Friday, November 25, 2005

Barenaked on a Stick

Rather than distribute via CD, DVD or download, the Barenaked Ladies are making their newest selection of songs, videos and exclusive material available on a USB flash drive.

Nettwerk Music Group is releasing "Barenaked on a Stick" beginning today, says the Hollywood Reporter. It plays on PCs, Macs and any other audio product with a USB port -- like some car stereos -- and costs $30.

This 128 reusable drive contains 29 songs, including the band's 2004 "Barenaked for the Holidays" album, in MP3 format along with live tracks, in-concert spoken quips, album art, photos, videos and more.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

How to be a Good Democrat!

1. You have to be against capital punishment, but support
abortion on demand

2.. You have to believe that businesses create oppression
and governments create prosperity.

3. You have to believe that guns in the hands of
law-abiding Americans are more of a threat than U.S. nuclear weapons
technology in the hands of Chinese and North Korean communists.

4. You have to believe that there was no art before
Federal funding.

5. You have to believe that global temperatures are less
affected by cyclical documented changes in the earth's climate and
more affected by soccer moms driving SUV's.

6. You have to believe that gender roles are artificial
but being homosexual is natural.

7. You have to believe that the AIDS virus is spread by a
lack of federal funding.

8. You have to believe that the same teacher who can't
teach 4th-graders how to read is somehow qualified to teach
those same kids about sex.

9. You have to believe that hunters don't care about
nature, but loony activists who have never been outside of San
Francisco do.

10. You have to believe that self-esteem is more important
than actually doing something to earn it.

11. You have to believe that Mel Gibson spent $25 million
of his own money to make The Passion Of The Christ for financial gain

12. You have to believe the NRA is bad because it supports
certain parts of the Constitution, while the ACLU is good because
it supports certain parts of the Constitution.

13. You have to believe that taxes are too low, but ATM
fees are too high.

14. You have to believe that Margaret Sanger and Gloria
Steinem are more important to American history than Thomas Jefferson,
Gen. Robert E. Lee, and Thomas Edison.

15. You have to believe that standardized tests are
racist, but racial quotas and set-asides are not.

16. You have to believe that Hillary Clinton is normal and
is a very nice person.

17. You have to believe that the only reason socialism
hasn't worked anywhere it's been tried is because the right people
haven't been in charge.

18. You have to believe conservatives telling the truth
belong in jail, but a liar and a sex offender belonged in the White

19. You have to believe that homosexual parades displaying
drag, transvestites, and bestiality should be constitutionally
protected, and manger scenes at Christmas should be illegal..

20. You have to believe that illegal Democratic Party
funding by the Chinese Government is somehow in the best interest to the
United States.

21. You have to believe that this message is a part of a
vast, right wing conspiracy.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sony Music CDs Security Threat


The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a cyber-rights group, said on Wednesday that it identified 19 Sony CDs containing a rootkit application that disguises the company's invasive copy-restriction technology.

The software is hard to remove from a PC without causing damage and can be used to hide malicious code; antivirus vendors warned on Thursday afternoon the first malicious software to exploit it has been found.

The discovery of Sony's CD rootkit kicked off a furor, but the company has not said which CDs contain the DRM protection.

According to the EFF, the following CDs contain the DRM in question:

• Trey Anastasio, Shine (Columbia)
• Celine Dion, On ne Change Pas (Epic)
• Neil Diamond, 12 Songs (Columbia)
• Our Lady Peace, Healthy in Paranoid Times (Columbia)
• Chris Botti, To Love Again (Columbia)
• Van Zant, Get Right with the Man (Columbia)
• Switchfoot, Nothing is Sound (Columbia)
• The Coral, The Invisible Invasion (Columbia)
• Acceptance, Phantoms (Columbia)
• Susie Suh, Susie Suh (Epic)
• Amerie, Touch (Columbia)
• Life of Agony, Broken Valley (Epic)
• Horace Silver Quintet, Silver's Blue (Epic Legacy)
• Gerry Mulligan, Jeru (Columbia Legacy)
• Dexter Gordon, Manhattan Symphonie (Columbia Legacy)
• The Bad Plus, Suspicious Activity (Columbia)
• The Dead 60s, The Dead 60s (Epic)
• Dion, The Essential Dion (Columbia Legacy)
• Natasha Bedingfield, Unwritten (Epic)

The EFF says it is likely that other CDs also contain the application, although Sony told ZDNet UK last week that discs containing this DRM software had not been distributed in the U.K.

The EFF took a dim view on Sony's actions. "Entertainment companies often complain that fans refuse to respect their intellectual property rights. Yet tools like this refuse to respect our own personal property rights," EFF staff attorney Jason Schultz said in a statement.

"Sony's tactics here are hypocritical, in addition to being a security threat," Schultz added.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

To Apple or NOT to Apple? - Part 2

To Apple or not to Apple! (Part2)
(or Apple iMac G5 from a PC Guys perspective)

Written by Will Wagner

See Part 1

Lets Begin

Now I will attempt to accurately describe my observations while I setup and install my iMac G5 computer. The box it came in had a convenient carry handle on the top with images of my iMac on each side, right on the box. No mistaking what an iMac looked like, or that one was actually inside. I knew this iMac was sleek and had a smaller footprint, but I was even a bit surprised when I took out the keyboard, mouse, and one-piece monitor and CPU. I then had an empty box once the monitor was taken out. That’s all that was in there. I am used to mounds of junk in the PC world. It did come with a small bag containing a manual and some warranty information.

The keyboard and mouse were wireless Bluetooth devices. I anticipated the wired variety. Bonus!

I placed the batteries into each item, the mouse, and the keyboard, which were included. I didn’t need instructions really, since many devices today use AA or AAA batteries. Then I hooked up the power cable, and connected a network cable between the iMac and my router. The power button was on the back of the right bottom side of the system, so I reached my hand around and turned on the iMac for the first time.

At boot up, the screen showed me a wordless representation of how to insert the batteries in the mouse. This was already done, but a very nice touch! No such help screen instructed me on how to install the batteries into the wireless keyboard at this point.

First thing I noticed was the color wheel wait icon. Color! Not gray or white, but color. A simple thing, but we must note the extra effort it took to place color on the simplest smallest place that is often overlooked and which was actually very unimportant to the Operating System. It just stood out to me, so I am passing along my thoughts.

Then, a “TV” commercial began to run showing me Mac OSX Tiger 10.4 highlights with music, right on my desktop. I noted the speakers were loud and clear. They are built into the bottom of the edge of the iMac G5. Amazing that they sounded fine. More on specs later on.

A “Before you begin” screen showed itself and indicated that batteries should be installed, and that we will look for your wireless keyboard. The screen instructed you to type a series of numbers, and hit return, numbers entered, keyboard found!

Then an animated 3D setup box appeared to show, “Welcome”. I correctly choose United States for the default country.

I then selected “Do not transfer any information to this Mac”, since I am a first time owner. But there seemed to be a special setup routine for those who did already own a Mac, and had personal files and preferences to place on this one. I simply chose NOT to transfer anything.

Select US Keyboard.

Enter Apple ID, I don’t have one, so I hit continue with a blank field. I figured I would do this later, I wanted to start computing not take a survey.

Registration Information popped up next, I had to enter my name, address, and phone number, with an email address. I did so though was cautious. I know many companies use this info for marketing and tracking. They said they wouldn’t unless I agreed to that kind of usage. I didn’t agree.

Next screen, enter how you will use this computer. I chose Home use. Then had to indicate my career background, I decided I could be one of a few in the multiple list drop down box, but what best fit me was Engineering/Researcher.

I opted in for email newsletters to be sent to me.

Then once I chose a system password and home account name, the iMac proceeded to “automagically” setup my home directories, and preferences.

It then asked me to purchase .Mac, I opted out. And didn’t want the 60 days free try it out feature. The .Mac service is a service that allows you to place your profile information and any archive files and junk on the Apple servers. This enables you to get the info from any Internet connected Mac. But what many people forget, this also gives Apple permissions to look at and compile notes against your data.

Now the iMac was setup and ready for use. I had to simply Click OK to begin using it now. When I did, I got served a default screen, and the iMac connected to the Internet through my router and connection. It said I had many updates to perform, so I decided now was a good time.

I had 14 updates, decided I was not using the iPod, so reduced that to 13. Then I had to enter my password to allow updates to install, nice touch to protect the system from installing anything I didn’t want! I had to agree to wordy contracts to install the software, ala Microsoft style agreements. I agreed to all.

Now the software began to install which was shown on a software update dialog. I had a few hundred Megs of stuff, and the dialog showed the progress for each part that was being downloaded. The time remaining didn’t randomly increased or decreased like Windows dialog boxes do. Come to think of it, I don’t think the updates from Microsoft provide a time frame. Maybe they do now, I need to verify that one. The time remaining seemed consistent with progress, and was an actual representation or close enough to actual time remaining.

While I was waiting, and typing notes for my review via the PC, I had a good chance to look at each desktop side by side. I have to admit; the iMac had a smooth appealing look to it. Sure my Windows XP system was not just taken out of the box, but the iMac looked better and was appealing. I sure can’t express what I mean, just that the fonts and windows on the iMac screen looked cleaner, sharper, with high letter quality. So much for scientific research, feelings don’t provide much frame of reference. Lets hope I can be a bit more descriptive in the information yet to come.

While software was downloading, a small black box appeared on the Software Update window, near the bottom left most corner. Was this an error in the matrix, or an indicator of poor programming? I was unsure, but didn’t affect the download of anything. Might have had something to do with an update that replaced some important file? But once the software was done downloading from the Apple site, the system asked me to reboot. I said ok and the familiar Mac chime sounded. The block was gone after that.

Actually Using Mac OSX Tiger

Once the system was back after the reboot, what to do next? What can I accomplish and how to be more productive? Well first, my cordless mouse had full power batteries, but the pointer jumped. I suspected the surface of my desk was fooling the laser and making this happen. I moved to a mouse pad, and all was fine. Not an Apple problem really, more my problem. More on the mouse later.

I proceeded to pop in a DVD and the DVD player application started. It was very nice looking and quick and responsive when I pressed function buttons. The movie never jumped or paused, like it does sometimes on a PC. All would depend on what was running, I guess. Right now I was not running a thing really.

I played a factory recorded DVD for about 20 minutes, then proceeded to eject the CD, which was a challenge the first time for a PC person. Mac users know that you can simply drop the CD-DVD folder directly into the trashcan. This folder appears on your desktop when you place any CD in the drive. My past Mac experience helped, but this Mac OS X doesn’t have a trashcan on the desktop. I later learned even Mac fans want the trash can back on the desktop. It is in the Dock. Drop the folder to the trashcan in the dock at the bottom of the screen in the lower right hand corner. Otherwise you can also use the Folders Context menu, normally a right click in Windows, but on the Mac use the Control key when you click on the Folder to get the menu. The player itself has some controls in the bottom left corner, and an Eject button was a welcome site. Needless to say, there were a few ways to simply Eject the DVD.

Just after I ejected the DVD I was viewing, I dropped in a homemade DVD. It played for about 5 minutes then scored an error. So I went to eject the DVD. But heard a click and the servo motor tried repeatedly to eject the DVD. I started to worry, was the drive bad? Nope, the DVD tried to eject several times, and then about the 5th time it popped out. I pulled it out, and boy was it hot! I looked closely and the homemade DVD-R was warping. It looked to be warping into a Convex shape. Not a good sign. I figured that the CD player gets hot, just like a PC, but the iMac was so compact, perhaps the heat was not dissipating rapidly enough. I would have to play a factory movie all the way through, and a homemade movie all the way through. But later on when I test the bundled applications.

I mentioned the Dock. The Dock is a Task Manager sort of object that resides along the bottom by default, which can be moved to the left or right side via some settings in the Finder. But NOT at the top of the screen, the Top is reserved for the Finder. Also the Icons on the Dock show an indication they are running by a small arrow under them. They are not running if no arrow is displayed.

The Finder is the Menu system for your Mac. Just like in Windows where each folder or program has a menu across the top of the Window, the Mac places those menus always at the very top of the screen, just not on the active window itself. It takes getting used to, but in a few days I have found that I never had to goto the Window itself, I always knew to goto the top of the screen to select a Menu option. In all honesty I felt I had to scroll too far to get to the menu at times. If my open window was in the bottom right, I had to scroll to the top left to select a Menu option. No, not a major big deal, just letting you know what I did versus what I was used to. I would like the menu on each Window but can live with this.

Each window has three-color buttons in each top left corner. A RED one for closing the window, a YELLOW one for shrinking the window to the Dock (you can also double click the title bar of the window), and a Green one for expanding the window larger, or perhaps even full screen. Different windows handled the GREEN button differently. The RED button closes the open window only, and it does not close the program. This took getting used to as well. In Windows XP/9x I was used to having the top right corner with the X close and exit the current running Window or program. Subtle differences, but noteworthy!

Lets take a look at the Desktop. This Desktop has on it by default, the Macintosh HD icon, which is the Window’s My Computer equivalent. Any other shortcuts, Mac calls them Aliases, you have to put on the Desktop manually. I admit the Desktop sure was clean. No clutter from all the PC junk that is installed in Windows by third party companies. Matter of fact, no third party software was evident anywhere on the system. It was all Apple. You can force the Icons on the Desktop to stay sorted, which they will do for sure. When a new one is created, the Icons adjust alphabetically (or if you choose by size, date created or modified, or by label or kind). You could turn this off, and allow the Icons to Snap to Grid. This means they will line up unsorted but are arranged in block form. Otherwise you can use no sort options.

I love having my favorite background image on the Desktop. On the iMac you can have nice colorful factory made artistic backgrounds as images or your own. Unless you force a full screen of the image, you see a color around the image on both systems. When selecting a different background image, the change takes effect immediately. One click is all it takes. No need to click OK or Apply. Screen Savers are on this dialogue box as well, they are all artistic and different. I especially like the Cosmos saver. They all seem to scroll through images, but add a Pan and Zoom feature to each one, simulating movement. You can also choose your Pictures Folder and they will be displayed in the same manner. Nice touch, something you may not consider important, but the extra little touches are evident. Windows XP allows use of favorite Pictures, but they are more static, and simply sit there. No scrolling action or movement happens.

How about the keyboard? If you have ever seen an Apple keyboard you know it seems to look similar to the PC keyboard. I submit they are almost identical, except for the Apple key, replacing the ALT key. I feel that they could be close cousins, since they seem to do a lot of the same functions. Microsoft should call the Alt key the Windows Key, but they wield so much market influence, they had a new key created on the keyboard with a little Windows logo. I do know that Apple had its own key first, if that matters.

The Macintosh Mouse comes with simply one button. This is a BIG change for those accustomed to the PC. Just about every PC today has a two button Mouse. Have no fear, the Control Key can be used when you click the Mac Mouse, to simulate a right click function. It is not intuitive, but once discovered, it is never forgotten. The wireless Bluetooth Mouse that came with my iMac was gorgeous. It looked like a large white pill that would cure any headache. Of course it was many times the normal dose, based on size. The Mouse felt very nice in the hand. But based on my PC experience, I found myself thinking the Mouse was hobbled or handicapped in some way. Was I less productive? So it was time to experiment. I shut down the iMac, turned off the Bluetooth Mouse, and plugged in a Microsoft USB Laser Mouse. Sorry Mac fans, this could be blasphemy but it worked like a charm. The Mouse now had the feel I was used to, and to my surprise the Mouse pointer didn’t jump and the scroll wheel worked great too. Earlier I said I thought my desk color or pattern was fooling the Mouse. Maybe so, but this new Mouse was not fooled. It ran smooth as can be. I was a little happier. I guess the Apple Mouse will have to go to eBay when I get time.

I wanted to do some browsing around the File System Folders. A double click on the Macintosh HD icon takes you to a file manager of sorts. The left side offers the My Computer view, with Network, and below that the Desktop, My Home Directory indicated by my login name, an Application Folder, Documents, Movies, Music and Pictures. Seems like all the most important stuff was represented! You could also view Icons in the normal single Icon view, or sorted in a list, or even in columns of data.

Clicking on any of the Icons on the left took me to that folder. I looked around at the Applications first. I saw all the Apps in one folder. I know that the Mac doesn’t care what extension the files have, but I wanted to see them. So I did a right click and turned on the extensions, so I could learn what was there and how things worked. Applications were *.app files, and to my shock and surprise, that was all. One file! If I wanted to delete Chess, I simply could delete That is all you do. No fooling with a registry, or uninstall routines in the Windows Control Panel. If I wanted to load an application, I could drop the file into the Applications folder, and it was installed. I must admit this single enhancement or procedure is almost worth the full price I paid. No more would I have to hope and pray, and run an install routine, hoping all was setup, Icons created, and settings were complete. When you ran a program, settings were created on the fly as needed. I connected to the Internet and downloaded a few apps to test this theory, worked great! More on the net and other Applications in Part 3.

When it came to Movies, QuickTime is the default format. I dropped some Windows Media files from my other system, into the folder, and no luck. They wouldn’t play. I could get Windows Media Player for Mac though! So no worries there. WMP for Mac is at Version 9, and the PC Version is at 10. I am sure Microsoft is working on a Version 10 for Mac.

I wanted to test QuickTime on the PC versus the iMac. I played the exact same file, which was the Matrix Theater Trailer in 1024 resolution. I played them side-by-side, and was astounded. The iMac version was clearer, sharper, and smooth. The PC version of the same movie had just a small amount of choppy movement. It would pause intermittently. I then decided to double the size of the trailer while it was playing. The iMac did it in a second, no problem. Also, the transition in size was smooth, it dynamically increased in size while playing. It almost looked like you had grabbed the sides of the movie, and pulled it like silly putty. But the PC choked badly, and 10-15 seconds later recovered. It went from normal size to 2x without any nice smooth transition. Astounding. I guess my PC could be a bit lower end, but the iMac was no Power Mac, just a lower end Mac. My feeling was that the PC and iMac are very close to equal in dated release hierarchy on the food chain. Both were one-year-old technology except for the software Mac OSX, which was the latest and greatest software. But Windows XP had service pack 1 installed. Hmmm.

On the iMac, while playing a Movie, you can shrink it down to the Dock, and it keeps playing in a tiny window. Not great for normal viewing, but you can see what is happening. Another added enhancement. I could work and wait until my favorite part of the movie to maximize the window for viewing. Lets see Task manager on XP do this! I also noted in the menu for QuickTime there were all these grayed out advanced features, which you can buy in the PRO version. They actually seemed like features I may want. Full Screen, Copy, Paste, and Recording Options. I will consider purchasing QuickTime Pro in a months time. I had considered this on the PC side, but never really followed through.

If you want to look through your digital images, both the PC and the iMac have a small application for viewing them. But the iMac allows you to crop them. The PC allows you to more easily delete them. I like the delete feature. Often I use the image viewer to go through all my image files, and delete the ones I don’t want to keep. iMac doesn’t allow going through all the files and delete them easily while using the viewer. You have to go back to the folder and delete the images. But you could change the folder settings to make the icon thumbnail large enough to see the image, and select them for deletion. Just a little different, but overall equal functionality in different ways.

It is worthy to note again here, that the small speakers inside the bottom edge of the iMac case are very nice. Not much bass, as anticipated, but clear, crisp, and plenty loud for a desktop system. All I needed was a subwoofer!

I will be reviewing the bundled Applications that come with the iMac and Mac OS X in the next part of this review, Part 3.

Bundled Application Review

(Next Issue Part 3 available at

Thursday, November 03, 2005

What to do with the OLD Jack-o-Lantern?

Ok Halloween is over, you have an old Jack-o-Lantern to get rid of. But wait! Why not turn that useless orange shell into a spiffy PC? Yes, you too can own your very own Jack-PC, not to be confused with Jack-FM!