Monthly Archive for November, 2005

How to: Painlessly add music to your blog

The typical problem
If you’re a blogger or podcaster interested in posting audio to your blog on an ad-hoc basis, the easiest way would be to add an mp3 link to your post. Trouble is, your blog readers would click on the mp3 link and depending on their system setup, it would either playback on a new web page with the Quicktime audio player plugin, or download for playback on an external media player. To me, this workflow is horrible. Instead, playback should as elegant as “click and play” on the same page.

The hardcore solution
XSPF
I’ve look at simpler solutions for bloggers wanting instant audio playback. Noticing popular music blogs like Aurgasm.us using a Flash-based player for audio playback, I was lead to this elegant web app which comes in three sizes (love the smallest one). The XSPF Web Music Player (see above) plays MP3s right on your web page. Is this ideal for all bloggers? Not really. It seems more ideal for hardcore music bloggers since the XSPF Web Music Player uses xspf playlist format to play mp3 songs. XSPF is the XML Shareable Playlist Format. The software is written in Actionscript 2. Ultimately, this means spending more time getting the music posted, even though it has plenty of functionality.

The most painless solution
I found the recent release of Play Tagger (from del.icio.us) to be a delight. Here’s why: Play Tagger allows you to easily play mp3 files directly on your website or blog. Simply add a tiny javascript to your HTML file, and your mp3 links will automatically become playable right on the page! You heard me right… add a line of code and all your mp3 links automatically becomes an audio playback button!! This script is extremely lightweight, as is the flash app that plays on demand. It also integrates with del.icio.us since your visitors will have the opportunity to easily tag and post the mp3 link to del.icio.us.

To install: Copy the code below and place it in anywhere in your HTML
<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://del.icio.us/js/playtagger”></script>

Live Demo
I am now able to present to you the first of an irregular series of musical selections. Just hit the play button. Today I’m featuring Nina Gordon’s interpretation of Straight Outta Compton (originally by NWA). She sings the sweetest swear words I’ve ever heard.

Sony PSP now supports Podcasting (RSS): Should we upgrade?

1/31/06 UPDATE: It is now possible to run homebrew games and apps on PSPs of all versions. No luck for ISO loaders though.

psp rss With only 4% of Internet users acknowledging the existence of RSS feeds, it’s pretty wild that Sony decided to add Podcasting support as a firmware update (2.6) for their portable entertainment device, the Sony PSP. Perhaps this is Sony’s way to wrestle with Apple on becoming a distribution channel for bringing podcasts to the mainstream masses. Nevertheless, it makes sense going in this direction since the motivation to listen to free audio content would drive consumers to intrinsically understand the web technologies involved (i.e. RSS).

Simply speaking, RSS feeds allow for all kinds of content to be delivered to you as long as you subscribe to it. In the case of podcasting, you’d be subscribing to audio feeds (mostly MP3s) which get downloaded automatically as soon as it’s published by the podcast owner. For portable devices such as the Sony PSP, PDAs or even cell phones, browsing regular web pages can be a tedious process given the mediocre connection speed, rendering time and screen size of your portable device. As such, the ability to read RSS feeds (and podcasts) make even more sense since it immediately delivers to you what you’re interested in, without the need of looking at a single web page.

Now, the big question is: Should PSP owners upgrade?

Here’s a quick comparison chart I made on each PSP firmware version’s capabilities:
pspupdate_chart

Keeping the PSP firmware to 1.5 allows us to run all our favorite homebrew programs, including ISO loaders which let you play backed up images of UMD games off your memorystick. I see this as the strongest proponent for sticking with version 1.5. However, with the trend of newer UMD games requiring at least 2.0 firmware (e.g. Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo), gamers are now at the turning point where it might make more sense to forgo playing with UMD game images for more everyday usability of their PSP. While it would be ideal for the homebrew scene to develop for version 2.6, the cat and mouse game Sony has been playing with their regular firmware updates currently puts them in a good secured spot.

Looking at the big picture, Sony’s been pretty smart in adding more features to the PSP to entice users to relinquish control of their portable device over to the media giant. Features provided in the new firmware version are just too tempting to pass up for some of us, and if you need more convincing before making the leap of faith (going to 2.6), try reading Russell Beattie’s review of PSP’s Podcasting support. For me, I still have one gripe before making the switch: Where’s the darn keyboard!?!

BTW: If you like this article, help me Digg it.

UPDATE: Businessweek has a good article on PSP hackers vs. Sony

UPDATE 2: For those with chart-fetishes, PSP-Vault now has a fantastic Firmware Compatibility Chart, complete with media formats and downgrading opportunities. This should help answer a lot of your PSP-related questions.

ChitChat: Things you see in the First Class cabin…

First Class

Ian: I just came back from San Francisco on First class!
Kevin: Nice! At most I got to try Business class during my army days.
Ian: There was something interesting about the laptops in First class…
Ian: They were all Powerbooks!
Kevin: In the words of Neo: “Woah”
Ian: Not one Windows notebook in entire 1st class
Kevin: Any photos!?!
Ian: Nah…too sleepy and lazy
Kevin: MAN, it would be totally awesome if you took one!
Ian: Hahaha! And it’s the Premier Service 1st class
Ian: only from NY to SF or LA do they have the 3-class planes
Ian: where most domestic only have 2-classes
Ian: so it is the “real” 1st class
Kevin: which airline were you on?
Ian: United
Kevin: Flyer miles baby!
Ian: ladies were using 12″
Ian: and the guys used 17″
Kevin: That’s stereotypical… wait a sec, I use a 12″…
Ian: hmm… I didn’t see any 15″ Powerbooks though
Kevin: interesting… means I must get 17″ ?!?
Ian: Told my GF we have to get Powerbooks… if not we’d be escorted out
Ian: for not meeting requirements!!
Kevin & Ian: Hahaha *snort/fart* hahaha… :D

How to: Cleaning your Apple Mighty Mouse

Cleaning your Mighty Mouse

Be sure to read Nu Tron’s excellent how-to update… it’s the 3rd comment.

If you’re an Apple nut like me, you’re probably an owner of the Mighty Mouse. Heck, I ran to the Apple store the day it was released, got myself one and did an early video review of it! So now after months of using it, is it still working great for the rest of you? Perhaps it’s time for a tune up… more specifically, a good cleaning.

Shirster wanted to do exactly that (she owns three Mighty Mice for the love of gawd!), but found that Apple’s support site simply said to use a wiping cloth to clean it. Google for help and you might get mightymousecleaning.com, which won’t help much either (just take a look). Not taking this well, she did what most of us geeks love to do: Crack it open. Note that compared to regular mice, the Mighty Mouse is a complex controller with multiple buttons, sensors and even a built-in speaker!

This is what she had to say:
I LOVE the mighty mouse. But that scroll ball gets stuck all the time (I use it alot) and it really annoys me. The article on Apple’s web site didn’t help either so I decided to perform a major clean up. On October 28th, with the help from doggie, I torn it apart and cleaned it inside out…

In a series of step-by-step photos, she and her friend shows us how they opened it and performed the cleansing process. While plenty of bloggers have shown us how to crack it open, Shirster shows us where the dirt accumulates (e.g. look around the scroll ball).

UPDATE: I submitted her article to Digg, so let’s see how popular she’ll get…

Making my own blogging t-shirts

Making my own blogging t-shirts

Bloggers can be graphic online. Why can’t bloggers be graphic offline as well?
To this end, I quickly put together some original designs for t-shirts via Spreadshirt, a cool online apparel customization store. Prices for these designs ended up being around US$27 each, so I couldn’t afford them all.

Here’s a rundown on the t-shirts I made (but bought only one):
1. “I Heart RSS” – This is sooo geekfully cool, I wanted it so much. Alas, not everyone around me would “get it” and it’d be a waste of my money. Well, only 4% of netizens use RSS, ’nuff said.

2. “IDENTITY” – Ultimately, I bought this because I felt it was “practicing the actual” (as Chris says). On the front is my Xbox Live nick, my AIM nick, my email and my blog URL. It’s my small attempt at bringing my virtual and physical worlds closer.

3. “RSS is my kind of Porn” – Once again, so cool, but so wrong. I would really have little chance to wear this.

4. “I Heart Bloggers” – This might be a bit too lame and might cause me to be involuntarily beaten up by passer-bys for being too much of a wannabe.

There was one other design which I made and bought, but it was for a special someone. Total cost for the two items with shipping was $62.79… A nice ouch!

BTW: If you do make one of your own blogging t-shirts, take a screenshot and put it on Flickr under the tag “myblogshirt”. Let’s start a picture meme on this!

A Personal Quote about Life

A Quote about Life

Yes, we can be something out of nothing. I saw this unknown quote at a Barnes & Nobles today and thought how well it suited my personal philosophy. What are your short takes on life?

How to: Fry an egg using your computer

Cooking Eggs on an XP

My 12-inch Powerbook can get really hot, so I’ve always wondered what else I could do besides using it to keep warm during Buffalo’s winter. Thanks to Hack a Day, I’ve learnt something new today…

Trubador (aka Han-Tzong Su, PhD) from the Department of Physics, National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan, shows us a way. He tells us how he fries an egg on his AMD Athlon XP 1500+ processor, using a foil tray supported by a stack of 1p and 2p sterling coins. After about 4 minutes of warm up, it took 11 minutes to cook the egg. It later went with bread and brown sauce for a sumptuous meal.

Check out his instructions, complete with step by step photos.

Today’s Links: Coverbuddy + PSP = iTunes Remote

Coverbuddy_PSP_itunesremote

FOR GAMERS

FOR BLOGGERS

The EduBlog Awards 2005

This only applies if you’re an education-related blogger. If you’ve been blogging for a while, chances are you know who’s really hot out there with their blogs. If this hotshot blogger is in the academic field, you can nominate him or her for The EduBlog Awards 2005.

This second year’s award categories has expanded to include:
* Most innovative edublogging project, service or programme
* Best newcomer
* Most influential post, resource or presentation
* Best designed/most beautiful edublog
* Best library/librarian blog
* Best teacher blog
* Best audio and/or visual blog
* Best example/ case study of use of weblogs within teaching and learning
* Best group blog
* Best individual blog

There will also be a Best of the Best award, which will be open to all winners of the 2005 Edublog Award Categories.

I sent this to Ivan of RamblingLibrarian and told him I’d nominate him in the Best Librarian blog category. Being curious, he had more questions about the awards since he hasn’t heard of it before. Most of what you’re reading below is based on an email conversation he had with Josephine Fraser. She is managing the awards this year and has learnt enough from last year’s experience to make this year’s awards work better.

How did the EduBlogs Awards first come about?
My omnipotent academic advisor, Alex Halavais, started the ball rolling when he posted a call for an award, in response to the under representation/recognition of educational uses and users of blogs in the existing blog awards. James Farmer ran with the idea, then Alex posted an entry form.

This year’s changes to EduBlogs Award
The major changes this year are that nominations are confidential and only edubloggers (broadly defined) are eligible to nominate. The other major change is the awards ceremony and build up this year – Worldbridges will be hosting the awards, with Josephine, Jeff Lebow and Dave Cormier presenting. They will be broadcast live, with the opportunity for winners to join in the conversation and make their acceptance speeches! There will also be a parallel “backchannel” chat room for people to join in the fun and give their reactions to the award winners.

What does it mean to win an award?
According to Josephine, it’s a mark of respect and acknowledgement of the hard work you’ve been doing in the last year – that your contribution is acknowledged by the community as excellent and that you are very much appreciated as an edublogger. The awards process helps to raise the profile of edublogging and encourages the community to come together in a positive and self affirming way. The short list acts as a valuable resource for the community and a inspiration for what is possible through the power of blogging for learners and educationalists in general. To be honest the winning of an actual category is just a very nice bonus for the recipient – everyone after all needs to be told that they’re valued from time to time. The main thing is the taking part – whether you’re nominating or just thinking about the current shape of the edublogging landscape.

If you’re in the education field know of bloggers in your realm who deserves recognition, do nominate them for The EduBlog Awards 2005 by emailing nominations to 2005awards@googlemail.com!

Today’s Links: MeetwithApproval = Free (& Nicer) Meetup!

meet with approval: the free (& nicer) meetup