Thursday, May 29, 2008


Multitouch, Multiscreen iPhone Pong:

via TUAW

iPhone Navigator?

Possible surprises up Steve's sleeve on June 9?

Love the quote from the GPS president:

iPhone Nano, GPS Are More Important to Apple Than 3G: Analysis

I recently sat down with the president of a GPS navigation system manufacturer to ask him how he felt about the prospect of a GPS-enabled iPhone. "Scared [expletive]-less," he said.

Yet the iPhone has the potential to leverage true GPS functionality better than any other device. It already has a large, 3.5-in touchscreen interface, external speakers and an elegant Google Maps interface. All you'd need to add to a GPS-enabled iPhone is a suction-cup windshield bracket (sold separately, of course), and you'd have a fully-functional, pocket-portable car navigation device. People already pay hundreds of dollars in droves for this increasingly popular segment of devices, and the iPhone could essentially challenge an entire product category with one add-on feature.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Redefining Spoilers

Warning: This post contains a mild speculative spoiler for the TV show Lost. By "speculative" I mean it isn't a true reveal based on a leaked source, but it turns into a discussion on how a show like Lost may be "redefining" the concept of a spoiler. I think it's relatively tame, but read on at your own risk.

As many of you know, I'm spoiler averse when it comes to TV shows. I don't even watch the "Next week on..." upcoming episode trailers as I feel they give too much away. I can't even count the number of times I've gone running from a room with my ears covered when a commercial for an upcoming episode appears during a sporting event.

This is especially true when it comes to Lost. The show is so deeply layered that part of the fun is putting the pieces together and speculating as to where they are going with it, but actually "knowing" is a whole different story. There was a big controversy last year when the plot twists of the season finale were revealed online prematurely, and it's starting up again with alleged spoilers of this season's finale starting to crop up online as well.

One of my favorite spoiler-free Lost sites recently entered the controversy. Lostpedia is a wiki dedicated exclusively to the characters, episodes, and situations of Lost. An absolutely brilliant idea to help people keep track of the overlaps and connections between characters. It wouldn't make sense to do this for a lot of shows, but with so many overlapping flashbacks, flashforwards, and parallel storylines the site becomes invaluable.

The admins of the site do an excellent job of setting spoiler free ground rules. The actual articles can only include factual accounts of episodes that have aired. Spoilers are relegated to separate "theory" and "discussion" tabs on the Wiki, keeping the articles themselves clean for anyone who wants to catch up and/or refresh their memory.

Of course, with any community driven wiki project the site is primarily self policed. There was a recent situation where one bad apple posted finale spoilers right in the middle of an unrelated article without warning, triggering a big debate on spoilers. I respect the right of a curious public to post and seek out spoilers to their favorite shows, but only if they are in their proper place. Warnings and hidden text ensure people know what they are getting into; an ambush in a site that is supposed to be "clean" is another thing altogether.

On the main page of Lostpedia, they also post Lost-related news articles. Updates on the writers strike, interviews with the cast and creators, a synopsis of the video game, etc. All well and good since the blurbs are pretty neutral and there is a clear warning if the outgoing link to the article may contain spoilers.

Which is why I was slightly annoyed at the most recent article posted to the main page:

(This ends my preamble, and I'm now moving on to the "What is a spoiler?" question promised above. Turn back now if you want to be kept completely pure.)
Matthew Fox keeps quiet on 'Lost' ending
Matthew Fox has claimed that he is the only actor on Lost to know how the show will end. Fox confirmed the news to the Daily Mirror and revealed that fellow cast members probe him for answers: "Yes, it’s true. They understand I can't talk about it, but sometimes they’ll ask, just hoping I’ll blurt it out."

As I said I truly appreciate the job the Lostpedia folks do in trying to keep a clean environment to the best of their ability. It's a fairly well known fact that the cast doesn't know how the show is going to end. So the reveal that one actor does know begs the question of "Why does he know?," which leads me to believe it must be important to the plot and how he's playing his character NOW to set up how it will end. And since Lost is starting to introduce time travel fairly heavily into the plot, I think I know where this is heading. Awesome, but less awesome than if I were surprised by it.

But is this defined as a "spoiler" by traditional definitions? Not really, but extending the umbrella to include "information not learned from the show itself" would place it in this category. Maybe it's just how my mind works. Technically I suppose the fact that I learned that nobody knows the ending paired with the correction that one actor does is what did me in. But in today's day and age you'd really need a full on media blackout to ensure a totally pure experience. And that would mean turning off the Internet :(

Hopefully I'm wrong and this will be little more than a red herring caused by my overactive synapses. But regardless, it's interesting how a show like Lost can redefine television and redefine the definition of "spoiler" at the same time.

PS: This post is loosely based on a ranty comment I submitted to the Lostpedia Blog shortly after reading the above linked article. The admins seem to have chosen not to publish my comment (probably wise of them in hindsight if what I'm guessing does prove to be spoiler-esque), but I felt it was a thought provoking enough situation to repurpose here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I've just returned from a four-day holiday in the Greater SF Bay area (where fellow TowForm contributor BoRyan was my gracious host), with the pilgrimage-like goal of exploring every rail system found there; a full trip report with all its minutiae is outside the scope of this blog, but within the scope of this blog (with 15 posts tagged 'maps') will be a later post reviewing a few of the many transit maps I collected.

While waiting for that, behold the accompanying two pictures, taken personally by me during side-pilgrimages of this trip. :)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

This sounds familiar...


n. The act of using a regular cell phone to get information by calling someone who is sitting at a computer and can surf the internet by proxy.

"We are hopelessly lost. I'll just use my iPhone-a-friend and my mom can get us directions from Google Maps."

"When are you going to get a real iPhone, you cheap ass?"

via UrbanDictionary

Tuesday, May 20, 2008 Ask Us Anything

Yet another iNetNow:

Found this on Wikipedia (via nested tangents, read below for that...also, in the following quote, material between [] is added by this post's author for clarity and amusement):

Since May 2008, 118118 [a British directory assistance provider, coincidentally a subsidiary of InfoNXX] has introduced a service where you are able to call and ask any question you want and their info team will find you the answer. From "How tall is the Eiffel Tower?", to "What Bars are open late at night?"

Sure is described here:
When it comes to finding numbers, we’re the professionals. But that’s not all we can do for you. We can find as many numbers as you need in one call and we’ll put you straight through if you don’t have a pen. We can even tell you what films are on at your local cinema and give you show times. We can tell you what time your next train leaves or let you know what the nearest tube station to your destination is.
In summary, we can
  • give you all the numbers you ask for during any call
  • find you the business you want and tell you how close it is
  • expertly search for business numbers or addresses even if you only have a small amount of information
  • put you straight through to the number you want
  • tell you what’s on and locate your cinema, give you the times and even tell you who’s in each movie
  • give you departure and arrival times from the national train timetable
  • tell you the nearest train or tube station to your destination
  • give you directions over the phone to wherever you need to go

And if you call us from a mobile, we’ll always text you the numbers you need and for free, so there’s no extra charge and you don’t have the usual scramble for a pen and paper.
It’s no wonder we’re the most called number in the UK every day.

I wish them well. I like this idea wherever it appears, which is why I enjoy AskMeNow, and mourn iNetNow and Voce.

For your amusement (perhaps I should make this a separate post) I found all this through one of my famous mental/wikipedia nested tangents:
  • I was listening to the first track of Vico C's Vivo, which begins with appears to be a short sample of the same song as used as the background music of the commercial I'd previously known as 'that Honda Rube Goldberg commercial'.
  • I suddenly wanted to watch this commecial, since I never get tired of it, so I googled 'honda rube goldberg', and found it has a Wikipedia article, where I found out:
    • Its name is 'Cog';
    • That song is "Rapper's delight" by The Sugarhill Gang
    • It's inspired or been spoofed by other commercials, including one for 118118.
  • Naturally, I went to the Wikipedia article for 118118, where I found out about Ask Us Anything.

I should put a dummy entry in my HOSTS file for so I get work done.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Democrats Launch McCainpedia

Politically I think this is slightly dirty but necessary.

Comedically I think it's hilarious, and the irony that the Democrats are taking the democracy out of the wiki only makes it funnier.

The web connoisseur in me says either call it something else, or make it a standard, fully editable wiki with a slightly stronger registration policy in place and zero tolerance to ban users by IP who vandalize or violate terms.

And while you're at it, do one for Hilary and Obama too that can be cross linked between parties and issues. Equal time for the 21st Century, and let the smart mobs shake out the true facts.


PS: For the record, I predict someone will put up equivalents for the Democratic candidates by the weekend.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

How Apple is changing DRM

Cool article on how the insistence on DRM by record labels drove Apple to dominance, and how Apple might change the rules to stay on top now that the labels are leaning towards no DRM.

How Apple is changing DRM

Friday, May 16, 2008

Location-based services may be coming to an iPhone near you

There is a lot of independent evidence circulating that the 3G iPhone,
rumored to be coming this June, will include and take advantage of a
lot of location based services. One service already out there but in
beta is BrightKite. Seems to be a robust form of the old AT&T friend
finder. The whole idea of a location aware, truly web connected device
opens up some enormous possibilities. Location based
Google AdSense anyone?

[Via Ars Technica]

Thursday, May 15, 2008

True Fans

Neat article on the secret to thriving as an independent artist.

1000 True Fans

Other than aim for a blockbuster hit, what can an artist do to escape the long tail?

One solution is to find 1,000 True Fans. While some artists have discovered this path without calling it that, I think it is worth trying to formalize. The gist of 1,000 True Fans can be stated simply:

A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author - in other words, anyone producing works of art - needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Adventures in Public Transportation

We went to see Mason Jennings play in Santa Monica last night. (Actually at Barnum Hall on the Santa Monica High School campus...odd venue.) Since my wife works in Westwood and we live on the east side, it made more sense for me to take the bus to her office than to go crosstown in two cars.

I know that public transportation in LA (especially the bus) has a bad reputation, but I was pleasantly surprised. Got on at Vermont & Sunset and arrived in front of UCLA 55 minutes later. The bus has a tv screen showing news, trivia, games, and ads. There's also a map (powered by MSN) with GPS that always shows you where you are and announces the next stops. It was on time and relatively clean, though the comfort of the seats left a little to be desired. Riders were mostly students, though that probably had more to do with the route and the time of day (I rode at 4:30pm).

The trip planner on the website was also relatively impressive. Granted it could have a little better error correction and navigation, but not having to enter a city and using a / between intersections is pretty brilliant. I'm surprised the mapping engines haven't picked this up as the standard instead of fumbling around with thethe mishmash of &/and/+ that they always have. Also surprised we didn't pick this up for the surfboard, as for me it's much more fast and natural to type a / without looking than & or +.