Scripting News for 10/25/07

Flash Leopard conference, Monday PM? 

An idea I’ve been thinking about for a while and looking for an opportunity to do is a “flash conference” along the lines of the flash mobs that were so popular a few years ago.

Here’s how it would work…

Some event happens that focuses the attention of bloggers, one where there’s a lot of ground to cover and at least two or three different ways to view it, one where the combined expertise of 5 or 10 bloggers would make a big difference.

The event would last at most 3 hours, would be webcast live, and be edited into a 1 hour program within 24 hours.

As many of us are waiting for delivery of Leopard, the new Mac OS, it seems that this may be an opportunity for such a conference.

We’d have to find a facility in San Francisco that could house this. There would need to be room for 20 or 30 people, and it must also have decent networking.

Then the question of who would we turn to for expert opinions.

Some ideas…

1. A Mac software developer.

2. A gadget blogger (Engadget, Gizmodo, etc).

3. A creative artist (it is a Mac after all).

4. ???

5. ???

This is meant to be an instant idea. I have asked the question on Twitter and your comments are welcome here as well.

Update: Loic Le Meur has volunteered the offices of his SF startup to host the flash conference. Cooool.

Eric Callis wants to have a flash conference on Leopard in Chicago on Monday.

USB-DACs 

A USB-DAC connects through the USB port to a Mac or PC, and to an amplifier and speakers. Apparently you can get much higher quality sound from your computer, for as little as $200 with the Stereo-Link 1200. I didn’t know these products existed until I heard a report on the Tech Talk podcast, and read the article in today’s NYT.

Seems like I’m going to have to buy one. Amazon doesn’t carry them. Not sure where to buy.

Later: Not so fast…

Update from Kevin Newman: “If your audio receiver has optical digital inputs, and your computer has optical digital audio output, connecting them digitally allows the receiver to do the D-to-A conversion. If you have an expensive receiver, it already has nice converters. That would almost certainly sound better than taking the analog minijack output from your computer. I’m not sure how the sound would compare to one of the external DACs listed in the article, but a digital connection is less clutter and less expensive.”

Postscript: Newman was right. I have a good Denon receiver (the one with the integrated HTTP server) that has several optical inputs on the back, and when I replaced the analog cable connecting the Mac Mini to the receiver with a digital cable, the increase in quality was incredible. There are physical sensations to recorded music that I had never experienced before. I have some flac recordings and I ran those through the new setup and was blown away.

Illustration: The important thing about the back panel is that there are four optical (digital) inputs, which are compatible with the digital output of the Mac. So when you play an MP3 from the Mac, and connect to the receiver with the optical cable, the D-to-A conversion is done by the receiver. The Mac is $500 of computer hardware (and damn good at what it does) and the Denon is $2K of audio hardware, and also very good. This setup lets each system do what it does best. The result is stunning sound. Really hard to explain how good it is.

Why I bought AAPL on Oct 8 

First, let me gloat.

I bought $49,761 of AAPL on Oct 8.

My investment is now worth $54,933.

That’s 10.5 percent growth in less than a month.

Hah!

I bought the stock because I was going to buy everything Apple sold from now until forever. The last product I had yet to purchase was the company’s stock. That was a mistake. The beauty of owning the stock is that you can use the increase in value to fund the hardware habit. So far so good. :-)

My very dear friend Sylvia Paull bought an iPod a month ago. In a blog post today she calls it a gateway drug. Having read early reviews of the new operating system, she’s ready to buy a 24 inch iMac.

I recognize the signs.

It’s like a virus I tell you.

PS: I just checked on at the Apple store. My family pack of Leopard has shipped, and will arrive tomorrow by 10:30AM. Now that’s cool! No penalty for ordering online vs visiting the store. Way to go.

Open till midnight 

A poem for Facebook 

Now that Microsoft has invested in Facebook, I’m reminded of a poem an anonymous correspondent wrote when I was working with Microsoft in the late 90s.

There once was a lady from Niger who smiled as she rode on a tiger. They returned from the ride with the lady inside and the smile on the face of the tiger.

It didn’t turn out that way then and might not turn out that way now, but it’s still a cute poem. :-)

Facebook app or Firefox plug-in? 

Which is a more interesting platform — Facebook or Firefox?

This was a topic of conversation at the Web 2.0 Summit last week in SF, not on stage, but in a LobbyConversation between myself and venture capitalist Bijan Sabet.

Bijan Sabet: “I like that Firefox developers don’t have to live in a world where they lie awake at night worried that the platform company is going to make life hard for them.”

What do you think??

33 responses to this post.

  1. Firefox is a much more interesting platform to me. Facebook is too constrained, for example not accepting my name as “valid” — who are they to tell me that my first name needs to have more than 1 character? Tell that to F.Scott Fitzgerald. He’d have to be Scott Fitgerald on Facebook because of some silly 3 digit name requirement. It’s these little things in Facebook like this that will drive people into the arms of other apps.

    Reply

  2. Posted by anthropocentric on October 25, 2007 at 9:48 am

    Firefox.

    Why? Because you can build something that’s truly useful – satisfies a particular need.

    Facebook is a collection of entertaining doodads, brain-dead discourse, and human interest garbage.

    Reply

  3. I think Firefox is more interesting by default because it’s more un-explored (at least in terms of extensions), whereas at this point my dog can build a Facebook app, Also, by it’s nature Firefox plugins tend to be a lot less arbitrary then the overwhelming majority of Facebook apps (there are really only a few dozen–if that–which serve any real purpose).

    Reply

  4. Yep, cute poem but I think everything needs to be put into perspective. Microsoft invested a paltry $240M but way back in the 2000 era they invested $150M in Apple and $200M in BestBuy (to get an exclusive for MSN subscriptions, they outbid AOL). With inflation, I would guess those two investments were bigger than what they just spent on Facebook.

    Reply

  5. Posted by dysinfo on October 25, 2007 at 10:46 am

    It was said Saddam Hussein went to Niger, and that he bought some uranium while there. It went into the President’s speech, he used it to screech and beseech, and now we’re stuck in Iraq and headed to Iran.

    Reply

  6. Well, Firefox developers have to worry about MS making life hard for them. (Or at least they would, if MS showed any interest in fixing IE. (Though FireFox marketshare is stagnant, according to some stats.))

    Are there any stats on number of downloads for each Firefox plugin?

    Reply

  7. Facebook *way* more interesting right now. Wonderful as it is, Firefox is just a platform providing UI and memory management services. Facebook is a platform providing a people-management-services that don’t exist anywhere else . ( http://blahsploitation.blogspot.com/2007/10/hmmmm.html )

    Anyway, they’re complements rather than competitors. Firefox’s main rival is Flash; Facebook’s rival is Ning with LinkedIn / MySpace / Orkut and Yahoo potentially catching up at some point with widget-in-yasn functionality.

    Reply

  8. Ha, gloating about AAPL purchases if fun. I bought some back when it was $22 about 5 years ago (though since it split, it was really like I bought it at $11). Just wish I bought more!

    Reply

  9. I bought AAPL a few years back at $18 and I sold it at $30. That was 60% profit, but if I’d held it I could have made 1000%. Hindsight is 20/20, I guess. I thought AAPL was done with it’s run and I was totally wrong. You win some, you lose some.

    As for Facebook I don’t like it and I think once it fails to convert its large user base into dollars its going to crash and burn.

    Reply

  10. Posted by Wes Felter on October 25, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    Why stop at Firefox? You could write a classic desktop app – do all the work yourself, reap all the rewards. :-)

    Reply

  11. Posted by Andres on October 25, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    Firefox, of course. It’s truly an open platform, and you can create tools that are actually useful for people. I couldn’t switch to another browser if I wanted to (I don’t), because extensions provide a lot of the functionality I’ve come to rely upon.

    Are there any “killer widgets” for Facebook? Not that I’ve heard of, at least not yet. For Zuckerdroid’s platform to thrive, Facebook will need to land some exclusive apps that can draw in users and keep them there for life (18 months). The novelty will wear off eventually.

    Reply

  12. Posted by Kevin Newman on October 25, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    Regarding the external DAC- If your audio receiver has optical digital inputs, and your computer has optical digital audio output, connecting the digitally allows the receiver to do the D-to-A conversion. If you have an expensive receiver, it already has nice converters. That would almost certainly sound better than taking the analog minijack output from your computer. I’m not sure how the sound would compare to one of the external DACs listed in the article, but a digital connection is less clutter and less expensive.

    Reply

  13. Posted by Doug on October 25, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    RE: USB-DAC

    There are many external audio devices that use USB and firewire. Check out the music instrument stores.

    Reply

  14. Posted by Sam Yates on October 25, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    Everyone here may already know this, but if you have a Mac-mini the analog audio out and the digital audio out are one and the same. You can just plug an optical TOS-link cable into what looks like the headphone/line-out jack in the back of the mini. The same is true of the input. It’s either digital/optical or a standard analog line-in.

    If this wass already obvious, feel free to ignore.

    Reply

  15. Griffin has a Firewire based 5.1 external audio box.

    http://www.griffintechnology.com/products/firewave

    We sell them at the store I working at.

    http:www.mac-pro.com

    I was the audio and music evangelist at Apple after all. ;-)

    Reply

  16. great idea ! would love to host the flash conference, record the video and edit it at Seesmic or some other place. Will not be able to host too many people and we will have to sit on the floor but hey let’s do it if you like !

    Reply

  17. I’m with Seth on the unexplored possibilities of Firefox. Combine its DOM and JS support with its native local storage and XUL, and you’ve got something that is as good as Adobe’s AIR without the hype. Not that AIR is bad — anything that helps build the emerging web infrastructure, even (gulp) Silverlight, is fine with me. I’m totally agnostic when it comes to which API flavor to choose.

    Facebook did a pretty nice job of creating an API that anyone who can fog a window can use, but I don’t see any harm in that. A tour through myspace shows that the vast majority of consumers on the internet aren’t interested in any kind of serious conversation. Apparently, this is the same target market that Facebook is aiming for.

    I work for a top 5 or so web company and our numbers show continued Firefox growth, but it’s still only at about 17% of our users (Windows only — those stats don’t include Linux).

    But if someone developed a SuperApp on that platform, it would provide a serious jolt to Firefox downloads.

    I don’t know about other developers out there, but I always have ideas for such a SuperApp, but never get around to digging deep into the Mozilla code base to figure out how to do it right.

    I doubt it will be an extension to Firefox, but, rather, a branch off the code base similar to Flock but a true app, not just a nicely skinned clone with a few built-in extensions.

    Reply

  18. I’d be surprised if you can hear the difference between that box and the Mac analog out; the ADC and DAC in the Mac are not cheap and nasty components, they’re quality ones. The only real reason to buy an external box is to get more channels.

    Reply

  19. Kevin, I swapped out the cable connecting the Mac and my amp with an optical cable and there was a very big difference in quality. I have a pretty high end receiver, and while the Mac was good, this was much better. Richer sound, clearer. I have some FLAC files I’m going to try later (can’t cause the World Series is on).

    Reply

  20. I’d love to do a Leopard Flash Conference in Chicago as well. This is a GREAT idea Dave. If you are interested in participating in a Chicago area event check http://www.virtualomni.com/?p=327

    Reply

  21. XUL is an incredibly easy language to create an app, and lets face it: making a transaction is, oh, a mouse up to the toolbar and a click of your bookmarklet.

    Opposed, of course, to logging in to Facebook, checking your status updates which give you that feeling of having eaten too much candy, and then engaging with apps which break down often.

    Firefox would be even better if you could author in it offline, and upon synching upload to all your online apps, a Gears kinda thing.

    Reply

  22. You people just don’t “get it” do you ;-)

    Facebook not just another place to host widgets. Facebook apps. have access to a different kind of information from nearly any other platform you’ve developed for. It’s as different an environment from Firefox as PHP is from embedded systems.

    Reply

  23. I’ve gone the opposite way with my music recently. I don’t have a high-end amp, so I bought this for my office at home:

    http://shop.ipodworld.co.uk/iPodWorldSite/product/all_iPods_Griffin/GR_6140ITSPKR.htm

    I found I had my old PC on all day just to play iTunes. That PC has a SB 5.1 Platinum card in it, and 5.1 speakers, but it’s more hassle and energy usage than I need in here, now I just pop my iPod mini (yes, I still have a mini) in the Griffin and away I go!

    It might be that I have slight ODC tendencies, but I’m actually more relaxed with this simple solution than something more beefed up. Strange. Oh well.

    Reply

  24. Now that you’ve tuned into super-fidelity sound (remember, air is a liquid, and speakers turn electricity into liquid vibrations) you should really spring for a pair of Meyer HD-1 speakers: http://www.meyersound.com/products/studioseries/hd-1/

    Meyer is in Berkeley, and was deeply involved in the advanced-tech sound for Grateful Dead. Design goal is a linear transfer function from electrical input to acoustic output. Really, check ‘em out.

    Reply

  25. Believe it or not I had Meyer Sound speakers for 10 years or so. The speakers I have now are pretty good, haven’t done an A-B comparison obviously since I no longer have the old ones.

    I was friends with Don Pearson who did the sound work for the Dead for many many years. He was very good friends with my buddy Dave Jacobs. Don passed away a couple of years ago, suddenly, unexpectedly.

    Reply

  26. Wow. I met Don several times – he was very supportive (intellectually and emotionally) of my psychoacoustic research. I was sad when Don passed away. He was a great guy.

    Reply

  27. I guess it wouldn’t be speaking out of school to pass on a nugget of wisdom from Don (1989). When I asked what his typical day was like when not on the road touring, he said, “Well, I try to get to the shop by 10 or so, and deal with any outstanding business. Then I usually get started on a project, and try not to smoke pot before lunch. I get a lot more done if I wait until after lunch.”

    Reply

  28. Yeah Don was a real deadhead and a geek. That was how we bonded. I got to hang out once on the big platform in the middle of Shoreline during a Dead show. He demo’d how the sound system at Shoreline compensated for the acoustics of the space. It was designed after they knew a lot about how sound reflects off surfaces and how to use that, and computers to delay the signal to various speakers to create the ideal effect for as many people as they could, but mostly for the band. They could tune up the theater like they tune up their instruments. I used to do sound work on a much much smaller scale. Don was at the very top of the pyramid. But I knew more about software. :-)

    Reply

  29. Heh. I had a feeling pot smoking would show up in the story somewhere. :-)

    Reply

  30. > tune up the theater

    Yeah, that was really advanced tech in the ’80s. I almost went to SIM school, after five years as an audio tech. But I started working in hardware and software development instead.

    There’s a book out earlier this year, Grateful Dead Gear that’s a pretty good overview of the instrument and sound history of the band. Interesting lens for geeks, to see the history of a 30-year touring band through the eyes of tech evolution.

    Reply

  31. Firefox is a ton more interesting than Facebook. Have a look at Operator and the Skype script I’ve written. It works with Google Maps, so when you find somewhere you want to call, you just press “Call with Skype” and it dials it. Total development time? About an hour for my plugin. Operator will be in Firefox 3.

    Reply

  32. Loic, what’s the seating/desking capacity of your space? What’s the connectivity/power picture like? We might be better off doing it an one of our friendly neighborhood coworking facilities, like Citizen Space in SF or Berkeley Coworking near Ashby BART, that can more-readily handle this sort of influx.

    Reply

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