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Are magazines committing suicide?

I was traveling this weekend and as I am wont to do, spent too much time at bookstores and magazine stands.

I came across the current issue of the New Yorker, where this article caught my eye: "A reporter at Large: Anatomy of a Meltdown", and the current issue of Wired, where this article caught my eye: "Ray Ozzie wants to Push Microsoft Back into Startup Mode".

I haven't read either article yet, but a cursory scan says that they are just the kind of thing I am interested in. Just the thing I'd be willing to pay for. Here's the thing. I thought about buying them (probably $10 total) but instead, back at my hotel, in the lobby, logged onto the free internet and printer connected computer, and printed out both articles , stapled them (handy stapler provided by hotel) and took them to my room.

I like this, as a reader. But the fact that the magazines make these articles available, free, in full text, without ads even (check the links I privide and you will see no ads!), tells me something. I have to believe that the editors know that these are some of their most catchy articles, and that they didn't end up on the web site by accident. I have to believe that they are there only after a good bit of soul searching around the editorial desk.

It's sad to see, but I take this as a sign that magazines (and newspapers) are on their deathbed.

What I am reading this morning

A few really quick links:

I said 'really quick links'. Elapsed time, 3 minutes. There you have it. Enjoy.

OpenStreetMap – Let’s map the whole planet, one person at a time

Another crazy-brilliant site,, is aiming to get all of us to annotate maps of all places on the planet. In other words, I know my neighborhood, let me log in and indicate what streets are called what, which ones are one way, where the intersections are etc. This may not sound so special if you live in Boston, or any other relatively built up part of the world.

But for out of the way places where, one might presume, the bigco's have not yet come through to annotate the sattelite photos, it sets up a rather cool, people powered way of capturing this information.

From their own wiki:

"OpenStreetMap creates and provides free geographic data such as street
maps to anyone who wants them. The project was started because most
maps you think of as free actually have legal or technical restrictions
on their use, holding back people from using them in creative,
productive, or unexpected ways."

And very likely the results will be more up to date, more detailed and more accurate.

How many sources of video signal?

Netflix has a box to stream video into my living room. TIVO has a deal with Amazon to do the same. Blockbuster is just coming out with their set- top box. Check out this interesting option from Myka:

"The beauty of this box is that it takes the nerd-factor out of BitTorrent, giving you access to all the content (licit and illicit) available on the P2P network without requiring advanced skills. The Linux-based box connects to the TV using HDMI, composite, S-Video or SPDIF connectors and hooks up to your internet connection via ethernet or WiFi. An internal hard drive (80, 160 or 500 GB) takes care of storage, and all the user has to do is point the device's browser at a torrent tracker file and click." (from Wired)

Looks very interesting, especially in it's use of BitTorrent. I don't think it's shipping just yet, but worth looking into when it does. Read the wired article.

myka settopbox video dvd bittorrent

Clean up your Amazon Wishlist!

If you are anything like me, you are constantly coming across books and other goodies that look interesting but not interesting enough to actually get.

In my house, there are several shelves that contain books purchased but not yet read. It's my queue. I love them . It's like having a personal bookstore with only books that I love. Or at least, I think I will love.

The Amazon wish list has become basically another way station between Amazon and my shelves. I save money by storing part of my queue of interesting books inside Amazon's wish list. After all, when will I actually read them?

Which brings us to today's topic. Clean up that Amazon wishlist. The holidays are coming and people actually look at that list and send you gifts. So make sure that what's on the list is actually stuff that you want to unwrap!

I just discovered that Amazon has a very handy organizer which allows you to bulk move and bulk categorize stuff on your list in one fell swoop. So I created a new, private list, called Pito's personal tickler of stuff I may want and moved two-thirds of the junk that was on my public wishlist to it. Just look for the "move/copy" button and you will be golden!

(This post again going to prove that no topic is too mundane for a blog post 😉

amazon books wishlist

Very unscientific survey of online survey tools

Because of a couple of projects that I am working on, I thought I might be able to use some tool for an online survey. I have two particular requirements:

  1. respondents can be anonymous
  2. respondents are allowed to complete the survey in multiple sittings. In other words, they can go back to a form and continue where they left off.

I thought others might be trying to do the same thing so it would be nice to share my personal (non scientific) findings:

  • The three that seemed to come up in my web search are: Wufoo, SurveyMonkey and Zoomerang.
  • All three have a free option that allows a basic survey to be done and some basic reports to be produced
  • Wufoo is very pretty and fast. Sophisticated and easy to use interface. Elegant. My only problem was that my second requirement is not supported.
  • Zoomerang is a bit slow and did not support my second requirement either
  • SurveyMonkey was fast and flexible but not nearly as pretty and elegant and easy to use as WuFoo.
  • In fact, of the three, only SurveyMonkey has an option that would allow a respondent to come back and continue where they left off (my requirement)

For me, SurveyMonkey is the right choice.

form wufoo zoomerang surveymonkey

Ask the pilot how hard it is to fly a plane

Ask The Pilot is a regular Salon column. Recently there was a good one, essentially about how hard or easy it is to fly and land a plane nowadays:

"But wait, he goes on. "Most of the time," says heyja, "pilots will push the seats back, push a button, never look out the window, arranging their Jeppsens [sic], drink their coffee, whine about the Democrats and their disappearing pensions." (from Ask The Pilot)

to which he retorts:

"Compare, for a moment, an airline flight with a medical procedure. That's as good an analogy as any, I think. I propose that in order to deliver an airplane safely to its destination, the knowledge and expertise required of the pilot are roughly equivalent to those required of a surgeon in order to safely perform an operation. Doctors and pilots both reap the benefits of advanced technology. It makes their jobs easier. Albeit not easy, and in no way does it diminish the requisite skill, knowledge, experience and responsibility." (from Ask the Pilot)

Do you buy it? After all, he is an actual pilot. He should know 🙂 Read the article: Tedium in the age of terror

pilot flying airplanes askthepilot

Bummer for Whole Foods

Not than anyone is buying any stocks these days (are you?) but I happened to have a very small number of Whole Foods shares, so this bit of news explains why Whole Foods have been tanking (other than the general lowering tide which lowers all boats)

"… Whole Foods has had a cult like following amongst upscale urban
professionals. Aspirational shoppers even mocked their own spending by
nicknaming Whole Foods: “Whole Paycheck”. Given the economic
instability though, customers are staying away from Whole Foods in
droves…." (from Seeking Alpha, Whole Foods in a Whole Lot of Trouble)

Ever hear of teratomas?

Here's a truly weird article, which a sticks in my mind a week after reading it:

"Clark had seen teratomas. They were common in the reproductive tract, often found accidentally in the course of an operation or on a scan done for some other reason.

These strange cysts have been a source of fascination since their discovery in the 19th century because, although smooth and normal-appearing on the outside, on the inside they often contain hair and teeth and other tissues not normally seen in the reproductive system.

The name “teratoma” is derived from the Greek word for “monster,” because of their creepy contents. These cysts rarely cause trouble and are usually removed only if they get too large or cause pain. This cyst was the size of a peach pit. Could a small growth do all this?" (from Brain Drain)