Thursday, May 29, 2008

What's in a name?

Wondering about my blog name?

When I started deejaying dances back in high school I wanted to come up with a clever on-stage name... my initials, of course, are DJ. And that's what I was doing. So I became DJDJ.

So then I started using that name all over the internet. Then somebody called me DoubleDeej in a reply to one of my forum posts, and the name kind of stuck. So there you go...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Would you share your fingerprint? (poll)

As part of the POS system I'm working on, we're adding a feature to allow customers to be identified by their fingerprint instead of having to carry a loyalty card with them when they visit one of the stores using our system. It is completely optional... customers don't have to use their fingerprint to participate in a loyalty program, as we know that some people aren't comfortable sharing personally identifyable biometric information. We're just trying to come up with something more convenient than those little cards you have to carry on your keychain.

So this begs a few questions... And I'd love to hear from anyone reading this blog.

1. If you had the option, would you be comfortable using your fingerprint to identify you at a retail establishment instead of a keyring or wallet loyalty card?
2. Does the type of the establishment or size of the chain matter?
3. If not comfortable, and it was explained to you that the image of your fingerprint wasn't being stored, but rather an irreversible number that is calculated from your fingerprint, would that change your mind?
4. Would you be comfortable using your fingerprint to pay for your purchases?
5. Would you change your mind to any of the above if it meant that you could receive a discount on future purchases?

Just curious. (Extremely informal market research.) Thanks in advance!

(And just for the curious among you, knowing what I do about my system, I would be totally comfortable with all of the above with no hesitation. But I might be a little hesitant if it were someone else's.)

Boycott Monster Cable!

I'm gonna get techie (again) for a minute...

Monster Cable has had a pretty good racket running for a long time now. They have somehow been able to convince customers that they make a much better product than everyone else, and that they're lucky to pay for that privilege. Truth be told, they do build slightly better quality cable that can hold up to more abuse than most, but they don't pass signals any better, and aren't worth anything near the premium they charge.

If it were just that issue I don't think I'd have too big a problem with them; people have the right to spend money how they choose, though I personally very rarely buy any of their stuff. But I am officially boycotting them now for two other reasons.

The first is that they outright lie to consumers to get them to buy products. I recently saw an article where a display had been setup by Monster to demonstrate the difference between their cables and a competitor's video cables. But an astute observer investigated further and found that the two televisions used in the demonstration were connected using totally different types of signals... the Monster demonstration was hooked up to the best quality high definition input, the competitor was hooked up to the worst quality standard definition input. Of course they're going to look different! One is HD, the other is SD! But this is typical of the marketing techniques that they use, and have somehow convinced some retailers (including Best Buy) to buy into. Don't you fall for it!

The other is their litigious nature. They are attempting to sue everybody that includes the word Monster in their company or product names, even if they don't produce anything electronic. Trademarks are only valid when using a similar name would impose confusion on a customer, so I hardly think that miniature golf creates any confusion with electronics cabling. In most cases, Monster picks on small companies that can't afford to defend themselves and they often go out of business as a result. That's just wrong. (Recently, however, they attempted to pick on Blue Jeans Cable, whose owner is a lawyer. For a funny but knowledegable response to Monster's claim, see

So I've reached my breaking point. I'm officially boycotting all Monster Cable products, and encourage everyone I know to do the same. There are many alternative sources of great cables out there, and I encourage anyone purchasing audio/video products to use one of them instead: (great quality, good price) (acceptable quality, great price) (good quality for their 'premium' products, good price)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

American Idol

My first (and last) American Idol post for this season.

I think America totally got it wrong. David Archuleta should have won. He has a much better voice than David Cook. Cook has been consistently off-pitch, and has been doing less-than-flattering things to otherwise great songs. You can also tell that Archie is just a much more humble and nice guy.

This makes the third year in a row now (fourth season in total) where the most talented singer didn't win. Disappointing.


Future Outlook & Tulsa Trip

I use Microsoft Outlook for my email. And today I discovered that it can see into the future. Perhaps that means that it is living up to its name?

Anyway, in addition to email, I also have Outlook setup to monitor my web site's forums for changes so I know when one of my customers asks me a question. Today I posted a response to one of my customer's questions, and as soon as I clicked the link to post, the new post showed up in Outlook, before I even got confirmation on the web site that the message was received and posted. Outlook had seen into the future; it apparently knew what I was going to say.

On a side note, if you couldn't tell by my last post, I'm back in Utah. Who knows for how long, but I'm sure there will be some sort of trip coming up sometime soon.

So here's a little info about the trip:
  • I went out to Tulsa to install our Point-of-Sale system in a Little Caesars opening there. They weren't ready for me. My dad helped me with the installation, and we had a bunch of extra stuff to do in order to get everything ready for the store's opening yesterday. What should have been a 5-6 hour installation in one visit turned into about 12 hours in three visits. The last of which had to be done by my dad, because it was actually after I left.
  • A word of advice: when booking a flight on Southwest, pay close attention to the travel time. My itinerary showed one flight from Tulsa to Salt Lake. What it didn't show was that there were three stops in between, making what should be about a 2.5 to 3 hour flight actually take about 8 hours. And I was on the same plane the whole time, so I couldn't get off to eat anything. Fortunately, a very cute girl named Sandra sat next to me on the first leg of the trip, and we had a nice conversation. In the course of the near 200 flights I've taken, this was only the second time that had ever happened to me.
  • My parents and I went to the Oklahoma Aquarium on Friday. It was pretty cool. They have a pretty cool shark tank where you walk underneath the water in a clear plexiglass tunnel. It wasn't the first time I'd been in one of those, but it was still pretty cool, having sharks swimming all around me.
  • It was really cool just hanging out with my parents for 10 days. We didn't get out and do a whole lot, but just being there was relaxing. I'm looking forward to the day when we can live in the same place and see each other more often than we do now.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Geeks can be rude!

So I'm at a Microsoft Launch Event right now, and it seems that computer-types can be pretty rude.

We are watching a video, and some guy in the back is talking on his cell phone, and he is louder than the video. And there is a guy eating nearby, smacking his lips with amazing intensity. Not only that, but everywhere I go, there are geeks arguing about everything geeky.

Today is one of those days I really don't want to be classified as a geek.

EDIT: Now we've got a couple people heckling the presenter. Grrr.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

iPod Touch Followup

So I've had my iPod Touch for a couple weeks now, and I thought I'd follow up with more information about my experience with it.

For the most part I'm still happy with it.  There is one problem which is pretty significant, though, and something that I hope Apple addresses in a future version of it... And that is it's battery life.

I noticed that battery life seemed short compared to other devices I've used, but after a couple weeks playing with this, I'm a little perplexed.  If I had been watching a lot of video on it I'd understand; its hard to keep a backlit display running for any period of time on a battery, but even when the Touch isn't turned on it still drains the battery too quickly. 

I first noticed it on my first full day at my parents.  I hadn't touched it (no pun intended) all day, and though I had charged it the previous night, the battery was down to about 60% charge.  Odd.  Maybe it's cause I had it set to check for new email every 30 minutes?  So I turn that off.  Several days had better life, but none managed to store over 90% of the battery even when the device wasn't ever turned on.  Then today was the worst I've seen.  Automatic email checking turned off, device charged overnight last night, didn't turn it on even once today, and when I went to check it tonight it had drained to less than 10% charge.  It was low enough that it had completely shut itself off (not just gone to sleep) and I had to plug it in and restart it to make it come up.  Something seems amiss.

Other than the battery life it is still a pretty good device.  As I had suspected previously, it doesn't make a great music player because of its lack of tactile buttons.

Oh, one more issue: I have to plug my iPod Touch into my computer to charge it.  Plugging it into a USB charger doesn't work; the Touch just ignores it.  This means I can't charge it in my truck, and I have to keep a computer running to keep it charged.  Not a deal breaker, but it is annoying.

Compared to my Zune

In one of my first blog posts I mentioned I bought an 80GB Zune back in November.  A lot of people on the internet are comparing the Zune to the iPod Touch (though they are two entirely different devices which shouldn't really be compared).  Here's my two cents, since I own both:

Sound Quality: On my Shure E3s I can hear HDD motor spinup and seeking sounds from the Zune at the beginning of each music track.  Fortunately it does go away after the music starts playing.   The iPod Touch doesn't have this problem (it has no HDD).  I like the overall sound of both, with the Zune having a slight edge in fidelity, aside from the noise.  Winner: If you have a "normal" set of headphones: Zune.  If you have high sensitivity in-ear monitors, iPod Touch.  As for the included headphones: the ones with the iPod (any iPod) are absolutely awful, and anyone using them should throw them away and buy ANYTHING else.  Apple has really insulted (and may be damaging) our ears here, folks, and most people don't know any better.  The headphones with the 80GB Zune are acceptable, and are remarkably better than the ones shipped with iPods.  (Trivia: Apple switched the Left and Right headphone connections on the iPod compared to the industry standard.  If you use headphones other than ones certified for use with the iPod, the left/right channels will be swapped, if you care.) 

Music Playback: Zune's user interface is much more flexible, iPod's may be a bit easier to use, with significantly less functionality, and definitely less consistency.  The lack of physical hardware buttons make music playback on the iPod awkward.  Winner: Zune, easily.

Video Performance: The iPod's bigger screen is definitely a plus.  But the Zune supports more file formats: everything the iPod does, plus several more.  The Zune features composite video output on its headphone jack, the iPod requires a $50 Apple cable to output to a TV.  Winner: depends on your needs.  For me, its a hard call.  I like the bigger screen, but I have a lot of video that won't play on the Touch.  Either way, both devices are huge upgrades from the iPod Classic or Nano for video. 

Audio Books: iPod currently supports Audible, Zune's support is coming later this year.  Winner: iPod, for now; later this year it will be a draw.

Battery Life: Zune wins here, hands down.  No matter what you are doing, the Zune definitely lasts a lot longer even though it has a HDD, which is odd.  Winner: Zune.

Internet: It should be obvious: the iPod touch can browse the web, check email, watch YouTube videos, download music directly from iTunes.  The Zune doesn't have any of these capabilities.  Winner: iPod.

User interface:  The iPod's interface is definitely flashier, no question.  But in my opinion it puts style over substance too often.  As far as actual usability goes, I prefer the Zune's more consistent GUI (it's always the same and doesn't vary between "applications"), which is actually easier to use once you understand its paradigm.  Winner: Zune by a touch.  :)

Capacity:  The iPod's 8/16/32GB storage is no match for the 80GB Zune at a lower price.   Winner: Clearly Zune.

Non-PMP Flexibility: The iPhone's SDK is likely to be made available for the iPod Touch, so any applications which don't use iPhone-specific hardware (like the phone, or Bluetooth) will probably run on a Touch after it has been upgraded.  Google Maps using the Touch's interface is awesome.  The Zune is now expandable via XNA Game Studio, allowing custom applications to be developed by anyone using Visual Studio.  Winner: iPod.

Software: I'm not a fan of iTunes; it has become bloated, cluttered, tries to be and do too many things, and it has always had stability problems.  The Zune software is simple and clean, and overall pretty good, but is somewhat buggy.    The ironic thing is that iTunes looks like a bloated Microsoft application from 10 years ago, and the Zune software looks like something Apple might create if it decided to use a little color in its software designs.  Gotta love the irony.  Winner: Zune.

Cool factor: No description needed.  Winner: iPod Touch.

Appearance:  We all know the iPods scratch if you so much as look at them or even enter the same room, but it has better styling.  Winner: Draw.

Product name: Inconsequential, but I felt like including it anyway, cause it bugs me.  I have always hated the name "iPod."  Sounds like something out of a really bad 1960s movie.  ("Oh no!  The iPod is coming!")  And the "Touch" part doesn't win me over either; it sounds like something a dirty old man might do.  Ick.  They should have called it the iPod Fondle or iPod Grope.  Who names these things?   So uncool.  Not that Zune is a perfect name either, but it sounds cooler than iPod.   Winner: I somewhat reluctantly give Zune the nod here.

Anyway, I'm tired.  So I'm posting now.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Off to Tulsa

I'm off to Tulsa on Friday for 10 days. Another business/pleasure trip. I'm installing our PPOS system in a new Little Caesars opening there, but since that's where my parents live, I'm gonna hang out with them. The installation should only take a day or so, so I'll have plenty of time to spend with the folks.

One of the best parts is that I'll be there for Mother's Day. I haven't seen my mom on Mother's Day since I was in high school, back in the dark ages.

Friday, May 2, 2008


Yes, it's true... Until today I never owned an actual Apple iPod. Not that I necessarily dislike them, but my music collection is in a format that isn't supported by the iPod at all. So for the most part the whole series of iPods has been useless to me.

As part of the PPOS project (see my earlier post "I'm up to no good") we are planning on developing a mobile phone friendly web site for store owners and managers to check in on things remotely. We know that iPhones are becoming more and more popular, but no-one on the development team has one -- we all use Windows Mobile devices for their real-time email synchronization capability, and none of us like AT&T -- so I got the next closest thing and got a 16GB iPod Touch with pre-loaded software upgrade. That way we can create those web pages and test them in the same browser that the iPhone uses.

So what do I think? As a video player, it's pretty good. As a web browser, it's as good as it gets on a mobile device. For games, it has a lot of potential if jailbroken. For email, it's passable. As a music player, well, it kind of stinks.

Why does it stink? Well, because it doesn't have any buttons for selecting tracks, pausing, etc. So if you are listening to a song and decide you want to change the volume or go to the next track, you have to pull it out of your pocket, wake it up by double-clicking the Home button, then find the (small) buttons on-screen to adjust volume, or change tracks. Certainly not something you could do blindly, or even quickly; the lack of tactile buttons is a real issue here. When watching a video it isn't a problem because you're already looking at the screen. But most people don't stare at the screen of their music player while listening to their favorite tunes. Hopefully a future version of the Touch will add volume control buttons at a minimum, but knowing how Apple does things, I doubt that will ever happen (though the iPhone has them).

Thankfully I won't be listening to music on it. I'll be primarily using it to browse the web. And it does that pretty well. Not perfectly, as it doesn't support Flash and some other internet file formats, but pretty well overall. Most sites I have tried have worked nearly as well as they do in Safari on OS X. In a few cases I ran into iPhone-specific sites, and they, of course, work great.

As for some of its other functionality: for viewing photos its kind of useless without a memory card slot, or a way to receive them wirelessly from a camera, at least for me. The Google Maps application is cool, but I already have that on my phone, so nothing new for me there. Watching YouTube videos is nice because they are in higher quality than when viewed from the web. If only there was something good to watch on YouTube.

I've had a couple other issues with it. My iTunes has shut down spontaneously a couple of times while syncing, and if I try to set it up to synchronize my email contacts and my calendar the Outlook sync module crashes. A handful of Quicktime videos I've tried to play on the web haven't worked either, including some in the iPod section of And this thing is the biggest fingerprint magnet I have ever seen, bar none.

The form factor is cool -- its really thin, and it feels very well built, with just enough heft to let you know you've bought a quality product. The headphones are, well, awful, but I won't be using the ones that came with it; that's what my Shure E3s or Sony MDR-7506s are for. The screen is surprisingly washed out for a modern LCD, with true blacks being nonexistent: the darkest you get on the screen is a definitive backlit gray, and while watching videos in landscape mode (the way they are all shown) you have to get the viewing angle just right or darker areas of the picture invert and start to turn lighter colors. I've heard the iPhone's LCD is better, but I haven't taken the time to make a side-by-side comparison.

There are other things that are very well done. The user interface is pretty snappy, especially when compared to other small devices with this level of flexibility (e.g. Windows Mobile). It is also very well thought out, and for the most part once you learn a few basics you can find your way around quite easily. I find myself wishing for a "Back" button though, because sometimes you get moved from the browser to the video player, or something similar, without a way to easily go back. Battery life looks like it is going to be very good, and I'm sure a huge part of that is because it has no spinning hard drive to power. I do wish the storage capacity was larger, mostly for other owners, because I won't be storing enough music on it to matter to me. Flash memory is still just a little too expensive for these things to be an affordable solution.

At some point I'll jailbreak it and start installing some fun software. But I'm so busy with PPOS and other programming projects that I don't really have time to mess with that just yet.

If I were to ask for any changes other than the ones mentioned above, the first would be the addition of Bluetooth. This would allow wireless headphones to be used, and if Apple would be really kind, they'd also let us use Bluetooth to connect to the internet through nearby cell phone. But that would eat into their iPhone featureset and revenue, so I doubt we'd ever see that.

Overall, though, if someone just wants to watch videos and browse the web, this is a great device to do it on. But for playing music, it's pretty 'meh.' They really should have called it something other than iPod, since iPod is virtually synonymous with music playback device. This is a device that supplements a regular iPod, not replaces it. iVid, anyone?

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