iPod Nano Paranoia

Macworld: News: Apple responds to iPod nano screen concerns

So the little piece of electronica bling-bling arrived on Monday and it seemed so … little, so frail. I have fingers the size of Nathan’s hot dogs, big sausages and I didn’t want to touch the obsidian-black case and smear it up with finger grease ….

 I got over that, but still, the thing is very frail. No way it gets dumped into my overloaded knapsacks and scratched to death like the rest of my gear. Today I get a Denison Ice-Link for the car so I can finally listen to its through the speakers and get rid of the accursed Belkin radio gizmo.

I love how iPod owners just put up a website and start ragging on Apple until their demands are met. Remember the infamous Neistat Brothers taking on the batteries that resulted in a class action suit and settlement offer? (I like the Neistat Bros. other films too.)

Now I’m convinced that unless I buy my nano some cushioned shock case that its going to get trashed. Off to Best Buy to drop $30 on a case. 

A sucker for a good gadget …

There are two drawers at home that are clogged with the technical detritus of my life. Misfit electronic toys that are dead, forgotten, and expensive reminders of the insanity that compels me to squander my cash on the latest, smallest, coolest gizmo. Aside from the usual morass of cell phone chargers, docks, spare batteries, and gordian knot of firewire, USB, ethernet, crossover, printer, and optical cables, those drawers contain such relics as the first Logitech digital camera, which had an appalling resolution on the order of an old newspaper photo, at least three Palm Pilots, an HP Portable PC, weird TV graphic convertors, WebTV wireless keyboards, old Sony video camera (analog), and power blocks that have lost their way.

What’s in my pocket these days?

Well, there’s the Treo 650 — which isn’t as good as the Treo 600, but I killed that by profusely sweating into the ear speaker after taking a phone call during a bike ride during a July Heat Wave. Trying to sync the thing with Lotus Notes …. well, let’s just say doing anything with Lotus Notes involved is like trying to put cosmetics on a bad skin disease.

In the audio department, I’ve been playing around with an iRiver 799 for podcast recording. That just went to the crew here at CXO so they can have a device for remote recording. My Sony headphones, my two digital sony microphones, and my Sony minidisc recorder have all been donated to the cause. Then there is the Sony voice recorder which I never use and which, like most Sony products, has its own insanely incompatible memory stick with its very own usb dock for importing into the proprietary Sony voice management software. File that one under: "What was I thinking."

I’ve been listening to podcasts on an iPod mini — nice thing, but earlier this week I once again felt the power of gadgets compel me to piss away $250 on a black Nano, spending $11 for Apple to rush the thing to me to assuage my jones, but alas, the store says the order is still being "processed" which is a leading indicator that it will be backordered until Halloween.

Other than that, my life is remarkably gadget free. 

Playing with maps

Businessweek’s Blogspotting said "wouldn’t it be great if there was an open directory to share bike rides?"

I thought it was cool to perhaps use Google Earth, but found that there is an easier solution using Google Maps thanks to a nice hack that permits people to use GMaps like a pedometer and then share any routes they build.


Here’s a link to my favorite weekend ride on Cape Cod. 


Art Jahnke blogs on rides around Greater Boston 

Simplicity Defined

There’s nothing like a new iPod courtesy of the I/S department — surely one of the most frivilous pieces of hardware they’ve ever had to install. I think I disappointed the poor person who came into my office bearing gifts when I said I would set it up myself. The rationale for getting the company to buy me the new toy is that I need a player to test our nascent podcasting plans here at CXO and to play with iTunes 4.9’s podcast subscription facility.

After the usual USB plug-in and configuration I moved about five hours worth of IT Conversations and other assorted geek casts (along with some hilarious Tour de France commentary performed by two slightly drunk Brits in a Wayne’s World format) over to the 6 gig mini, then walked it out to the car and set up the Belkin charger/gooseneck holder gizmo and the Belkin FM transmitter.

I tried to listen to an excellent Gillmor Gang conference call featuring Dan Bricklin, Doc Searles, Dan Farber and other, but the cell phone interrupted me and actually wasted 30 minutes of bumper-to-bumper commuting/listening time. Excellent discussion and evidence that great content quality can be delivered with little to no production value.

I got home, changed into my cycling gear, filled up the water bottle, and hopped aboard my fixed-gear — the legendary "Snotrocket", an old Bianchi ten-speed that I spray-painted black and stripped of all gears and non-essentials. Fixed-gears are basically what urban messengers and track racers ride in the velodrome. One gear and no coasting. If the rear wheel is moving, so are your feet. Want to brake? Use your feet.

The nice thing about fixed-gear cycling, other than the purity of no gears to click, is the total focus on cycling and the extreme effort required to ascend hills, etc.


I broke a cardinal rule and brought along the mini so I could finish the podcasts. This is a rule for safety sake — you can’t hear approaching traffic with your ears filled with music or talk radio — but I was on some serious back roads through farmland and gave it a go.

 There was something appropriate about listening to homebrew radio, on a device with one of the simplest user interfaces ever invented, on a homebrew cycle with no extraneous parts.

 Great workout and I filled my head at the same time.

Mens sana in corpus sano

Current reading list – June 28

So much to read, so little time, and I refuse to concede to books-on-tape:

1. The World is Flat – Thomas Friedman. Everyone got worked up into a lather in May about this book. I dunno, so far I still think Walter Wriston nailed it better and earlier than everyone else. This is a good CEO book for the people who are late in getting the joke.

2. DHTML and CSS – Jason Crawford Teague. Why? Why not. CSS rules and WordPress is a good place to practice one’s chops thanks to the Presentation/template editor and tons of good stylesheet examples to mess around with.

3. Building Oracle XML Applications: O’Reilly, Steve Muench. My world revolves around an Oracle axis these days. If you can’t get rid of ’em, join ’em.

4. Don’t Make Me Think: Steve Krug. Web usability guide — couple years old, but the title is a mantra.

5. The Brand Gap: Marty Neumeier. Don’t ask. It’s on my desk. I should read it.

6. 101 Tivo Hacks: O’Reilly. The Tour de France is upon me and I need many hours of capacity to save Lance’s quest for number 7 while I toileth at my desk. Time to break out the Torx and bless some new mucho-gigabyte drives and stick em in the faithful Tivo.

The Rubber Coyote

Ah, summer on Cape Cod and it is time for the lost-kitty posters to start crowding each other out for space on the phone poles and bulletin boards of the village. Ever since rabies crossed the bridges a few years ago, (despite the state’s best efforts to immunize the critter population with vaccination-laced bait) there has been more and more paranoia about the wildlife in our midst.

 Coyotes are the latest theme to dominate the summer cocktail parties, replacing Lyme Tick Disease and the Wind Farm as the horror of the season.

 Tonight I was at the home of a person (who shall go unnamed) who has been visited several times by coyotes in his backyard, visitations that cause hysteria in his two young daughters who fear for the lives of their two schnauzers. This person has used the power of online searching and buying to order a life-sized rubber coyote, which now stands, rampant, head back in a howl, in his backyard. Beneath it is a remote-activated speaker which emits the pitious sounds of a lost fawn, the horror of a wild pig being savaged by a pack of coyotes, a rabbit being devoured (which is chillingly infantile), and a coyote calling his pack of friends to share in supper.


After a demonstration of this animatronic display, the unnamed person brought out a new crossbow with a   red dot laser sight and sank a bolt from across the yard into the flank of the rubber coyote.

It went thunk.

My host reasoned that while he was planning on illegally knocking off a coyote out of season, he would not be discharging a firearm within the city limits and therefore was only half-illegal.

I recommended that he seek out a newsstand and find a copy of Critter or Varmint magazines to help him in his quest.



Custom Robotic Wildlife – Coyote & Fox Decoys


Bragging ….

My daughter recently won the US National High School Rowing championships in the Junior Women’s Fours with Coxswain. This being her first year rowing, it’s a huge accomplishment for her individually, but most importantly her team, the Brooks School, which also won the title last year.

To put it all in perspective, I also learned how to row at Brooks and it took me until my senior year before I found a seat in the First (or varsity) boat. I never won a New England championship (which my daughter did this past May), nor did I ever earn a medal at the national level (there were no high school national championships in the mid-70s. For a novice to do this in their first season? Nearly impossible.

 Now Alexandra is rowing at the US National Junior Development camp in New London, an honor open only to the best junior rowers in the country.

 I taped the championships in Cincinnati and have posted clips elsewhere on her page here at Churbuck.com. More later on my forays into the world of digital video.


New Gig Commences tomorrow

As of Monday, May 2, I am the VP/CM of CXO Online, overseeing five domains — CXO.com, CIO.com, CSOonline.com, CMOmagazine.com and Darwinmag.com.

CXO was formed in 1987 with the launch of CIO Magazine by former IDG marketing exec Joe Levy (now at TechTarget) and Lew McCreary, a former colleague of mine at PC Week. CSO was launched in 2002 and CMO was launched last summer (edited by Rob O’Regan, former colleague also at PC Week and McKinsey’s Business Knowledge Services and TomorrowLab).

 I went after this position because of the huge opportunity to make something happen in the B2B space — CXO is in the sweet spot of B2B and tech advertising, wins tons of prizes for its editorial and design — and because IDG has been such a consistently strong performer in the tech publishing space since Pat McGovern founded it in the early 60s.

 I’ll be in the company of some smart online innovators. Colin Crawford sets the online strategy as IDG’s head of business development, and my counterparts across IDG are all very strong, engaged pioneers. Ulla McGee at PC World took home the Neal award earlier this year for best website, Matt McAlister (formerly of the Industry Standard) at InfoWorld is doing amazing stuff with tags, design theory, and analysis, and Martha Connors at ComputerWorld is reviving that publication’s online presence after building a great online operation at the MIT Technology Review.

The first 90-days will be predictably hectic and a true re-education after five years out of the magazine-online space, and more than 17 years out of the tech trades. Ping me for coordinates.