Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Griffin RadioSHARK

I found a RadioSHARK from Griffin Technology at the thrift shop Mabel volunteers some time at, and picked it up for US$2.50 (it retails for US$69.99). The RadioSHARK is an AM/FM radio tuner that connects to the computer via USB, and the accompanying software can play or record the broadcast. Think TiVo for radio. I intended to use it for the odd broadcast that hasn't heard about podcasting. (Pay attention, Car Talk, nobody wants to pay Audible, and nobody wants to use RealPlayer. And as long as we're wagging fingers, get with the times, MLB)

The set-up was pretty easy. You plug the unit in, and ignore the CD-ROM that came with it. The software on accompanying CD-ROMs are inevitably outdated, and you're always much better off just downloading from the manufacturer's site. In general, it worked as it claimed to, and I'm quite happy considering the price I paid for it.

One neat feature of the RadioSHARK is that you can leave the computer in sleep, and it'll wake up automatically to record something according to your schedule. Unfortunately, the correct user has to be logged in at the time of sleep, which can be a small irritation. Worse, it wakes up the computer and bypasses the password entry screen, so unless your computer is in a secure location, the RadioSHARK can wake it up and give anybody access to your desktop. The software is also unable to put the computer back to sleep, and leaves the monitor on. Other than that, it works quite well.

The RadioSHARK also allows you to pause and rewind live radio, which is nifty if you're trying to catch the title of a song, or perhaps an announcement from the DJ. It has modest requirements on the host computer, and our 733 MHz G4 handled it just fine.

Now, the first downside is clear: it doesn't know about the radio stations in your area, so you'll have to tune and assign favorite stations manually.

We've also had some problems with reception. We ended up putting the RadioSHARK on top of a 7-ft. bookshelf, which needed the USB extension cable that Griffin thoughtfully put in the box. Even then, we couldn't find an orientation for the antenna that tuned well to all FM stations.

Another minor gripe I have is with the LED status light on the RadioSHARK, which is usually blue but turns red while recording. The software allows you to turn it off, and that does work, but the setting doesn't stick when you reboot the computer.

None of these little problems really detract from the value of this product. I'd gladly pay US$2.50 again for it, but its full retail price of nearly US$70 is simply not appealing enough, given the diminishing amount of exclusive content on radio.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

To Stupidity and Beyond!

The British television show Space Cadets is a new "reality" show that pretends to launch several unwitting (or witless) participants into space for five days. They were flown out at night, and circled for hours before arriving at a disused military base in Suffolk dressed up to look like Star City in Russia. They were trained there and placed inside a modified set from the Clint Eastwood movie Space Cowboys, complete with launch noises, vibrations, and a distant earth outside their windows. They were also told that they will not experience weightlessness thanks to gravity generators installed underfoot.

Some viewers have suggested that the hoax might actually be on the public, since the participants could just be actors pretending to be dumb. That may well be, but I personally believe that stupidity has no lower bound.


When NBC anchor Brian Williams asked President Bush about earlier administration claims that US troops would be welcomed as liberators, the President replied, "I think we are welcomed. But it was not a peaceful welcome."

Monday, December 12, 2005

Alive, Alert, Awake, Enthusiastic

As I kissed Mabel goodbye this morning, she asked me if I had my badge. I patted it and said yes. She asked me if I had my phone. I patted it and said yes. She asked me if I had my wallet. I patted it and said yes. She asked me if I had any money in it. I thought for a second and said yes. So I came to work.

And left my laptop at home. I think I'm mentally already snowboarding.

Counting Bodies

President Bush said today that although the war in Iraq cost about 30,000 Iraqi lives, even with the benefit of hindsight he would make the same decision again, because "removing Saddam Hussein makes this world a better place and America a safer country."

It would be funny if it wasn't so chilling. Saddam Hussein is considered responsible for 300,000 Iraqi deaths over his 24 year reign, which comes to an average of some 12,500 lives a year. The US is averaging 11,244 lives a year (according to Bush's stated estimate of 30,000 Iraqi dead since the war) in the last 32 months, or 12,048 (add another 2,140) if you count American lives lost in Iraq.

Now, I'm not comparing the intentions of anybody in the Bush government to that of Saddam, who is simply a menace. I'm also not comparing the life of a murdered political opponent of Saddam to the one of a suicide bomber. I'm just saying that when your body count approaches the handiwork of a menace, perhaps it's time to be less sure that this was the best course of action. I think a healthy level of self-doubt is a sign of intelligence.

Thursday, December 8, 2005

The Meaning of Life

I have no illusion that this is the first word on the meaning of life, or that it will be the final word. In fact, the point is that this isn't really a word on the meaning of life.

What bullshit, I hear. Yup. Well, I was just browsing from link to link when I came across some musings about what life should ultimately be about. He's right that it shouldn't be about a good job or a good wife, much less a good car or a good house. But he then concludes that it should be about love - nay, it should be measured by love.


Life is about love and relationships. But it's also about experiences like learning to snowboard after 30, like moving to a different country, like kissing somebody for the very first time, like seeing the Grand Canyon. It's even about driving a car really fast, if you're into that sort of thing, or jumping out of an airplane. It's also about somebody breaking your heart, and every religious experience you've ever had (or not had). It can even be about finding a good bowl of ramen on a cold night. But that doesn't answer the question, you say.

That's right. It doesn't answer the question because life isn't ultimately about any one thing. It's about the totality of things that you've done or could've done but did not. If it was just about love, did Adolf Hitler not love Eva Braun? He probably did, but the totality of his life includes the genocide of millions. Life isn't an equation to be simplified down to one variable. If you're lucky enough to be part of the industrialized world, you're talking about an average of seventy years worth of experiences. Assuming you sleep ten hours each day, that's still 21 million minutes of an average waking life.

Why is there such a dire need to simplify 21 million minutes down to a single word? Oops, you just wasted one or two of those reading this, and I'm not giving them back. So there.

Monday, December 5, 2005

One of Those Weeks

Decided wrongly to leave my laptop at work, so came back here to pick it up over the weekend, during which I left my badge. Came here this morning and was able to get into the office to find my badge sitting on my desk, and then realized that I left the laptop in the car.

It's going to be one of those weeks.