It's been about a year in the making, but my book Secrets of the Mouse is now published and available for purchase. I opted to self-publish on CreateSpace, and the experience has been wonderful, culminating with the release of the book on Amazon.
Secrets of the Mouse itself is a behind-the-scenes guide to the secrets of Disneyland Park in Anaheim, featuring information on individual attractions, hints on where to find Hidden Mickeys, and puzzles to solve while waiting in line for rides.
For more information, see secretsofthemouse.com or Secrets of the Mouse on Amazon.
Edmodo is a project that a friend of mine, Jeff O'Hara, has been working on for a while. He just recently released a teaser screenshot of the UI and it looks like it's coming along really nicely. I know Jeff's been working for some time to simplify education-related communication, a field that could certainly use some fresh ideas. It looks like they're getting close to an alpha release, so it should be fun to keep an eye on.
I will be attending Comic-Con 2007 this Friday and Saturday here in San Diego, and I am planning to upload photos from the convention live from my iPhone to Flickr. If you can't get to Comic-Con yourself, but want to get an almost-live glimpse at what is going on there, stay tuned to my Flickr photostream at http://flickr.com/photos/everythingdigital. I will be using the tag comiccon07 to designate photos from this year's con.
With much inspiration from Jeff O'Hara, I have figured out a solution for establishing groups and community threads on twitter, a feature that the site has noticeably lacked for quite a while. You can follow the steps below to create your own twitter group on any topic.
Create a "dummy" twitter user that will broadcast the messages that are sent to the group on a single twitter feed.
Email me (alan at everythingdigital dot org), and let me know what the username and password for your "dummy" user are.
I will add your group to the script on my server.
Anyone who is a friend of the "dummy" user can use @username messages to post to the group (for example, with applegroup, friends of applegroup would post tweets such as "@applegroup How's everybody liking their iPhones?" and these messages would be added to the group discussion). New @username messages to the group take an average of one minute currently to be posted to the group discussion.
In case you haven't noticed, it's July 17 today. This means that today, for a full twenty-four hours, the iCal dock icon on your Mac will be correct. That's right, while the iPhone's calendar icon may update to show the current date, the desktop iCal application's icon stays frozen on the 17th of July as a tribute to the day that iCal was released: July 17th, 2002. So happy iCal day everyone, and I hope you are enjoying seeing an accurate iCal icon in your dock.
A few hours after getting my iPhone, I was hit with a sudden idea for an iPhone-optimized web app. The result of this idea and the subsequent quick bit of coding that I did to get it ready is iPhone Trivia, an iPhone app that asks multiple-choice trivia questions and keeps track of your score.
I am hosting the app here: http://everythingdigital.org/itrivia
The trivia questions come from an RSS feed that I put together here, and I will be adding new questions frequently. If you want to submit questions for inclusion in the RSS feed, make sure you follow the item/prompt/answer/correct format that the feed currently uses.
After having finally gotten an iPhone yesterday after much hassle in tracking one down, I discovered Telekinesis, a wonderful app that runs on your Mac and provides a web gateway for controlling it through an iPhone-friendly interface.
Naturally, I tried running a variety of applications using my iPhone as a controller and screen for my Mac, but the most impressive was World of Warcraft. While performance was hardly smooth, I could control several actions in WoW through the iPhone interface. Most notably, I could read and respond to in-game chat without too much of a problem.
I recorded the experience and posted a video here on YouTube for your viewing pleasure.
To clarify, WoW is running on the MacBook Pro that you see in the beginning. The iPhone just serves as a separate screen and controller connected over the internet. The iPhone's CPU is NOT running the game.
Well, the technology world has gone nuts these past few days in anticipation of the iPhone's debut today. I stopped by my local Apple Store today to see what the line was like and I was astounded. I would guess there were about three or four hundred people waiting in line (and this is at the smaller of the two San Diego Apple Stores).
What amazed me the most about the line waiters was that they were far from the typical Apple fan crowd that can usually be seen lining up outside Apple Stores for OS X releases or other events. The people there ranged from babies to the elderly and came from all sorts of diverse backgrounds and fields. It looks like the iPhone has struck a chord with a much greater audience than typical Apple users, which is certainly a large part of Apple's goal for the product.
I have posted a couple pictures from the event on flickr here just to give you an idea of the scene here at the San Diego Apple Store.
You may have noticed the recent banner redesign and mild re-branding to "EverythingDigital Podcast Productions." This comes as a result of a side project that I have been working on, the HistoryPod podcast. I will be recording the fourth episode of the HistoryPod soon, and it has so far become remarkably established on the iTunes charts, recently reaching as high as #4 in the history category.
Now that EverythingDigital incorporates multiple podcasts, I am shifting to the more open model of a podcast production group in order to accommodate additional podcasts in the future as needed.
This space is still where you'll find both my personal weblog and the EverythingDigital Podcast, although I should warn you that recently the HistoryPod has been taking priority over the EverythingDigital Podcast so I can't really promise a new EDP anytime soon.
On a related note, I'm thinking about doing a quiz show podcast along the lines of Podshow's Boned, but with a bit less over-production and a bit more time for the contestants to actually talk. Shoot me an email (alan at everythingdigital.org) if you're interested in helping out with it.
Earlier today I log onto AIM (through Adium of course), and I am greeted by this message:
You have 1 AIM Page Invitation(s) awaiting your approval. Please click here to review. Confused? Learn more about AIM Pages.
Or, adjust your notification settings.
Ok, so it appears AOL is trying out a new AIM-friendly social network. That sounds like a great business model for them and I'm sure it will be as successful as any other new social network in the sea of them already demanding our constant attention.
Here's the thing: EVERY TIME I log on to AIM now I get this reminder. Every single time I start up Adium, the aimpagesinvite bot decides that I desperately need to be informed of my pending invitation.
But still, there must be a way to opt out of these annoying bits of borderline spam, right? Well, the IM does have a "notification settings" link that, when followed, gives me this helpful message:
AIM Pages currently doesn't support your browser, but we're working on it now so check back soon. If you don't want to wait, you can use the latest versions of Internet Explorer or Firefox.
Bravo, AOL. Bravo.
So I fire up Firefox, growing more irritated at AOL by the minute than thousands of free trial discs could possibly make me, and am greeted by the option to approve or deny my new AIM Pages buddy, we'll call him Joe.
Ah, Joe. Of course. How could I not remember Joe? Oh, I know! Because I've never met him before. His profile is more or less blank, and I have no idea how or why he found my screenname in the first place.
So let me get this straight. First, AOL decides to forcibly sign me up for their new social network without any notice that they are doing so. Next, they give me a public profile so that Joe can come along and send me his unsolicited buddy request. And finally, just to make sure that I don't miss out on all the fun of being best buds with Joe, AIM decides to spam me with messages notifying me of this all-too-urgent invitation that is waiting for me.
This is the web 2.0 equivalent of those 30-day free trial discs. Yep, AOL didn't get it then and they don't get it now.
Upon seeing my previous post about experimenting with Quartz Composer, Eric Rice asked if it might be possible to put a Quartz Composer file on an object's surface in Second Life. Because SL allows you to put QuickTime movies on objects through video streaming, plugging in the URL of a quartz file exported to .mov format worked perfectly.
In various tests, it appears that almost any Quartz Composer file that can be exported to .mov and retain its functionality will work in the SL environment. We were even able to get one working that takes the feed from your iSight and displays it on an object, as well as one that I designed to take pictures from your Mac's "Pictures" folder and display them on a rotating cube. As with all Quartz Composer projects, this only works on Macs that support quartz, so users of Windows machines or older Macs are unfortunately out of luck.
The pictures above are of an iSight-based "security camera" screen that Eric built to give visitors to your land the feeling that they are being watched.
Lately I have been experimenting with Apple's Quartz Composer software, and have found it to be really limitless in its possibilities. I'm still working on getting it to recognize enclosures properly in RSS feeds that it downloads, but everything else has been quite easy and intuitive. Here is a sample of one of the experiments I have been working on that uses microphone input to change the size of a particle generator: .qtz file, .mov file
If you're on a Mac, you should be able to download and open it in quicktime player or as a screensaver.
Lately I've been hearing quite a bit about Twitter, the Web 2.0 equivalent of the IM status message. I was finally compelled to register an account (everythingdigital), and so far have had a mixed experience with the service.
I think the idea behind Twitter is excellent, and some of the third party apps that are being developed for it are really looking great (I use Twitterrific). The public timeline is very interesting to watch, especially during major events such as sports games or the Macworld Expo. I haven't tried SMS or IM updating yet, but I expect it would add a whole new dimension to the equation.
On the downside, there are a couple quirks with the web site that I find a bit frustrating. Most notable is the rather odd user search functionality, basically consisting of a text box on the home page. I have tried searching for a couple people with it, and it took me a good deal of time to realize that the miniature images that were appearing beneath the text box were actually the search results. This means that to find the person you are looking for, you must move your mouse over each image until a name pops up in the hover text and you can see if it is correct, not a very convenient way to perform an activity so central to Twitter.
Also, the 148-character limit on posts can be a bit restricting, although I can understand the need to keep updates short and sweet. What I have a harder time understanding is the 160-character limitation on direct messages to friends. I can't see what is gained by placing such a small size limit on what is essentially email within the Twitter system.
Despite these complaints, I do find Twitter to be an interesting and entertaining service that I recommend everyone try out, even if it's not going to replace your RSS reader and IM client.
A late-night inspiration yesterday led me to the idea of grabbing lists of song/book/movie titles from various online retailers and mashing them up into a list of possible charades challenges. So now, I present to you the EverythingDigital Charades Generator.
The charades generator pulls in the Netflix Top 100, iTunes top songs chart, and LibriVox New Releases feed, all of which are updated frequently and therefore constantly provide a new stream of titles. It is most certainly still in beta, and will often return titles unsuitable for charades, so let me know if you have any suggestions for improving it or know of any additional RSS feeds of titles.