My blog entries lately have been sub-par. Okay, just flat out poor. I’m aware. I’ve had technical issues with my computer, wireless internet, my hosting service, moving to a new server, and other things. I promise I’ll be back to my normal posting habits tomorrow.
I’ve also been working non-stop on getting my web business up and running. It’s finally getting where it needs to be visually and content-wise. I’ll write a big post about that soon. I have so much on my mind I wanna write about, in fact, that my head might explode. I’d say I have a mental list of topics that will get me through at least the next three weeks.
Hang in there. I’ll see you tomorrow for some much more in-depth and interesting content. I promise.
I’m still having major issues with my websites. They’re all down but my blog (this was down, too but I figured out how to fix it last night), but there are still some issues on it. I’m not going to make any major posts until I figure out what’s going on. Please bear with me while I try to resolve the problem!
Just wanted to put out a note ahead of time that I’m in the process of upgrading my hosting account (moving to a bigger server) because I’m getting serious about my web business, Short Pump Media Ventures. I’m moving all seven of my websites (domain names, files, et cetera) to one massive server. I’ve made backups of everything on every site, so while there’s no chance of data loss, there’s a pretty good chance all of my sites, including my blog, will be either seriously disabled or completely down for a day or two. Everything should be peachy by Monday (I hope). Self-hosting is a tricky thing. The server seems to have a mind of its own. It’s a lot more customizable to host websites yourself, but at the same time it’s a lot more work. See you soon (hopefully)!
The song’s called Chocolate Rain. It’s by this guy named Tay Zonday. He sounds like James Earl Jones. I really don’t have words. There’s some strange stuff on the interweb, but props for creativity, Tay. Check it out below.
Fifteen years ago, in 1993, a strong F4 (winds of up to 260 MPH) tornado touched down in Colonial Heights, destroying the Wal-Mart store and killing three people, before tearing through Petersburg’s historic district. Well today, history seems to have repeated itself. A moderate tornado touched down in the exact same shopping center (Dimmock Square, near Southpark Mall). Is that eerie or what? I was only five years old the first time it happened, but (strangely) vaguely remember seeing it on TV. The Dress Barn and Target stores suffered blown out windows and minor roof damage, but for the most part there was no extreme structural damage.
It was a different story in Suffolk this evening. The same line of storms marched eastward (and strengthened considerably as they did so) and proceeded to completely flatten a portion Suffolk’s historic district, then went through a golf course community and completely wiped large, substantial homes clean off their foundations to the point where all that was left was a concrete slab beneath. This part was especially eerie to me because the neighborhood looked very similar to mine (Wyndham) from the aerial shot.
Suffolk is completely devastated. It looks like an atomic bomb went off the way the homes literally exploded with the extreme winds. At the time I’m writing this, there has only been one person confirmed dead, but unfortunately, it would be miraculous if the death toll didn’t rise, by the looks of the flattened neighborhoods. Hopefully it won’t, though. Virginia is no stranger to tornadoes, but usually experiences much weaker ones than this. This was extremely rare. Keep your thoughts and prayers with the Hampton Roads community during the aftermath of this immense, widespread natural disaster.
I find all of this very interesting since most of you know how much I like weather and storms. I flipped through the local news channels and hooked up my Comcast digital box to my Mac to record everything as it happened. Here are some screenshots from the live broadcasts I recorded from NBC 12 (WWBT), 8 NEWS (WRIC), CBS 6 (WTVR), and WAVY 10 (WAVY) (NBC affiliate in Norfolk, via live streaming on-air web simulcast).
1993 archive video footage of the destruction of the Southpark Wal-Mart (WRIC)
Meteorologist Jim Duncan advises citizens to take shelter during a tornado warning (WWBT)
Aerial image of Dimmock Square Shopping Center (perimeter highlighted in yellow) and the adjacent Wal-Mart store (now a Sam’s Club) that were both hit by tornadoes that followed the exact same paths in 1993 and 2008 (Blackwood Development Corporation)
Cars were tossed like toys in the Dimmock Square Shopping Center parking lot, in front of Target (WWBT)
A house suffers extreme damage in Suffolk (WTVR)
A Suffolk antiques shop is cut in half with almost no visible damage from the front or rear façades, but obviously the historic building is a complete loss (WAVY)
The owner of a car dealership snaps a picture through the front windows of his business as a huge tornado barrels through Suffolk (WAVY)
So the release of Facebook Chat is all the buzz this morning, at least from what I can judge by the status updates of my friends. Apparently no one saw it coming. I’ve known about it for a couple of weeks, but didn’t think it would be released for a while.
This is bad news for people like me who are already borderline addicted to Facebook. It’s just like putting a six pack in front of an alcoholic. The temptation is just too great. The interesting thing to note, though, is that Facebook sees this as an AIM-killer. They think that by integrating a chat system into their already intricate social network, users will see it as a one-stop shop for social networking and instant messaging, putting AOL Instant Messenger on the back burner. I don’t know about that.
Personally, I’ve had an AIM screen name for almost ten years. Most people I know have had theirs for years and years, too. I don’t think you’re going to see an abandonment of any grand scale anytime soon, if ever. It’s not so much that people are loyal to products like AIM, it’s their familiarity factor and the average computer user’s resistance to dramatic change in the technology realm that will ultimately save AIM’s bottom line.
Then again, I don’t use the AIM client itself, but rather a Mac program called Adium. I’ve always been surprised that AIM allows other programs to use its network, because by doing so there’s no banner ad or anything like there is on the actual AIM program and consequently no money in the pockets of AOL. But of course I applaud them for having such an open source platform of sorts.
At any rate, it’s a nice new feature, but Facebook’s claim that it’ll take over AIM is about as threatening as Microsoft’s claim two years ago that the Zune would be an iPod killer. And we all know how that one turned out. I’m still laughing at you two years later, Bill Gates.
I heard about a relatively new web browser today designed for today’s increasingly interactive interweb (screenshot from my computer above). The advent of Web 2.0 has brought a new meaning to the web. There’s an increasing amount of interconnectivity between different Web 2.0-based social networking sites like Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, and Twitter. This browser, Flock, connects them all together into one easy-to-use browser. Once you set up your accounts, there are tabs in a sidebar that allow you to simultaneously access each of the aforementioned social networking sites.
Friends’ updates appear instantly, and you can click “media” next to their status updates to see their photos in the media bar (the dark area with photos at the top of the browser in the screenshot). There’s even one-click access to create a new blog post in your blog once you set it up. I tried using that for my blog, and although it worked, it lacked the functionality I need to add formatting and other elements such as pictures to my posts. Their blog editor is very basic.
I use Safari currently, but thought I’d give Flock a try. I’m impressed by the interconnectivity and this is a great idea for people such as myself who are [way too] connected to Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube and find themselves multitasking multiple social networking sites at once. I’m not sure if I’ll keep using it or just stick with Safari, mainly because I already have Safari set up just how I like it, but we’ll see. It’s a very cool concept and has Firefox-like theme and extension features. It’s available for download on Mac, Windows, and Linux. Give it a try, eh?
Apparently, Apple may be considering a service that allows unlimited iTunes Store downloads for a year in exchange for a higher initial purchase price on future iPods and iPhones. It has been dubbed “Comes With Music.” However, this means that Apple would go against its long-standing view that music should not be purchased permanently and not merely rented as many other music services do. I don’t know quite where I stand with this yet. It’s an interesting concept. Here’s the article, via AppleInsider.
A longtime opponent of subscription music services, Apple is reportedly exploring the possibility of charging extra for iPhones and iPods in exchange for unlimited iTunes Store access. Allegedly tipped off by senior officials close to the matter, the Financial Times suggests that Apple is in talks with music labels to follow an approach first pioneered by Nokia and Universal Music Group.
Dubbed Comes With Music, the upcoming service has customers pay more for a cellphone in return for as many a la carte music downloads as the customer likes over the course of a year. In this implementation, customers can either renew a subscription once it expires or else keep the tracks they’ve downloaded, even if they switch to competing phones or music services. This would eliminate common reservations about subscription services whose copy protection automatically invalidates downloaded tracks as soon as the subscription ends. Apple chief Steve Jobs famously attacked this latter concept as “renting music” upon introducing the iTunes Music Store in 2003.
Apple is said to be entertaining the notion of a similar plan to spur sales for iPhones and iPods. However, the electronics giant is claimed by a pair of executives to have hit a roadblock through its early insistence on low prices. While Nokia already plans to charge $80 for its year-long music giveaway, its newest opponent in the cellphone market is only willing to offer $20 at present — a gap that may result in no deal at all if no labels agree to the strategy. “It’s who blinks first,” says one of the claimed sources, “and whether or not anyone does blink.”
Apple may nonetheless be willing to budge. Studies purportedly conducted about the subject have shown that many would be willing to spend $100 for unlimited access throughout the device’s entire useful lifespan. Whether these studies were conducted by Apple or music industry analysts is unknown. More surprising still are assertions that Apple is willing to consider a conventional subscription model with a monthly fee, though the details of any proposals are unclear. The Times claims that such a service would require an iPhone due to the monthly billing structure and that most industry discussions revolve around unlimited access to songs with permanent downloads for 40-50 of those songs. The same research conducted for a Comes With Music-style premium also suggests that customers would be willing to pay between $7 and $8 per month for a subscription. Apple has declined comment on the report.
This is awesome news in so many ways. AT&T plans to start implementing wi-fi networks at more than 7,000 company-run Starbucks locations nationwide (that’s pretty much all of them except in certain locations, such as Barnes & Noble, for example). The best part? It’s going to be free! If you have a Starbucks card, you will be allowed two hours of free, unrestricted access per day to the network. For anything beyond that, there’s a very nominal fee. If you’re an AT&T Broadband customer, you’ll have unlimited free access. The networks will be installed in the Spring in many markets, and all locations should have networks by the end of the year.
This is somewhat of a different topic, but it has been reported that AT&T has snapped up part of the 700 MHz wireless spectrum put on the auction block by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and plans to offer nationwide long-range wi-fi that will most likely be free for iPhone users (personal note: this would be incredible) and only ten to twenty dollars per month for iPod Touch users and computer users who do not have any kind of AT&T service plan. This makes complete sense and leads me and many other people to believe that we will never see the 3G-equipped iPhone that has long been rumored to come out this year. The chips used in 3G phones use too much power to be useful in a device such as the iPhone. Plus, this way there will be no update to the iPhone necessary and last year’s purchases, myself included, won’t be left out in the cold with an incompatible device. The profits for both AT&T and Apple would be enormous if iPod Touch owners embraced the service, and really, why wouldn’t they? The device becomes twice as useful in more places with constant connectivity to a wi-fi network, as opposed to just at home.
I’m really excited about the prospect of these plans being implemented!
Here are the links to articles on both planned AT&T services:
WARNING: Spoiler Review! If you haven’t seen this movie and plan on it, you’ve been warned.
I went to Charlottesville for the night last night and ended up going to see Untraceable at the Downtown Mall movie theater after dinner. I went in expecting to see a thriller, but I got more than I bargained for.
Diane Lane stars as FBI Special Agent Jennifer Marsh, who works in a field office dealing with internet crimes. A tipster alerts the unit that someone has posted a website that streams live video showing innocent people getting tortured to death. The more people log onto the website, the faster the victim dies.
The first victim is a kitten stuck to a sticky mouse trap. The killer then moves on to people he’s kidnapped. The first person is drained of his blood, the second is burned to death with heat lamps, and the third is bathed in battery acid. Each time, the victim dies more quickly than the last because the number of people on the site keeps growing, just out of the public’s sheer curiosity. Marsh is the fourth and final kidnapped individual, and is hung upside down over a garden tiller and lowered more rapidly as viewership increases. Just before she is lowered to her death, she starts swinging herself back and fourth enough to grab onto a rafter and free herself. She proceeds to shoot her captor, and the FBI, recognizing her house on the streaming web video, comes to her rescue, only to find she’s already killed him.
We later learn that the unnamed killer started the site because the local news station aired his father’s suicide, caught on a traffic copter over a major bridge, repeatedly and he wanted revenge. All of the victims are tied to either the news station or FBI.
Overall, the movie was very well done. It somewhat portrays the FBI as lazy people who sit around and stare at computers all day, but for the most part, it was an excellent portrayal of a terrible situation that could very much be reality with all the internet technologies we have today. I found the storyline to be compelling and action-driven, with no dull points or erroneous material. If you’re looking for a fist-clincher that keeps you right on the edge of your seat, and can deal with a few scenes of intense gore and blood, check out Untraceable.