Month: June 2016

Too Much Cream of Wheat?

Are there any Cream of Wheat aficionados in the audience? If so, can anyone tell me why my local supermarket gives me four choices for what should be one of the most basic foods on the shelf? See the picture below that I snapped yesterday. We apparently have a 10-Minute version, a 2.5-Minute version, a 1-Minute version, and an Instant version now:

I haven’t eaten Cream of Wheat since I still had my baby teeth, but is there really such a need for so many versions? I guess I understand the “10-Minute” and the “Instant” because usually food that takes longer to cook is better, but is there a palpable difference between the three quickest versions? And perhaps more importantly, if the stuff is to be eaten hot, how much quicker could “Instant” really be than “1-Minute”? Who is the person who needs to shave a few seconds off of their one-minute breakfast drill?

I’m Not Ignoring You

Apologies for the generally worthless post, but I discovered the other day that I had inadvertently enabled a setting on my mail server which deleted all items from my inbox which were older than 30 days. There were probably 30 or 40 emails I still needed to return which are now gone forever. So if you wrote me something in the last few months and I haven’t responded to it yet, please write again!!! Especially if you’re the person who wrote in with those two really, really nice examples of sIFR-ized sites you’d designed or if you’re from that technical school in Seattle and wanted to say hi. Those are the two that I remembered clearly and tipped me off that something was wrong.

Anyway, that’s it. Sorry for the interruption.

P.S. Is anybody else as baffled as I am that after 10.4, 10.4.1, and now 10.4.2, Apple’s Mail program still takes 5-10 seconds to pull up a new mail window when you hit the “Reply” button? Is that really such a hard problem to fix?

P.P.S. Safari is also crashing on me about once a day now. Anybody else? Two years of virtually no crashes and now this? I think it’s a known issue with the newest Safari release but are we going backwards?

P.P.P.S. Anybody tried Vonage? Especially for a business? Any good?

Major Tivo Withdrawals

Behold the intoxicating powers of HD

After switching from my beloved DirecTV w/ Tivo service to Comcast’s HD w/ DVR service a couple of weeks ago, I now understand why every household doesn’t have a DVR:

Because mainstream DVRs, in and of themselves, suuuuuuuck.

This new Comcast 6412 box in my living room is such a royal pain to use that I’ve begun watching less TV simply because I hate interacting with it so much. I pull up the channel guide and it shows me only six channels per screen. I hit rewind and the box doesn’t even acknowledge my keystroke for a couple of seconds. I look for the 30-second commercial skip button and there is none. The amount of annoyances this little box ships with is almost unbearable. It’s a high price to pay for recordable HDTV, and I will probably continue paying for it, but it sure does feel like almost every other piece of Microsoft technology I’ve ever used: just good enough to tolerate and just bad enough to piss me off at every turn. If it weren’t for the fact that I can record Anna Kournikova in high definition and transfer the footage to my Mac for viewing over and over and over again (see actual screen capture above), this thing would be on the first van back to Philadelphia, or Redmond, or whatever heathen land from whence it came.

Following is a comparison of my DirecTivo service and my Comcast HD service —

  DirecTivo Comcast 6412 HD PVR
Local, Recordable High Definition Channels No ★ Yes
Hardware Footprint Big ugly dish on deck, receiver in living room ★ Receiver in living room
Easy to Transfer Video to Mac No ★ Yes
Interface Makes Me Want To… ★ Hug my TV Never watch TV again
30-second Commercial Skip ★ Yes No
Channel Guide ★ Useful, efficient Wasteful, maddening
Responsiveness ★ Great Awful
RW/FF Snapback ★ Yes No
Recordings Begin and End On-Time ★ Yes No
Remote Easily Controls A/V System Volume ★ Yes No
Channel Volume ★ Normalized All over the map
Standard Definition Channel Quality ★ Digital, very good Analog, borderline unwatchable

I have decided to tolerate this Comcast box with Microsoft interface until a more Tivo-like product is available, but I’m definitely not happy about it. I also worry about DirecTV’s impending HD push because they’re offering their own box instead of a Tivo-powered one. That Tivo isn’t just owning every living room in America right now is a sad, sad tragedy. Here’s a message to Comcast, DirecTV, Dish Network, Microsoft and any other company trying to control my living room:

Make it harder for me to watch TV and I’ll watch less TV. Make it easier and I’ll watch more.

Make Your Site Mobile-Friendly in Two Minutes

After checking out B. Adam Howell’s excellent site a couple of weeks ago, I thought it might be a good idea to write a little tutorial about how to make your entire site more mobile-friendly without even touching your pages. You may think that since you write valid code and separate structure from presentation at all times, your site already works great on mobile devices. You may also think bad things don’t happen to good people. In both cases, you’d be wrong.

The fact of the matter is that the state of HTML rendering in the wireless world is all over the map right now. Some browsers, like Pocket Internet Explorer, are actually pretty good at parsing through standard web pages. Others can scarcely handle layout rules at all. And still worse are the mobile browsers that load all CSS and javascript files, attempt to use them, and screw up the experience even more in the process.

What’s really needed until HTML/CSS/JS support is improved in mobile devices is a little server-side filtering. By pulling out everything a mobile device can possibly choke on before it even gets to the mobile device, we can create a mobile version of our site which is not only viewable on more devices but is much quicker to download as well.

And you know what? The mobile version of your site is probably going to be much easier on screenreaders too.

Four easy steps

Outlined below are the four steps to get this done in a matter of minutes, provided you are in an Apache environment and can run PHP. If you’re not, these steps can easily be adaptable to other technologies.
Read more…

Of iPods, and Music Videos

I know I’m an old man already at 30, but I think the last music video I watched was something from Christina Aguilera’s Slut-Yourself-Rich period a couple of years ago. Even then, I’m pretty sure I only watched the whole thing because I thought she was going to violate the “no live sex on TV” rule in front of my very eyes. Well, she didn’t, and I haven’t watched a music video since.

… which makes me wonder about all this talk of Apple’s alleged plans to sell music videos for display on iPods.

Is this really a viable market? I don’t think it is. The amount of music videos Apple will sell is probably much less than 1% of the amount of audio tracks they will sell, so it’s clearly not the reason the company is adding video capabilities to their iPods. More likely, it is a way to ease iPods with video capabilities into circulation until Apple has more compelling content to offer.

Conventional wisdom says the real money is in movie distribution, and while I agree to a point, there are so many issues being negotiated behind the scenes that it is understandable why this hasn’t materialized yet. Working at Disney for the past five years, I can’t even begin to tell you how long the chain of rights is to negotiate with regards to theatrical releases. The single biggest achievement of the iTunes Music Store was not the interface, the distribution, or the selection of music… it was the negotiating of rights by Steve Jobs. Jobs offered each music label the exact same deal, and being the most charismatic technology figure in the world (probably ever), he convinced them all to take it. Doing the same thing in the movie world isn’t impossible, but it’s going to be much much harder.

That’s also to say nothing of DRM issues in the video world. If you’re wondering why Microsoft is the only company in the world with industrial-strength video DRM right now, it’s largely because they settled a lawsuit with InterTrust about a year ago for $440 million putting them in the clear of any DRM-related lawsuits. Many companies are afraid to infringe on InterTrust’s patents right now, and Apple may or may not be one of them. If Apple feels they can create video DRM without infringing, they will. If they don’t, they will either have to sit on the sidelines or license.

Getting back on topic, I feel like Apple’s best move right now is not in music videos but concert videos. I wrote about this back in February when I suggested a video device with which to view concerts but the idea received only a lukewarm reception in the comments. Fast forward to July now and we have news of an AOL/AEG/XM cooperative called “NetworkLive” which will not only deliver live and archived shows via audio and video streams but actually play a part in producing the concerts themselves.

Big, BIG missed opportunity for Apple here in my opinion… especially since the rumored investment in this initiative is an extremely affordable $15 million.

If I’m Apple, I’m knocking on the door of NetworkLive right now and if no one answers, I’m busting the damn thing down.

iPod Giveaway #4: I Found a Shuffle

The 4th monthly Mike Industries iPod-A-Month Creativity Competition starts today and the rules are simple: I found an iPod Shuffle. In order to claim it, you must identify it and tell me precisely how you lost it. I have a feeling there is a rich story behind this little piece of plastic, and the person who successfully reveals it in the comments will be reunited with their baby. Submissions will be accepted until midnight on July 31st.

Special thanks to Mike Roberto for coming up with the idea for this 4th contest. Mike will receive a Shuffle from me, and of course, the contest submission pool remains open until the end of the year.

Extra special thanks as well to Dennis Lloyd and iLounge (formerly iPodLounge) who are once again adding a pair of $150 Etymotic ER-6i earbuds to the prize pool.

Most Ineffective Spam Opening Line Ever

A peculiar e-mail from China landed in my inbox this evening. It began:

“We have learned from the Internet that you are interested in tents.”

iPod Giveaway #3: We Have a Winner

Competitor “joshua” was right when he questioned whether most entries in the third monthly iPod-A-Month Creativity Competition correctly followed the instructions of exploring alternative uses of iPods. Luckily, however, we applaud the breaking of rules here at Mike Industries, and that is why I’m happy to announce this month’s winner and a new honor roll of the top 30 entries… some following the rules more closely than others.

So without further ado, congratulations to Charlie D., whose crudely assembled infomercial about sending iPod Shuffles full of music into space is available for viewing here. It’s an interesting concept for sure, and one which holds special significance after seeing NASA ram a spacecraft with thousands of names on it into a comet earlier this week.

Charlie will receive an iPod Shuffle from me, and a pair of $150 Etymolic earbuds from the nice folks over at

Below is a slideshow of the top 30 non-video entries with the first 10 being the runners-up, in order of greatness. The last 20 are in random order:

Sweet slideshow component made with SlideShowPro

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Mike Industries iPod-A-Month Creativity Competition slated to begin around the middle of this month. And as always, the submission pool remains open.

My Personal Tivo DeathWatch Ends Today

On Friday, I will be leaving the comfortable confines of my DirecTivo for the modern unknown that is the Comcast-orola-soft 6412 High Definition PVR. I fully expect a crystal-clear high-definition 16:9 viewing experience with a woefully disappointing interface. Whether or not it becomes more or less frustrating over time is the only question mark. I think I am even losing the 30-second commercial skip function. Damn!

Oh well. Sorry DirecTV and Tivo. You guys have been great, but there’s only so long I can hold out for HD.

Has anybody tried this thing out yet? Any tips?

Keep the door open for me Tivo. I may be back…

MercuryCloud is Hiring

My friends at MercuryCloud in Seattle are looking for some good print and interactive designers. As is evidenced by this photo — taken yesterday from their 4th of July party — they have some pretty sweet office space and they are not afraid to host kegs in it:

James Robinson and Will Prater are the principals of MercuryCloud. They are great guys, and if you’d like to work with them on some high-profile, high-caliber stuff, click the “Continue Reading” link for a full job description.
Read more…

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