Category Archives: Gadgeteering

Personal tech, or Things That Go Beep.

How Far We’ve Come: Ten Years of iTunes

The future, in the past.

Today Engadget celebrates the 10th anniversary of iTunes with a touching look back at Steve-O’s initial front in the digital music revolution. Look out for cutting edge buzzwords like “MP3,” “rip” and “playlist.” This “playlist” thing Jobs describes as a way to rise up against the record companies who want you to submit to their fascist decrees on track order. Forget the long-honored tradition of the mixtape, the queuing functionality of Winamp (which iTunes has yet to beat, in my opinion) and the hindsight we now have of this pretend sans-culotte cum digital despot now ruling ironfistedly the virtual airwaves. (Apologies to the historically-minded readers who just cringed at my willy-nilly employment of revolutionary terminology.)

And in harmonious timing with the big birthday, tomorrow’s likely announcement sealing the long awaited arrival of the iPhone to Verizon. I’m inclined agree with Engadget’s prediction that the iPhone will not immediately run on Verizon’s new LTE 4G network and that if you “rush to buy a Verizon iPhone, you might be locking yourself into a contract you’ll be dying to break when the iPhone 5 launches in the summer.” Units ought to start shipping next month. I’ll be curious to see how this affects Android’s recent market share gains, especially given improvements to the hardware and app offerings in the interim. I mean, um, I would be, if I were a huge dork.

This Week’s Top Nerd Mail: Japanese 3D Hologram Pop Star

The email began like this:

Hi Amanda

I wanted to send this quick pitch through in case you were thinking about doing a piece on the Japanese Pop sensation, Hatsune Miku, who is actually an animated 3D hologram.

It goes on to explain that “the invented idol’s DVD is selling out and she/it is becoming a legit phenomenon.”

Did you know about this? Apparently she/it has performed to capacity crowds at stadium concerts in Japan. I had no idea. So I checked out the video the flack sent me and… holy shit:

According to the LA Times tech blog “Miku is a singing, digital avatar created by Crypton Future Media that customers can purchase and then program to perform any song on a computer. Crypton uses voices recorded by actors and runs them through Yamaha Corp.’s Vocaloid software -– marketed as ‘a singer in a box.'”

Vocaloid recently announced a new addition to its holo-talent roster, Utatane Piko, a twee little digiboy with a USB tail. Beginning December 8 he’ll be available from Sony Music Shop for 15,750 Yen.

For reference, that’s over $190. Jesus. There are countries where you could get a real boy for that.

Best Intextions: Outside Sources

A couple of sites are chock full of hilarious auto-correct text mishaps like the one above from iPhuckups. Another, Damn You Auto Correct, launched a little after, takes contributions. Most come from iPhones. Freaking iPhones.


Best Intextions: Downgrading the Comma

I recently got a software upgrade for my piece of shit phone from Verizon. The upgrade did nothing to address the irritating little problem that causes the phone to spontaneously shut off. It did, however, randomize all my photos and change, of all things, the order of operations in predictive text. Moreover, it dissed the comma, one of my top five favorite punctuation marks.

It’s not enough that I have to unwire the muscle memory that I’ve developed using T9 for years, I’m also dealing with the conspicuous short-shrifting of the trusty comma. Once just a single “Next” press after the default period, the comma is now a full five keystrokes down the line, after the @ sign,  question mark, exclamation point and hyphen, in that order.

The comma is oft unappreciated, but to be considered inferior to the @ sign and the hyphen? A second class citizen, just one step up from an ampersand? It’s a sad, sad state of affairs.

Commas make your text(s) more readable. And they make you look smarter. (Bonus!) This is a call to action, folks. Don’t forsake the comma. Keep ’em coming, please.

Now I’ll return to quietly seething. Thank you.

Comic-Con NYC, Highlights in Hindsight

My bad for going to Comic-Con last Friday and not reporting directly back. Among the books, the toys, the frenzy of cos-play, the unease of Japanese girlfriend-painted body pillows, what probably impressed me the most was seeing the XBOX 360 Kinect in action. The video above isn’t exactly riveting, but gives you the idea: No controller, no peripherals, no nothin’. Didn’t try it myself, but it looked pretty far out. Oddly, perhaps, I particularly enjoyed watching players go through the menus at the beginning, waving their hands up and down and snatching at the air like conjurers with wallet chains.

My guess is that at least for now it’s as much about the cool factor as it is about effective, precision game-play. But give it time.

After the break, my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE shot from Comic-Con NYC 2K10. Continue reading

Play the Growing Old Gracefully Game!

We’re going to play a little game. Take a look at these before and after photos visually extolling the remarkable results of the Cenegetics healthy aging program. I see commercials for Cenegetics frequently enough to question my television habits and the last time I caught their ad something caught my eye in the pictures above. Something is wrong. Can you find it?

Keep reading for the big reveal.                                         Continue reading

Apple Gets Political with a West Bank Settlement App

A new free iPhone app called Facts on the Ground allows users to track the construction of Israeli settlements in contested territories. As the app’s makers, Americans for Peace Now explain:

You can use this map to explore the data we have collected about settlement activity in the West Bank. The map is organized in several layers that show different kinds of data.

“Settlement” is the term used to denote Israeli civilian communities built in territory conquered by Israel in the Six Day War (June 1967). This territory is comprised of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula. These neighborhoods have been a major issue in the peace process since 1967 and remain highly controversial.

It’s probably Apple’s most politically-charged app, and looking at comments and reviews on the iPhone download page or web posts about the product make one thing pretty clear: Jews love settlements and iPhones. Maybe Muslims are Android-users.

I’d like to suggest a similar app for Jews interested in settling. The iSettled app would track new marriages all over the Upper West Side. Layers would show number of kids, tax bracket and number of blocks to the nearest synagogue. Links directly to your J-Date account!

[Thanks to Michelle for the link. Check out her awesome Sukkot Sizzle party at the Delancey tomorrow night. Will be a good time for sure. And if you show up at work too hung over to function on Wednesday you can cite religious observance and nap at your desk. Booya. (Jew-ya.)]

We’ll have a bottle of the Richbourg 2.0

South Gate Restaurant on New York’s Central Park South now offers its extensive wine list to patrons on iPads. The Times says there’s a restaurant in Atlanta doing it, too, and one in Australia.

Not so bizarre, I suppose, especially for a shmancy joint with a big wine list. But imagine the smudges on those things. I can’t help but picture some overstuffed, rich fatty smearing his meaty digits across the screen digging for the perfect pairing for his wild boar ragout.

Imagination will have to suffice for me as I live a life of ordering off chalkboards.

“Waiter, can you bring me a clean iPad? There’s lipstick on this one.”

Thank You For Holding, How Can I Not Help You?

Ever had one of those customer service calls that makes you feel like you’ve been going in circles for hours? You were. And if you’re a customer of Time Warner Cable, they’ve probably serviced you a dozen different ways already (with no Vaseline).

The New York Times reported yesterday that the city is trying to alleviate the the pain all TWC customers feel at one time or another, like when you’re given that infamous four-hour window:

But now, customers may finally get a small measure of justice for what many complain is unfair and just plain rude treatment at the hands of the cable-company giants.Under the terms of a new contract negotiated with City Hall, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision will have to pay for failing to honor appointments. And they will have to do a lot more to make sure that subscribers are getting good service.

The contract would make cable customers eligible for a credit equal to a full month’s bill if a technician does not arrive on time….

Customers can request notification by e-mail, phone or text message when a technician is heading to their home. And in most cases, after making a choice from an automated menu, a customer should have to wait no more than 30 seconds to speak to a representative.

Until then we have to suffer the old fashioned way, on the phone and online. With the reliably shitty service the company provides and the torturous hoop-jumping required to deal with it, I have to wonder why they’d offer to send you transcripts of the online chats you can have with their associates.

After the jump, a real TWC live chat technical support session between a customer at the end of his rope and a service rep at the end of her shift — with emphasis and commentary added. By me. With a hefty dose of enraged empathy.

Continue reading

Best Intextions: I Had A Accident!

This morning my friend and I came up with a great plan for the day. (Sitting near one another, with our laptops.) I sent her a text message that I’d come over and pick up a few snacks on the way. She thought that idea was “Perf!” But her iPhone didn’t approve of her creative abbreviation and sent me a text that said simply:


Today’s lesson? Getting too excited over text can leave an embarrassing smudge on your reputation.