Patriots trade for Randy Moss

Never thought I would see this happen. The Patriots have traded for WR Randy Moss.

I wonder what Bill Belichick will do with him…Moss isn’t exactly known for his work ethic. If any team can turn around Moss, it is the Patriots. I am really excited to see him and Tom Brady play catch, as this is by far the strongest group of receivers the Pats ever had. They will have great depth and if someone dares to double-team Moss, a lot of single coverage for the other Pats receivers.

If it doesn’t work out, it is just a 4th round pick that the Patriots gave up…a 4th round pick in a draft that they apparently don’t like.

Maybe this is the year Brady gets to add a regular season MVP and ring #5 to his resume.

Off-site backups with Mozy

Those of you who have read my blog know how long I have been searching for the perfect backup solution. Specifically, one that allows me to do easy off-site backups.

Mozy now has a Mac version (they also have a Windows version) and I installed it last night. They offer 2GB of space for free, unlimited bandwidth, and it is all encrypted (448-bit Blowfish). Every hour, their software checks my computer and uploads any changes I have made to their servers. I also have a daily backup scheduled at 1am, just to be safe.

Since my iTunes and iPhoto libaries cannot fit on the 2GB space Mozy gives for free, I am not backing them up, which is ok at the moment since I do manual backups of those. However, my entire Documents folder, e-mail, address book, iCal, Firefox bookmarks, etc. are all backed up. Even files that are open or locked are backed up!

It is refreshing to know that some of my most important data is backed up off-site. If I ever wanted, just $4.95 a month will get me unlimited disk space as well on Mozy. It is something I am thinking about, although backing up all of my music and photos will probably take a couple of days.

Of course, I still have my nightly SuperDuper! backup to my external hard drive in addition to an occasional DVD backup that I take off-site.

For the first time, I am feeling more confident that during a major disaster, my data is safe. Try out Mozy so you can make sure at least some of your data is safe.

How to we warn large groups of danger?

Just like the rest of the country, I am still in shock about what happened yesterday at Virginia Tech. My thoughts go out to all of those affected by the tragedy.

I can’t help but think what would happen if a similar incident occurred at my university. Being a campus much smaller then Virginia Tech, it would take just minutes for a shooter to get to any campus building. It is quite the sobering thought.

So how could warn large groups, such as an entire university, that they are in danger?

Speaking as a former student, a few thoughts on how to warn large groups of people:

  • Every cell phone is capable of receiving a text message. Why not collect cell phone numbers for every student, faculty, and staff member on campus and setup a way to send a mass text message to the cell phone? Since probably 99% of students have a cell phone, word will be instantly spread across campus.
  • Social networking sites like Facebook should work with colleges so the administration can instantly send a message via Facebook to all current students, faculty, and staff. Since it is almost a given that a college student will check Facebook at least a few times a day, word will be spread quickly.
  • I know some towns have a “Reverse 911” system. Why not the same thing for colleges, except using cell phone numbers?
  • Obviously, use the campus e-mail system.

Of course, none of this matters if the alert is sent too late.

It makes me sick thinking about this.

Putting the Leopard delay in perspective

Today Apple, Inc. announced that it next version of Mac OS X, codenamed Leopard, will be delayed until October.

The initial reaction (just from scanning around various Mac blogs/forums) was outrage for those who were expecting Leopard by WWDC ’07 in June.

While I am more disappointed then outraged (after all, OS X Tiger works just fine right now and is very competitive with what Vista offers), here are my thoughts on why this happened.

Apple stated plainly that they had to borrow key OS X developers to help finish the iPhone for its June release, which robbed the OS X team of key developers it need to finish on time. Makes sense, since the iPhone is running a stripped down version of OS X.

While some people don’t like how Apple is transforming from a computer company into a consumer electronics company (an argument I will save for another time), it is 100% clear that the Apple considers the iPhone crucial to its long term health. After all, just like the iPod effect introduced millions of people to Macs, the iPhone has the potential to do just that, if not more. They have to get the iPhone out the door on time so they get the maximum buzz. The more people that have the gateway Apple products (iPod, iPhone, iTunes, Apple TV), the more likely they will switch to Macs in the future.

Second, this is nothing like the often delayed and years in the waiting Windows Vista release. Apple has never (at least in public) promised a feature in Leopard, then announced later that it has been cut (WinFS is the famous Vista example). Apple didn’t scrap an early version and start from scratch, which happened with Vista according to Wikipedia. In fact, Apple continues to hint that it has secret features up its sleeve (today’s press release even said that Leopard will be “feature complete” at WWDC ’07).

Finally, I am all for waiting and squashing the remaining bugs. A four month delay (which is what the delay will be, since June 21st is the last day of spring and October is just 4 months from June) is a small price to pay for no major issues on release day. I’ll take that in a heart beat.

So in closing, take it easy. It isn’t the worst thing in the world. At least we don’t have to wait 6-7 years like the Vista folks did.

How I handle playlists with my iPod

I have a huge collection of music, closing in on 30 GB (encoded at 256kbps AAC). How do I get this music to fit onto my 8GB iPod nano?

I have several playlists to accomplish this:

  • iPod Playlist – A smart playlist has every song rated three stars or higher that hasn’t been played in the past three weeks. This usually gets me a playlist that with about 6 GB (~800 songs) of music. Perfect for shuffle play and guarenteed to have fresh music, since no song has been played in the last three weeks.
  • Listen List – I usually throw the latest albums I have bought onto this playlist, or albums I haven’t listen to in awhile that I want to revisit. Usually has about 4-5 albums.
  • Unrated Songs – A smart playlist listing songs I haven’t rated yet. I limit this to 50 songs so it fit on my iPod.
  • Relaxing Music – A custom playlist of music (usually acoustic) that is nice to listen to when trying to relax. Right now weighs around 500 MB.
  • Podcasts – I sync the 10 most recent podcast episodes to my iPod.

Every morning before I leave for work, I plug in my iPod to make sure it has any podcasts that downloaded overnight. I usually listen to a mix of music and podcasts (depending on my mood) on the way to work. At work, depending on how busy it is I may have my iPod playing at a low volume inbetween calls.

When I get home from work, the first thing I do is sync my iPod again so the latest song ratings, last played information, and so on are uploaded. At the same time, my Last.fm page is updated with what my iPod has played that day.

I still don’t understand how people claim drag/dropping music onto their music players is faster then this approach. I spend probably 2 minutes (and that is pushing it) managing my music each day. The initial effort of rating songs took work, but the flexibility and speed I gain via smart playlists are WELL worth it. iTunes is absolutely fantastic with playlist management and options, especially since iTunes 7 since it is real easy to update which playlists sync with my iPod.

Thoughts on the Apple & EMI DRM deal

As most people who follow tech news know, Apple did something extremely important yesterday with the help of a ‘Big 4’ record company, EMI. The two companies struck a deal to release EMI’s entire catalog onto iTunes DRM-free and at a much higher sound quality starting in May 2007. Singles will cost $1.29 apiece, while albums will maintain their current pricing ($9.99 to $12.99, although I have seen CD’s for as cheap as $7.99).

Why is this important? Why are many people talking about this?

For the first time thanks to this deal, legal digital music has a real chance at working like it is supposed to. All of that potential that the original Napster unlocked for a year or two is finally being realized. I am not talking about the peer-to-peer file sharing piece of Napster. I am talking about the ability of someone to easily discover music, pay a cheap fee for it, and get high quality copy that works just like any Compact Disc…except a lot easier.

How is this better then going down to the store and picking up the latest CD?

  • Apple has established a new precedent: if a new higher quality version is released, you can upgrade for a cheap fee ($0.30 per song in this case). No longer do you have to pay thousands of dollars to upgrade your old LP or cassette collection to CD. Once you buy an iTunes song, you will have some security to know that you can access future versions without giving up your first born.
  • No DRM brings back the best part of music, the social aspect. I can once again easily share a song or even an album with a friend. Word of mouth and flexibility has always been proven to drive record sales…it has taken the record industry only 50 years to figure this out.
  • Higher sound quality can actually replace CD’s for most people. Most people (probably 90%) cannot tell the difference between a 256kbps AAC file and a CD. Considering the fact that I never actually listen to the physical CD anymore (I rip it then put it in storage), what am I losing buying singles/albums on iTunes? I can easily burn backups, burn an audio CD if I ever got the urge, and can even play on a non-Apple player that supports the AAC format. For the first time, the instant gratification factor of iTunes outweighs minor negatives (not a “perfect” CD copy in my procession). Heck even most iTunes albums these days come with digital booklets to replicate those old jewel case inserts.
  • Freedom to use any music player: I am a huge iPod fan…there is no denying it. But it is comforting to know that in the future, 100% of my music can be moved onto any music player that supports the open standard AAC format. For the first time in history, music buyers will know that their music will be playable in the future without worrying about DRM or a physical device being outdated. Just like everyone in 10-15 years should be able to play MP3’s still, AAC’s will be support.
  • I am not even getting into iTunes features like Complete My Album that will make digital music a blast. Singles will become even more important as labels try to drive album sales…a kick ass single or two or three will result in many people paying the extra $9.01 (or $8.00, or $6.99…or…) to get an album, since their investment in the single isn’t wasted.

I personally cannot wait for May to come around. I know that for now on, if an artist is available on iTunes DRM free with the high bitrate files, I will definitely buy via iTunes instead of taking a car trip to buy the CD.

The music industry as we know it is dead come May.