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kottke.org posts about iPod

Charging an iPod with an onion and Gatorade

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 25, 2008

How to charge your iPod using just an onion and some Gatorade. Oh yeah? When we were kids, we ran digital clocks off of potatoes and loved it! Fear the power of the tuber!

Update: It’s a myth, busted by Mythbusters no less. Like I said, tubers rule. (thx, everyone)

We Work Remotely

Michael Phelps’ iPod

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 15, 2008

Before each race during the Olympics, Michael Phelps is seen sporting those ubiquitous white iPod earbuds. But what’s he listening to? A lot of rap and hip hop.

Two bits (bites? har har) of Apple

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 17, 2007

Two bits (bites? har har) of Apple news:

1. Steve Jobs has announced that an SDK will be available for the iPhone and iPod touch in February. No more hacking your phone to put applications on it.

2. You can now preorder OS X 10.5 (Leopard) at Amazon for $109…that’s $20 off the retail price. The offer comes with a pre-order price guarantee; if the price drops before it ships, you get it for the lower price.

My friend David Galbraith just launched a

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 05, 2007

My friend David Galbraith just launched a gadget site called Oobject. The gadgets are organized into hierarchically ordered collections and you can vote on the position of a particular gadget within the collection. Two of my favorite collections are the iPod knock-offs and revolting gold gadgets (it’s interesting that gold makes technology look vulgar and therefore cheap).

Oh, and David’s Smashing Telly is still cranking along nicely. I wish I had time to watch all the shows featured recently.

Apple is holding a special event today

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 05, 2007

Apple is holding a special event today at 10am PT to announce a new product. Or something. No one knows exactly what but it seems to have something to do with music. Popular guesses include a 3G iPhone, a different iPod nano, a touchscreen iPod, and the availability of the Beatles entire musical catalog on iTunes. MacWorld, Engadget, MacObserver, and ArsTechnica (among others) will have live coverage.

Update: Jobs announced 99-cent ringtones, new colors for iPod shuffle, new form factor for iPod nano (fat vs. thin), renamed the iPod to iPod classic, introduced new iPod touch (basically the iPhone without the phone), new mobile iTunes Music Store that will work on iPod touch and the iPhone, odd partnership with Starbucks…click to buy currently playing songs in the store and free wifi for iTMS purchases (how about free wifi, period?), and the 8GB iPhone now costs $399. !!!!! I guess Apple’s plan on that was 1) gouge all the early adopters, and then 2) reduce the price to sell iPhones like crazy.

Long profile of Steve Jobs on the

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 18, 2007

Long profile of Steve Jobs on the eve of his fourth act written by John Heilemann, who is one of my favorite technology/culture writers. I’m dying to find out what past Jobs-championed Apple product the iPhone will most resemble: the Lisa or the iPod?

The Fat Duck, one of molecular gastronomy’s

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 24, 2007

The Fat Duck, one of molecular gastronomy’s main outposts, recently offered a course complete with its own soundtrack served up on iPods shuffle. “Heston Blumenthal, the chef, said he wanted to experiment with using sound to enhance a dining experience. Hence the iPod, playing the soothing sound of the sea breeze and waves gently caressing the seashore.”

Tourism, iPod-created personal environments, and the death

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 09, 2007

Tourism, iPod-created personal environments, and the death of peripheral vision. “I was brought up to be constantly aware of others around me, to keep a sharp eye out to see if I was blocking someone’s way, holding someone up.”

OhMiBod is the ultimate iPod accessory: a

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 31, 2007

OhMiBod is the ultimate iPod accessory: a vibrator that hooks up to the iPod and buzzes in time with the music. “I will never listen to music the same way again.” Don’t miss the playlists compiled specifically for OhMiBod use. NSFW. (thx, tania)

David Pogue’s iPhone FAQ, part 2. Part 1 is here.

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 14, 2007

David Pogue’s iPhone FAQ, part 2. Part 1 is here.

Regarding some of the points in my

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 12, 2007

Regarding some of the points in my iPhone round-up from yesterday, David Pogue has some answers to those questions and a whole lot more in his iPhone FAQ. “Is it ambidextrous? -No.” What does that even mean? As a lefty, am I out of luck? (via df)

iPhone round-up

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 11, 2007

By now you’ve all heard about the iPhone and read 60 billion things about it, so I’ll get straight to it. I’ve been tracking some of the best points from around the web and jotted down some thoughts of my own.

Caveat: Evaluating an interface, software or hardware, is difficult to do unless you have used it. An interface for something like a mobile phone is something you use on the time-scale of weeks and months, not minutes or hours. There are certain issues you can flag as potential problems, challenges, or triumphs after viewing demos, descriptions of functions, and the like, but until you’re holding the thing in your hand and living with it day-to-day, you really can’t say “this is going to work this way” or “I don’t like the way that functions” with anything approaching absolute confidence. With that said:

And that’s enough, I think.

The future of movies

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 10, 2007

David Denby had a great piece in the New Yorker last week about the present and future of movies. I was surprised to learn that Hollywood hates the movie theater-going experience as much or more than the rest of us:

Consider the mall or the urban multiplex. The steady rain of contempt that I heard Hollywood executives direct at the theatres has been amplified, a dozen times over, by friends and strangers alike. The concession stands were wrathfully noted, with their “small” Cokes in which you could drown a rabbit, their candy bars the size of cow patties; add to that the pre-movie purgatory padded out to thirty minutes with ads, coming attractions, public-service announcements, theatre-chain logos, enticements for kitty-kat clubs and Ukrainian bakeries-anything to delay the movie and send you back to the concession stand, where the theatres make forty per cent of their profits. If you go to a thriller, you may sit through coming attractions for five or six action movies, with bodies bursting out of windows and flaming cars flipping through the air-a long stretch of convulsive imagery from what seems like a single terrible movie that you’ve seen before. At poorly run multiplexes, projector bulbs go dim, the prints develop scratches or turn yellow, the soles of your shoes stick to the floor, people jabber on cell phones, and rumbles and blasts bleed through the walls.

If we want to see something badly enough, we go, of course, and once everyone settles down we can still enjoy ourselves. But we go amid murmurs of discontent, and the discontent will only get louder as the theatre complexes age. Many of them were randomly and cheaply built in response to what George Lucas conclusively demonstrated with “Star Wars,” in 1977: that a pop movie heavily advertised on national television could open simultaneously in theatres across the country and attract enormous opening-weekend audiences. As these theatres age, the gold leaf doesn’t slowly peel off fluted columns. They rot, like disused industrial spaces. They have become the detritus of what seems, on a bad day, like a dying culture.

Denby also considers what happens to movies when the primary target audience (12-30 year-olds make up 50% of the movie-going population) may prefer to watch movies on DVD, their computers, or on iPods.

No exhibition method is innocent of aesthetic qualities. Platform agnosticism may flourish among kids, but platform neutrality doesn’t exist. Fifty years ago, the length of a pop single was influenced by what would fit on a forty-five-r.p.m. seven-inch disk. The length and the episodic structure of the Victorian novel — Dickens’s novels, especially — were at least partly created by writers and editors working on deadline for monthly periodicals. Television, for a variety of commercial and spatial reasons, developed the single-set or two-set sitcom. Format always affects form, and the exhibition space changes what’s exhibited.

As a fan of watching movies on the big screen of a theater, I hope that sort of movie making doesn’t go away anytime soon.

Comparison of the iPhone with other smart

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 09, 2007

Comparison of the iPhone with other smart phones…a nice companion piece to the comparison of my cardboard iPhone to various iPods, mobile phones, etc. So far, the market thinks that Apple’s got something good on their hands: Apple stock was up $7.10 today while RIMM (makers of Blackberry) dropped $11.16.

The Apple iPhone

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 09, 2007

Apple’s new iPhone looks like a thing of beauty. Widescreen touch interface, no buttons, runs OS X, useful widgets, integrated email, Google Maps, Google/Yahoo search, visual voicemail (see who voicemail is from before you call), SMS, Wifi, etc. etc. Oh, and it plays music.

A lot of people are wondering just how big this thing is. Using the technical specs from apple.com, I grabbed some cardboard, scissors, and glue and made a scale model of the iPhone. Here it is:

cardboard iPhone

My hands aren’t that big (I can barely palm a basketball on a good day), but it still seems to fit pretty well. How does it stack up against similar devices?

Here’s the iPhone vs. my current mobile phone, the Nokia 7610:

iPhone vs. Nokia 7610

iPhone vs. a 5G iPod:

iPhone vs. 5G iPod

Thickness of the cardboard iPhone vs. the 5G iPod:

iPhone vs. 5G Ipod thickness

1G iPod shuffle, 3G iPod, 5G iPod and the iPhone:

1G iPod shuffle, 3G iPod, 5G iPod and the iPhone

iPhone vs. a TiVo remote and a Wii remote:

iPhone vs. TiVo remote

iPhone vs. Wii remote

That’s all the gadgets I could find on a couple of hours notice.

I also dug up something I wrote a couple of years ago in the gigantic text file I keep on my Powerbook of ideas for kottke.org posts. 99% of the stuff in that file is completely dunderheaded, but I have to say I hit close to the mark on this one:

true convergence of phone + mp3 player will happen when someone solves this user experience puzzle: physically not enough room for two optimized interfaces (one for calls, one for music) on same small device. possible solution: no buttons, replace with touch screen that covers the whole front with one-touch switching between modes…

Once we’re able to get our hands on it and use the interface, the iPhone could turn out to be a disappointment, but they’re heading in the right direction at least. More thoughts soon.

(Like this story? Digg it.)

David echoes my reaction to seeing a

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 27, 2006

David echoes my reaction to seeing a Zune in person for the first time this weekend: “I just saw a Zune, and guess what? Its a piece of shit.” I usually give people a hard time for making snap judgments about technology that takes time to get to know (comments like “this interface sucks” after 20 seconds of use make my eyes go rolling), but the Zune…it’s like the story of the Getty’s Greek kouros that Gladwell tells in Blink: one look and you know it’s wrong. Andre has been trying a Zune out for the last couple of weeks and doesn’t mind it even though he’s giving up on it.

Air France, Continental, Delta, Emirates, KLM, and

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 14, 2006

Air France, Continental, Delta, Emirates, KLM, and United are integrating the iPod into their airplanes, so that you can plug in to charge and view movies on the seatback video screens. How about some standard 120V AC power outlets instead?

Update: KLM and Air France say that there’s no formal deal between them and Apple. (thx, maaike)

Intelligent design of playlists

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 10, 2006

Merlin Mann recently wrote two posts about managing your music library using iTunes Smart Playlists. His suggestions for making music-only playlists (for those that have a lot of podcasts & audiobooks in their libraries) and the “sure you really like that?” playlist are especially helpful. One of my recent favorite Smart Playlists is helpful for discovering good stuff that I haven’t listened to in awhile:

Smart Play 01

The Last Skipped bit is in there because while listening to this playlist, I found myself skipping stuff I didn’t want to hear and that rule gets it out there so that it doesn’t come up again. An item on my Smart Playlist wishlist is the ability to measure popularity acceleration (basically, something like “gimme the most played over the last week”), but there’s no way (that I can find) to ask iTunes how many times a song has been played in the last x days.

Several more Smart Playlist suggestions are available at smartplaylists.com and Andy Budd.

Handbrake is an OS X application that

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 18, 2006

Handbrake is an OS X application that will, among other things, rip DVD video to a files that will play on an iPod (how to). However, I’ve found that this takes an absurd amount of time…2.5 hours for a 1.5 hour-long movie (on a 1.67 Ghz Powerbook with 2 GB RAM). Are there faster options out there?

MacRumors has live coverage of the “September 12

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 12, 2006

MacRumors has live coverage of the “September 12th Apple Media Event” (exciting name!). Announced so far: new smaller iPods (but with more storage), iTunes 7, and games for sale at the iTunes Music Store.

US college students won’t download music provided

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 06, 2006

US college students won’t download music provided by their schools even though its free because they can’t take it with them after graduation, won’t work with Apples, and can’t play on iPods. That’s not really actually “free” then, is it?

Minty Boost is a portable USB charger (

posted by Jason Kottke   May 30, 2006

Minty Boost is a portable USB charger (for your iPod, digital camera, etc.) that fits inside an Altoids gum tin and uses 2 AA batteries as a power source. You can buy a kit, make one from scratch, or even use the instructions to make kits to sell yourself.

Olympic snowboarders competed while listening to their

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2006

Olympic snowboarders competed while listening to their iPods. The goal? Effortless concentration. “It enables you to focus on what you’re doing without actually focusing, if that makes any sense. You’re not over-thinking, and that’s the best way to perform the harder tricks and maneuvers.”

The business of selling iPod accessories is

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 03, 2006

The business of selling iPod accessories is a $1 billion industry. Jesus.

Digg vs. Slashdot (or, traffic vs. influence)

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 12, 2006

There’s been lots of talk on the web lately about Digg being the new Slashdot. Two months ago, a Digg reader noted that according to Alexa, Digg’s traffic was catching up to that of Slashdot, even though Slashdot has been around for several years and Digg is just over a year old. The brash newcomer vs. the reigning champ, an intriguing matchup.

Last weekend, a piece on kottke.org (50 Fun Things to Do With Your iPod) was featured on Digg and Slashdot[1] and the experience left behind some data that presents a interesting comparison to the Alexa data.

On 1/7 at around 11:00pm ET (a Saturday night), the 50 Things/iPod link appeared on Digg’s front page. It’s unclear exactly what time the link fell off the front page, but from the traffic pattern on my server, it looks like it lasted until around 2am Sunday night (about 3 hours). As of 10pm ET on 1/11, the story had been “dugg” 1387 times[2], garnered 65 comments, and had sent ~20,000 people to kottke.org.

On 1/8 at around 5pm ET (a Sunday afternoon), the 50 Things/iPod link appeared on Slashdot’s front page and was up there for around 24 hours. As of 10pm ET on 1/11, the story has elicited 254 comments and sent ~84,100 people to kottke.org.

Here’s a graph of my server’s traffic (technically, it’s a graph of the bandwidth out in megabits/second) during the Digg and Slashdot events. I’ve overlaid the Digg trend on the Slashdot one so you can directly compare them:

Slashdot versus Digg

That’s roughly 18 hours of data…and the scales of the two trends are the same. Here’s a graph that shows the two events together on the same trend, along with a “baseline” traffic graph of what the bandwidth approximately would have been had neither site linked to kottke.org:

Slashdot versus Digg (with baseline)

That’s about 4.5 days of data. Each “bump” on the baseline curve is a day[3].

The two events are separated by just enough time that it’s possible to consider them more or less separately and make some interesting observations. Along with some caveats, here’s what the data might be telling us:

In terms of comparing this with the Alexa data, it’s not a direct comparison because they’re measuring visitors to Digg and Slashdot, and I’m measuring (roughly) visitors from each of those sites. From the kottke.org data, you can infer how many people visit each site by how many people visited from each site initially…the bandwidth burst from Slashdot was roughly about 1.8 times as large as Digg’s. That’s actually almost exactly what Alexa shows (~1.8x).

But over a period of about 4 days, Slashdot has sent more than 4 times the number of visitors to kottke.org than Digg — despite a 18-hour headstart for Digg — and the aftershock for Slashdot is much larger and prolonged. It’s been four days since the Slashdotting and kottke.org is still getting 15,000 more visitors a day than usual. This indicates that although Digg may rapidly be catching up to Slashdot traffic-wise, it has a way to go in terms of influence[4].

Slashdot is far from dying…the site still wields an enormous amount of influence. That’s because it’s been around so long, it’s been big, visible, and influential for so long, and their purpose is provide their audience with 20-25 relevant links/stories each day. The “word-of-mouth” network that Slashdot has built over the years is broad and deep. When a link is posted to Slashdot, not only do their readers see it, it’s posted to other blogs (and from there to other blogs, etc.), forwarded around, etc. And those are well-established pathways.

In contrast, Digg’s network is not quite so broad and certainly less deep…they just haven’t been around as long. Plus Digg has so much flow (links/day) that what influence they do have is spread out over many more links, imparting less to each individual link. (There are quite a few analogies you can use somewhat successfully here…the mafia don who outsmarts a would-be usurper because of his connections and wisdom or the aging rock group that may currently be less popular than the flavor of the month but has collectively had a bigger influence on pop music. But I’ll leave making those analogies as an exercise to the reader.)

What all this suggests is that if you’re really interested in how influence works on the web, just looking at traffic or links doesn’t tell you the whole story and can sometimes be quite misleading. Things like longevity, what the social & linking networks look like, and how sites are designed are also important. The Alexa data suggests that Digg has half the traffic of Slashdot, but that results in 4x the number of visitors from Slashdot and a much larger influence afterwards. The data aside, the Digg link was fun and all but ultimately insignificant. The Slashdot link brought significantly more readers to the site, spurred many other sites to link to it, and appears to have left me with a sizable chunk of new readers. As an online publisher, having those new long-term readers is a wonderful thing.

Anyway, lots of interesting stuff here just from this little bit of data…more questions than conclusions probably. And I didn’t even get into the question of quality that Gene brings up here[5] or the possible effect of RSS[6]. It would be neat to be a researcher at someplace like Google or Yahoo! and be able to look more deeply into traffic flows, link propagation, different network topologies, etc. etc. etc.

[1] The way I discovered the Digging and Slashdotting was that I started getting all sorts of really stupid email, calling me names and swearing. One Slashdot reader called me a “fag” and asked me to stop talking about “gay ipod shit”. The wisdom of the crowds tragedy of the commons indeed.

[2] On Digg, a “digg” is a like a thumbs-up. You dig?

[3] That’s the normal traffic pattern for kottke.org and probably most similar sites…a nearly bell-shaped curve of traffic that is low in the early morning, builds from 8am to the highest point around noon, and declines in the afternoon until it’s low again at night (although not as low as in the morning).

[4] The clever reader will note here that Slashdot got the link from Digg, so who’s influencing who here? All this aftershock business…the Slashdotting is part of the Digg aftershock. To stick with the earthquake analogy though, no one cares about the 5.4 quake if it’s followed up by a 7.2 later in the day.

[5] Ok, twist my arm. Both Digg and Slashbot use the wisdom of crowds to offer content to their readers. Slashdot’s human editors post 25 stories a day suggested by individual readers while Digg might feature dozens of stories on the front page per day, collectively voted there by their readers. In terms of editorial and quality, I am unconvinced that a voting system like Digg’s can produce a quality editorial product…it’s too much of an informational firehose. Bloggers and Slashdot story submitters might like drinking from that hose, but there’s just too much flow (and not enough editing) to make it an everyday, long-term source of information. (You might say that, duh, Digg doesn’t want to be a publication like Slashdot and you’d probably be right, in which case, why are people comparing the two sites in the first place? But still, in terms of influence, editing matters and if Digg wants to keep expanding its influence, it’s gotta deal with that.)

[6] Digg might be more “bursty” than Slashdot because a higher percentage of its audience reads the site via RSS (because they’re younger, grew up with newsreaders in their cribs, etc.). Brighter initial burn but less influence over time.

Anil Dash offers a list of dos

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 06, 2006

Anil Dash offers a list of dos and don’ts for beating the iPod and iTunes.


posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 12, 2005

Me: Yeah, it’s like the plural of attorney general is attorneys general.
J: Attorneys general? I thought there was only one attorney general.
Me: Well, one for each state, and if they all go to a meeting or something…
M: Like, “all the attorneys general get together for the annual attorney general-a-thon.”
Me: Shouldn’t that be attorney-a-thon general?

Related: Engadget checked with Apple PR to see if it’s iPod shuffles or iPods shuffle. They said the former…I think it should be the latter.

Once again, the pornographers are on the

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 05, 2005

Once again, the pornographers are on the cutting edge of technology. Feast your eyes on the Web 2.0ness of mydirtyipod, which offers naughty iPod-ready videos and podcasts. I’m gonna spell this one out for you: NOT SAFE FOR WORK.

Sony is using DRM on audio CDs (

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 01, 2005

Sony is using DRM on audio CDs (no copying the CD, no iTunes, etc.) to pressure Apple to open up iTunes and the iPod to other formats. This story is so absurd on so many levels that I don’t even know where to begin.

Casual content creation

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2005

Over on the Odeo blog, Ev talks about a potentially different type of podcasting, casual content creation:

But, personally, I’m much more of a casual content creator, especially in this realm. The other night, I sent a two-minute podcast to my girlfriend, who was out of town, and got a seven-second “podcast” back that I now keep on my iPod just because it makes me smile. I sent an “audio memo” to my team a while back for something that was much easier to say than type, and I think they actually listened.

A blogging analogue would be Instapundit or Boing Boing (published, broadcast) versus a private LiveJournal[1] (shared, narrowcast). It’s like making a phone call without the expectation of synchronous communication…it’s all voicemail. I thought about doing this the other day when I needed to respond to an email with a lengthy reply. In that particular instance, I ended up sending an email instead because it was the type of thing that might have been forwarded to someone else for comment and returned, etc. But I can see myself using audio like this in the future.

[1] Integrated podcasting tools within LiveJournal would be huge, methinks.