I guess Wil Wheaton did the keynote speech at Penny Arcade's convention this year (Penny Arcade has a convention??), and not being that much of a gamer, I had little interest in it. I'm not that into Penny Arcade, and aside from Tetris and Dr. Mario, I'm not really much of a gamer, so I didn't even really let it get too far into my brain before I forgot about it. I saw Wil mention it on Twitter, and then it promptly left my brain.
But then a recording of it came through Wil's podcast feed, where I listen to whatever he sends down (which is not very often -- but when stuff comes down, it's invariably interesting and cool), so I listened to it.
I highly recommend that you do the same, because it is FANTASTIC. Wil is a wonderful storyteller, the likes of which only Henry Rollins (and maybe people named Sedaris) can top in my very limited "telling stories on stage" book -- and let's face it, Henry Rollins (and anyone named Sedaris) is pretty impossible to out-story. I laughed, I cried, I laughed some more. Incredibly entertaining, and incredibly heartwarming. And a little bit foul-mouthy.
This does, however, give me an excuse to make another comic, and to point out that I will be posting them here from now on rather than over at comics.nyquil.org. (I don't make them nearly often enough to warrant a dedicated site for them. Plus, nobody knows comics.nyquil.org exists. Here, at least, people might see them.)
Without further ado, here's how I imagine this merger of loves:
[Full disclosure: I am no fan of Apple. I didn't even own an iPod until recently, and only then because I was able to immediately wipe Apple's software off it and use the far-superior (for me) open-source Rockbox firmware on it instead. I did not buy iPhone, and had no reason to hold any bias towards it prior to playing with one. In fact, when I did play with one after finding out that I won mine, I hated it. If anything, my bias is against iPhone, and is most definitely against Apple.]
I've been having the hardest time writing up a full review of the iPhone, partly because even I am sick of hearing about them. The short answer is that for me, iPhone is a lot like Michael Bay's Transformers; sure, there is a lot wrong with it, but I like it anyway. Would I pay $600 for one? Probably not, but everyday I get more value out of it, putting me closer to the point that I would. I'm up to about $350 right now, for those that are curious how much I would pay for one.
If all you want is a phone with email and access to the "real internet," (<--- you should really click that) then I'd say your money is better spent on one of the many other cheaper options (many of which do a better job of those things, some say. I agree with them.) that aren't crippled in such painful ways. One of my favorite examples of iPhone stupidity is the following: if someone sends you a calendar appointment in iCal format, iPhone doesn't know what to do with it. Yes, Apple's email client on Apple's phone can't understand Apple's calendar format. Yes, iPhone actually HAS an Apple calendar app on it, there's just no way to get appointments into it without plugging it into a computer.1 Stupid. There are many other stupid things that I don't feel I really need to go into here. If you know someone that has one, you've surely asked them about something and been told "no... but maybe in the next update," or heard other people bitching about them. In many ways, iPhone really sucks.
That said, here's why I love mine and cannot get rid of it: because the high-profile lust-worthiness of the device coupled with Apple's non-commitment to releasing a 3rd-party software development kit has resulted in a "hacker" development community that kicks all manner off ass. Within a month of the device being out, people had already written not only UIKit, a sort of cobbled-together SDK, but also a compiler and linker and various other tools to be able to get the code they write with the SDK to run on iPhone. Tomorrow will be 2 months exactly, and already there is a multitude of really awesome apps out there letting me do any number of awesome things, not to mention a full suite of UNIX command-line tools. (Being able to set up cron jobs on your iPhone to, say, have your iPhone rsync all your camera photos to your webhost over the wireless connection at certain times of the day? Yes, that's no problem.) There's a neat voice recorder app (which hopefully will gain MP3 functionality soon, allowing me to email recordings right to my blog. Instant podcast from anywere? Awesome.), DOOM, a couple different NES emulators, a terminal client, a bunch of neat games, a text editor, a couple different file browsers, an ebook reader, etc. I'm just scratching the surface here. One of the neatest apps is called Installer. It works as a sort of package manager, allowing you to install/upgrade/uninstall various applications without ever having to use a computer.
Speaking of having to use a computer: after gaining access to the whole iPhone, the easiest way to manipulate things on it is via ssh. (Yeah, you can ssh into your iPhone. Also available on iPhone: Apache web server, and SAMBA so you can make it show up in your Windows Network Neighborhood.) One neat little trick is that if your OS is smart enough, you can use 'sshfs' to mount your iPhone's filesystem to your local computer over ssh -- without ever plugging anything in. This allows me to manipulate things on it, even loading music and videos all wirelessly. Whenever my iPhone is in range of my wireless router it shows up on my local machine. That is pretty frickin' fantastic.
So, in conclusion, if shiny trendy expensive things aren't really your bag, but being able to use that UNIX knowledge you've got to do UNIXy things anywhere you happen to be, then perhaps iPhone might be for you. It sure is for me. (But then again, mine was free. I'm confident, though, that after some more time with it I might get to the point that I'm willing to pay full price for one. Just not quite yet,)
1: the calendar, like pretty much every other source of data on the iPhone, stores its data in sqlite3 databases, meaning that it's fairly trivial to manipulate without iTunes. I've been kind of half-assedly working on some scripts to pull down my google calendar .ics file and inject the events into my calendar db, but thus far my heart hasn't really been much into it. Maybe some day.
I've been an Imogen Heap fan for years, yet she never ceases to blow me away. Watch as she builds a song from nothing, right before your very eyes (but try to ignore the improperly aspected video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSIbfzK2spg.
As somewhat of a linguist since my first attempts to use the language, you can imagine my surprise at age 6 when I learned that Knott's Berry Farm is not just a theme park on the west coast of the United States, but that they also grow berries there. It's a farm, that grows berries. You'd think that would be pretty straight-forward, but it really wasn't. The problem arose because EVERY PERSON ON THE PLANET says "Knottsberry Farm," completely skipping over the proper emphasis and making the founders sound like Lords of an ancient British kingdom. (A very shabby, kind of depressing kingdom, but a kingdom nonetheless1.)
Please stop saying it that way. Think of the children...
Not living in the area, I have no idea whether they properly emphasize the Halloween celebration they do there, called "Knott's Scary Farm." If the emphasis on that follows suit with the emphasis everyone uses for the actual theme park name, it would sound like "Not-Scary Farm," which, while probably accurate, is probably not at all what they'd like to be advertising.
1: I have not been to Knott's in like 15+ years, so please forgive me if it is no longer shabby and depressing.
(Please excuse the shoddy workmanship. I spent FOREVER trying to get the Transformer bits to "bulge" out of the jacket, ultimately painting it all by hand with my trackball. Robot bulgy bits are HARD. By the time I got it halfway bulgy I just didn't have the heart anymore for the boring "make it not look like ass" part. I'm pretty pleased with how I was able to "pose" Optimus, but saddened that you can't really tell after I covered him all up and painted all over him. Optimus source. Optimus re-posed.)
Having had the pleasure of viewing the first two episodes of Showtime's upcoming new season of "Dexter," I figure I ought to say a few words about it.
I found the first season of "Dexter" to be the best of the new incarnation of the classic "detective with quirk solves murders" genre that is currently clogging our TV tubes, and had serious doubts about whether they were going to be able to bring it for another 13 eps. Based on the first two, I'd say that it had indeed been broughten.
Quirky detective shows very quickly dissolve into formulaic trashfests that I can no longer stomach, so I'm glad to see Showtime keeping it real. I suspect that the thirteen-episode, tightly arced format really helps this; I'm a real sucker for tight arcs and short seasons with no "throwaway" eps. (I suspect I might have been born on the wrong side of he pond. Those Brits get all the good tv.)
If you've not heard anything about "Dexter," the quirk the titular detective exhibits is that his motivation for tracking down serial killers is so that he can kill them; see, he too is a serial killer -- he just lives his life by a code that requires he only kill "bad" people.
While not quite a killer with a "heart of gold" ( he's a psychopath who just fakes feelings of empathy when he feels they're required to fit in) he does exhibit personal growth throughout the arc. That's a must in my book, as one only has to look at a couple back-to-back episodes of USA's super-popular quirky detectve series "Monk" to realize that every episode is exactly the same: predictable, annoying characters, and downright hackish plotting. Don't even get me started on USA's "Psych." Ew.
No, I feel that if one is in the mood for a well-arced quirky detective show with some real merit, they need look no further than "Dexter."
Season 2 premeires on Sept 30th on Showtime, and I believe season 1 is available on DVD now.
[UPDATE: Grr. Comments were broken again. I will never intentionally disable commenting on posts, so if you ever happen to be unable to leave one, I'd like to hear about it :)]
Sorry that I've been neglecting all of y'all. I've just been hax0ring around in the inner-workings of the iPhone, and have been having so dang much fun that I haven't had time for you.1
Tonight, for instance, I decided to see if I could take advantage of the on-phone voice mail handling to do things that no one ever intended me to. See, you click a button to record a greeting or play voice mails, never actually having to call up a voice mail system to do anything. I decided that I wanted to try to take an existing audio file and use that rather than recording audio through a tinny cellphone microphone. So, having full system access to every nook and cranny of the thing, I did a little digging around and found where it stores the temporary greeting file that is created (you record it, then you have an opportunity to listen to it, THEN you click 'save' to upload it), finding it in relatively short order.2 It is an 8000 KHz .AMR file. I don't know what that is, but FFMPEG can create them, so I created my own using audio I happened to have lying around.
After recording a couple seconds of audio on the phone, I then replaced the temporary greeting file with my newly-created one, and then clicked 'play' on the iPhone to see if it was dumb enough to just assume the file was the same one it recorded. It was. I then clicked 'save' and watched it upload the audio to the voice mail system.
The same can be done with incoming messages, which should prove rather handy should anyone ever leave any mean-spirited ones.
If you'd like to experience my new (temporary) voicemail greeting, go ahead and give me a ring at 3605211191 before about 6am Pacific time on Aug 16th (I'll be changing it to something a little less... crazy... at that time.)
Also, please feel free to leave me a message after the beep. If I get anything good, maybe I'll post them here.
1: I do have a full review coming at some point in the future, as I decided to keep it rather than off-loading it. Short review: despite the many, many, many (many) annoying stupid things about iPhone, it's still the best (and nerdiest) phone I've ever, ever owned. You can have it when you pry it from my cold greasy hands.
2: In case you're playing along at home, after recording your temporary greeting, you'll find it at /var/root/Library/Voicemail/Greeting.amr on your iPhone. Just copy your 8000 KHz .amr file over that one.
On the way to work this morning I heard an advertisement for a new miracle system designed to unlock the unused potential of your mind. This secret will allow you to "read 10 books in the time it takes your friends to read just one."
In the interest of saving you some time and money, I've decided to share this secret with you for free. Don't tell anyone else, though.
The secret is pretty simple; just read shorter books.
After using your fancy rice maker, be sure that you actually take all the rice out of it and eat it. Because a week later when you decide you want to make some more, you may find upon opening the lid that you've already got some.