There Is No Cat

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Foreign Exchange

Oh, now this is cool. Apple has started a new feature on iTunes called Foreign Exchange, where they get a band that sings in English and one that sings in another language to translate one of each other's songs into their native tongue and cover it. Wir sind Helden, one of my favorite German bands, is one of the two bands chosen for the first release. Some band called +44 (ex-Blink 182 near as I can tell; not a fan of theirs, but no matter) covers "Guten Tag", and Wir sind Helden covers +44's song "When Your Heart Stops Beating" as "Wenn dein Herz zu schlagen aufhört". I can't seem to find a page on Apple's web site or within the iTunes Music Store that explains the program or that you can keep an eye on to see where this goes next, but it's a neat concept, one worth searching periodically to see what they've done.

I stumbled across this when I visited Wir sind Helden's site (which they have in German, French, and English) and discovered that they have a new album out, their third. You can see a couple of videos from the new album on Wir sind Helden's MySpace page. I particularly like the one for "Endlich ein Grund zur Panik", a takeoff on old Japanese monster movies. The video for the album's title track, "Soundso", is an exquisite corpse thing, which is a nice idea but maybe doesn't work quite so well. Near as I can tell with my next-to-nonexistent German, there seem to be a couple of fan-created videos from a contest they held on the page as well.

The new album looks to have come out in late May, but my usual sources for German CDs don't seem to have it. The U.S. iTunes Music Store, however, does have it, and even DRM free if you want. And there seem to be a number of U.S. stores carrying it, including Amazon and CD Universe, but for exhorbitant prices. Now I just need to decide if I'm willing to do without that shiny piece of plastic....

Posted at 10:21 PM
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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Field Trip

We stopped at an Apple store this afternoon; we needed a new power adapter for our three year old iBook G4 since the old adapter is fraying at the point where it enters the computer, making power somewhat intermittent. Oh, and we heard there was something interesting going on at the stores, too.

So I've played with an iPhone for about ten minutes. Didn't buy one, so I can't provide a detailed review, but hell, fourteen million bloggers out there are reviewing the thing, so you don't need my input. Overall, I was impressed with it. The interface is really beautiful, and quite usable. I even found typing with the faux-keyboard worked surprisingly well. Laura, on the other hand, had some difficulty. So I think this is something that's going to vary by person. Overall, very cool.

But I have two random observations about mis-features in the iPhone that I haven't seen anyone else offer. First: people talk about how small the iPhone is, and when you compare it to my Palm Tungsten C, our Siemens SX-66 Windows Mobile smartphone, or our iPod Videos, yeah, it's pretty small. It's definitely way thinner than any of the above, and slightly less wide, but seems longer than any of them. But compared to the free LG dumbphone in my pocket, it seems huge. My first cell phone was a Motorola something or other, a candybar phone (one piece, no folding). It felt big, although it was smaller than the iPhone. It didn't feel comfortable in my back pocket. I never took it anywhere; I generally left it in the glove box in my car. My current phone, the above mentioned LG freebie, is a clamshell phone (it folds). It's definitely thicker than the iPhone, but it's way smaller in the other two dimensions. It feels fine in my pocket, and as a result, when I leave the house, I take it with me in my back pocket. I don't see Apple producing a clamshell iPhone any time in the near future; it just wouldn't work with the kind of interface they've developed. Candybar phones don't work for me on a day-to-day basis. The Palm (which isn't a phone, just a PDA) and the SX-66 are handy when I'm going on a trip and don't want to bring a laptop, but I generally don't carry them with me otherwise. The iPhone looks like it's much better at the sort of things I use the Palm and SX-66 for, but because it would also be my phone as well as my PDA, I would have to take it with me, and I don't see that happening. So it's unlikely that there's an iPhone in my future.

Second random observation: Safari on the iPhone doesn't respect handheld stylesheets. I've implemented CSS stylesheets here on There Is No Cat that rejigger the interface for use on mobile devices. Most mobile devices get one column instead of three, for example. Not the iPhone. It renders a tiny inscrutable version of what you see in a desktop browser, and then you do the pinching thing to zoom in (and I'm not complaining about the pinching; it seemed very natural to me, worked very well). I understand why they did this, wanting to give iPhone users a web experience as close to what they're used to on the desktop as possible. I just think it was the wrong choice.

I'm sure Apple's going to sell a billion of these things (and AT&T will sell a few dozen as well, if what I've been reading about the sales experience there is true). Probably not to me, though.

Posted at 12:15 AM
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What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio

There used to be a cat

[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

Sylvester (the Dorito Fiend), who died at Thanksgiving, 2000.


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