Seth’s Excellent Adventure, Day 1 Thoughts

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Prequel: had dinner with the kids and Erin at Chester’s last night. One more green chili cheeseburger. Cried like the Cowardly Lion if he
got hit with pepper spray after saying goodbye (for 2 weeks) to the kids. And Erin.

6:04 AM: Rolled out of the driveway of the house that had finally helped make Texas feel like home. May or may not have spent 10 minutes before I left just listening to the echoes.

6:35 AM (or so): Foot rest of brand new left highway peg fell off my bike. Shit. Mounting hardware gets progressively looser.

7:58 AM: Stop at 100 miles or so, broke out the tools, tightened up what’s left of my brand-fucking-new highway pegs. Wish I wasn’t such a noob when I put them on in the first place. Note to self: tighten the damn highway pegs. Regularly. Also, made the mistake of not drinking enough coffee and eating Burger King for breakfast. You are getting sleepy. Very, very sleepy. Your eyelids are getting heavy…

9:16 AM: Falling asleep while driving a car is one thing. Falling asleep while riding a motorcycle? OK. They’re both pretty bad. Anyway. Coffee + 5 Hour Energy. Good to go. Texas sure is pretty.

11:15 AM (??): realized I’m almost outta gas. Stop in Dallas, right across the street from the Cotton Bowl. It’s… um… pretty ghetto. I didn’t even get off the bike. Just filled up and took off. (That part of) Dallas is not pretty.

11:45 AM: Texas sure is hot. Maybe wearing all black leather, plus a black full-face helmet wasn’t the best choice for heat management. Keeps me safe, though. Worth it. Power Bar, beef jerky, and 64 ounces of Gatorade (Fierce Melon, and Fierce Strawberry, in case you wondered. Also, how the fuck can melon or strawberry be fierce?). Also, also… Dear Greenville, TX: you suck at civil engineering. Did you just randomly decide how long the traffic lights should stay green? I know! Let’s do that, AND let’s reduce the only N/S interstate highway down to one lane, k? I hate you, Greenville.

1:10 PM: Maybe 64 ounces of Gatorade at once was a bad idea. (That means I had to pee. Just incase you had trouble reading the subtext)

2:53 PM: Texadelphia, TX. It’s a city that stradles the Texas, Arkansas border. Now, the best I can figure, some moron (probably from Arkansas) had heard of this place called Philadelphia. He’d also heard it was the “City of Brotherly Love” or something. So, being from Arkansas and probably hating it because of all the rice and Clintons, this bumpkin decided to name his town the “City of Texas-ly Love”. Except that he picked the wrong part of the damn word. So, Texadelphia actually means “City of Texas Brothers”. Don’t even get me started on Arkadelphia. Oh. And I ate lunch at Subway.

5:10 PM: North East of Little Rock, Arkansas. Gas. Gatorade. Talked to a fellow biker. He was on a white Suzuki Boulevard M109 with a tan ostrich-leather saddle. We talked shop. Which means we tell each other all the things we’re gonna do to customize our bikes. But we’ll never actually do them. On to Memphis?

6:00 PM: OMFG. I just rode into a sauna. It’s about 9 million degrees, and like infinity percent humidity. Stop at a rest stop (too many “stops”?) and hang out in the air-conditioned bathroom. Realize that’s probably a good way to unintentionally get in trouble. Take off my leather overpants (jeans underneath. Relax, ladies) and strap them to the back of the bike. Spend the next 20 minutes puring water over my head, drinking Gatorade/water, and eating melted trail mix. Ok. I’m sorry, but what buffoon of a product manager at Planters decided it’d be a swell idea to put pieces of chocolate (sans candy-coating) in the fucking trail mix? When I opened it, it looked like a package full of baby shit. If the baby had eaten rasins and cashews. Fortunately, it tasted lovely. At this rest stop, there was another long-haul biker taking a nap in a hammock he’d strung between two trees. I was jealous.

8:10 PM: Sweaty. Tired. Sweaty. Hungry. Sweaty. Checked in to the hotel. Grabbed my bags, helmet, leather pants (still wearing the jacket). Ding! Elevator to the third floor. Why is this hallway so damn long? Oh. I see. I’m in room 3-infinty. Hey-presto, thanks to graphing calculators & calculus, here I am. Gonna shower then get some food. Why doesn’t my key work? AHHHH!! Walk back down the god-fucking-damn long hallway to the elevator. Ding! Ground floor. Then some nice people let me cut in front of them. Maybe it was cuz I still had my 80 pounds of gear. Maybe it was cuz I was sweaty. And stinky. Whatever. Back to the elevators. Ding! Third floor. This time it take about 5 years to walk down the hallway. And my mother fucking key doesn’t fucking work agai…. oh. It was upside down. There we go.

8:30 PM: Shower scene.

9:00 PM: walk to get some dinner and pass not one, but two, count ’em, two Circle Ks. Scallops were excellent. Blue Moon was lovely. Almost got run over by a car when I was walking back to the hotel.

Circle K in Memphis, TN

Now: realize I’m so damn tired that I can’t… finish… this…

The Grayscales of Justice

I saw this from a friend on Facebook today:

Remember when teachers, public employees, Planned Parenthood, NPR and PBS crashed the stock market, wiped out half of our 401Ks, took trillions in TARP money, spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gave themselves billions in bonuses, and paid no taxes?
Yeah, me neither.

I understand the sentiment. And I agree. But I don’t like it. It furthers the us vs. them mentality that’s plaguing our culture. Creating and demonizing an “other” is good for trying to differentiate yourself in an election. Well, that and bumper stickers. But it’s terrible for actually trying to live your life. Because life isn’t us vs. them– there is only us. Most of the time.

Extremes make for good story arcs. But stories– with heroes and villains– are just how we try to make sense of the chaos of our existence after the fact. We look back at the series of events that got us here (wherever “here” is), and find patterns. We like patterns– they’re shortcuts. They require less cognitive effort than decoding, analyzing, categorizing, and acting on every stimulus life throws at us. So, it’s easier for us to look back at the fucked up things that happened over the course of this Great Recession and demonize the greedy bastards that caused it.

We’re the victims, after all, right? Yes. And no. Yes, because we truly were damaged when our nest eggs got scrambled. Yes because some people will never have as much as they did prior. No, because our insatiable appetite for More– more house, more car, more More— meant we consumed as much as we could at the cheapest price possible. Corporations– and the very intelligent imbeciles on executive teams and boards of directors– are no different than Pavlov’s Dogs: reward them for making cheap shit and they’ll make even More cheap shit. Reward them for subsidizing our consumption by reducing their costs however they can, and they’ll keep doing it. Then, of course, we lament when “our” jobs– manufacturing, sofware development, whatever– are outsourced to cheaper labor markets. We’re at fault because we were just as greedy as those Wall Street assholes. We’re at fault– all of us– because we forgot that More doesn’t equal better. It might be comforting to tell a binary story of good vs. evil– a story of us vs. them– in simple black & white terms.

But life isn’t black & white. It’s grayscale.

How To Be An Awesome Blogger In 3 Easy Steps

1. Break a complex subject into
2. Three arbitrary & meaningless steps
3. Title your post “How To [insert complex subject] In 3 Easy Steps”
4. Always include a fourth “bonus” step. E.g.: Profit! Eat a donut! or (my fave) Skip to Ma Lou My Darlin!

See? It’s simple. Like this stick man walking up some stairs.

stick man walking up stairs

I Got A Chrome OS CR-48

Google's CR-48 Chrome OS laptop. And it's MINE!

I got a Google CR-48 running Chrome OS, and you didn’t. But I’ll share. I have no idea how I was chosen to get one, but I did. And I’m in nerdvana.

You can sign up to be part of the Chrome OS Pilot Program until 11:59:59 PM PST on December 21, 2010. Do it. Then you can be as cool as me… which could be damning by faint praise. Anyway, let’s get to it.

The Hardware

First, nobody will ever be able to buy a CR-48–it’s a test unit– so an in-depth hardware review is stupid. Instead, here are the highlights and lowlights of this particular piece of gear.

Overview: nothing truly revolutionary. Biggest news is that caps lock is gone (to improve comments on 4Chan) and the function keys are replaced with: browser forward & back, refresh, full screen, “Overview” (we’ll get to that in a sec), brightness, volume, and power. I always thought the function keys were dumb anyway, so yay Google! Overclockers.com has some nice CR-48 unboxing stuff if you want the gory details and more pretty pics.

The Good:

  • Rubberized finish on the case feels nice and looks like a stealth bomber. I bet this thing doesn’t show up on radar.
  • Keyboard feels very much like modern Apple keyboards– even sounds the same. I like it.
  • Webcam & mic are good enough.

The Bad:

  • Rubberized finish on the case attracts more fingerprints than a mirror in a kindergarten class. I feel like a greasy, slobbering cretin.
  • Anemic processor makes the experience feel super sluggish if there’s more than, say, 4 images– or, heaven forbid– Flash video embedded on a page. I’ll post some video later. This needs to be a non-issue by the time finished Chrome notebooks start shipping in 2011. Otherwise I predict epic fail.

Choppy Flash Video on CR-48 from seth gray on Vimeo.

The Ugly:

  • The trackpad is painfully bad. Actually, it’s fucking terrible. It feels unpredictable. Maybe I’m being unfair because my reference point is my stellar MacBook Pro trackpad, which is glorious. Also, I don’t know if it’s the software or the hardware because I’m only a level 14 Geek. If it’s the software, Google’s got some ‘splainin to do. But this is a test device. And it was free. So I’m not complaining. Much.

The Software

Imagine all you had on your computer was a web browser– no Finder/Explorer. Got it? Yep, that’s Chrome OS. It’s different, and requires a different mindset. To add photos to this post, I pulled them from Instagr.am and Picasa. Now, you can store things on the machine, but it’s hard to navigate, and it actually just feels wrong– like the screenshots should automatically sync to Picasa, or Flickr, or something.

While Microsoft and Apple are busy making their operating systems more powerful, more flashy, more… well, just more, Google has taken the OS and made it effectively invisible. This makes you focus on the apps and what you want to do, rather than on how cool Aero Peek is in Win 7, or seeing how many widgets you can fit on your Snow Leopard dashboard. Chrome OS is to operating systems what Google.com is to websites: minimalist, extremely easy to use, and gets you where/what you want crazy fast.

Here’s the good, bad, and ugly

The Good:

  • Speed: even on this anemic Intel Atom processor, this sucker wakes from sleep before I can put my hands on the keyboard. Connecting to the interwebz takes another 10 seconds or so, depending on if your using WiFi or the included 3G from Verizon.
  • Always connected: WiFi or 3G. Love it. Wish every device (*cough* Apple *cough*) came with 3G. Or 4G. That’d be cool too. Word of caution on the 3G, though: In the nearly 24 hours I’ve had this CR-48, I’ve already burned through 30MB of the free monthly 100MB just with normal web browsing. Gonna keep it on WiFi whenever possible, obviously.
  • New windows (versus just a new tab) open with an OS X Spaces-like slide to the right onto a new screen. Video below. This is a great little feature. Work stuff in one “space” and music, etc in another. And you can hit the “Next Tab”  button to move between your spaces/windows. Not sure why it’s the “Next Tab” button, since it goes to the next window/space/whatever. I’m going to call them spaces.

Chrome OS “New Window” from seth gray on Vimeo.

.
The Bad:

  • App management. I installed a bunch of apps from the Chrome Web Store (anyone using the Chrome browser can install apps. Don’t have to be running Chrome OS). Right now, there’s no way to organize them. The sit in a grid in the order you installed them. I’d like to see something like iOS app/folder management. Look it up.
  • Clunky transfer of files from external devices. I had to use Vimeo to upload the to videos above because both Facebook & YouTube opened to the Downloads directory on this machine. There’s no way to navigate to a higher folder via the current dialog boxes. Vimeo opens right to the root directory, and Flip MinoHD shows up to the left. I tried getting a screencap but it didn’t work.
  • WiFi security settings: currently can’t connect to any network that uses anything other than WEP, WPA, or RSN for security. No 802.1X authentication. Which means anyone who got a CR-48 and wants to take it into an enterprise environment that requires 802.1X authentication is out of luck. Unless they share the Ethernet connection via WiFi as an ad-hoc network from another machine. That would work.

The Ugly

  • Honestly, there’s nothing about the software that bugs me as much as the trackpad problems. So, I guess I’ve got no “ugly” right now.

After a while, I didn’t really notice that I wasn’t in a traditional layered-window-based GUI. And that’s probably a good sign for Google. I’ll post more about my experiences in the coming weeks.

Chrome OS Pilot Program Nerdery

Yesterday I applied for the Chrome OS Pilot Program, so pardon me while I nerd out for a sec. The deal is, Google has somewhere between 1 and infinity custom-built Chrome OS laptops. They’re calling them CR-48 (chromium, the element, has lots of isotopes. The Chrome devs chose the 48th isotope to be the namesake of this initial test. Crazy nerds.). Anyway, here’s the link to apply: http://services.google.com/fb/forms/cr48basic. See where it says “cr48basic” over there? I wonder if there’s a “cr48Awesome” or “cr48I’maBlowYourMind” pilot program. Probably not. I tried putting those in the URL instead of cr48basic, and got a 404 every time. Dang. But the CR-48 “basic” looks pretty awesome and will probably blow your mind anyway.

So, um, Google? Can I have one, please?

How To Save Newspapers

Godfrey's Pelican Scroll
"Godfrey's Pelican Scroll" by Jeff / Godfrey

I recently read a blog post “Newspapers And Thinking The Unthinkable” from Clay Shirky. Not sure I’m adding anything new, but here’s how I digested his thoughts.

How do we save newspapers?! We don’t.

Ok… how do we save Journalism?! We don’t.

Did we save scribes after the printing press was invented? Nope.

Now that I’ve thoroughly pissed off all you journalist-types…

The way I see it, the rise of the publishing industry was based on three premises:

  1. People want information: news, entertainment, education.
  2. It takes a lot of time/money/effort to get information to people: printing presses are expensive. So are foreign correspondents. And sports writers.
  3. Economies of scale, FTW!

Premise one is still valid. Premise two? Nope. Premise three? Still valid, but who cares? Premise two is a big ol’ number two. Creating and distributing information is so easy, my 4 year old son can do it by accident.

No. Seriously. I set up an old laptop and put shortcuts on the desktop for Chrome, Paint, and Notepad. In Chrome, I added PBS Kids and Starfall to the fancy little visual bookmarks/new tab page. Yes, he has to ask to use the computer, and yes we limit the time. And yes! we monitor him, which is why I have this enthralling anecdote. The little dude is big on writing his name– usually with Notepad, sometimes with Paint… sometimes with real paint. On the wall. Anyway. One time, like any good, curious, experimenting kid, he opened Chrome and typed his name instead of clicking one of the visual bookmarks. He hit enter to start a new line, only it didn’t start a new line, obviously. It searched the interwebz for his name. 14,000,000 results. Don’t worry, nothing bad came up on the first page. But that’s a lot of content, and he found it by accident.

So, if we don’t pay professionals to report the news, there will be an unprecedented amount of terrible, worthless, idiotic reporting (and movies, music, and books) brought to us by amateurs! Yep. Just like sacred texts were no longer painstakingly (and beautifully!!) copied by hand after the printing press made it easier to translate things into common languages so that (gasp!) amateurs could interact with the text. That was a long sentence. Sorry. I’m an amateur. Anyway, society adapted. Think about what happened in the two centuries after the printing press was invented: first, the Reformation destroyed the Catholic Church’s monopoly on information. That paved the way for the Enlightenment. Which paved the way for shopping malls, SUVs and Time Magazine

But who pays the people that pay the professionals that report the news? Subscribers and Advertisers. Well, not so much anymore. Google and Craigslist already stole the advertising cash cow. So what about subscriptions? Not gonna work. At least, not like before. See, we amateurs used to put our limited resources in after the fact: we paid to subscribe. Now, we’re putting our limited resources in right up front: we’re creating the content. We’re subsidizing on the front end.

With platforms like Twitter, YouTube, and Google, the problem isn’t how to create and distribute information to the world (or the one person who reads your blog… hi mom). I can follow someone in/search for information in Columbus if I want to stay up to date. The problem is how to filter it all… but that’s a thought for another day.

Oh. One more thing/geek/parent tip: I’ve turned PBS Kids and Starfall into “Application Shortcuts” in Chrome now, so no more address/search bar fun for the offspring.