It’s the End of the Year As We Know It
30 Dec 2004
As I write this, I’m two hours away from the last day of the year; I’ve just snuck into a local Starbucks and am stealing their wi-fi bandwidth WITHOUT EVEN BUYING A DRINK. Perhaps I will pour myself a Free Cup of Milk at their concessions bar while I’m at it. The renegade tablet blogger strikes again, boo-yah.
As usual, I’m spending the last two nights of December at a hotel with my family, where we can watch the fireworks and festivities from behind an inch of suicide-proof safety glass. As you can imagine, it is extremely exciting.
I actually am excited though, but not because of the glass. I’m excited because next year is going to be huge. Huge, I tell you. I don’t know how yet, or what it will involve, but I know when at least.
I’m writing this down now so I can look back on this in December 2005, while lounging in my throne room, and I can laugh and say, “Man I was so right.”
Huge. I swear.
Favorite Music, 2004
27 Dec 2004
The one thing I look forward to come year-end is the chance to look back on all the media I’ve seen and heard over the past year, and make a nice fat list talking about all of them. Take note that these are personal favorites, which may or may not agree with your own sensibilities.
- A.C. Newman’s
The New Pornographers’ frontman makes one heck of a solo effort. Not for folks who aren’t very familiar with current indie rock, but still a very noteworthy achievement.
- Jimmy Eat World’s
This band has been around since before emo was even a recognized label, and have outlasted both the genre’s pioneers and many of its less able offspring. I can’t stress enough how good a collection this is, or how rich the JEW sound has become with each new release. Hands-down the best emo release of this year.
- Sahara Hotnights’
Third time’s the charm for these Swedish garage rockers. Puts similar efforts from bands like The Donnas and The Distillers to shame, imho.
One hell of a second album from the most raucous band this side of At the Drive-In. Some reviewers have called this collection punk’s saving grace and whether or not you believe that, these guys have to be heard to be believed.
Great followup to one of the best debut albums ever. Interpol stretches its arms out wide in this collection, showing fans that they haven’t lost their touch, while at the same time, hinting at bigger things to come. I guess the most important difference between this Antics and Turn On the Bright Lights is in the lyrics more than anything else. With that in mind, Interpol made a conscious effort to limit the noise and distortion this time around, to give more focus to Paul Bank’s uniquely droning vocals.
- They Might Be Giants’
Fantastic power pop from one of the most distinct sounds in the industry. TMBG’s swan song collection isn’t the best work they’ve ever produced, but it’s a great look back at the various styles that they’ve used (or, in some cases, pioneered) throughout their two-decade-long career.
- Walking Concert’s
The vocalist of emo stalwarts Quicksand and Rival Schools redefines the sound he’s been developing for the past 10 years. It’s about as drastic a change as Saves The Day’s label-twisting turnaround last year, and it’s definitely surprising for someone expecting “Travel By Telephone, circa 2004.”
- Iron & Wine’s
The King of Quiet has never sounded as forlorn, as meditative or as passionately lucid as on his latest collection. The album is consistently listenable throughout its 12 tracks, making it nearly impossible to pick out which cuts are best. The Grammy-nominated song, “Naked as We Came,” is a good place to start though.
- Jimmy Eat World’s “Kill”
It was a tough call deciding which Futures track was better (the title track and 23 are both fantastic too), but eventually I decided to go with the track that sounded most unlike anything they’d ever done before. Lyrically, “Kill” is your average love-and-longing type of song, but musically it’s absolutely gorgeous.
- The Veils’ “Tide That Left and Never Came Back”
Great garage-rock-esque single from the New Zealand-based Veils. Shades of The Strokes and Elefant abound, as well as a touch of Teenage Fan Club or maybe even Big Star. Ultimately, I felt that their debut album had too many inconsistencies, which perhaps made Tide seem even more superior than it already was.
- They Might Be Giant’s “Experimental Film”
All the signature quirkiness in the world cannot disguise the fact this is one of the cutest power pop songs of 2004.
- Snow Patrol’s “Chocolate”
Between “How to be Dead,” “Run” and this track, Snow Patrol’s third full-length was close to being one of the finest releases of the year, but a bunch of weak songs towards the latter half of the album (and some really weird lyrics here and there) marred an otherwise decent collection. “Chocolate” is probably their finest work though.
- The Velvet Teen’s “A Captive Audience”
These guys are what I imagine Radiohead to have sounded like had they gone with classical instruments instead of electronica on OK Computer or Kid A. With a voice like the late Jeff Buckley and a conspicuous lack of guitars on any of the tracks in their Elysium album, The Velvet Teen has been floating around on the fringes of indie for over two years. Maybe 2005 will finally see them getting some of the recognition they so rightly deserve.
- Delays’ “Wanderlust”
From the Delays’ debut album Faded Seaside Glamour. I’ve heard these guys being compared with The Cocteau Twins, or Siouxsie and the Banshees, and for the most part, I tend to agree. They have a serious lean towards pop songs though, which is what makes this track (and a few of its brothers on Faded) so fun to listen to.
21 Dec 2004
As a followup to my entry regarding those possible iPod + Phone hybrid rumors:
[ Eddy Cue, Apple's VP for applications ] has revealed that the company is working on a cell phone capable of playing songs purchased from the iTunes Music Store, due for release during the first half of 2005, in collaboration with long-term partner Motorola.
Well, that makes it more or less official, if not exactly tangible yet. Still no details or specs anywhere, but that’s to be expected I suppose. I’m still debating with myself if a music player + phone is the ideal combination, because personally I’m still leaning toward a camera + phone hybrid. I’m pretty sure that no matter how fancy that iPodPhone is going to be, it won’t have a 20-gig hard drive on it just yet, and i can’t really move my collection on to anything smaller.
In my mind, the perfect device would be based around a PocketPC like the O2 XDA (from the range of O2 mobile phones). It already has a camera, GSM and GPRS, IR/Bluetooth/Wi-Fi connectivity and a fairly large (1800 mAh) battery. All you have to do is slap on a 20-gig 1.8″ Toshiba drive, and hey presto! The perfect portable device. Of course, a machine like this would probably end up cannibalizing the entire digital jukebox and portable video player markets, not to mention take big heaping chunks of the entry-level laptop market as well. Man, can you just imagine what that would be like? It’d be a new age, where everyone walks around with huge geeky smiles on their faces and oodles of media traveling around with them in their shirt pockets.
I can’t wait for next year.
Everytime they shut down a torrent site, god murders a lawyer
20 Dec 2004
I predicted last week that Suprnova would be one of the first targets of the MPAA’s legal challenges, and indeed, the venerable torrent site (along with another heavy, Torrentbits.org) has closed down indefinitely as of yesterday.
Says Suprnova admin sloncek:
We do not know if SuprNova is going to return, but it is certainly not going to be hosting any more torrent links. We are very sorry for this, but there was no other way, we have tried everything. Thank you all that helped us, by donating mirrors or something else, by uploading and seeding files, by helping people out on IRC and on forum, by spreading the word about SuprNova.org. It is a sad day for all of us!
I have a loose list of other smaller torrent sites that I go to when Suprnova is clogged, but sooner or later they’re going to shut down too, if not from legal pressure, then from the sudden rush of visitors. I’m not sure what the rest of the P2P community is banking on to continue their file-swapping addictions, but I’ve seen Freenet mentioned a couple of times, and of course, there’s always Gnutella2.
Yahoo Video Search now online
20 Dec 2004
This tidbit is 5 days old, but I was really out of it over the weekend, so here we are:
Yahoo recently unveiled its beta , and I think it’s fairly obvious why everybody’s all excited. The brief caption underneath the search field says: “Try these video searches: Hawaii, University Lectures, Fighter Pilots, Racecar,” but I’m sure most of the searches are along the lines of words like “porn” and “fucking”.
If you’re one of those folks (and indeed, who isn’t), the first thing you will want to do is turn off your , accessible via the Preferences link on the right.
AskJeeves Joins the Desktop-Search party
16 Dec 2004
Everybody’s favorite natural-language search engine has just unleashed its own brand of currently-in-beta desktop-searching on the world, owing to the fact that well, everybody else is doing it, so why can’t Jeeves.
After having tried MSN’s Desktop Search for a day or two (and having over 3 months worth of Google Desktop Search experience), I can honestly say that, at the moment, there’s nothing unique about the Jeeves DS featureset. Based on Tukaroo, a search engine startup that they acquired earlier this year, Jeeves doesn’t index inside IM archives (like Google) or PDFs (like MSN), but it does allow you to choose which file types to search.
I guess what I’m most excited about is Yahoo’s entry into the arena, which should be out before year-end. Most of my communications (IM and email) are over the Yahoo network, so to be able to index IM conversations and email archives would be a huge help. I just hope it’s not as buggy as the current version of yM.
Sony Ericsson S700i, reviewed at Mobileburn
15 Dec 2004
This S700i review is over a month old now, but I only spotted it this morning. It had a fair amount of negative criticism (slow navigation, crappy speakerphone), but having written a number of hardware reviews myself, I know that it’s often the case that the bad stuff gets mentioned a lot more than the good. I suppose it’s because we expect our devices to perform perfectly by default, and many reviews often end up just listing the times when it doesn’t.
Well, whatever. I’m still hanging on to my S700i dreams. I’ve been going on long enough without a decent camera, and I don’t have the pocket-space for one that isn’t integrated into my phone, so the S700i is really the only device that can meet this need at the moment.
MPAA sues Bit-torrent sites
14 Dec 2004
Another battle in the ongoing legal war vs. P2P is about to ensue, this time with the MPAA filing suit against torrent sites featuring links to download movies. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which sites are likely to be targeted first, with suprnova, btorrents, and torrentreactor being some of the most active. I’m not sure if this will force the sites themselves to shut down, or to simply kill their respective copyright-infringing sections (probably the latter, as was the case with another torrent site, filesoup).
This sucks for me, because I haven’t bought a single DVD (pirated OR original) since I started using bit-torrent this year, and I’ve gotten so used to leaving my machine on all night so I have new movies or TV shows to watch the next morning.
On the other hand, I think it’s safe to assume that P2P will be continue to be under attack for as long as there are copyrights to infringe. And even if the courts can kill a certain P2P technology, the online community will simply move on to use other newer, unknown-in-meatspace tools to grab their movies and music. Then when the lawyers catch wind of it, they’ll pull out their law-suit templates, and the cycle will begin again.
For additional info, Ars Technica’s writeup on the upcoming Supreme Court hearings of the MGM Studios vs. Grokster case is a great bit of encapsulated P2P history.
[ UPDATE (1:17pm): Fixed the suprnova link. Thanks Richard! ]
MSN Desktop Search Coming Soon, Too
14 Dec 2004
In a rather conveniently-timed conference call with members of the media, Microsoft announced yesterday that they would soon be releasing a desktop search tool similar to the one currently being , and the X1-based engine currently being developed by Yahoo (my thoughts on that here).
What’s interesting is that Microsoft has decided to offer a desktop-based solution via a web-based service (MSN) for a desktop-based shortcoming in an operating system they themselves designed.
… Did that make sense? Well, it’s a pretty confusing situation, so don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Anyway, it seems to me that this is the sort of thing that MS would ordinarily be releasing as an optional Windows upgrade, but being under pressure from Google and Yahoo’s respective solutions has forced them to jump on the wagon and offer it via their own web arm, MSN. Weirdness all around, but I’ll be trying each of the two new tools as they become available.
[ UPDATE (12 Dec 2004, 1:21pm): Turns out that the MSN Desktop Search Bar is already available for testing. Not sure if it went online within the 24 hours since I originally posted this entry though. Anyway, I'm downloading the file now and will be playing around with it over the next couple of days. Initial impressions? 4mb is a pretty big download for a text-field on your taskbar. ]
Yahoo! Desktop Search Coming Soon
12 Dec 2004
Playing catchup with Google is fast becoming Yahoo’s (and to a lesser degree, MSN’s) favorite pasttime, and Yahoo’s recent acquisition of file-search engine X1 seems like a predictable response to Google’s (currently still in beta). Now, I’m a pretty shameless Google groupie and I’ve been using the Desktop Search in conjunction with the for the past two months already. I’ve gotten so dependent on them that I have a hard time working on any machine without these two utilities installed.
Being able to run web searches without using a browser window is a great space-saver, and being able to access the search field without using your mouse (a customizable shortcut combination will do) is even better.
One of the most obvious reasons to try out Yahoo’s new service when it becomes available is that it will be able to support alot more file formats than Google’s handful of friendlies (the most obvious being Yahoo Messenger conversations and downloaded Yahoo email archives, neither of which are currently searchable via Google’s engine). On the other hand, a 6mb download versus Google’s tiny 450kb wonder is going to be hard to sell to dialup users, or those who aren’t curious enough to wait that long.