Please Don’t Pay for Ringtones

March 27, 2008

Everytime someone pays for a ringtone a small part of me dies.

Ok, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but there’s no reason to pay for a ringtone. (As long as you’ve already own the song in question.)

Most phones will actually do this for you, but you usually have to read the manual to figure out how to do it. The other way to go is (of course) through the internet. There are dozens of sites that will convert music to a downloadable ringtone for you.  Make sure you read the fine print and find out what their business model is. You don’t want to unknowingly sign up for some costly text-messaging scheme.

A good one I found out about through the New York Times is Cellware.

You can read more about in their tech blog here:

So please, don’t pay twice as much as a few seconds of a song, just so you can use it on your phone.

SpamBot E-Mail Help

March 22, 2008

In case you haven’t heard, it isn’t a good idea to post your e-mail address on the internet. There are bots that go through forum posts, MySpace pages and anywhere else on the web you can think of pulling off addresses to send e-mails.

Sometimes though, you want someone to have your e-mail address.

That’s where this comes in:

It’s a pretty simple concept, and if you prefer you can do it yourself with any basic image program. This program will take the e-mail address you enter and embed it in an image you can then download, and then post instead of typing out your e-mail address on a website.

Just try it out with a fake address to see how it works, and then if you like it you can get your own.

Apple Misgivings

March 20, 2008

I’ve always had an uneasy feeling about Apple that I haven’t been able to put my finger on.

This article really describes some of the problems I have with them. It also shows how they are able to pry so much money out of its customers.

Now I’m not an Apple-hater, but I would say that they are not the sort of company that is friendly to the goals of this blog.

Check it out for yourself at: 

Podcasts — Part 3

March 19, 2008

If you are with me up to this point, you’d probably like a little bit of help getting some content to put on your Mp3 player.

Here are a few places to get started. (When you get there, you can search, but I recommend clicking “Browse entire catalog.”)

If you want audio books, this is a nice place to start. All of the content here is in the public domain and volunteers read classics. Since it is a volunteer effort, the quality can be a little bit mixed. I enjoyed a great many of Aesop’s Fables, but a couple of them were recorded too low or by a person whose native language was clearly not English. I’m planning on starting Moby Dick in the near future, so we’ll see how that goes.

This site has a variety of academic lectures in all sorts of different subjects. It’s like taking a class for free with the added bonus of not having homework.

I followed the link under Ohio State to get to an interesting series by Hubert Dryfus at UC Berkeley on Existentialism. You do sometimes have to fast forward through details on homework assignment and office hours, but the content is really top notch and the recording is of surprisingly decent quality.

This last one I’ll include the caveat that I haven’t used it myself yet, but this looks like a very promising site for content. I did notice that this is a site that is selling some of its material, but I hope that the free content is worthwhile.

As far as fiction material goes, I like I got Scott Sigler‘s The Rookie, which I really enjoyed. It isn’t for everyone though, so take a look at the site for more options.

Let me know if you’ve found anything you think I’ve missed.

Free Online Video Update

March 11, 2008

Just to show how fast the world of the internet can change, my post from yesterday on on-line video is outdated.

Hulu has just announced that they will be making their public debut on Wednesday. They also plan on adding additional content from Warner Brothers and sports leagues.

This will definitely make it the on-line video service to watch…in a manner of speaking.

Free Online Video

March 10, 2008

I’ll come back to podcasts once I find my bookmarks. (I hope to talk about programs for organizing bookmarks another time.)

I want to talk about serious alternatives to a thing that I can’t stand: standard scheduled television. I hate turning on my TV and finding nothing on, which seems to be the case most of the time. The only time that I would watch TV, due to my unusual working hours, is littered with bad soap operas, worse talk shows, and the utter despair for humanity that comes by watching those ‘Judge’ shows.

So I’ve turned the TV off and come up with these alternatives.

1. Joost (

This is a free, beta program that will run a number of CBS programs. I have to admit I’ve been getting my geek on with the (mostly) complete series of Star Trek: The Original Series. You can also watch Jericho, Married with Children, and I Dream of Jeannie just to name a few.

It does require a stand along program and won’t just run on your browser like some of the other options I talk about. There also a few ads that come along, but most only 15-30 seconds and aren’t very obtrusive. It will also run full screen, and I do get a very good picture with only very occasional skipping on my cable connection.

2. Hulu (

I’ve just gotten onto private beta for this, so I haven’t been able to play with it for very long. Yes, I said private beta. I signed up for this about a month ago and finally was allowed access about a week ago. I’m sure that the lead time will grow shorter over time, but I wouldn’t expect to sign up and get access to this in one day. I should mention that someone has come along to open the whole thing up so signing up isn’t necessary, but I found that site ( to be much slower.

This site has a variety of NBC and Fox show, in fact a much larger variety than Joost has. It includes 24, American Dad and I’ve even seen a couple of rogue episodes of the Simpsons. This is one I’m definitely keeping my eye on. The video seems to run in a ‘flash-like’ window and does not seem to be expandable. However, the quality is pretty good, if a little small.

3. MySpace Prime Time (

This site also uses the Hulu material, but it does have some original programming and even a few movies. The site just under went some reorganization, which has made it a little more difficult to find things. However, I was able to find a few more show than I saw in my perusal of Hulu, so this might be worth a stop as well.

The quality is definitely the worst of the three, but it seems to have the largest variety of content. Therefore, it is probably worth a bookmark.

One thing to keep in mind with all of these services is that you really need a good internet connection to make the most of these. (i.e. don’t bother trying to use dial-up, and be ready for some break-up with a slower DSL connection) If you can watch stuff on YouTube , you may be able to get away with MySpace Prime Time, but the other services probably aren’t for you.

So enjoy being your own programmer. In a later entry, I plan on discussing another way to be your own programmer, by the use of DVRs and time-shifting the programs you want to watch.

Podcasts — Part 2

March 6, 2008

So you’ve searched around and found the content you want to listen to. Of course, you can listen to it on your computer, but there is something to be said for having something to carry around on the go. I’ve found a lot of lost time that I wasn’t able to use effectively to learn something new or be entertained.

A lot of people who are in this position are going to go with the obvious choice, the 800-pound gorilla of portable media devices, the iPod. For those of you using tech on the cheap (and that’s why you’re here, right?), I have a better solution that will offer a lot more than an iPod for a lot less.

Creative’s Zen Nano Plus

So, why this and not an iPod.

1. You are probably going to able to get this much cheaper than anything short of an iPOd Shuffle.

2. You get voice recording.

3. You get FM recording.

4. You get line-in recording.

This is all built-in. I admit this device isn’t perfect. The jog mechanism is functional, but sometimes it does cause a problem or skip to the next track at an inopportune time. This happens a lot less once you get used to it, though.

I really like the FM recording function, as it lets you get new content, and when the inevitable commercials come up, you can just fast forward through them.

I highly recommend this item, especially for a heavy podcast listener, who doesn’t mind rotating out content as needed.