This is what Shawn Morton would look like if he had been made of LEGO sMoRTy71.com -- the personal website of Shawn Morton
Thursday, July 29, 2004
Macromedia activation sucks!
I just built a new computer, so I've spent the past couple of evenings installing hardware, drivers and software. Not a lot of fun.

Well, when it came time to install Macromedia Studio MX on my new machine (don't worry, I uninstalled it from the old machine), I was prevented from activating it because I had apparently exceeded some limit on installs of that serial number.


The ridiculouly tedious telephone activation screen

So, I was forced to do the automated telephone activation procedure which may just be the worse experience I've ever had on the telephone (seriously).

As you can see from the screenshot above, I was asked to enter 14 sets of numbers. After each set, the monotone automated voice would slowly read back the numbers. I then had to confirm my entry. I did this for all 14 sets of numbers. Then guess what? I was told that the automated phone system was experiencing technical difficulties.

I was re-routed to a customer service rep, but, oh wait, all representatives are currently assisting other customers. Nice! So, I sat on hold listening to really, really loud Muzak for about 5 minutes before I finally gave up.

Cursing Macromedia, I decided to go ahead and install Photoshop CS... Do I even need to tell you what happened? You guessed it, product activation. However, unlike Macromedia's system, I had to enter only 2 sets of numbers. Plus, the Adobe system gave me the option of hearing my entries repeated or skipping that step. I skipped that step and was activated in about 2 minutes. In fact, I used Photoshop to make the screenshot above.

I still have to call Macromedia back within 30 days or Dreamweaver MX will be rendered useless.
The Guy Game
This may be one of the most openly exploitative games of all time or one of the best games of all time (or maybe even both).

It is touted as an "adult themed party game." The official trailer even shows women playing it; however, I doubt you'll see too many women buying or playing "The Guy Game."

It is basically a trivia game, a drinking game and softcore pr0n all rolled up into one. My description will not be able to capture all of the subtle nuances of the game, so you'll have to find out more for yourself.

"The Guy Game" will be released in August for both PS2 and Xbox.
Hacking RFID tags
News.com is reporting that Lukas Grunwald of DN-Systems Enterprise Solutions GmbH has written a program called RFDump that allows someone to access and edit the metadata of an RFID tag.

Coupled with a handheld device, the software could allow a hacker to mark down the price of an expensive item, purchase age-restricted items and generally wreak havoc on a retailer's RFID system.

Even with these vulnerabilities (which exist in various forms for most technologies), I still think RFID is going to be huge win for retailers and consumers (even more so if I can discount big ticket items with my PDA).
Music videos on your phone
The U.K.'s dedicated 3G network provider, 3, is preparing to launch a new music video service for cellphone users. Unlike previous offerings which showed short video clips, the one from 3 features full-length videos from "artists such as Dido, Outkast, Britney Spears, and Justin Timberlake."

The service launches August 2nd and will be priced at £1.50 per video or £10 for an "all-you-can-eat" plan.
See What You Share
A guy, who calls himself "Glen," has created a site called "See What You Share" that is filled with images that he has found on peer-to-peer file sharing networks like Gnutella. Many of the images were taken (apparently) by U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Glen has also found classified documents on the networks as well. Here is an excerpt from his "Why this site exists?" page:

"A few months ago, I downloaded some military briefings from the Gnutella Network. The briefings were zipped and the file contained 21 documents with classifications ranging from For Official Use Only to Secret/NO FORN. Shocked at my discovery, I notified an agency on a nearby military installation. When nothing happened, I notified another agency. I continued this course because no action was taken and for a nation at war, I was concerned for the safety of our soldiers."

And speaking of our soldiers, I am certain that the families (and significant others) of these three will be beaming with pride when they learn how they spend their free time in the desert.
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
ilovebees.com

Microsoft and Bungie are having a little fun with Halo fans eagerly awaiting details on the upcoming game. As you can see the image above, the URL "ilovebees.com" was planted in the theatrical trailer for the game (that I posted a link to earlier this week).

In addition to providing snippets of dialogue hidden amongst the ridiculously amateurish bee content (check out this GameSpot article for a transcript), the site features a countdown clock that is sparking speculation that Halo 2 will be released on August 24th (instead of November 9th).

Whatever the point of all of this is, it can't help but generate even more buzz for what is easily the most anticipated console game of the year.
Battling the broadcast flag
In order to highlight the inherent problems with digital broadcast flags, The Electronic Frontier Foundation is providing instructions on how to build your own digitial video recorder that can operate with broadcast flags.

I have been opposed to the idea of broadcast flags since I first heard about them years ago. However, they always seemed like something that we'd have to worry about in the future. Unfortunately, it looks like that time has arrived.

Just recently, Insight (the local cable provider here in Louisville) placed a "copy never" broadcast flag on all of their digital content. That means that Insight customers who have a cable box with a Firewire output and purchased a DVHS recorder are no longer allowed to record digital content on it.

I am still a firm supporter of making the content owners bear the burden of protecting their products, not consumers and hardware vendors. The way the broadcast flags work, though, the content providers are basically able to defeat features of the hardware vendors' products with the broadcast flag.

For example, let's say you buy a new HD TiVo next year so that you can record some of the shows on Discovery HD. Well, if Discovery HD decides that they don't want you to record those shows, they can add a "copy never" broadcast flag. Now, the recording capabilities of your HD TiVo have been defeated by Discovery HD.

IMO, content providers need to come up with a system that protects their content without limiting the fair-use rights of consumers and without requiring manufacturers to incur unnecessary costs. Lobbying for legislation that stifles innovation and throws out fair use is not the way to do that.

For more information on the topic of broadcast flags, check out the EFF's Television Digital Liberation Front page. They even provide a list of HD tuner card manufacturers for those that want to build an HD PVR now.
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
MTV VMA Nominees
MTV has released the nominees for the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards (which is entering its 21st year). The list, with a few exceptions that I will note later, demonstrates the terrible slump (it's not just slipping, it's slumping) the music industry is in.

Hilary (Damnit, why do I know how to spell her first name?!) Duff, Jessica Simpson, Avril Lavigne, No Doubt and Britney Spears are up for Best Pop Video. Yeah, you read that right. Oh, and Jay-Z's shockingly non-shocking "99 Problems" video received the most nominations with 6.

Some of my favorite videos did get nominated: Outkast's "Hey Ya" (Video of the Year), The Darkness' "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" (Best Rock Video), Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You" (Best Female Video), Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Maps" (MTV2 Award), Franz Ferninand's "Take Me Out" (MTV2 Award) and The White Stripes' "The Hardest Button to Button" (Breakthrough Video).

"The Hardest Button to Button" is also up for editing, special effects and best direction (by the incredible Michel Gondry). To me, that video deserves all of the praise and nominations being heaped on "99 Problems." I generally love Mark Romanek's video work; however, if you take the scene of Jay-Z getting shot out of the video, there is nothing else there (and the shooting scene isn't anything special anyway).
Will rush to market hurt NFL 2K5?
Gamers trying to play ESPN NFL 2K5 online have been running into some bugs that are preventing and/or hindering their ability to get connected. GameSpot is reporting that two fixes (one on July 30 and another on August 6) are in the works.

I encountered a problem with my roster on Sunday that prevented me from connecting to any online games; however, the problem was fixed when I played last night.

I wonder how much of this can be blamed on the move to release NFL 2K5 early in order to pull some market share from Madden. Seems like these problems could cause the entire marketing plan to backfire.
AudioAtrocities.com
I found this site in a GameSpot article and it is hilarious. They have ranked the worst voice acting from videogames and provided clips of the offending lines.

Check out the clips for their worst game, Last Alert. Here are two of my favorites: Sting-E | Roast Pork
HD-DVD and Blu-ray in Longhorn?
News.com is reporting that the next iteration of the Windows operating system will support the HD-DVD format. However, there is uncertainty about how well it will play with rival Blu-ray technology.

As with the VHS-Betamax battle of the 70s, consumer electronics manufacturers including Sony, NEC, Toshiba, Panasonic and Philips, are divided over the use of HD-DVD and Blue-ray to deliver high definition content on DVD. As with any emerging format, Microsoft's show of support in Windows is key.

At this point in the debate, though, I don't have a preference as to which format I would like to see "win"; however, I do want a single standard that consumers can feel confident in purchasing. IMO, rival formats end up causing confusion and hurting adoption rates.
Guide to digital and HDTV
Samsung has a 16-part interactive guide to digital television formats on their website. It starts with basic human physiology and continues through topics including luminance, comb filters and velocity scan modulation. It's a good read if you are as dorky about HDTV as I am.
Monday, July 26, 2004
Tech Logo Game
The "For the Tech Lovers" logo game from LogoGame.com challenges you to identify the logos of 26 technology-related companies by viewing only one letter from each logo. The letters are arranged from A-Z.

As a consumer of all kinds of technology-related products, I figured I would be able to ace it; however, I only got 20 without any hints or help.

Thanks to Mr.Poindexter in the HTPC section of AVS Forum for posting the link. Check out the thread for hints and answers.

BTW, if you want to see what some serious (only if you consider 10,000 watts "serious") home audio equipment looks like, check out Mr.Poindexter's photo gallery.
Halo 2 Theatrical Trailer
GameSpot.com has the latest Halo 2 theatrical trailer. The 50 MB download is only 46 seconds long but was encoded at full HD resolution of 1920x1080. The PC I just viewed it on would only support 1600 x 1200, so I couldn't get the full experience; however, even at that lower resolution, the PQ is amazing. I think I'm gonna have to fire it up on my HTPC later this evening and view it through my TV.
Xbox 2-PC hybrid
I somehow overlooked this story when it was published back in May; however, the idea is so compelling that I need to mention it. According to CNN.com, Microsoft is studying the consumer appeal of an Xbox-PC hybrid for the next-generation Xbox.

According to the article, Microsoft is kicking around the idea of making the next Xbox compatible with PC games.

I, personally, think this would give Microsoft a big advantage over Sony in terms of hard-core gamers. Sony has already shown that they are going to focus more on home entertainment with the PS3 which may have a PVR and DVD burner. I don't think those features will be as compelling to the gaming community.

Just think of the potential market size (and game catalog) this move would give the next Xbox. Plus, think of the price advantage it would give hard-core PC gamers. They could buy a $300-$400 device that will play PC games and Xbox games instead of shelling out at least double that amount for a decent gaming PC.

I'm sure there would be issues as newer PC games were released that required more PC horsepower and I'm sure that will be one of many factors in Microsoft's ultimate decision.

This will definitely be something to keep an eye on as the console wars heat up (again).

U2 might rush album release
For the 3rd time in their career, those self-righteous lads known as U2 have misplaced the demos to their upcoming album, tentatively titled "Vertigo." I can maybe understand losing them once, but three times verges on the absurd!

Now the band (or Bono, but he is the band anyway, right?) is claiming that they will release the album on iTunes immediately (and to retailers by the end of the month), if the stolen tracks show up on peer-to-peer networks.

I'm not sure what the point of this is. Is the advanced released meant to thwart pirates? If so, I really don't see how. After all, the album will show up on peer-to-peer networks as soon as its released, so why rush it?

Maybe they should change the title from "Vertigo" to "Panic Room."
Sunday, July 25, 2004
Cables, cables everywhere
Last week, I decided to do something that I had been putting off for months - clean up the tangled mess of A/V cables that was growing behind my entertainment center. Because I am constantly adding and removing components from my equipment rack, new cables are added and they become tangled with the olds ones. Then, you can't tell which cable goes to which device once they're installed.

So, I decided I was going to pull out every cable, label it and reattach them. I figured I could use cable ties and cable wraps to make the whole thing much more organized.

After hours crouched behind the television, I have determined that there is no way to make nearly a mile of A/V cables look organized. There are just too many of them.

So, now I've got cables that are labeled and grouped with cable ties, but it still doesn't look very organized. I guess 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

Photo before
Photo of clean slate
Photo after

Learn more about my home theater.
Saturday, July 24, 2004
Fantasy Football 2004 begins!
We got a good team, sucka!We had our Fantasy Football draft this morning and, as with previous years, I feel like my team, sMoRTy71, got a lot of good players. It looks like my previous draft strategy of dropping the TE position to the last two picks in the draft paid off again. By devaluing tight ends (since there are only a handful of good ones available), I was able to pick up the #1 kicker, Mike Vanderjagt, and 2 solid defenses, The Ravens and The Titans.

Here is my full roster:
QB: Brett Favre, Byron Leftwich
RB: Priest Holmes, Travis Henry, Onterrio Smith
WR: Marvin Harrison, David Boston and Larry Fitzgerald
TE: Jim Kleinnsasser, Jason Rader
K: Mike Vanderjagt, Morten Anderson
D: Ravens, Titans

I really expect Leftiwch and Fitzgerald to be sleepers this season, so I'm going to hold onto them. The only player I plan on releasing is Onterrio Smith. Since he is not a starter, he won't help me on my bye weeks.
Thursday, July 22, 2004
Blog Maverick
I stumbled across Mark Cuban's blog today and, so far, I have found it pretty interesting. He covers a variety of topics including HDTV (he owns HDNet) and basketball (he owns the Dallas Mavericks). His post about Steve Nash's departure from the team is a fascinating look inside the complex issues involved in free-agent negotiations.

Plus he posts odd pictures like this one in which he looks like a Hobbit.

Hollywood & NFL v. TiVo
WIRED is reporting that both Hollywood studios and the NFL are trying to stop TiVo's new "TiVo to Go" service before it launches.

"TiVo to Go" will allow users to transfer recorded shows on their PCs. Studios and the NFL claim that it will lead to piracy. Uh, I hate to break it to them, but people (like myself) are already using their PCs to copy content from their TiVos to their HTPCs. Plus, the "TiVo to Go" service has copy-protection built in to limit the number of devices that the video can be shown on.

The studios and the NFL have lobbied the FCC to stop the service. TiVo responded by saying, "We are hopeful (the FCC) rules in favor of technology innovation that respects the rights of both consumers and artists."

With the emergence of PVPs, a service like "TiVo to Go" would be a huge win. Hopefully, the FCC will keep their noses out of it and innovation will win out.
I love Pluck!
I downloaded Pluck, a full-featured RSS reader, last night after seeing CNET's Editor's Choice review and I already love it.

I had tried using several RSS readers about a year ago; however, the lack of integration with a browser or e-mail client made it too much of a hassle for me to check on a regular basis.

Pluck solves the integration problem by running in a sidebar within IE (the same place your "History" list displays). From this sidebar, you can access all of your RSS feeds. Pluck comes preloaded with many sites that I frequent like CNET, GameSpot, ESPN, Fark and Technology Review.

Pluck is free. It also is free from adware/spyware. Check it out if you're looking for a solid RSS reader. BTW, don't forget to add the sMoRTy71 RSS feed after you install Pluck.
First take: NFL 2K5
OK, I've had a couple of days to play around with it and I feel it is safe to say that ESPN NFL 2K5 is the best football game I've ever played. Last year, I strayed from the 2K franchise in favor of Microsoft's NFL Fever due to changes in the 2K playcalling interface (which is still used in 2K5). It's funny how a $30 price cut will make you overlook some things that were deal breakers when the game is $50.

Anyway, 2K5 adds some many little improvements (more advanced defensive line adjustments, individual defensive back adjustments, better tackling, better player physics, improved Xbox Live interface) that I can't list them all here.

But even without all of the new features, the gameplay of ESPN 2K5 is so realistic that that alone would warrant picking it up. The player animations coupled with ESPN's graphics often make it look as if you're watching a game on TV.



The Xbox Live component of the game has been made easier to use by providing more details, like PING time, in the game selection screen. There is also more information displayed about your potential opponents on the list of available matches like which team they play with and their win-lose record. All of these things help narrow down the list of potential opponents.

Although it is a great game, I do have a couple of complaints. First, the playcalling interface, which was changed for last year's version, makes it very difficult to remember where plays live. You have to scroll up, down and sideways to see all of the various formations. And unless you notice the tiny little page indicators, you won't realize that there are a lot more plays available. I wish they would return to the old interface that made 2K - 2K3 so easy to play.

The other complaint is the lack of HDTV resolutions. While the play animations are amazing, they can often look jagged around the edges. I really wish they would have supported 720p or 1080i.

Even with those two complaints, I have to give ESPN NFL 2K5 a 9.5 out of 10. It is the best NFL game at the best price. BTW, those of you looking for a beatdown can look me up on Xbox Live. My Gamertag is...sMoRTy71. Surprise!
Will consumers buy portable video?
UPDATE (07/22/04): WIRED.com is featuring a much more positive spin on the new PVPs. The article also mentions Tivo's upcoming "TiVo to Go" feature that will allow users to copy content from their TiVo to a PC.

Original post (07/19/04):
This CNET article speculates on how successful the initial wave of PVP (Portable Video Players) will be. Of course, Apple is poo-pooing it by saying that people can't watch a movie in the car (like they can listen to audio with an iPod). However, I think this misses one of the big selling points for PVP devices which is the ability to take your video somewhere else and watch (as opposed to watching it on the way).

I could see myself using a PVP to record a TV show and taking it to a friend's house to watch. Or I might record a bunch of stuff off of my TiVo prior to going on vacation. I could then hook the PVP up to a TV in a hotel. I could also see my kids using it on long car trips where lugging along the TV-VCR or TV-DVD units is a big pain in the butt.

As much as Apple, who doesn't have a video product, or Sony, who isn't ready to launch their device, want to downplay these first-generation devices, I think PVPs are the gadget to beat right now.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Review: Tyrannosaurus Hives
I picked up the new Hive's CD yesterday and it is awesome! 30 minutes and 3 seconds of high-energy Swedish punk-pop-rock. I'm on my 4th listen now and I like it more each time. "Abra Cadaver," "Walk Idiot Walk" and "Antidote" are my favorites so far.

If you enjoyed "Veni Vidi Vicious," you will definitely like this one. Plus, if you're an Urge Overkill fan, you'll definitely appreciate the Hive's sense of style.

BTW, Rhapsody users can check it out for free.
ESPN Videogames pricing
GameSpot is speculating that this year's NHL and NBA games from ESPN Videogames will launch with the same $19.99 price as NFL 2K5 which hit stores yesterday (look for my first take on NFL 2K5 later today).

The rumor began after EBGames.com posted a link on their home page that reads "Click here to check out these other ESPN titles just announced at $19.99." Coincidentally, it was EB Games that leaked the $19.99 price for NFL 2K5 before Visual Concepts and Take-Two made the official announcement.

BTW, when I picked up NFL 2K5 yesterday, the guy at EB Games claimed that the $19.99 price was only good until Madden 2005 is released next month. After that, he said the price will be $39.99. I haven't seen anything to confirm that; however, that would be just one more interesting wrinkle in this year's battle for video game market share. Now if only Bungie would adopt the $19.99 pricing...
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
SCHS Class of 1989

Members of the Class of '89 (at the picnic which I skipped)

Well, I'm told that it has been 15 years since I graduated from high school. It doesn't seem like it was that long ago; however, a bunch of people showed up for my 15-year high school reunion, so it must be true.

To say that it was interesting would be an understatement. First of all, the happy hour mixer thing was at a dingy pool hall which is frequented by lesbians (not that there is anything wrong with that). So, I constantly found myself wondering if that woman in the flannel muscle shirt was a bar patron or a former classmate (or both).

Plus, my wife and I got there waaay too early. For the first hour or so, I slammed beers and tried to avoid eye contact with the 6 or 7 other classmates whom I didn't recognize.

Eventually, however, more of the people that I was hoping to see showed up. However, due to the vast quantities of beer that I consumed, I can't remember many details other than that the 4th or 5th Strongest Man in the World was there and that I accused our valedictorian of being a CIA assassin (which he IS, damnit!). BTW, he is the 5th one from the left. Notice how he is trying to hide from the camera?

I skipped the whole picnic thing the next day because the only thing more awkward than hanging out with your former high school classmates at a lesbian pool hall is hanging out with your former high school classmates and their children in 80 degree heat at a local park. According to my friend Pat, who snapped these photos, there was a slightly different crowd at the picnic. I'll have to catch up with those people at our 20th, I guess.
BugMeNot.com
If you're tired of being asked to provide personal information like e-mail address in order to visit online content sites, check out BugMeNot.com. They will generate bogus logins for you to use.
Classic video games
WIRED has an article on the recent trend of game companies to release classic arcade games on the latest generation consoles. Nintendo has released "NES Classics" for GBA and Capcom has released the "Mega Man Anniversary Collection" for GC and PS2.

Classic games are all the rage around the Morton household these days, too. I recently bought a Sega Genesis from EBGames.com (for $12) and bunch of games including NHL 93 (for $4). In college, my roommate and I would battle late into the night on that game ala "Swingers". Tecmo Bowl, NBA Jam and Earthworm Jim are next on my list.
New: Tyrannosaurus Hives
Those dapper Swedes, the Hives, have a new album out today. Rolling Stone gives it 3 1/2 stars in their review. I'll post my take on it later this week.
Monday, July 19, 2004
Preview: Denon AVR-5805
CNET has a preview of Denon's upcoming AVR-5805 AV receiver. This may be the most bloated AV product of the year. The $6,000 (yes, $6,000) receiver boasts 10 amplifiers and 16 channels of sound, so you could do 16.1 Dolby Digital (if such a thing existed). Otherwise, you've got a very expensive and very large AV receiver with more amps and channels than you could ever use.
Sunday, July 18, 2004
Flexible copy protection?
Finally, it looks like Hollywood studios, technology vendors and electronics manufacturers are working together to come up with a robust and flexible (yes, flexible) copy protection scheme for high definition video content.  Here is an excerpt of this article from EETimes:
 
"Disney, IBM, Intel, Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba and AOL Time Warner. announced Wednesday (July 14) they are developing the Advanced Access Content System. AACS will provide more flexible rules on how content is shared between systems and over home networks while enabling stronger security than today's DVD copy protection scheme.

AACS will enable studios to come up with their own sets of rules for when high-definition content can be copied from one device to another or shared over a home network. That's a significant step up from today's schemes that at best allow three scenarios-copy freely, copy once or no copying."
Saturday, July 17, 2004
Battle over future TV formats
Microsoft (and it's Windows Media 9 technology) has become a serious contender in the battle for standardization in digital TV formats. This News.com article provides a good introduction on the subject.
Friday, July 16, 2004
Woo Hoo! Power restored
Wow, 2 days without electricity really, really sucks, especially when the heat index here in Louisville has been hovering around 100F.
 
Now that power has been restored, I will be spending the next 48 hours catching up with all of the TiVo watching, Xbox playing, CD listening, e-mail checking and air-conditioning that I've missed out on. 
Thursday, July 15, 2004
Urge Overkill Round 2

OK, Pat and I decided to take Nash up on his offer to catch the Urge Overkill show in Lexington, so we jumped in the car and made the 70 mile drive. We were a little uncertain as to whether our names would really be on the guest list; however, they were, so we were in. Nash Kato is a man of his word.

Prior to their set, Eddie and Nash could be seen scrolling around the club. In fact, for part of Stoll Vaughn's set, Eddie stood right next to me smoking his cigarette. Funny part is that Lexington's bars are smoke-free, so after a couple of minutes, he was asked to step outside to smoke (which he did).

Finally, around 11PM, it was time. As the crowd gathered tight up against the stage, I could see Nash, in white mesh muscle shirt and white pants, in the wings nervously fidgeting with his towel and water bottle. In true Urge style, they sent a guy onstage to announce "from Chicago, Illinois, the legendary URGE OVERKILL!" The small, but energetic crowd went nuts. Right before kicking off with "Ticket to L.A.," Eddie screamed, "Are you ready to rock, motherf*ckers?!" We were. And, for the next hour and a half, rocking ensued.

Although I can't remember the exact order of all of the songs, here's what they played:

Ticket to LA
Positive Bleeding
Take Me
Woman to Woman
Bottle of Fur
Sister Havana
Monopoly
Now That's the Barclords
New O.
Erica Kane
The Break
----------------
Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon
Crackbabies

The crowd reaction was much better than I, or the band, expected. At one point, Nash said that they were officially relocating the band to Lexington, Kentucky.

As with my previous Urge show back in 1996, this one ranks up there as one of the best concerts I've ever seen. Even after 8 years away, they still have the same Urge swagger. Check them out if you get a chance.

Here are links to the photos I took during the show. Enjoy.
Band shot 1
Band shot 2
Eddie 1
Eddie 2
Eddie 3
Nash 1
Nash 2
Nash 3
Nash 4
Nash 5
Nash Acoustic 1
Nash Acoustic 2
Nash Acoustic 3
Nash Acoustic 4
Nash Eddie 1
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
The Urge Overkill fiasco

Me, Nash and Pat hanging out in the dark

Wow! What a f*cking night. I'm not even sure where to begin, so I guess I'll just start at the beginning.

We arrived at Phoenix Hill right around 8PM. As we got out of my car, we couldn't help but notice the very dark and menacing clouds approaching. I'll called home and my wife informed me that we were under a severe thunderstorm warning until 9PM. I figured that since Urge wouldn't hit the stage until well after that, that everything would be OK. I was wrong.

Upon entering the club, we found The Last Vegas onstage cranking through a sound check. However, after about 2 minutes of their dirty, crotch rock, the lights and PA went out. At first, there was some uncertainty as to whether the band blew a fuse or if it was the weather. Our questions were answered when one of the crew members opened the double doors that are used to load in equipment. From our vantage point at the bar, we could see the incredibly violent storm that had popped up. And we're not just talking your run-of-the-mill thunderstorm. We're talking a trees-crashing-down-onto-cars kind of a storm.

So, with the lights out for as far as we could see, we figured that there would be no show unless the lights came back on quickly. Unfortunately, they didn't. 8PM turned into 9:45PM and minus the crew and security, there were less than 10 people who had braved the elements to come to the show. The club was almost completely dark. Only the emergency lights on the exits were working.

I bought a UO poster in hopes that Eddie and Nash would at least make an appearance. As I was talking to the guys from The Last Vegas (about Motley Crue's "The Dirt" no less), Eddie and Nash strolled in. My friend Pat (far right in the photo above) and I got autographs from Eddie and Nash and a couple of photos with Nash. Nash signed my poster "That's the night that the lights went out in Lew Ville." Eddie signed Pat's CD with "Ridin' the Storm Out."


The autographs

As you see from the photos, Nash had quite an interesting look going on. He was wearing a Bing Crosby-style hat with his hair twisted into a small bun on the back of his head, jacket, shorts and flip flops. He was very nice and willing to talk with us for a few minutes. To make our chat with Nash even more surreal, some nitwit had pulled their Jeep, complete with 4 floodlights on top, up to the doors of the club in order to provide more light. Unfortunately, it was way too much, so everyone was stumbling around half blind. Nash commented that he felt like he was in "Apocalypse Now" and reminded us "Don't get out of the boat unless you're willing to go all the way."


Nash looking at the weather.

He eventually took our names down and offered us free admission to their show in Lexington tonight. I'm still kicking around the idea of making the drive, especially since the electricity is still off at my house.


Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Urge Overkill Tonight!
OK, if you're in (or near) Louisville and you want to see a great show, come check out Urge Overkill tonight at Phoenix Hill. I saw UO on their last tour in Memphis in 1996 and it was an amazing show.

I hope to have photos and set list to post tomorrow.
Next-gen console wars already?
Wow, it is almost a full year away; however, the hype has already begun. Sony has announced that it will unveil the Playstation 3 at next year's E3. Now, analysts are speculating that Microsoft will have to match that date since they already claimed they would beat Sony to market with the Xbox Next.

As an avid console gamer, I am definitely interested in seeing the next generation machines; however, starting the battle a year out is a little bit ridiculous IMO. I'm still happy with my Xbox, Dreamcast and even the Sega Genesis. I just hope that Microsoft stays focused on gaming only and doesn't try to follow Sony down the home entertainment path.
Monday, July 12, 2004
Slacker on DVD 8/31
One of my absolute favorite films of all-time, Richard Linklater's "Slacker", is finally coming to DVD on August 31st. And better still, it is going to be a Criterion Collection DVD with a buttload of extra stuff. I can't wait.
C505 | ASCII ROCK
Someone decided to take a group of old hard rock videos and convert them to ASCII with an accompanying MIDI soundtrack. I'm not sure what would make someone do that; however, after watching, I'm glad they did. Shoutout to Eric Brinley for sending this my way.
Courtney Love reality show?
With all of the really crappy reality shows floating around, why the hell hasn't anyone signed up Courtney Love? Talk about a (melo)drama queen ready for her close-up.

Just think of the ratings for the episode they could have filmed on Friday: It was her fortieth birthday, she had a bench warrant issued for her arrest and she was taken, handcuffed to the stretcher, to Bellevue Hospital for a "gynecological medical condition." Now that's good TV!
Origin of band names
RollingStone.com has an article on the origin of band names. It's a brief list that only covers bands from the past few years; however, there are some interesting tidbits in there.
Ford Escape Hybrid
Ford is preparing to release a gas-electric hybrid version of its Escape SUV. It has an "EPA estimated fuel-economy rating of between 35 and 40 miles per gallon, or more than 50 percent better than its conventional SUV."

I'm glad to see other automakers stepping up and producing hybrid vehicles, especially ones that are larger than the Toyota and Honda models. However, I think the $27,000 price tag seems a little high for a small, American-made SUV. I guess I'll just have to wait for Volkwagen to crank one out.
Turning coffee into theorems
Those clever nerds over at Google are at it again. Recently, they placed a generic billboard in Silicon Valley with a math problem on it as a way to attract potential employees.

According this News.com article, "the billboard read:"{first 10-digit prime found in consecutive digits e}.com." The answer, 7427466391.com, would lead a puzzle-sleuth to a Web page with yet another equation to solve, with still no sign the game was hosted by Google."
Sunday, July 11, 2004
Prince's Hot Rock
RollingStone.com republished this article from April 13, 1983 about Prince's rise to stardom.

It's kind of funny to hear the author make a big deal about his onstage antics and his "controversial" song titles considering what we've seen from Prince in the 21 years (damn, 21 years!) since this article was written.
Friday, July 9, 2004
NASA's Mega Video
According to MIT's Technology Review, researchers from Imaging Solutions Group and NASA have put together a camera and a display that "displays full-motion video at nearly human-visual-system resolution."

The camera shoots at 30 fps at 8.3 million pixels (which is 4x current HDTV resolution)! A person with 20/20 vision standing a couple of feet from the screen "see a view that is arguably equivalent to looking through a window."

The system will be ready for use in 6 to 9 months. The real question is when will I be able to watch football games on it in my living room?
Who should pay for file sharing?
At a recent conference on file sharing and DRM, Kevin Bermeister, chief executive of a company that distributes content via peer-to-peer (P2P) applications such as Kazaa, and Steve Johnston, who oversees DRM for the UK's Association of Independent Music, suggested that ISPs, hardware manufacturers and manufacturers of blank media should help foot the bill to recoup the losses that artists and labels have suffered due to illegal file sharing.

Yeah, you read that right. He is admitting that file sharing is costing artists and labels money; however, he wants someone other than the file sharing companies to pay for it. Brilliant!

Here is an excerpt from the article where they rationalize this approach:
"The ISPs are in the background all the time," said Steve Johnston, who's in charge of digital rights management for the UK's Association of Independent Music.

"Their entire businesses are being driven by that traffic. People are getting broadband connections to get hold of all that free music and not any of that money has gone back to rights holders and creators."

But Mr Bermeister added: "I don't think you can really target the ISPs specifically here. The Internet is a new market and a new medium.

"There are CD-ROM manufacturers, there are computer manufacturers, there are MP3 players like iPod for example who all derive a benefit, including the ISPs, from the activities of access to content on demand."
NFL 2K5 to ship before Madden?
GameSpot is reporting that ESPN NFL 2K5 may be published on July 20th, over 2 weeks before Madden. This, coupled with the new $19.99 price point, would be awesome news (for me anyway). Over the years, the Sega/ESPN NFL games have always arrived after Madden. GS said that reps from Visual Concepts and Take-Two would not comment on the rumor before Friday (today). I guess we'll have to wait and see.
Follow-up: Oddworld Stranger
As I mentioned here a couple of weeks ago, EA has picked up the rights to the next Oddworld game tentatively titled "Stranger." Now GameSpot.com is reporting that an official release date of Spring 2005 has been set. Cool.
Tracking kids with RFID
According to this Silicon.com article, schools in Osaka, Japan are going to tag their students' clothing and/or backpacks with RFID tags in order to keep track of them. Legoland in Denmark is also using a similar scheme to keep kids from getting lost. Although I know that the privacy nuts will be against this stuff, I think it is yet another great use for RFID.
Thursday, July 8, 2004
Pokia Cellphone Handset
The NY Times has an article on Nicolas Roope who is designing traditional-looking handsets to be used with cellphones (see photo). The device, called the Pokia, is still in development; however, the author of the NYT piece tried one out.

"The sight of a man walking down the street talking on a disembodied old-fashioned phone elicited a smile or a knowing laugh from passers-by, but no one seemed to want to interrupt my conversation to ask me about the phone. (Aren't New Yorkers polite?) Then again, an explanation didn't seem necessary. People seemed to get what the Pokia was saying."
My Google Web Alert
Call me vain, but I have a Google Web Alert set up to e-mail me any time it indexes something with the name "Shawn Morton" in it. Some of the stuff that comes up is pretty interesting. Check out this little tidbit from Pittsburgh:

"District school directors unanimously reappointed physical education teacher Shawn Morton as assistant football coach.

Morton, who was charged with possession of crack cocaine and one vehicle code infraction July 30, 2003, was suspended from his coaching position before the beginning of school last year.

He was suspended from teaching the first semester of the 2003-04 school year, reinstated as a teacher in January after serving three-month probation and completing ARD requirements......

He pleaded no contest and the district attorney agreed to expunge his record if there were no more offenses."
Roy...Roy,Roy,Roy!
I had hesitated posting a link to this Starbucks commercial because I had assumed everyone had seen it; however, after discussing it with friends and co-workers, I found that no one knew what the hell I was talking about. Without giving too much away, I'll just say that is based on the a "classic" 80s hit by the band Survivor.
Blog wins SEO challenge
The recent SEO Challenge asked contestants to exploit Google's page ranking algorithms in order to get their page to the top of the search results list. The challenge was made a bit tougher by the fact that contestants had to be the number one result for the term "nigritude ultramarine."

After two rounds of competition, which included just about every linking strategy possible, the winner, Anil Dash, succeeded by using a very simple approach. He posted a comment on his blog and asked his readers to post a link to their own website.

With so much emphasis being placed on SEO, it is nice to see that community-driven content can still win out over the sometimes underhanded tactics that others often use in an attempt to get to the top of the list.
Wednesday, July 7, 2004
Cops get TiVo
The NY Times is reporting that several police departments are replacing their in-car analog video recorders with TiVo-like digital video recorders. Now if we could only leverage the Freedom of Information Act to get them to make the video feeds available over the internet.
Creepy and Creepier
OK, this isn't a political post (thus my pledge to not blog about politics remains intact). It is merely an observation that Kerry and Edwards look super creepy in this photo.
Follow-up: Archos AV400 First Look
CNET Reviews has a First Look from the Labs video feature on the new Archos AV400 (which I mentioned here last week). Man, I have got to get one of these (when the price drops a little)!
RFID & Extra Future Store
WIRED.com has a really good article on RFID and its implementation at the Extra Future Store in Rheinberg, Germany. Many privacy advocates (probably the same ones who hate Gmail) claim that Big Brother will be able to something evil with the data from RFID. I, on the other hand, think it will be a huge step forward for retailers and consumers.

The RFID tags at the Extra Super Store help customers locate items, allow the store to keep track of inventory in real-time and allow for instanteous checkout (no need to unload items from the cart or scan a debit card). Sweet.
Tuesday, July 6, 2004
Joe Schmo 2, episode 4
Joe Schmo 2 keeps getting better and better. Last night's episode was probably the best yet.

Gerald's (the gotta-be-gay guy) lie detector scene was hysterical. Piper's faux parents asked each of the 4 male suitors questions like "Do you want to sleep with our daughter?" Although Gerald answered the questions with a "yes," the lie detector showed he was lying. So now, Tim, the male Schmo, is sure that Gerald is playing for the "other team."

Also, Bryce's (the stalker) speech after the Flame of Love Eviction Ceremony was great. He instantly broke down and started crying. Then, in a fit of desperation, he started shouting "mockingbird" which was the trigger word he planned to use to make Piper fall for him (he had tried to hypnotize her earlier in the episode). Priceless. As usual, Tim bought the whole thing. What a sucker.
Home Depot lifts the apron
Home Depot is the latest brand to get the "Girls of..." treatment from Playboy.com. According to CNN, pictorials of 6 Home Depot employees began appearing on the site today.

While the spreads have been good for Playboy, some of the brands featured, like Wal-Mart, aren't happy about the "exposure."
8 minutes of Halo 2
GameSpot.com has an 8-minute downloadable "real-time demonstration" of Halo 2. It is actual footage from gameplay (versus a movie or cutscene) and it is pretty awesome.

Too much to try and describe here, so check it out by clicking this link and then looking for "Real-Time Demonstration" under the GameSpot Essentials section.
Topless protesters
First of all, let me say that I generally find people who stand around in the street protesting crap to be annoying. However, it looks like PETA understands my concerns and have decided to take action. Instead of chanting dumb catchphrases or holding up signs littered with spelling or grammatical errors, the geniuses at PETA have decided to protest topless.

I'm not sure what this will do to further their cause (and frankly I don't care). Thank you, PETA!
Monday, July 5, 2004
Congress v. video games (again)
Well, now that the wars on drugs, illiteracy, homelessness, Iraq and terror have all been won, Congress is once again focusing on a really big social issue - violence in video games. Whew! Finally! I know I've been calling my Congressman about this one.

Anyway, its the same old story: video games are violent, society is violent, so video games must be making society violent. So, again, Congress is trying to put legislation in effect to protect America's children from video games.

To me, this isn't something that belongs in Congress. The video game industry already has a rating system in place to keep violent games out of the hands of children. It is now up to parents and retailers to make sure the system is enforced.
Sunday, July 4, 2004
Did Google Steal Orkut Code?
According to this WIRED.com article, Google is being sued by Affinity Engines, the former employer of Orkut Buyukkokten. AEI claims that Orkut stole some of the source code he wrote for them and used it to build Google's Orkut social networking site.

The most damning evidence against Google is the fact that "in its initial investigation, AEI (Affinity Engines) uncovered a total of nine unique software bugs ... in AEI's inCircle product that were also present in orkut.com."

Having used Orkut for the past month or so, I'm not sure it is worth fighting over anyway.
The Cure: Album by album
RollingStone.com has an article in which Robert Smith recounts the making of each and every Cure album. While the discussion of each album is brief, it is an interesting look at their long career.
"Purple Rain" at 20
Man, I can't believe it's been 20 years since "Purple Rain." I still remember going to see that with my friend Randy Cobbs when we were in junior high school.

Anyway, Prince reunited onstage with some of his "Purple Rain" co-stars including Wendy and Lisa and The Time on Friday night. He also featured Sheila E., Chaka Khan and Doug E. Fresh. The show was the kickoff to the 3-day Essence Music Festival in New Orleans and drew over 50,000 people (the largest crowd for a concert in the festival's 10-year history).
Saturday, July 3, 2004
Retro electronics
WIRED.com has an article on the trend of crafting new consumer electronics items like TVs and car stereos to look like consumer electronics did 50 years ago.

While these things look really cool, they are much more expensive than similar modern-looking versions. I think my favorite is Panasonic's B-flat car stereo which uses a vacuum tube and retails for $950 (it's not that cool).
PlayStation2 Estate?
OK, this is yet another reason why I am glad I own an Xbox. Check out this ridiculous press release from Sony:

"To kick-off the July 4th weekend, PlayStation(R)2 will celebrate Independence Day with the debut of the PlayStation(R)2 Estate, a private, all-inclusive retreat that will serve as the ultimate Hamptons destination. Located in Bridgehampton, NY and situated on six acres of pristine property that includes a three-acre pond, a 12,500 square-foot mansion with nine bedrooms and full guest amenities, the PlayStation 2 Estate will feature a series of private evening events hosted by Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Jay-Z and Paris Hilton. During the day, the PlayStation 2 Estate will also offer a variety of activities to keep guests entertained such as spa treatments, badminton, horseback riding, canoeing, bocce ball, croquet, ping-pong, and the latest in PlayStation 2 gaming." Huh?

Check out the full press release for the itinerary which includes the launch of Paris Hilton's record label, Jay-Z's latest shoe and P-Diddy's White Party. Is Sony taking crazy pills?
Friday, July 2, 2004
Rhapsody: Crotch rock sampler
OK, I was in a hair metal mood this afternoon, so I whipped up this Rhapsody playlist with 3 of my guiltiest pleasures: L.A. Guns, Faster Pussycat and Bulletboys. Back when I actually had hair, I preferred these crotch rock masters to the more popular Guns N Roses and Poison (although I can't deny owning their CDs too).
Marlon Brando, dead at 80?
KPHO in Phoenix is reporting that Marlon Brando has died at age 80. I can't find any other reports on it yet. If it is true, we've lost arguably the greatest actor of all time.

While I'll admit that he lost a step or two later in his career, when he was on his game, he was amazing. My favorite performance is probably in 1972's "Last Tango in Paris." His improvisation during that film is ridiculous. If you haven't seen the film, look for the scenes where he speaks to his dead wife's body or recalls his childhood dog "Dutchie."
You think you know 80s lyrics?
Then take this little fill-in-the-blank quiz and find out. I've always fancied myself as somewhat of a lyric expert; however, there were a few here that stumped me.

As you can see here, I finished with a score of 125 (not sure how that ranks, though). I did have to use Google once - to spellcheck "colitas." There, I spotted you one.
Searching for the Perfect OS
Apple is declaring the use of folders in the OS as an outdated way of organizing information. This criticism is meant to show how OS X's upcoming Spotlight search feature is superior to the use of folders in Windows. Ultimately, though, it is an apples-to-oranges comparison.

While I think having a robust search engine for finding information is great (even Microsoft is planning a similar feature in Longhorn), there is still a place for folders as a way of organizing information.

IMO, the reason why people have trouble with folders is that they don't use them properly. They download and/or save files in any ol' directory they see without thinking about how to retrieve it later. Folders require the user to be able to group things logically so that they can find it later. Declaring search the solution to the folder problem is just a way of avoiding what is, again IMO, a user problem.

And a search-only model falls apart pretty quickly. What if you want to access all of your digital photos? It sure is nice to have a "digital photos" folder (maybe even with a shortcut on your desktop) to go to instead of a search results screen with thousands of images, some of which aren't your digital photos.

So, while I think a powerful search feature is needed in any OS, I see it as a complement to the organization of information in folders, not a replacement. But I guess that message doesn't allow Steve Jobs to feed his enormous ego by declaring Windows dreary and outdated.
Google bans Gmail sales
Google changed its Gmail membership policy this week to prevent people from selling their Gmail invitations.

According to this News.com article, there is a bustling cottage industry forming to take advantage of the limited number of Gmail invitations available. On eBay, there are over 2,000 auctions for Gmail accounts. All of those auctions are now in violation of the new policy.
Thursday, July 1, 2004
Must Have: Archos AV400 series
WIRED has a review of a product that has been on my gadget wish list for a few months, the Archos Pocket Video Recorder AV400 series. The device falls into the category of "video iPod" that is often tossed about to describe portable video players.

The AV400 allows you record video from 80 - 400 hours of video from any cable or satellite source, schedule recordings like a TiVo, playback video, playback audio files (mp3, wav, wma), view photos, access data, etc. The 20GB version is around $500 and the 80GB version is around $800. Despite the price, it is an awesome device for the early adopter.
The Cult of eBay?
The Washington Post has an interesting article on eBay's kooky buyers and sellers convention in New Orleans.

It included gospel singers marching down the aisles in white robes waving eBay flags at the end of CEO Meg Whitman's speech. It also featured over 700 eBay staffers yelling and cheering for the buyers and sellers as they entered the exhibit hall.
KIDDofSPEED
This site is amazing. It is the photo diary of a Russian woman who regularly travels to Chernobyl and photographs the complete devastation of that area.

The photos of this completely empty city from the rooftop of the tallest building is chilling.

And this photo is my favorite. It shows clocks in Chernobyl which don't measure time, they measure radiation.
Stern returning to airwaves...
but not in Louisville apparently. This CNN.com article says that Infinity Broadcasting has stepped in to distribute Stern in some of the markets that Clear Channel (who sucks BTW) removed him from as well as some new markets.

The markets are Pittsburgh, San Diego, Rochester, Tampa, Houston, Austin, West Palm Beach, Orlando and Fresno. Hopefully, Infinity (or someone else) will step up and put him back on the air in Louisville. My 7-minute commute hasn't been the same since he left.

About Shawn Morton

Married father of 6; VP of Social Media at JPMorgan Chase; gluten-free; gadget enthusiast; hair metal aficionado; #Movember man View more on LinkedIn.