Apple TV, Google Reader, Markdown, TextWrangler, Hominids, Crackdown, Kadin, Gray Wolf, Podcasts

by Mike Shea on 4 March 2007

I've been up to a bunch of different things over the past couple of weeks. After two weeks, I'm still in love with my Macbook. It's the way computers should be. I spend a lot of my time working on my data collection, archiving it, backing it up, and moving it from machine to machine. Right now I use Rsync to back up my data every night to a 160gb firewire drive. Monthly I'll back up to a portable drive and swap it with one in my safety deposit box.

I'm very likely to buy an Apple TV when it first comes out. I clearly have fallen into the depths of Apple fanboyism, but it has a few features I like including:

Unfortunately, the Apple TV may not be the clear winner in the digital war for the living room. If Apple clearly wants to make it a killer digital appliance, it needs the following features:

We'll have to see how it turns out when it is released later this year.

I'm using TextWrangler as a text editor these days. It's made by the guys who do BBEdit and it has a lot of nice features like opening and saving files to an FTP site and built-in scripting. Everyone else seems to like TextMate but it doesn't have FTP support built in so forget that. TextWrangler is also free.

Following some posts by Merlin Mann, I tried out the concept of "Markdown" a system for formatting text and processing it into HTML. Asterisks become bullets, paragraphs get properly formatted, pound signs become heading markers, its all very straight forward and I was able to incorporate it this morning into my home brewed blog software. The Markdown perl script can be incorporated into TextWrangler for a two-click conversion of Markdown into HTML.

I've tried a whole bunch of different news readers over the years and this weekend I switched to Google Reader. If surfing the web can compare to casual pot smoking than Google Reader fed by 28 feeds is the internet equivalent of mainlining heroine. It is a pure stream of news that pours in constantly from all over the place. I like the interface but I'm guessing that if I get two days out of date, than its worthless to me. We'll see if it sticks. As always, my newsfeed list is always available.

I'm reading Robert Sawyer's Hominids. It's a good book, a hugo winner, that does an excellent job of building a believable alternate world. The technology and politics are pretty interesting but the courtroom drama is a bit too thick for me. Not a bad book, though. Last month I read Hyperion by Dan Simmons. It's another good Hugo winner but the end leaves a lot to be desired. I'm still waiting to dig into Feast of Crows, probably this summer.

Today I traded in Call of Duty 3 and three other games to pick up Crackdown for the Xbox 360. It initially reminded me of Grand Theft Auto but then suddenly, when I saw burning bodies cartwheeling across the sky, I remembered a lost love in the arcade game Narc. I must have spent two hundred bucks in quarters playing Narc. I even found a way to get basically unlimited points for a quarter per million. I had the highest score ever seen on that machine.

Crackdown has a great mix of action, game play, some pretty lame driving physics, but an excellent leveling system that boosts your strength, agility, driving skill, and firearm skill as you play. Your character gets physically bigger and you can even jump from building to building. It's fun cyberpunk stuff but I think the game is very short so I plan to spread it out.

Call of Duty 3 could have been a great game but forcing the player to watch the cinema every time you start a board or every time you die on that board is madness. They should have learned from Final Fantasy VII never to force the player to sit through cinemas they don't want to watch. For shame.

I finished hand-writing a new short story this weekend called Kadin and the Noble's Daughter. Kadin is a new character, the Desert Rat, who survives in the southern deserts of Faigon dancing between the political struggles of the god-kings of the city-states, the slave armies of Dan Trex, the little king of the south, and the ghosts that live beneath the sands. This one was a vampire story and it was a little bit of fun. I'll have to flesh out Kadin some, but I think he'll likely be a reoccurring character.

I plan to start typing up The Gray Wolf, my first story starring Jon, an old assassin of the Eye. This story is probably the end of his story and I wrote more of his beginning in a later story called Jon and Celenda - my homage to Notorious, my favorite Hitchcock film. I wrote Gray Wolf after watching A History of Violence and Unforgiven, so it pulls a lot from those two stories. Ideally I'd like to push out a new short story collection this year. We'll have to see.

I'm listening to a few new podcasts that I really love. This Week In Tech, MacBreak Weekly, and Security Now have all found their way onto my iPod Nano. They make my short commute fly right by. Steve Gibson on Security Now talked about the Google hard drive study that brought up some interesting points:

Go read the article to get all the real skinny, my facts might be off.

So thats what I'm up to these days.