This is what Shawn Morton would look like if he had been made of LEGO -- the personal website of Shawn Morton
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Gonna install TVersity this weekend
Gonna give TVersity a try this weekend and see how it compares to Windows Media Center. I am looking for an easier way to stream media to my XBOX 360 and TVersity sounds like it has what I am looking for. I'll post thoughts on the install and how well it works this weekend (hopefully).
Sorry, David Pogue
After getting a polite (probably more polite than it should have been) comment from David Pogue of the New York Times, I realized that the logic going on in my head had not clearly made it into Blogger on my post about the debate between Jason Calacanis and Ted Murphy.

I wasn't trying to pick on David or single him out. Calacanis often refers to the New York Times in his rants about Pay Per Post. So in my haste to make my point, I used the NYT in my example, too. Of course, by doing that, I picked someone who has been an outspoken critic of the things he likes *and* the things he doesn't like. Not my best choice.

I did not mean to imply that David's reviews are for sale. If I gave that impression, then I definitely apologize.

What I was trying to say was that readers should always beware when reading a product review on a site or in a publication that accepts advertising or sponsorships.
TechRepublic has reprinted my tip...
on converting DVDs so you can stream them to your XBOX 360. Check it out here.
I think Ted Murphy has a point [edited]
I finally got around to listening to Jason Calacanis' podcast with Ted Murphy, CEO of PayPerPost. Of course, PPP is the marketing company that allows marketers to pay for product reviews in blogs. Calacanis has been the biggest basher of the service over the past couple of months saying that it has the potential to ruin the blogosphere.

However, after listening to Murphy on the podcast, I think he has a great point. If someone is being *truthful* with their review, who really cares if they got paid to write it or not. All I care about, as a reader, is if the reviewer is being honest in their opinion about the product.

Calacanis says that everyone should put a disclaimer in the first line of their blog post that says they got paid. But why?

I think it is understood by most anyone who reads a review from a site or publication that takes *any* advertising. It always has to be buyer/reader beware because anyone could have a financial motivation to what they write. That's just common sense.

I, personally, wouldn't use PayPerPost because I just write about stuff that interests me on my blog. However, I'm not going to fault someone who writes an *honest* review of a product and gets paid for it (with or without disclosure on the post).

[EDITED 3/29/2007:] Removed poorly-worded argument that made me look like a dumbass. Sorry, David
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Gonna start blogging on TechRepublic
I am going to start posting to TechRepublic's Geekend blog. TechRepublic is CNET's site for IT professionals and Geekend is their blog which deals with gadget and digital lifestyle content. I will be writing about XBOX 360, Windows Media Center, Skype, Slingbox, Nintendo Wii, iPod, home automation, home theater, etc.

My first post went up today.
Will you be one of the Elite?
Microsoft has officially announced the much-speculated-about Xbox 360 Elite. So what makes it Elite? Well, the big features that everyone is talking about are the HDMI port (instead of component), the 120GB hard drive (instead of 20GB) and a black case and controller (which does look really snazzy). Of course, these new features come with a new Elite price tag of $479 (compared to $399 for Xbox 360 Premium).

As an early adopter of the Xbox 360, I am a little irritated by the release of an new system less than 18 months after launch, especially after reading this quote from Xbox product manager John Rodman:

"We made a tenet to not ship the Elite console...unless we got quality to where customers and readers and ourselves are happy."

It is bad enough that I've had 2 Xbox 360s replaced since December 2005. Now there is a new system which not only has better features, but, by Microsoft's own admission, is a better made product than the one I have sitting at home.

Microsoft didn't leave current Xbox 360 owners out in the cold entirely. They did announce that the 120GB hard drive will be available as an upgrade. Unfortunately, the price for the new drive will be $180. Pretty steep for a drive that size. Fortunately, you don't really need the larger drive unless you are downloading a lot of movies or TV shows from the XBOX Live Marketplace.

After the initial limited edition run of Elites are sold, it has been reported that Microsoft will make the new hardware (minus the black case) the standard configuration for the Xbox 360 Premium.

So I'll continue to use my "not-Elite" Xbox 360 as-is. I just hope I can deal with the shame...
Monday, March 26, 2007
twitter is starting to replace Blogger...
for certain types of posts.

OK, after a week of using twitter, I am finding that it is starting to replace my blog for posting certain types of things. For example, after getting my Police tickets, I posted it on twitter. Then, as I was starting to write a quick blog post about it, I realized that I didn't really need to (The only reason I still posted it to Blogger was because I don't have twitter integrated with my blog and more people read my blog than my twitter messages).

Once we get twitter fully integrated with Profilactic, I am betting I will be posting much more via twitter than Blogger. Guess I was wrong about twitter...
Gonna see The Police at Churchill Downs
I grabbed a couple of tickets to The Police show at Churchill Downs on July 14th. The seats are in the dirt track which seem pretty good considering that I opted for the cheapest seats (if you consider $50 +$10 convenience charge cheap).

The last time I saw the Police was on February 13, 1984. My mom gave me the tickets for my 13th birthday.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Gonna give twitter another try
Yesterday, I jumped on the anti-twitter bandwagon a bit and questioned how people like Scoble are using it. After thinking about it, I decided that I hadn't really tried to use it for an extended period of time (I signed up in December, but only posted a handful of updates), so maybe I was being a bit hasty.

So starting today, I am going to use twitter (for posting *and* reading all the updates I get) for a few days to see if my experience with it improves. I'm still betting that most people are using it because it is the new, cool thing to do. But who knows, I may get cracked out on it like everyone else.

If you want to know just how boring I... uh, I mean, what I am up to over the next couple of days, go here.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Are twitter fanboys turning others off?
First, let me be clear. I like twitter. I really do. I even tried it for a while until I realized I'm not very interesing. However, recently, I added 2 of twitter's biggest fanboys, Jason Calacanis & Robert Scoble, since I don't know anyone who personally uses it , and now I'm drowning in updates.

I think twitter has found themself in a strange position. They've got tons of people jumping on their service. They've got several big name fanboys blogging about them. However, I think these fanboys are putting the long-term value of the service at risk by making it more annoying than useful.

IMNSHO, twitter is best used to give updates on very timely things. So you might want to let all of your friends know "It's a boy! 9 pounds 3 ounces! Photos soon." or maybe "Looking for someone to catch a matinee of "300" at 1p today" or even "Grabbing lunch at Qdoba today. Anyone interested?"

However, that's not how many of the early adopters are using it. Lots of them are either firing off really banal updates on things that no one could possibly care about (not even their friends and family) like "more beer and video editing" or, like Scoble, seem to be treating it like a blog or even a crude e-mail system.

"Scobleizer @davidgeller: thanks for letting me use your conference room for interview and for your continued friendship. I really appreciate that! about 7 hours ago"

Why isn't that an e-mail? Other than David Geller, who does he think would care to read that?

The more updates like that that come through, the less important the concept of updates becomes and the more people will be turned off by the constant chatter. Of course, I may be missing the point completely (or I'm just subscribed to the wrong people). Some people may really want to know when Jason Calacanis is eating pork chops. However, I can't imagine a service like that ever really catching on unless the frequency goes down and/or the quality goes up (a lot).

And maybe there is hope of that happening soon. Check out this recent message:

JasonCalacanis oh sh@#$%@#$%t... jsut checked my tmobile bill: 2,367 extra messages... $236.70 in extra charges!!! does tmobile have unlimited?!?!?!?! about 14 hours ago from web

Friday, March 16, 2007
Will work for gadgets
Early this week, a friend needed some quick and dirty graphics work done. Knowing that I had given up freelance work *and* that I really wanted a new phone, he offered me his unlocked T-Mobile Dash, which he didn't like, in exchange for a logo for a website he is working on (Thanks again, Kevin!).

Of course, I jumped at that opportunity. If there is one thing I like more than money, it is free gadgets!

I picked up the Dash yesterday and I really, really like it. It is so much better than the Cingular 8125 I was using before. It is smaller (the same size as my 5G iPod). It has Windows Mobile 5. Plus, it has a full keyboard. Of course, the screen is smaller than the 8125; however, I'll gladly give up the larger screen and the lack of a keypad for the size and features of the Dash.

I was putting together some new bedroom furniture in Mira's room last night and I used the Dash (with Slingplayer Mobile) to watch the NCAA tournament while I worked. Today, I met some friends for lunch at Panera Bread and used the WiFi there to check out some of the early games. Very cool!

So, if you have any extra gadgets lying around, give me a call. I'll take 'em off your hands.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
I like Slacker
Yesterday, I signed up for Slacker, the new, very ambitious music service, that launched this week. So far, it's pretty cool.

I've been listening to the Urge Overkill Radio Station much of the day. So far, the recommendations it makes are really, really good. When I launched the UO station this morning, I heard "Positive Bleeding" from UO followed by "Here Comes Your Man" by The Pixies followed by "Little Red Rooster" by The Rolling Stones followed by "Dropout" by UO. You can't ask for better than that IMHO.

You can check out the UO station here.

I am really interested to see how they extend this service. According to TechCrunch, there are plans for Slacker hardware, an iTunes-like app and a mobile device that lets you take Slacker with you. Very ambitious plans that would be super cool if they pulled it off. Considering that they started off by getting good music in the system (the most important part), I think they're off to a good start.
Rise of the Netflix Hackers
The WIRED article on Netflix for which I was interviewed was published this morning. I think it turned out very well.

Here is my section:

Shawn Morton, a 36-year-old product development manager from Louisville, said he began looking for a way to get movies faster after noticing that titles showing long wait times in his queue were shipping immediately to coworkers with trial memberships. He discovered that removing all movies from his queue except those with an expected "long" or "very long" ship time caused the DVDs that remained to ship immediately. His technique was widely adopted in the Netflix hacking community, though with mixed reports of success. And like many Netflix hacks, the trick stopped working about two weeks after it became public.

"I wasn't trying to harm Netflix with any of this," Morton says in his e-mail interview. "I was simply trying to demonstrate that there are limits to the company's 'unlimited' service."

Here is the full article.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Flickr's "New photos from friends" e-mail
I don't know how new the feature is; however, I recently started using Flickr's e-mail update feature that sends an e-mail digest of all of the photos your contacts have uploaded in the past 24 hours. It makes keeping up with Flickr so much easier for me.

Sure, RSS is cool and I check Google Reader multiple times per day; however, I am constantly checking my e-mail. So the ability to get an alert with thumbnails in my Inbox is awesome.

I'm glad to see Flickr recognize that e-mail isn't dead. I'd like to see more "Web 2.0" companies embracing e-mail as well as RSS.
Thursday, March 8, 2007
Interviewed for a WIRED story on Netflix
I was contacted by a writer for WIRED about a couple of older blog posts I did on Netflix here and here. The article is supposed to be about the "hacking/cracking culture that Netflix seems to engender."

I'm not sure if my stuff will get used or not since I noted that I wasn't trying to be a Netflix hacker. I simply wanted to regain the level of service that I got as a new customer (and to show that "throttling/smoothing" existed).

Hopefully I won't come off like a kook or a Netflix hater (I *did* love the service when I was a new member).
Friday, March 2, 2007
Got my car back
As I mentioned on Wednesday, I had to take my car to the VW dealership because of a transmission fluid leak discovered during an oil change.

Yesterday, I got some good news. My car did have a couple of minor issues (not the good news) and they were both covered under warranty. Whew! That was a huge relief. No $88 per hour labor fees. No major transmission problems.

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.