archive for October, 2004

Recipe: Coffee Ice Cream

I used my new Ice Cream Maker to make some coffee ice cream. Here’s my recipe:

1 pint heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 instant coffee packet

Add the sugar to the cream, and warm in the microwave to dissolve. Stir frequently. Do not boil (or get even close). Add the packet of instant coffee, and let steep. Squeeze the cream mixture through the bag to release coffee into the mixture. Remove coffee packet and refrigerate mixture before freezing.

With this new, smaller and more convenient ice cream maker, I should be able to try out a lot more recipes.

Best Buy

Yesterday, I bought Star Wars Battlefront at Best Buy. I had to go in to work for a bit so I didn’t end up installing it until last night. Actually, I should say “trying to install it.”

It turns out that there is a problem with many of the CD keys that LucasArts uses to unlock the game. I checked and rechecked, but no matter what I tried, the installer would not accept my key. I went ahead and wrote technical support, but it can take them days to address the problem, so I wasn’t holding my breath.

I checked my mail this morning, and surprise, surprise – no answer. Eager to start gaming, I went ahead and boxed up the game to try exchanging it at Best Buy. I’ve heard that Best Buy is extremely finicky about accepting returns on software, but the guy that helped me just told me to go grab a new box. Jesse noticed that the game was on sale, but I was just glad that they were letting me exchange it so easily. The returns guy, entered some information in the computer and as he was bagging the new copy of the game he told me that he credited my card ten dollars because of the sale. Bonus! I wasn’t expecting it to be that easy. Now I just need to see if this CD key works.

Firefox Popup

I added a popup window to my blog with a link to download Firefox. This isn’t an ad – I’m not making any money on it, and neither is anyone else. It only shows up if you’re using Internet Explorer, so if you’ve already made the switch you won’t see anything. If you own a website, and want to promote Firefox, have a look at my page source.

My reasons for creating this popup are both selfish and altruistic. As a web developer, it’s a pain to try to develop both for open web standards, and for Microsoft non-standards. The more people that switch to Firefox or other standards compliant browsers, the easier my job will be. I’m being altruistic in that Internet Explorer is really a time bomb waiting to go of with all of the security problems it has. Plus, Firefox is simply a better browser with features like tabbed browsing, integrated searching, and extensions.

Improv Everywhere

I found Improv Everywhere by way of Cockeyed. If you have some free time, check it out. I don’t know why, but it’s really amusing.

Gmail

Jeremy just sent me this link to a GMail Drive shell extension that lets you use your GMail account as if it was another hard drive on your computer. I think that if Google was smart, they would just release an application called GDrive or something that would do this without cluttering up your GMail account. They could also add smart searching features to let your search your documents, images, etc… that are stored in their system.

WiMax

WiMax is a new wireless networking protocol that is in development. WiFi, the current standard, can only transmit a couple hundred feet. WiMax will be able to reach up to 10 miles in every direction. Not only does WiMax offer a longer reach, it’s also much faster than current broadband speeds. It has been in the news a lot lately i.e. here, and here.

There has been a lot of talk about broadband companies offering free phone service over the Internet (VoIP), and cellular companies are trying to get customers by offering Internet access. With WiMax, everyone can get in the competition game. Internet access, telephone service, cable TV, music, etc… can all be provided over a wireless connection, and because it’s wireless and uses open standards, no one distributor can lock out the others. With cities offering free wireless connections, we can expect some serious competition to set in. I wouldn’t be surprised if in 2007 (when WiMax is expected to roll out) you’ll be able to get high speed Internet access and unlimited phone usage with all of the bells and whistles for less than $10 per month.

Yesterday I was reading about this new idea called podcasting. Podcasting is like having an audio-blog that automatically downloads to subscriber’s iPods (or similar devices). This is a great use for new technology, and could have a huge impact when most people have mp3 players in their cars. Imagine being able to automatically have your car fill up with just enough programming for your ride to work. Just as the major news organizations are hopping on the blog bandwagon, I think you’ll see the same thing happening here. What does this have to do with WiMax? Well, it’s an example of the kinds of truly new and useful ideas that can be created when new technologies come together.

I think we’re going to see even more amazing things when everyone has cheap or even free wireless broadband connections. It might take an extra year or two to shrink WiMax receivers into something that will fit in a portable phone, but it’s coming. I’m looking forward to “augmented reality” Imagine a virtual reality game layered on top of the real world. Imagine seeing restaurant reviews for the restaurants you drive by.

Here’s a cool little idea I’d love to see realized. A few years from now, everyone will have high-speed-always-on connections on their mobile phones. They’ll also have built in cameras, plenty of storage space, GPS receivers, and be able to connect directly from one phone to another — creating networks on the fly. Now, imagine you could take a picture, record a movie or sound clip, or leave a note and attach it to your current location. Every time someone walked near that location, your message could automatically be delivered to them. If you like the meal you just had, make a note of it. If you witnessed a car accident, take a few pictures for the cops to download when the arrive. Drop in some historical pictures of that old house on Main street. Record some performance art in the park, and let others see what the missed. Looking for another person to play a game of hoops? Just drop a request, and see if anyone in the area picks it up. Heck, you could even schedule games by leaving notes on a virtual message board. Of course, we’d need some good filters and search engines to avoid an information overload, but those will be developed right along with it.

Ansari X-Prize

Congratulations Scaled Composites for winning the Ansari X-Prize.

Donkey Konga

Jesse and I bought Donkey Konga today. We saw a commercial for it while watching Futurama, and practically rushed right out to by it. It’s sort of like Dance Dance Revolution in that it has certain moves that scroll across the screen and you have to perform it at the right time.

Donkey Konga comes with plastic konga drums, so you can play left, right, both, or clap. We haven’t tried all of the modes, but what we’ve played so far has a song in the background that you play along with. Several of the songs we’ve tried have been lame kids songs, but they also have quite a few cool songs. We’re playing “We Will Rock You” by Queen now (one of the easiest songs).

I think they had a scene in Lost in Translation that showed a young Japanese guy playing this in an arcade. Anyone else remember something like that? Was it Donkey Konga, or just a similar game? Anyway, we’re having a lot of fun with it. They have a demo of it at BestBuy. Try it out.

Netflix via TiVo

It looks like the rumors were true. Netflix and TiVo have officially announced (1, 2) their plans to partner.

The press release doesn’t really say much, but the speculation is that TiVo subscribers will be able have their Netflix movies delivered to them over a broadband connection instead of snail mail. I wonder if you’ll get the whole DVD including extras, alternate languages, and whatnot, or if it will just be the bare movie that is delivered.

Movies download a lot faster than they travel through the mail (when sent one at a time – a cargo ship loaded with hard drives is still the fastest way to send huge amounts of data). How will this impact Netflix subscriptions? Will the 3-out-at-a-time still be the base model? Instead of only being able to see about 20 movies per month, will you be able to watch 90 or more movies over TiVo? This could kill the cable movie channels.

It will also be interesting to see how all of this works out legally. I would think that as long as Netflix doesn’t let more than one TiVo box have access to a given DVD at a time, that they could argue that it’s fare use (IANAL). Unfortunately, the movie industry couldn’t care less about what’s fare. If Netflix and TiVo want to avoid years of lawsuits, I expect that they’ll cut deals with the major distributors, and therefore only mainstream movies will be available. I guess we’ll just have to wait to see how this all works out.

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