make Facebook try to get me to join.

Update: Technically, I’m actually on exactly one social site: Last.fm. But that’s because I’m always looking for new music…and I’m obsessed with the play counts of the music I listen to. Here’s my page.

Update 2: OK, things have changed. I’m on Facebook now – turns out Facebook is quite useful to track down old friends. And I have a Twitter account as well – which is great for finding new and interesting people.

Amazon Kindle and the Future of Reading

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

Amazon released their Kindle ebook reader yesterday. And for a while I was excited: Amazon’s product is one step closer to the ideal ultra-portable super-library that had a user interface close to that of a dead-tree-book – even closer than the sleek ebook reader from Sony. I even was OK with the rather jagged design of the machine because of the cool box it came in and the device’s status as a first-generation device (here are some pictures of an unboxing).

But my interest died when I discovered two things:

1. Amazon is making it very hard for the user to add their own content – and more importantly copyrighted documents not available from Amazon directly. Buried in Amazon’s help site for the Kindle are instructions for getting other documents onto the device – you have to email them to Amazon directly where they will convert the document into a Kindle-compatible format (unless it’s an ASCII text file). The manual even states that Amazon will charge for this service!

2. Even though I haven’t bothered with hacking my iPhone to use third-party apps, I can use my iPhone as an ebook reader. While Safari will only work with web pages, the Mail app can read PDF and Word attachments. Even better, it’ll remember the page you were on and return to it later. So as a test I downloaded an ebook from manybooks.net that was a PDF formatted for the iPhone and emailed it to myself. And it worked beautifully! It even switched to landscape mode when I turned my iPhone on its side. So I’m happy…although I’ll have to get my non-public domain books in a more dubious manner than I’d like.

Despite my successful convincing of myself to not get a Kindle, I still think the device is very important in our march toward an improvement over the book as a technology for the written form. And eink was a brilliant invention – I hope more devices use this technology.