A DRM-free world…

To quote Jason: “Sweet Moses on a pogo stick!” I came back from a run to the grocery store to find my boss at Macworld had done “a Moren mash-up” (his term, not mine) and posted my anti-DRM piece, smushed together with my post on Steve Jobs’s open letter on DRM as one big essay on Macworld. Crazy.

Hubble’s main camera shuttered, for good?

I still remember the report I wrote for Mr. White’s 8th grade science class about the problems behind the (then recently launched) Hubble Space Telescope. My report was titled “Hubble, Hubble, Toil and Trouble,” which I recall pleased me inordinately at the time, but which I’m equally certain is probably now about as clever as “Take my wife. Please.”

Anyway, news came out the other day that the main camera had gone into “safe mode,” though the stories I saw said this happens every once in a while, and they’re usually able to coax it back into operation. Sadly, it appears that this is not the case this time, and the camera may be gone for good.

The telescope is still working, as are some of the secondary instruments, but the Advanced Camera for Surveys was the one being used to take fantastic pictures as well as track dark energy. Having been installed in 2002, the camera was rated for 5 years, though it ended up getting only 4.9 years (gee, my PowerMac G3 is from 1999 and that’s still running, and both Mars Rovers are still going strong, surpassed their original mission length ten times over). The next space walk for the Hubble is schedule in September 2008, though it sounds like at the moment, there are no plans to repair the camera: “We really got our money’s worth,” said Adam Riess of the space telescope institute.

The “I did not know that” of the day: ☮, ♥, and ♬

I was listening to the recording of the Macworld booth session between John Gruber of Daring Fireball and Cabel Sasser of Panic, when I heard Cabel explain something that had never even occurred to me. Apparently, URLs can contain Unicode characters.

For those who don’t know, Unicode is, to quote Wikipedia, “an industry standard designed to allow text and symbols from all of the writing systems of the world to be consistently represented and manipulated by computers.” It’s like ASCII (which is specifically for Latin characters, Arabic numerals, and a few other symbols—the ones you see on your keyboard right now), but Unicode also includes characters for Cyrillic, Arabic, Hebrew, Thai, and several others. The kicker, however, is that it also includes certain “universal” symbols, often those used by math or music, but also completely random ones like, say, the sun: ☀. Or a snowman: ☃.

Cabel claims to own www.[recylingsymbol].com, but since there are a lot of different recycling symbols (♲ ♳ ♴ ♵ ♶ ♷ ♸ ♹ ♺ ♻ ♼ ♽), and I’m too lazy to try them all (by copying and pasting the symbol), I’m not sure which is his.

I tried a few symbols out to see if they work, but a lot of them have been bought up by those generic domain parking services, like www.☥.com. And, unfortunately, a lot of the whois services I use (to figure out who owns a domain name) don’t seem to accept Unicode input, nor do many of the registries.

That disappoints me. I mean, think of the possibilities: Your budding Soviet could register www.&#9773.net. Pluto advocates could register www.&#9799.org (that’s the planetary symbol for Pluto). Chess enthusiasts would be all over www.&#9822.com.

Tony should move fast, as www.&#9760.org seems to be the only one with that symbol still available. And Jason will still be disappointed to know that there is, as far as I can tell, no Unicode symbol for Batman. Maybe it’s time to start a lobbying group.

Some Nerdy News For You

J.J. Abrams (Alias, Lost, Mission Impossible 3) is making a Star Trek movie with “young” versions of Kirk and Spock. This should be the most exciting news to slash fiction fans since the (somewhat disturbing and superbly done) “Closer” video.

Also, in case you were wondering how Apple got away with using the name “iPhone” when Cisco has been using it too: Cisco is indeed suing (but wasn’t the only company using the name, and wasn’t actually using it on a cell phone model).

Update: Ohhhh. Are you paying attention, knitters?

Apple and Oranges II: The Revenge

Last night, I was having trouble sleeping, so I did what people with blogs do: babbled semi-coherently about my interests (and maybe inadvertently insulted a nice guy, a corollary of John Gabriel’s Greater Internet F***wad Theory). Much to my surprise, however, my babbling does not exist in a vacuum: see exhibit A, in which Dan gets paid to ride my coattails, and exhibit B, in which Tim (the blogger I said was wrong about user interface consistencies on the Mac) delivers a response. Well, this time I will be nicer, though I’ll still disagree somewhat.

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Apple and Oranges

From Subtraction (a very nicely-designed blog I stumbled upon tonight), I found a blog post about “The Genius of Apple’s User Interface Themes.” The writer of this article did some stumbling of his own over an article about “15 Things Apple Should Change in Mac OS X.” He disagreed with this article’s take on Apple’s user interface design. I’m having trouble sleeping tonight, so I figured I’d try to explain why I’m pretty sure he’s wrong.

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MacUser: What if…Apple sold DRM-free music?

Most of my time writing over at MacUser and Gadgetbox is focused on short posts, often news or current events, but every once in a while—when the mood strikes me—I get to open the floodgates and work in the long form. Today, the subject that captured my fancy was the idea of the online music market, and its insistence on Digital Rights Management.

What does the music industry fear from DRM-free downloads? They fear file-sharing, of course—piracy. But that’s silly, because piracy is well-established by this point; we’ve had almost a solid decade of high volume media piracy. I’d say that the vast majority of the songs that you can find on iTunes and the other services are available through file-sharing networks, if you know where to look. Meanwhile, destroying piracy has proved to be emblematic of a phenomenon I like to call the “hydratic equation”—for every service you take out, two more sprout up in its place.

That’s just an excerpt, of course. The full piece is a bit longer. I hope to do a few more of these “What If?” pieces in the future, as long as I don’t get sued by Marvel.

A Blogger’s Life

So that “mysterious” project I alluded to at the end of a previous post is no longer shrouded in, um, mystery. To my stable of blogs, we now add Macworld’s Gadgetbox, covering all sorts of tech news not really related to Macs at all. But, you know, still interesting. My co-blogger and co-crazy-case-reviewer, Derik DeLong, joins me in my quest to rule the blogosphere. It’s going okay. Later, we’re going to have sandwiches.

A lot of people have asked what it’s like being a full-time blogger. I think there’s this nebulous view that we laze around in our pajamas, feet in fluffy bunny slippers, laptops by our side, leisurely tapping out a post when the mood hits us. And you’ll be glad to know that that’s exactly what it’s like, only not at all.

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A Case by Case Basis

I totally have an excuse for falling down on Doombot posting. No, really, it’s a good one: I’m buried under iPod cases.

Aside from my current gig over at MacUser, I’ve been tapped to help out with reviews of iPod cases for Macworld’s Playlist site. Turns out there are a lot of these suckers, and the existing Playlist reviewers had been inundated, to the point where they could easily spend all their time reviewing nothing but iPod cases, as though imprisoned in some sort of Sisyphean nth-level of the underworld. “Don’t panic when you see the first box; it will contain a *bunch* of cases,” Dan Frakes, Playlist’s Senior Reviews Editor, wrote me in an email. Dan has a gift for understatement. I think of a bunch of case like a bunch of, you known, a bunch of bananas; a dozen maybe, tops.

Huge box o' iPod cases

Try more like forty or fifty. All types: rubber sleeves, acrylic cases, leather, armbands, cute Panda-decorated ones. You name it, I probably have it.

Now begins the arduous process of painstakingly reviewing each and every one. Most of the cases in the box are for the iPod nano. Which they also sent me.

iPod nano and its big brotherAt first, I was at a loss as to what I was going to do with two iPods. I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet; I’m still carrying both around with me, which kind of defeats the purpose (yes, that’s right: if you mug me, you get two for the price of one). There are things I like about each of them; the nano is so small and light, it’s kind of hard to believe, especially since it sounds as good as my video iPod. Obviously, the nano doesn’t play video (which would be ridiculous on its screen), but it does display photos, though I haven’t tested that capacity yet (I’ve barely used it on my larger iPod, to be honest).

Anyway, my reviews haven’t started showing up yet, but that should be happening within the next few weeks. In the meantime, if you need to know about a case for your nano, I’m the man to talk to. There’s also another project in the offing that’s not public knowledge yet, but I expect to write something about that in the next week or two.

The Future of Wrestling

We here at Doombot are all about robot combat.