Podcast listening

Since getting the mount for my phone working and finally finding a podcast listening application I like (see this post) I am now listening to podcasts on the drive to and from work.  I’m wondering where people go to discover podcasts however.  I’m a big fan of Leo Laporte and his podcast empire, listening to This Week in Tech pretty much complete every week.  He’s got a few others like Security Now that I try to listen to, but don’t always.

I also recently got turned onto Nerdist Podcast via an article in Wired magazine.  Lots of bad language in this one, so can’t listen when kids are in the car.

I’d love to hear from anyone regarding what podcasts you listen to and recommend.


Internet Controlled Representative Government

The latest budget fiasco plus the FAA funding problems have frustrated me with our elected officials. The fact that they are taking a one month vacation before solving a problem that puts my wife’s company essentially out of business is offensive. I emailed my reps and the basic message was that if I did this at any job I’ve ever had then I’d probably loose that job. My employer or my customers would simply find someone else.

So that got me thinking about what alternative we have to our existing representative government. I came across americanselect.org which I like, and am participating in, but I was thinking something more dramatic.  Here’s what I came up with:

  • Run for office on the platform that you will make all decisions based on your constituents wishes
  • Provide a channel of constant input of  constituent opinion via the internet (There are security problems here – but they can be solved)
  • Broadcast all political interactions (similar to justin.tv) and provide commentary for viewers into what’s going on an what decisions are being made (sort of like CSPAN but more)
I believe this would make political office very unattractive to the current breed of politician.  It could evolve into a system where the representative would be largely a proxy being controlled by the population they represent.  Right now political involvement is pretty much limited to voting once every few years.  With this system you could log on and enforce your political desires directly.
There are tons of problems with this type of solution – but it might be easier to solve these problems then the ones with our current system.


Cost of reading a EULA/ToS

An EULA is an End User License Agreement.  TOS stands for Terms of Service.  For this post I’m referring to the legalese you are often required to agree that you’ve read and agree to before using a piece of software or a web based service.  Much like speed limits – these things are often ignored.  I wondered how much time and money would be required to read them so I started collecting some info.

Based on my measurements/sampling so far:

  • Average length of  EULA/ToS: 7,385 words
  • Typical reading Speed: 200 words/min
  • Average Time to read Typical EULA/ToS: 37 min
  • Average Software Developer rate: $40/hr
  • Cost to read the EULA/ToS: $25
Bottom line, most companies are expecting $25 worth of your time to read these things.  This is just to read them – not to think about them or contemplate what the repercussions of the agreement might be for your situation using the software in question.  I think about this when I’m clicking that “I Agree” check box – and the developer of the software could easily tell that I only spent about 3 seconds on the page/form/window with the text on it – and there’s no way I could have read it all.  I’m thinking a fun thing to put on the page would be a “Congratulations, your reading speed is 3,800 words/min – and you probably missed that whole part about your first born” or something similar indicating that there’s no way you read the whole thing.
This also reminded me of a Poll Question I once read on the site SlashDot.

Negativity Measurement

I’d like to construct a method to rate twitter feeds, blogs, websites, podcasts, facebook feeds etc on how negative they are.  It reminds me of the mention I heard that facebook should have a “get over it” button.  The reason is so I can filter my current subscription streams and remove some of the sources that are too negative – or make it so I can read these feeds during lunch, when I should be getting on to something interesting.  The majority of the stuff coming from these vectors is useless, and often it’s contrived and misleading.  It’s the whole FUD (Fear + Uncertain + Doubt) response people have and feel the need to spread that I’m getting frustrated with.

One big problem with this idea is that I’d never have seen this post had such a filter been on my blog.

Podcast consumption

Listened to a couple podcasts recently using Google Listen on my Android phone. I am NOT at all satisfied with this app. The biggest flaw is when I start it up I end up spending time trying to find either the latest episode of This Week in Tech, or figuring out how to continue playing the episode I was listening to. So I’m on a quest to either get google listen to work the way I want – or to find another app that can replace it. I’ll update this post as I progress.

Solutions reviewed:

Solution Result Notes
Google Listen Fail Doesn’t correctly show “recently played” and it’s very hard to navigate to the latest episode of a subscription.
Also restarts podcast playing in middle of episode.
WinAmp Fail This is marketed as a “synch with your desktop” solution, but the “Podcast Synch” tab is disabled/greyed out for my DroidX – a known/discussed problem
TWiT.tv by Mediafly Good then Fail Custom App for the Twit.TV podcasts, worked the first weeke great.  2nd week it failed to download episodes automatically and last week it started crashing on launch
Beyond Pod Awesome, then suck, then Awesome for a price Downloaded it and it worked great… but then the free trial ran out and I had to manually update my podcasts which sucked. I finally broke down and paid the $7 for it and now like it very much

Crowd Lights

I was at a Phish concert this October and was amazed at how many little screens I could see – mostly taking pictures or video of the band, but also people checking the set list or texting their friends that they were at the concert.  I realized that I could control these screens with an app – and how kewl it would be to synchronize some sort of a light show utilizing each screen as if it was a single pixel on a huge display.

I started work on the app the next day – and quickly realized there were a number of ways to pull it off.  Balancing how much time I had between putting the kids to bed and my own head hitting the keyboard vs. when I wanted it to be done drove a lot of decisions.  How much money I wanted to put into the project also forced me to build it a specific way.  In the end the architecture of the final application is as complex as it needs to be, but no more.

I posted a request on facebook looking for beta testers and had about a dozen friends and family lined up to play with an early version of the app.  Distributing it to them without publishing it on the google app market was problematic,  but eventually I had them all reporting back that the app worked.

A month after the inception of the idea it was done – but I needed to obfuscate the code, that is: Jumble it up so it couldn’t be downloaded and reverse engineered too easily.  This took way longer than I wanted it to because I had to learn a few new technologies I’d never used before.

This final hurdle surmounted, I released the application on Sunday.  You can install it on your droid with this link to the market page.

The iPhone version should be done in a few weeks.  Yet another set of new technologies to learn, but building the app the same way (with the exact same light show being displayed) will be easy.  *UDPATE* The iPhone version has gone live on the App Store.

Here’s a video demonstrating the final product:

The eBook is dead, long live the eBook

I’ve been reading eBooks for at least ten years – starting on an early model palm.  Back then the selection of titles was pretty poor – but you always had the Gutenberg project which had digitized a number of the classics into the correct formats.

Sometime in 2001 I started using a website called FictionWise and one called Peanut Press to download some popular and new books.  Peanut Press was eventually bought/renamed to eReader.com, and FictionWise was acquired by Barnes & Noble.  From 2005 until recently I was able to find a pretty good selection of books on these sites – most notably the science fiction magazines “Asimov’s Science Fiction” and “Analog Science Fiction and Fact” – which kept me pretty entertained.

This week we bought my mom a kindle and I helped her set it up on the Amazon site and my eyes were opened to their eBook catalog – which recently has completely blown away any other site I can find.

And the sad part – the FictionWise and eReader site seem to have fallen apart in the realm of having the latest titles available.  My biggest problem with this is that I have about 10 years of my bookshelf available on those sites – and now have to switch to a new vendor/platform.  Does this story sound familiar?  It’s a good lesson for me as I’m moving all our music and movie media to digital and considering what platform/vendor to trust – or going it alone the hard way and ensuring all formats I use will forever be under my complete control.