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Zune Exonerated

I have recovered my love for All Things Zune. Turns out that many Zune users out there try to use the front-side USB ports on their computers only to be met with constant halts and failed synchronization attempts. I experienced the same.

On zunarama.com, I came across a post about someone who used the back-side USB ports to synch their zune, so I tried it. Sure enough, every song from my library ported quickly to my zune. Not a hiccup, nothing. Before, it would do about 20 songs and then die.

You might think this is a Zune Marketplace software problem, but it's not. This type of error is a buggy driver. It's likely that the USB driver I use has a NPE buried in it that causes the USB header to fault. Crappy hardware makes the world a terrible place, but the Zune definitely is not that.

I am finally Apple Free!

Zune Marketplace Sucks

I like my Zune. The physical device is a great little media player. The one thing wrong with it is the software wrapped around it.

The Zune marketplace is the only control system for the Zune. If you want to put music on it, you have to use the Zune Marketplace software.

Today, I tried to burn some music and push it to my Zune. I only burn from CD and never buy anything online. Apparently this is not the usecase of the Zune demographic. After I burned my WMA files, I clicked on the "Sync" button in Zune Marketplace. What I got after that was a bucket of frustration. Apparently the software could not put the new music on the Zune, for whatever reason - don't know. All that I ever got was a generic "An error occured while synching ..."

So I decided to remove the old software and re-install. I downloaded the Zune software from zune.net and proceeded to uninstall the old Zune Marketplace. After rebooting my computer, I installed the supposed "updated" Zu…

DUMB TRADERS ANONYMOUS

This morning on the television I saw AMEX ticker symbol CSN climb 800%, from $0.08 to $1.09. Wow, I though, that is a stock to investigate. What the heck is going on there? The last time I saw that jump, it was 2002 and I was buying SONUS Networks.

CSN is the symbol for City Networks, Inc. This is a Taiwanese based company that provides wireless access infrastructure and resells network hardware. They don't manufacture anything,and claim this in their company profile:

"The Company also created the Hotspot solution and the Next Generation Loops (NGL) solution, both of which help companies extend their business to the carrier's solution to meet people's communication inquires." (From E*Trade)

Their website, shows the last news update in December of 2004. So this is a company that hasn't done anything in the last 2 years except exist.

(Update: The stock is now at $0.24 with a 118% gain. Someone is getting smart).

So why did its stock go up so high? The news wir…

ZUNE UPDATE

A good friend of mine pointed out a flaw in my Zune analysis. The price of Zune music is not $0.79 in US dollars, but rather 79 ZUNE cents. A good analysis of this came from Apple Matters, which pegs the price at about $0.985, or a haypenny less than that of iTunes.

I stand corrected. The price of music is the same, whether Zune or iTunes.

This friend also pointed out that you can share your iTunes music across your LAN by streaming music from iTunes outward. This music is DRM'd just as it is in Zune, thus allowing you to legally listen to other's music. I've not seen anything like that in Zune.

Lindon Dollars, Zune Dollars, iTunes Credits, what's the deal with new currency? At least iTunes got it right when it made the exchange rate 1 iTunes Credit for $1 US Dollar.

I don't like the Zune Dollar idea, but I do like my Zune. If the Zune had better volume control, I would love it more. As it is, though, audio level 1 is still too high for my sensitive hearing. Mayb…

MY ZUNE AND ME

On November 15th, Microsoft released its new Zune media player to the US market. Not so surprisingly, my kid asked me "What's a Zune" when I told her that I had bought one. Microsoft hasn't really tried to market this device that much, probably hoping to capture more of the viral market. With iPod out there, it will be hard to convince people to switch to a new media device that costs $249. If there was a "trade in" deal, though...

I love my Zune. The handprint of the Zune is more inline with the size of my hands. The iPod gets lost in my oven mits, and I can feel the hard drive in it humming along. The Zune, though, is quiet. I tried to hear the drive in it, but couldn't. I even tried to make it skip by banging it on the table lots of times while it was playing, and still no skip. My iPod is a skipping champion and often times just blanks out in confusion.

The screen is crisp and attractive. My kid loved it when she saw it. Plus, when I told her that she…

Chatty AJAX

I recently attended a technical conference about AJAX and .NET. We all know that AJAX has been around in some shape or another for more than six years. The nature of AJAX is no different than an applet calling back to its home. Instead of a Java applet, though, you’re just writing a JavaScript “applet” and hitting the dynamic rendering engine of the web server. What we’ve all forgotten is why we stopped creating fat clients and put the CPU burden back on the server.

First of all, back in the 90s, nobody had gigahertz computers, so we all lamented the slow speed of a fat client. Then there were compatibility issues with the browsers and their implementations of Java. Then there was the problem of a chatty network, where your applet produced lots of little requests that bogged down your thin pipe. The Java applet was nice because you could combine your requests into a larger payload and make more efficient use of your bandwidth. AJAX doesn’t do that.

Why is a chatty network so bad? …

WYBIWYG

My friends lament how I’ve turned coat against the Java establishment and joined the ranks of Microsoft.  For the past few years, I’ve enjoyed a model of efficiency that I hadn’t had since the early days of Java.  Back then code was king, and writing software quickly and smartly is what made Java such a hit.

When .NET was released, it was 1996 all over again for me.  I could write code quickly, and so I did. As a result, many products I did develop, and many of which were libraries that would be incorporated into future products.  Like many Java to .NET’ers, I didn’t really understand the implications of the Microsoft’s library versioning, so I did not establish a clear version protocol for my early work.

Yesterday, that lack of foresight was my undoing.  After 8 hours of fighting with ASP, I finally got my application to work.  This was all the result of a minor bug fix in a core library that is used ubiquitously. Additional products of mine that are incorporated into my client’s proje…

41 Seconds

What does “Global Warming” really mean?  The entire planet isn’t heating up, only the atmosphere.  The temperature of the oceans isn’t increasing either, only the surface temperature is changing.  So what is “Global Warming?” Should you care about “Global Warming?”

As you may know, our planet has been around for over 4 BILLION years.  That’s a very long time in the cosmic sense, because our universe is estimated to be around 13 BILLION years old.  You might say that our planet is now an “adult” planet that is reaching middle-age.

There is no human alive who can fathom the gulf of time that is 4 billion years.  Our lifetime is only 72 years on average, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter.  Therefore, humans really only live for about 0.0000018% of the current planet’s lifetime. Our lifetime is to the planet as a creature living for 41 seconds is to our lifetime. How much influence can that one creature have on our lives in those 41 seconds?

Well, as an infant, when we are the most dynamic…

Assert This!

Long ago we all went to college and learned about the assert() function in C and later, C++. At the time, assert() was a great little tool for quickly bailing out of your program when you thought it could not finish.  I used it when my calls to malloc() would fail.  Lately, though, I’ve seen commercial software vendors proclaiming their use of assert() as a way of writing safer code.  This is madness.

First of all, the assert() function is just a print and exit macro.  Your assertion message is printed to the tty, and then your application exits with an error code.  That’s it, no segmentation fault, no core dump, nothing else, just exit.

Imagine your surprise when your favorite game all of a sudden just exits back to shell right in the middle of fighting the super.  You would likely not play that game again.  When there’s a GUI, the tty is redirected to the /dev/null device, which means there is no output.  So much for that assert message getting to your users.

Now let’s imagine a more s…

Roman Polanski's Mystery Apparition

I recently watched Roman Polanski’s “The Tenant.” This is a 1976 horror film that is more about character development and legerdemain than modern shock-horror. If you like classic movies, such as Salem’s Lot, The Hounds of Basquerville, or the works of HP Lovecraft, then you would enjoy this film.

Should you ever rent “The Tenant,” quickly track forward to time index 41:12. In this scene, the main character is moving furniture around in his haunted apartment. Pay attention to the left hand side of the screen when he places an item next to the mirror. You will see a woman’s body, with black matted hair and a gash in her shoulder. The mystery apparition is facing the character yet he doesn’t notice her. In subsequent footage of that scene, she no longer appears.

The woman who haunts the apartment does not have black hair and is never really shown in the film. This mystery apparition appears to be out of context. I wonder if Roman Polanski meant this apparition as a prop to “shock”…

Aide to China

There’s not a day in the world of money that does not report something about China and its emerging market.  Heck, why not, with a GDP of over 8 TRILLION DOLLARS, twice that of Japan, and 6 TIMES that of the United Kingdom.  China is definitely a powerhouse economy that is really heating up.

Yet, today you can read about this $100 laptop that is being manufactured by a company named Quanta and distributed by Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child non-profit group.  What is the scandal about this laptop?  Well, nothing really, except that it is going to be distributed in CHINA, as well as India, Brazil, Argentina, Egypt, Nigeria, and Thailand.  So what, right?  Well, let’s see what the GDPs of those countries are:

China: $8,859,000,000,000
India: $3,611,000,000,000
Brazil: $1,556,000,000,000
Argentina: $518,100,000,000
Egypt: $303,500,000,000
Nigeria: $174,100,000,000
Thailand: $560,700,000,000
The UK has an estimated GDP of $1,830,000,000,000, which is just above Brazil and half of India. …

Host Species Barrier to Influenza Virus Infections

The title of this entry was taken from a paper written by Thijs Kuiken, Edward C. Holmes, John McCauley, Guus F. Rimmelzwaan, Catherine S. Williams, and Bryan T. Grenfell. This paper appeared in SCIENCE Volume 312, pp 394 – 397. If you have the gumption to really know how viral infections cross the species barrier, then this is the paper for you. It’s written as a “perspective” rather than as a technical publication, which means there isn’t a bunch of jargon in it.

You can also contact the authors of the paper at t.kuiken@erasmusmc.nl.

A particularly interesting quote taken from the paper:

“It is well established that, as the proportion of susceptibles in the population, s, drops (as individuals become infected, then recover), the number of secondary cases per infection, R, also drops: R = s * R0. If R is less than 1, as is currently the case for H5N1 virus in humans, an infection will not cause a major epidemic.” (pg. 312) The value, R0, “is the number of secondary cases produced when a…

H5N1 AFIRE

Have you seen the television shows lately on The Bird Flu Pandemic? You can’t miss them; they were running like gangbusters for a couple of weeks. Apparently people are going to wash-up on the shores of Hawaii when this bird flu reaches pandemic proportions. Whales look out, you’ve got competition from beached humans!

There have been past cases of apparent bird flu transmission from human to human. These cases have been investigated in Southeast Asia. In one case reported in a SCIENCE magazine article, a family member contracted the bird flu while caring for another family member who was sick, and eventually died from it. The other care-giving person in this case survived the evil and devastating bird flu infection. This was reported in 2005. Now, CNN reports a “cluster” of 7 family members all perishing at the wrath of H5N1. Guess what? The family was living in “very cramped quarters … many living in [sic] one room.”

To date there have been 124 deaths links to H5N1. How many peop…

Me Too Terrorists

The latest tape from Osama bin Laden claims originality in their plot to use airplanes as weapons in the 9/11 terrorist attack against the United States. Anyone who has read some history on the Nazi war plans to attack America will certainly roll their eyes at Osama’s blatant theft and disregard for historical truth.

Towards the end of the Reich’s reign in Germany, Hitler’s cabinet planned an elaborate scheme to send airplanes to America on a bomber run. The technology at the time was for wooden frame aircraft, so the Nazi’s realized that they could not get a bomber across the Atlantic and return it home. Hitler didn’t care about that detail, so he decided to let the bombers crash into the skyscrapers of New York City. Thus was born the America Bomber project in war torn Germany.

Needless to say, Hitler’s plan failed miserably. There was no German technology that would allow them to carry any payload and fuel enough to make the bombers lethal in their strike. Even with an attempt to mak…

Abortion, Inc.

I've been closely reading as many articles as possible on the subject of embryonic stem cell research and domestic policy. Thusfar, the research has proven to be quite astonishing. I've read about mice that have regrown nerve cells around broken spines and miraculously regained their ability to walk. I find this research through various mainstream media web sites, the daily business news, and reading Science magazine, published by the AAAS (www.aaas.org).

With all of the successful work with stem cells, why has the US government stymied further publicly funded research? Like many people, I found this apparent lack of vision to be frustrating. Why shouldn't the public be frustrated, with Christopher Reeves passing away, and countless young people resigned to paraplegia thanks to skiing or skating injuries. Who wouldn't want to see these people cured of their physical breaks?

There is some hope for embryonic stem cell research policy. France has lifted its emargo on using …

The Taxorporation

As a business owner, I am privy to knowing tax law and loopholes. In my best understanding of taxation, though, I’ve found that its sole purpose is to encourage spending. Governments can’t continuously distribute cash to the masses, so it relies upon taxation to encourage its citizens to spend their cash and thereby reduce their tax burden. That’s a clever use of taxes by the government, for sure, but something else is going on with taxation in the modern world.

The Romans levied taxes on their citizenry as a “tribute” to being Roman, and to pay for their protection by the Roman Guard. During the time of Romans, and the medieval era, there were no nifty accounting systems that allowed us to track where money was exchanged. Sure, the Incans and Chinese were tying knots on ropes as their financial records, but there was no historical archive or traceability. That meant levying taxes on the individual at a fixed rate, based upon their assets. Good thing we don’t do that anymore otherwise …

Consulting 101

Many of my friends are asking me how to become a consultant. The conversation always starts out as “so how much do I charge?” To that, of course, I always answer “whatever you think that you are worth.” That answer usually gets me a troubled look and a little giggle. It wasn’t until recently that I finally got smart and decided to come up with a formula to determine a consultant’s hourly rate.

First you start with your current salary. If you divide that by 2000, which is the number of hours you work in a typical year, sans the 80 hours of vacation that you take each year. Also, 2000 is easier to use in division than 2080, so learn to deal with approximations and get on with consulting.

Now that you have a starting hourly rate, let’s talk about costs. First there are taxes for everyone. No matter what country you call home, you have to pay taxes. Remember that the figure you already computed is a pre-tax dollar amount, so don’t start adding in taxes to that rate. What you do need to inco…