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Articles: 2009 March

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Page 1

American Idol 2009 Week 4 Performances
Tuesday, 2009 March 31 - 8:45 pm
Michael went home last week. Matt was in the bottom three, interestingly; maybe the country finds him as goofy as I do. Scott was in the bottom three also; his days are numbered.

This week's theme is the oh-so-specific "Any Popular Song on iTunes" night.

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Posted by Ken in: television

The Dark Knight
Sunday, 2009 March 29 - 4:57 pm
I really don't see what all the fuss about "The Dark Knight" was. I finally got around to seeing it and I thought it was predictable and dull... and definitely too long. (Javi had dubbed this movie "The Long Dark Knight", and I can see why.) I found Christian Bale's acting to be wooden. Maggie Gyllenhall was utterly wasted in her role. Heath Ledger was passable as the Joker, but let's be honest: Jack Nicholson was the one who re-invented that character, not Heath. And while there was plenty of action, it was never all that gripping.

To be sure, this generation of Batman movies is a vast improvement over the previous Kilmer/Clooney/Keaton generation, but that's not saying a whole lot.

Rating: 2.5 / 5.0
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Posted by Ken in: movies

Facebook and Photos
Sunday, 2009 March 29 - 3:50 pm
For those of you not following along on Facebook, I've started posting photos there. For a long time, I resisted using hosted photo-sharing sites like Flickr... I figured I could do just as well with my own site, and I thought that would give me more control.

I used Apple's iWeb and MobileMe (née for a while, but they kept changing the dang publishing system, so it's hard to keep everything straight. They've got yet another photo hosting system available now (MobileMe Gallery), but I don't feel like I can trust Apple not to replace it with something else. Apple is still inexplicably behind the curve when it comes to Web 2.0 stuff. What's up with that?

But Facebook is a pretty nice way to post photos. I can control who can see the photos by regulating my friends list. Tagging is effortless, and commenting is simple. And best of all, iPhoto '09 has built-in support for publishing to Facebook.

I'll still include photos in my blog posts here on, but when it comes to posting whole albums, Facebook is where I'll do it.

If you're a friend and you want to find me on Facebook, you can do it here. But please, if you're someone I haven't seen in ten years and we were never really that close anyway, don't be offended if I don't accept your friend request... you know? I try to keep my friends list restricted to people I really consider to be friends. (In fact, I'm trying to figure out how to pare down my existing friends list without seeming like a jerk. What's the etiquette for de-friending someone?)
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Posted by Ken in: commentarylifetechwatch

Mac mini
Sunday, 2009 March 29 - 3:30 pm
I've had my Mac mini for a few weeks now, and thus far, I love it. Especially nice is the fact that's it's practically silent. By comparison, my old G4 sounds like a vacuum cleaner with its continuous whooshing.

The process of cracking the mini open to upgrade the memory and hard drive was a bit heart-breaking, because I put a few scratches into the bottom casing as I was doing it. I guess it's not noticeable (since it's on the bottom), but still... I hate to blemish a pristine system.

According to XBench, the mini is roughly 2.5 times faster than my G4. Actually, I'm surprised at how well the G4 still holds up by comparison. It's possible that if I were to upgrade the CPU and graphics card on the G4, I could make it run almost as fast as the mini. But then again, it would cost more to buy those upgrades than it would to buy a new mini.

Gaming-wise, the Nvidia 9400M isn't too shabby. If I boot into Windows, City of Heroes runs smoothly at high resolutions with most effects turned on. Unfortunately, the Mac CoH client bogs down at times; the Cider translation engine isn't quite good enough for the 9400M. But still, the Mac CoH is at least playable, and I can always boot into Windows if I want the better performance.

Migrating data from my G4 hasn't quite gone as smoothly as I'd hoped, but I think that's mostly because my G4 is still running 10.4 Tiger and older versions of Mail and iLife. I've managed to port over all my email, my RSS subscriptions, and my photos. I haven't done iTunes yet.

All in all, a worthwhile purchase. And as I said before, the nice thing about the mini is that it can easily be repurposed into a server or media box if I choose to upgrade again in a few years.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

American Idol 2009 Week 3 Performances
Wednesday, 2009 March 25 - 9:19 pm
Alexis Grace went home after her "forgettable" performance last week. This week: Motown. Will anyone be able to make anything sound current?

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Posted by Ken in: television

Ann Arbor News Shutting Down
Monday, 2009 March 23 - 9:46 am
From the wire today: Ann Arbor News to publish its last edition in July.

I enjoyed in Ann Arbor News growing up. I seem to recall that for a number of years, I read the entire newspaper every day. You just can't beat a local paper for coverage of local sports teams and in-town events.

I remember that my friend Mae's dad worked for the paper. I remember reading Bloom County religiously in the comics section. I remember sending in weekly college football picks and collecting bumper stickers that said "I Dumped The Dope" when I out-picked the sports columnist.

I suppose it's no big surprise that print newspapers are going away. I stopped getting the Raleigh News and Observer years ago. But losing the Ann Arbor News just gives me a bit of a nostalgic twinge.
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Posted by Ken in: commentary

Whoo Michigan Whoo
Thursday, 2009 March 19 - 8:39 pm
Well, after a ten year NCAA tournament drought, Michigan comes into the dance this year with a big opening round win over Clemson. (Sorry, Margo.) Go Blue!

CBS, irritatingly, kept switching away from the Michigan game to show other games. But to CBS's credit, you can watch any tournament game online on their web site. They use Microsoft Silverlight to stream the video, and you know, the picture quality was pretty dang good. CBS and Microsoft doing something right, AND Michigan wins an NCAA tournament game... strange things are afoot at the Circle K.
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Posted by Ken in: sportstechwatch

American Idol 2009 Week 2 Performances
Tuesday, 2009 March 17 - 10:13 pm
Jasmine Murray and Jorge Nuñez were kicked out last week. This week: country week, UGH. Simon and I both just are thrilled about this.

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Posted by Ken in: television

New iPod Shuffle Today
Wednesday, 2009 March 11 - 8:41 am
Ridiculously small.

By the way, props to John Gruber over at Daring Fireball, for his remarkably prescient prediction about the new Shuffle's voice navigation features.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Moore's Law
Tuesday, 2009 March 10 - 10:37 pm
N.C. State is having an e-recycling event tomorrow, so tonight I stripped down an old PowerMac G3 and a PowerMac 8100 to bring in. I'd already taken most of the parts out of those machines, but it turns out the G3 still had 384MB of RAM in it, and the 8100 still had 64MB and a G3 upgrade card.

This led me to remember the first Mac our family bought around 20 years ago, the original Mac II, for somewhere north of $5000. It came with a 16MHz processor, 1MB of RAM, and a 120MB hard drive. We eventually upgraded to 4MB for something like another $500.

The Mac mini that I'm getting? It has a 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor. It's hard to compare that directly to a 16MHz 68020, but just in terms of clock speed and number of cores, that's 250 times faster, for one tenth the price. It comes with a 120GB hard drive (1000 times more storage than the Mac II); I'm upgrading it to 320GB (2600 times more storage). I'm getting 4GB of RAM, 1000 times more than I put into the Mac II, for $70. That's 8000 times more memory per dollar.

It used to be that a terabyte hard drive was just an unfathomably ridiculous amount of storage. Now terabyte can be had for less than $200. It used to be that all the technogeeks boasted of 2400 bps modems; now we're online at speeds 2000 times faster.

In some ways, it makes me feel old that I remember the primitive days of 1980s computing. But I'm also glad about the fact that I'll (hopefully) still be around twenty years from now, when our laptops can accurately model all of our biological processes in real-time, and when we can store the entire contents of our brains (somewhere around a petabyte) on a two-inch portable drive.

After all, it's important to keep backups.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

American Idol 2009 Week 1 Performances
Tuesday, 2009 March 10 - 9:08 pm
Michael Jackson week. Really. It's like they want everyone to fail.

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Posted by Ken in: television

American Idol 2009 Finals Week 1
Tuesday, 2009 March 10 - 6:40 pm
Okay, it's that time again: time to start writing American Idol posts that nobody really cares to read... but whatevah, I do what I want. Actually, if you are gonna read one AI post from me this year, this is the one, because I actually put some effort into it.

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Posted by Ken in: television

Decisions, Decisions
Wednesday, 2009 March 4 - 9:03 pm
So it comes down to this. I could get a high-end iMac and have it last me for five years, or I could get a Mac mini and replace it in two years. A mini can easily be repurposed into a server; an iMac has to remain a useful as a desktop because it really can't be anything else.

I can get the bottom-end mini and add my own RAM and upgraded hard drive; I'm pretty sure I could put in 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive from Other World Computing for less than $200. So if I go the mini route, I could probably come in under $800.

If I go for the iMac, I'd probably have to shell out $1799 or $2199 to get something that would last. But then I'd have a pretty decent gaming rig, and I wouldn't have to use a putty knife to get the specs up to what I want. Also I'd have the nice 24" screen.

But you know, it's not like I play many computer games any more, other than City of Heroes, which doesn't really need a fast GPU. Maybe I'd start playing more computer games if I had a machine that supported them? Yeah, that's just what I need, something to consume more of my free time.

I think I'm leaning towards the mini. Slightly.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

The Skinny on the New Macs
Tuesday, 2009 March 3 - 11:28 am
A comparison of the previous generation desktops to the newly released models.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Breaking News: Entire Mac Desktop Line Updated Today
Tuesday, 2009 March 3 - 8:49 am
OMG. Updated Mac mini, iMac, and Mac Pro out today. At long last!

More later....
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

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