Archive for the ‘Lazyweb’ Category

Another question for the huddled masses.

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Why do Android podcast clients suck?

I’ve written previously about my experience with the awful Pocket Casts application.

I dumped that and started using Google Listen. Google Listen frequently fails to completely download all of a podcast (so you end up with one in the queue that’s cut short, without any warning), frequently hangs up when trying to add a new podcast, and is no longer supported or maintained by Google. (Edited to add: Also, my phone frequently reboots while Google Listen is running, but I’m not sure if that is a Google Listen problem or a problem with some other application.)

I downloaded BeyondPod for my Kindle Fire. The free version (which I am using) has some limitations: you can’t set up automatic updates to your podcast feeds, nor can you download more than one podcast at a time. In order to activate those features, you have to pay $6.99 for an unlock code. Personally, I think that’s a bit steep for a podcast client, but if BeyondPod actually did what I wanted it to do, I’d pay that.

However, BeyondPod has a couple of what I consider to be crippling issues:

  • I find the user interface to be completely counter-intuitive. For example, if I have a podcast on my playlist, playing, and I want to switch to the player controls (to rewind, pause, or fast forward) I can’t figure out how to do that. Sometimes BeyondPod will display player controls underneath the playlist, other times it doesn’t. Sometimes you can swipe up and see the controls for the specific podcast; sometimes you can’t. There seems to me to be no rhyme or reason to what controls BeyondPod displays when and where, and how to get from one set of controls to another.
  • Then there’s my personal favorite BeyondPod “feature”. If you have a playlist, and you’re looking at the feeds for a podcast (say, you want to read the notes on a specific podcast), and you accidentally touch in the wrong place, BeyondPod starts playing the podcast you’re looking at. This makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is that BeyondPod also wipes out your existing playlist. Oh, you wanted to listen just to that podcast, or you missed the touch target and didn’t intend to play that podcast at all? Too bad, so sad, rebuild your playlist. That’s a deal breaker for me; no, I will not pay you $7 for a podcast client that erases my playlists.

All I want out of a podcast client is a few basic, simple things:

  • Maintain a feed of the podcasts I want to listen to.
  • Reliably download those podcasts. If a podcast fails to completely download, either warn me or retry until it does.
  • Let me mark podcasts as listened or not listened.
  • Let me fast forward/rewind within the currently playing podcast.
  • Let me have a playlist of podcasts that I can easily rearrange.

That’s pretty much it. There are some other features that would be nice (ability to sync across multiple platforms, for example) but not essential to me. So why is this so hard?

Android fans constantly bash Apple and iTunes. Yes, iTunes has problems, most of which involve trying to put too many functions into one piece of software. But for all the problems iTunes has, it is at least capable of doing all of the things on my minimum list. I can’t say that for any Android client I’ve tried so far.

Just one more thing…

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

As long as we’re talking about Lawrence’s review of General Idi Amin Dada, I have a question that’s bugging me, and I know I have some aviation buffs in my audience.

What are these planes? I apologize for the pictures: they are actually screen snapshots from the DVD, and I tried to get ones that showed the best possible angles. Click to embiggen.

vlcsnap-2013-05-15-17h01m58s204

vlcsnap-2013-05-15-17h03m36s240

vlcsnap-2013-05-15-17h07m18s150

Lawrence suggested they might be MiGs, and I know the Ugandan Air Force had MiG-15s and MiG-17s. But both the 15 and 17 have a really blunt open nose, while these planes have a more rounded one. I don’t think these are Fouga Magisters either, because they lack the V-tail. I believe these are some sort of two seat jet trainer, and they may be French. But I can’t tell, and it really bugs me that I can’t figure it out. Maybe if I’m lucky Tam will see this. For some reason, I’ve also got in my head that the good and great Brian Dunbar knows his planes. And, of course, there’s RoadRich…

Okay. I lied. One more “one more thing”, just because this amuses me, and I’m pretty sure it amused Lawrence as well.

The Suicide Revolutionary Jazz Band

(Okay, one last thing. It irritates the fire out of me that Apple disabled screen captures from DVD Player in the Grab utility. And they don’t just throw up a “You can’t do this” popup: Grab lets you do the capture, but the resulting file is just a checkerboard grey and white pattern. Fortunately, VLC will a) playback DVDs, and b) even has a built-in “Snapshot” menu option. Hurray open source.)

Musical beg.

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Does anybody have a digital version, or a pointer to one, of “Throw Him Down, McCloskey”?

I can find the lyrics and even the sheet music online, but I’ve been unable to find a recording of someone actually performing the song. I will be happy to pay money for a recording, but I’ve been unable to find one in either the iTunes or Amazon stores.

Apropos of nothing in particular…

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

I’m wondering if any of my readers have the same reaction I do:

The more hype you hear for something, the less likely you are to actually partake of that something.

For example, I got so fed up with hearing about ET and Raiders of the Lost Ark that I’ve never seen either one of them. Likewise, I haven’t seen any Star Wars film other than the first.

This isn’t reliable: I have all five seasons of The Wire, but that also has something to do with being into David Simon’s work before Homicide (the TV series).

Really, this doesn’t have anything to do with anything in particular.

Project updates.

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Project e update: I took the machine up to 2GB of memory earlier this week; it turned out to be much harder than I expected, mostly because getting the memory access door off the machine took more effort than I expected.

I just finished doing a clean install of Ubuntu 9.10 on Project e; I went the clean install route, instead of doing an upgrade in place, because there were some things I wanted to clean out, and I didn’t really have a whole lot invested in the current system. (However, I didn’t re-partition and blow away /home.) So far, wireless seems much more stable; no connection drops yet. Ethernet just works, straight out of the box (no loading of modules) and Bluetooth seems to work as well, modulo some flakiness in listing devices.

This install also took more effort, and more time, than I expected. However, much of that was my fault; the process for creating USB install disks changed from 9.04 to 9.10, and the instructions on the Ubuntu website are not clear on how to do that under OS X. I ended up having to move the 9.10 ISO over to the netbook and use the USB startup disk creator to make a bootable flash drive. I don’t see this as an Ubuntu problem as much as a “thought I knew what I was doing, should have read the docs first” problem.

Question: does anyone know of a good Karmic-compatible eeePC tray utility, now that eeepc-tray has been end of lifed?

6.00 update: I’ve been tied up dealing with some personal issues that I don’t want to go into here (for reasons of other people’s privacy) and haven’t had as much time as I would like to work on this. I’ve gone through all of lecture 2, and I’m hoping to knock out the assignment and move on to lecture 3 this week.

School: Registered for CSYS 4334, “Implementing Information Systems In Organizations” (in other words, more SQL Server 2005) and CSYS 4330, “Advanced Networking/Network Security” next semester. That second one should be fun.

Efficient closest point calculation; how to?

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Randall Lawrence Waterhouse

Current meatspace coordinates, hot from the GPS receiver card in my laptp:

27 degrees, 14.95 minutes N lattitude 143 degrees, 17.44 minutes E longitude

Nearest geographical feature: the Bonin Islands

—Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon

One of the projects that I’ve had cooking in the back of my mind is to implement something like Waterhouse’s signature block in Cryptonomicon. After all, I’ve reached a point in my life where I actually have GPS equipment and a computer that are small enough to use on an airplane. (Unlike Waterhouse, I tend to fly coach.)

There’s a couple of different parts to this project as I see it.

  • You need an interface to the GPS reciever to get the current position data. That should be easy; both Perl and Python have GPSD interfaces.
  • You need a database of geographic points. It looks like that shouldn’t be a hard problem to solve; there’s some online databases that I think can be made to work, or converted, for this purpose.
  • You need an interface between your programming language and the database to look up points. Again, that should be easy; I’m assuming the database of geographic points is stored in some sort of standard SQL databse, and both Perl and Python have SQL database interfaces. (One possible problem is that I want to be able to run this on a Nokia N800, and the SQL database choices for that machine are kind of limited.)
  • You need to be able to calculate distance between two points. That’s easy: see http://www.movable-type.co.uk/scripts/latlong.html  for an example.
  • But here’s the problem. Let’s say you have a database of two million geographic points. How do you efficiently find the closest point to your current geographic location?

I’m stumped by the last part. Doing two million Haversine calculations seems like a time consuming operation; I suspect on a N800, the closest point would have changed substantially by the time the calculations finish.

Anyone have any good ideas? If I ever do write the script, I promise public acknowledgment (and public posting of the code).