Archive for February, 2007

Yet another BT A2DP headset

I received a new A2DP headset today. I think I have 9 or 10 now.

As I wrote the other day, I have yet to find the perfect headset. It doesn’t seem to exist. Each and one of the models I have has a problem by design. This new headset from Cellink I got today is not an exception. I was about to turn the other way and ignore the fact that didn’t come with a USB recharging cable and more battery life, but man, the thing has STATIC. kkkhhhhhh….

The surprising thing is that it has an amazing audio quality compared to most of its competitors. Good treble and good bass. But right on the back of your ear you can also hear the kkhhhhhhhh….

It seems that creating a pleasant A2DP device is rocket science. :P

Silent Parties via Bluetooth

I got a new remote control with 3.5mm adapter and a 1 GB M2 card for my Sony Ericsson M600i phone today. I copied some music in it and so naturally, I rocked with it. This gave me an idea for a new Bluetooth usage: Silent Music Parties (a concept popularized by Sony a few years ago via their wireless headphones). Basically, the idea is to use A2DP, but problem is, the A2DP-server can only serve up to 7-8 clients at the same time, while some parties have over 50 people invited. Maybe a modified A2DP server that can serve to more standard A2DP clients can be achieved? The advantage of Bluetooth headsets instead of traditional wireless is that you won’t miss a cellphone call, but the disandvantage is that there are no A2DP devices for over 10 meters. Who knows, someone might like the idea and modify the A2DP server while also offer Class-1 A2DP headsets (up to 100 meters).

Don’t intercept fanatics, just watch and laugh at them

I hate to sound like a broken record, but man… it is enjoyful seeing fanatics completely lose a touch with reality. Last week, when “Lost” had its lowest viewership ever, 12.77 million viewers, they came out and said “give us a break, it was St Valentine’s Day“. Now, a week later, “Lost” only got 12.89 million viewers and two things happened: half of the fanatics simply don’t discuss the matter anymore, and the other half are trying to convince themselves that the addition of 0.1% of more viewers last night shows that “Lost” is on the way up. Damn.

Last night’s episode “Stranger in a Strange Land” was a complete joke. The flashback was the most pointless I have ever seen while the actual juice of the episode (Jack saving the life of Juliet by agreeing to treat Ben) it could have been wrapped up and included within 5 minutes inside another episode. What is the writers are smoking, I don’t know. They had a great Desmond episode last week (voted at 8/10 by viewers at TV.com), but this new episode sucked a$$ indeed (voted at ~3/10). The numbers and comments online speak for themselves.

To make things worse, ABC *outright lied* on their heavily advertised promos that “3 mysteries will be solved” in last night’s episode. Except the semi-reveal that the survivors abducted by The Others are apparently in good health, nothing else was revealed. Like we cared before about Jack’s tattoos. We didn’t. There was never an indication that the tattoos were part of the myth-arc. Someone could argue that the fact that The Others work in the small island but they live in the main island, and that they live by Hammurabi’s law are “revelations”, but honestly, these are just details and not the kind of mysteries ABC’s promos made us looking forward to. I mean, come on ABC, we are not stupid. Put yourself together! Lost’s audience cosists of mainly intelligent people and ABC must be more careful of their treatment.

My uncle, Triantafyllos

The “American Idol” show entered its final rounds last night, and it was considerably funny than the qualifications round. I thought that the best male performance was from Blake Lewis (he only had two wrong pitches in the whole song). Despite his very good performance, he didn’t get the props from Simon Cowell.

This reminded me of my uncle in Greece, Triantafyllos (married to my mother’s sister). He is a goat shepherd. He has always been a sensitive person, mostly shown by his animal loving (an alien concept in the mountain village we are from). And it also shows from the hobby he developed in the late ’70s: singing. He was never tutored, he is just a natural talent.

In the early ’80s there was a music TV show competition in Greece that was sweeping the ratings, just like “American Idol” does today, 25 years later. The show was called “Na i Eukairia” (”here’s the chance”). Some very popular Greek singers have been found by this show. So, my uncle Triantafyllos, decided to go for it, in 1981. He took the bus to Athens (an 8 hour drive back then), went there, and he sang a traditional clarino-music song. Unfortunately, bouzouki-music was more popular with the kind of viewers the show had, and so my uncle got the rundown from one of the judges, Rozita Sokou. Needless to say, he hated her since then.

My uncle started singing in some local village celebrations in the ’80s. He never left herding as his main profession, but 2-3 times per year he would go sing to villages close by — just for the fun of it. However, I am pretty sure that if he had had a more positive-sounding judging, he might have pursued singing professionally.

Similarly, I think that Blake Lewis is an amazing talent, and although maybe a bit raw right now, he would easier make it in the show business if Simon was not too overly negative with him. I love Simon’s honesty, but sometimes he’s just wrong. Psychology matters.

Diet Recipe: Egg & ham breakfast

When on a low-calorie diet I usually skip breakfast. But this morning I woke up early so I had to have something to keep me on my feet. Here’s a low-calorie breakfast meal, at just 105 calories.

Ingredients (for 1)
* 1/2 cup of EggBeaters (60 cals)
* 30 gr of Farmer John’s fat-free smoked ham (31 cals)
* 45 ml of Light Original soya milk or other fat free milk (10 cals)
* 1 small onion (2 cals)
* A bit of green, red, orange peppers (2 cals)
* Pepper to taste

Execution
1. Cut the onion, peppers and ham in small pieces.
2. In a very small frying pan place the above ingredients and let them cook for 2-3 minutes under medium heat. Stir occasionally.
3. Lightly beat the egg and the milk until they become one in a bowl. Sprinkle with pepper.
4. Add the mixture on top of the currently-frying ingredients and let it cook for a few minutes.
5. If you like the scrambled eggs look (like in my picture) stir the ingredients constantly using a wooden fork, or leave untouched and only turn it once if you like the omelet look. Serve hot.

egg breakfast

Best damn light milk ever tasted

Being on a diet again means that I have to be on the look out for low-calorie foods again. It kinda sucks but what can you do, right?

One of the foods that I was running dangerously low during my previous diet was milk. The fat free cow milk has 90 calories per serving and it tastes like white water. It’s just not good. Don’t get me wrong, I love cow’s milk but the fat free version leaves a lot to be desired in terms of taste.

I had tasted a number of soy milk products in the past but I was never a big fan. They don’t taste as good as real milk. Moreover, their calorie count is at least as much as the cow’s milk.

Now, I am really happy to have found a truly low-cal soy milk (50 cals) that I can actually use during my diet. Not only that, but it’s actually delicious, thick/rich enough, and it has a longer expiration date than fresh cow’s milk (2 months instead of 10 days). The brand is called 8th Continent and the product is the “Light Original” and I found it at the ‘Target’ superstore. I believe that it’s the best choice for milk substitute if you are on a diet.

I don’t work for them btw. :-D

Fighting Lost’s attrition rate

I was reading this comment by an advertising professional at IMDb (free reg. req.). He says that the main problem of Lost’s declining ratings is natural attrition (among four more reasons: 10PM timeslot, slow 3rd season, hiatus, 9 PM competition). Usually, for traditional TV series attrition is not a huge problem because as they lose old viewers, they usually get newer ones. But this is not true for “Lost”. The story is so incredibly complex and involving that having a random viewer start watching “Lost” in the 3rd season is impossible for him/her to understand what’s going on. He/she can’t be hooked.

All this got me thinking as to how ABC could “fix” this somehow. What needs to be done is for ABC to provide viewers with free access to the previous “Lost” episodes. Yes, there are DVDs available, but you don’t buy a DVD of a TV series that you have never watched! It must be provided at an accessible medium, free of charge and possibly without ads. It’s the only way to fight attrition on a show like “Lost”.


How a 176×144 encoded video in letterbox format would look like

So, my idea is that it should be provided in a cellphone-compatible DRM-free MPEG-4 format. The format should be letterbox (this is very important, in order to maximize compatibility with some cellphones that only support the exact resolution, e.g. some LG phones) at the 176×144 resolution (effective visible picture will be about 176×96), 15 fps, 192kbps video rate, 56 kbps AAC audio stereo. This creates a good-enough quality for watching on a cellphone or an iPod or other mobile video device (and even the desktop if you use VLC which has better resizing filters than Quicktime) and at the same time the resolution is small enough so it doesn’t cannibalize the DVD sales. In fact, the resolution is smaller than iTunes’ Lost episodes too. I calculated that a 45 minute episode (without ads) with the above encoding settings will produce an MP4 file of around 50 MBs. This is a totally doable download rate for any internet user with a cable/DSL connection.

There should be 1 episode per weekday available for download with the ability to download previous episodes too. The whole first season could be made available within 1 month, or if this is too slow for viewers, it can be made so they offer 5 episodes at once. Then, after the end of season 3 on TV, ABC can release on the web the season 2. Depending how well this plan goes for the ratings and the DVD sales of the season 3, the experiment can continue a month before the start of the season 4 by offering the season 3 for download. Because there are complex legal problems with sales of the TV series worldwide, probably this idea can be materialized only for US-bound connections.


The effective visual resolution remains 16:9 at 176×96

I know that ABC and Hollywood in general are afraid of such methods of distributions (in this case I see it as one big advertisement stand rather than “distribution”), but you know, you won’t know until you try. There are a lot of people who use the metro or the bus to go to work and they would like to entertain themselves with a way that doesn’t just involve audio entertainment. Besides, the iPod Videos are out there and awaiting free content! Most people don’t use their iPod Videos as video devices simply because they don’t know how to encode properly for their iPods, neither they want to buy stuff from iTunes (besides, iTunes’ movie collection is very limited). But if there was a way to provide absolutely free, easy to download/install MP4 video, people would definitely go for it. Because you see, everyone has such devices, be it iPods or cellphones or Zunes or Creative Zens! These people just await for video content and MP4 is the file format of choice to deliver it to them! The iPod’s QVGA 2.5″ screen is perfect for a QQCIF video for example.

ABC (and all other networks with similar attrition problems) are sitting on a big opportunity. All they have to do is realize that opportunity and embrace the new technologies.

UPDATE: There is one more thing they could do if the above idea is too radical. They could use the basic idea above, but instead of giving away all these too many/hard-to-work-through episodes, they instead give away this Summer a 2-hour recap of all 3 seasons via iTunes *and* their web site, for free (QVGA resolution for the iTunes DRM’ed version, QQCIF resolution for their DRM-free website version — QQCIF is more compatible with phones you see). I think this is a much faster, safer, cleaner and easier way to do things for both the viewers, the distributors and the DVD sales. No one loses with a free to download 2-hour recap version.

Crabcakes

I cooked some crabcakes tonight for the first time. I am on a VLCD currently so I only had a single bite to taste them, but my JBQ said that they were delicious. I calculated that it’s about 135-150 calories per crabcake. So, here’s the recipe, it makes 4 large crabcakes which is enough for 2 servings, or 4 servings if you are not an American (yes Mike, that’s a joke).

Ingredients (makes 4 large crabcakes)
* 1 egg
* 1 can of real crab meat
* 2 teaspoons of mayonaise
* 1 teaspoon mustard
* paprica or chilli powder
* 4-5 tbspoons of sunflower oil
* 6 tbspoons of breadcrumbs (use 2 Tbspoons of almond flour for Paleo version)
* half a cup of vegetables that consists of:
– onion
– carrot
– celery
– green pepper
– red pepper

Execution
1. In a small bowl beat the egg lightly. Stir in well the mayo and the mustard.
2. Finely chop all vegetables in very small pieces. Boil them for about 2 minutes in some boiling hot water. Drain well.
3. Pour the vegetables in the bowl and add 5 tbspoons of the breadcrumbs. Season with paprica or chilli powder.
4. Open the can and drain well the water out of the crab meat. Use your fingers to squeeze out any water that’s left in the crab meat. Then, place the meat in the bowl.
5. Mix all ingredients well with a teaspoon. If the mixture is way too liquid, add more breadcrumbs in it.
6. In a small plate pour 2-3 tbspoons of breadcrumbs to create a small “mountain”.
7. Using your fingers separate the mixture in 4 equal parts. Take one of the four parts and shape it as as burger (it will be kinda soft, that’s ok). Then, with your other hand get some of the breadcrumbs from the plate and coat evenly both sides of your burger/cake. Set aside and do the same for the other 3 mixture parts.
8. In a large frying pan pour the sunflower oil and heat it up in a medium heat. Using a spatula transfer your cakes to the pan to fry.
9. After about 3-4 minutes or after it’s gotten golden brown, turn the cakes around and cook for another 3-4 minutes or until golden brown.
10. Serve hot, with tartar sauce and with vegetables of your choice. Trust me and don’t opt for fries for this dish.

crabcakes

Diet Recipe: Chocolate Milk Shake

Yup, I am back on a diet, and so the low-calorie recipes are back on this blog. This fat free & light milk-shake has only 100 calories.

Ingredients (for 1)
* 1 “light&fit” Dannon yogurt in the flavor of your choice (60 cals)
* 1/2 chocolate sugar-free Jell-O (30 cals)
* 25 ml fat free milk (10 cals)
* 3 tbspoons of ice cold water (0 cals)

Execution
1. Pour all ingredients in the blender and blend for a few seconds until all brown and smooth.
2. Add a bit more water if the mixture doesn’t blend well or if it’s too thick.
3. Pour it into a glass with the help of a big spoon and enjoy it through a straw.

Strawberry-banana chocolate milk shake
My refreshing milk shake this evening
in the midst of the products I used to create it.

Bandwidth ain’t free

The Joost staff posted a public blog post discussing the bandwidth requirements when using the app. Apparently you need about 300 MBs down and 100 MBs up, per hour. Now, I don’t know if these guys are using h.264 instead of plain MPEG-4 but in any way, there is no chance in hell that my internet provider, Comcast, will allow its subscribers to use Joost after it’s released. Not only Joost will suck out all the available internet bandwidth if it becomes as popular as their other product is (skype), but it is posing a threat on Comcast’s TV business. It is well within Comcast’s powers to filter them out (with or without a net neutrality law), which will be a big blow to Joost’s plans. Comcast is one of the most important US ISPs that the Joost folks need to make deals with. Personally, I see a rocky road ahead for Joost. I am not convinced at all about their business model, even if the idea is promising. But I guess, every innovator’s business die easily. It’s the second implementor who succeeds, because he learns from the mistakes of the first one.