Scott's Thoughts

A Bridge to Forest City

Note to self: Must check this area out.

Books in the Age of the iPad

This is a wonderful piece on books, ebooks and the iPad.

Bugatti 16 C Galibier Edition Concept

Holy crap! This Bugatti concept is gorgeous.

TiVo Premiere is a Disappointment

I’ve long been a huge fan of TiVo. I first bought a Series2 when they first came out and have had the old DirecTV TiVo and had delivery of the Series3 HD TiVo the first day they shipped. Yesterday, TiVo announced the new Series4 “Premiere” model.

I’m disappointed.

First, they keep touting the new, all HD UI. I’m not sure why the Series3 didn’t get a fully HD UI, and I would have hoped that it would get the new one pushed to it. But no. And one reason I’ve heard is that the existing TiVos don’t have the horsepower to push the new UI, as it’s been entirely implemented in Flash.

Now, I can understand the allure of developing the UI in Flash: there are good tools for Flash; it’s easy to find developers with Flash experience; Flash is mature; and there’s a lot of content on the web, particularly video, in Flash. But if your installed base’s devices can’t run the UI because it’s so resource-intensive, is it a good choice? I’d say no. And it’s not like you can’t make a good UI with other technology. The Boxee box has a great looking UI in a small package. Anyway, perhaps this explains why the TiVo Search beta and the Netflix apps on the current TiVos is so terribly slow.

So the new experience requires a new box. My TiVo’s been making a clicking sound which I assume is the hard drive. I was just hoping it lived at least long enough to see the release of the new stuff. So what else do you get over the Series3 for the money?

Sadly, it doesn’t appear like you get much. The storage options are still pathetic for the cost of the device: 320 GB in the $300 model. The emphasis on the Premiere’s internet content is all well-and-good, but you have to buy a $90 adapter to get WiFi. Even on the $500 model! WTF?

“Hey,” I initially thought, “that remote looks cool.” The one with a keyboard that slides out to help with all that searching you’re going to be doing in the fancy new interface. Turns out it’s not in the box, either, but will be an extra add-on. Fuck. Oh, and Engadget says it’s not well-built (at least the pre-production model they had their hands on).

It doesn’t have any new two-way cable box functionality, so there’s still no on-demand or other tight integration with your cable company’s content. No gain there. Same number of tuners. No gain there. I’m not finding anything to get excited about.

There’s one small bright spot in all this: they’re offering a discount to existing TiVo owners, so I can get the $300 box for $230 or the $500 box for $400. That’s better than a kick in the teeth, but I think I’ll still stick with my Series3 until it dies or until the price on this new series drops to something reasonable and I can get more storage along with the upgrade.

TiVo should see that decision as a loss. I’m definitely the target market for their $500 box, and I’m sticking with my 5-year-old one instead, because it does most of what the new one does. Like I said: disappointing.

Back to Chrome…

It’s been a couple of days since I switched back to Safari after more than a month using Google Chrome. After repeatedly finding myself occasionally thinking “this was a little nicer in Chrome”, I’ve gone back as of this morning. And you know what? I felt the way I used to every time I went back to Safari from Firefox or whatever—I was glad to be back.

Now I just have to keep the forum for 1password open in a tab and go there daily, looking for the better 1password integration. At least they say it’s coming, and they’ve always been good in the past on delivering on their promises. Really, it’s the only thing that even makes me think of using Safari right now.

Ferrari Goes Green

Not to be outdone by Porsche’s hybrid, Ferrari’s showing one off now too. Its 25 MPG doesn’t sound as impressive, but 120 MPH in 10.5 seconds does! I like the green too!

Roger Ebert Interview in Esquire

Esquire is one of my favorite magazines, and they’ve really outdone themselves with a wonderful interview of Roger Ebert in the most recent issue. If you haven’t read it, even if you don’t particularly think of yourself as a fan of Ebert’s, you should definitely hit that link. Better yet, pick up a copy of the magazine—it’s a long read.

Chrome vs. Safari

Plenty has been written on Google’s Chrome browser (for the Mac in my case), so I don’t intend to re-tread that ground. However, I’ve always spent time with new browsers that are released and have always gone back to Safari after awhile. This time, coming back to Safari from Chrome, was the first time ever that I’ve actually missed the other browser. So I thought I’d jot down some of my impressions of the experience and how it compares to my status quo of Safari.

A lot of people talk up Chrome’s performance relative to whatever browser they were using, usually Firefox or IE. I don’t find Chrome to be faster than Safari in any subjective way, and I didn’t test it. I also didn’t find it to be particularly more stable—I had a few tabs crash in the course of a month in Chrome and only one time did Chrome ever wedge itself to where I had to quit it altogether. That seems about on par with Safari in my experience. That said, one place where Chrome did outshine Safari was memory usage. With a full complement of tabs, with Flash blocked, Chrome uses less memory just sitting there in the background than does Safari. Safari seems to love allocating and holding on to memory for some reason, which is annoying.

I found that when I first moved to Chrome, I would instinctively hit tab to search, since Safari’s location bar doesn’t double as a search entry field as it does on Chrome (and Firefox). This time, I had stayed with Chrome for more than a month, and not tabbing over became a habit that I’m forced to break again as I go back, and I’m finding that I prefer Chrome’s behavior even though I was initially annoyed at the location bar’s multipurpose nature.

There are a small number of things that I missed from Safari when I was using Chrome full-time: a proper, full-featured 1password integration; shortcuts and contextual menus to look words up in a dictionary from the browser; full-sized “chrome” bar at the top to drag the browser window with; and the excellent ClickToFlash plug-in.

Safari (web browser)

Image via Wikipedia

It’s ironic that two of the items are plug-ins, which Chrome now officially supports but require hacky workarounds to implement in Safari, that are currently in Safari’s favor. I am certain that it’s just a sign of Safari’s relative maturity that this is the case, and that Chrome will exceed Safari very shortly in this regard. In fact, two plug-ins I enjoyed on Chrome (one for Google Voice integration and another for Gmail integration) are Chrome-specific, and although I’m sure there are similar ones for Safari, the unofficial nature of plug-ins on Safari make me keep them to a minimum.

But 1password is dear to my browsing experience, and the integration in Chrome is alpha-quality, by the authors' admission. I have Safari remember and autofill nothing—no names, passwords, form-fields, nothing—instead using 1password to fill passwords, identities in web forms, etc. 1password is great at that on Safari, and barely passable at just filling passwords on Chrome. I’m happy to have had that bare minimum though, for I wouldn’t have bothered with Chrome without it. ClickToFlash has a functional equivalent on Chrome, although I find the excellent Safari plug-in to be superior.

The tabs-on-top UI of Chrome is frustrating. I remember that the Safari 4 beta did the same thing, but for some reason I don’t recall, it didn’t bother me the way it does with Chrome. I find that in Chrome, I’m frequently grabbing a tab and dragging it around instead of grabbing the window and moving it on the desktop. Annoying.

Despite these nits, this is the first time that I’m back in Safari, and instead of feeling like I’m back at home after a time away, I find that I’m missing Chrome. I think that when Chrome gets some more mature extensions, particularly a great 1password plug-in, I will give it another try. It just might stick.

RVM—Ruby Version Manager

Somehow, I just got around to installing RVM this weekend, and I’m not sure what I was waiting for. Not only does it do the job of allowing you to have easy access to multiple Ruby installations, but it also allows you to save sets of RubyGems as “gemsets”. You can switch to a desired Ruby and a desired gemset all in one command. Very cool. If you haven’t gone to RVM yet (and you’re not on Windows), check it out.

State Tourism Logos

Cool collection of state tourism logos. I think Georgia’s is plain awesome, and am moderately embarrassed by my home state of California’s. In fact, the suck factor in most of them is pretty high. I’d say that New York’s iconic logo is timeless and Texas' is bolstered by a pretty witty slogan.

500-Horsepower Plug-In Porsche

Sweet. Well, except the wheels. ;)

I’m A Photoholic

Man, me too. There’s no way I can rationally justify a camera as expensive as a D700, but that didn’t stop me from buying one. And I don’t regret it—it’s the best camera I ever have, or likely ever will, own. But there’s no doubt it proves once again that being a gearhead sometimes means that you don’t make a rational purchasing decision.

And now: Back to your regularly scheduled programming…

I haven’t been blogging much lately, but that’s not because I haven’t wanted to. After slightly breaking my installation of Movable Type when upgrading it to MT5 (my fault), it simultaneously stopped the flow to the blog and enhanced my desire to “roll my own” blog engine. Not because that’s easier than fixing MT, but I’d just like to own the whole thing soup-to-nuts. I’ve gotten a fair way into writing my own engine, but it still isn’t quite ready for prime-time. So I fixed my MT issue and, as you can see by the entries just posted, have started back up with some stuff I’d saved to post about. Hopefully my new site will be up-and-running soon.

Hands On With D&D On The Microsoft Surface

Holy crap, this is cool.

D&D on the Surface

I’ve played with the Surface at the AT&T stores and was largely disappointed with the performance, but let’s face the fact that this is fantasy gear anyway. Having a table like the Surface (but with nice, fluid performance) would be awesome to play D&D on. Or Magic. I haven’t played D&D in years, but this would make me want to try it out just to play on this table. Magic is more accessible and perhaps an even better match for the Surface.

‘FlashForward’ Gets New Showrunners

FlashForward was inconsistent in its most recent episodes, but I like the premise and most of the show so far. However, this doesn’t sound good. It’ll be interesting to see if the quality continues to degrade when it returns.

Two DVR features I’m waiting for

Great ideas for the next TiVo, especially the one to record and sort by original broadcast date instead of the date an episode was recorded by the DVR.

Fruita Fat Tire Festival

I’ve been around for the Fruita Fat Tire Festival in years past, and it’s a fun event. They’ve scheduled it for April 29-May 2 this year. I haven’t figured out my plans for Spring bike riding, but the festival is always a decent choice.

Toyota Recalls Vehicles for Sticking Accelerator Pedal

Of course they issue a recall for my truck the day after we just took it in for warranty work. Gah!

Fox developing U.S. version of ‘Torchwood’

File this under “likely to fail horribly”. What a terrible, terrible idea.

Control Your Net Identity

One of the ideas put forward here by Dave Winer, that you should control your own identity on the Internet, is one I whole-heartedly agree with. I’ve done points 1, 4, 5 and 6 and think that I’ll do #2 soon. I’m not sure I care quite as much about #3 yet, although I agree that reputation networks built on this idea would be powerful if they caught on widely. I’ll have to give that more thought.

Certainly, it’s clear to me that when companies like Google and Facebook own the profile and data by which other people know you, you’ve ceded a good deal of control to them. I’ve been planning to move my personal data of value to my own site and only include pointers to it from other sites, and plan to continue down that path. Since I don’t live in the public eye like Winer it hasn’t seemed as important. But the more I use these social networks, the less I think that my public exposure matters.