How the New Facebook Utterly Destroyed my Favorite Application (and Why That Makes Me Sad)

I used to love Feedheads. It’s a simple, elegant and beautiful application that does one thing really well: help you share your Google reader shared items.

Unfortunately, the “new” Facebook has rendered the application utterly useless and I can’t think of a good way, as an end-user, to fix it. In fact, as someone who’s built two facebook apps, I can’t even think of a way that the Feedheads developers can fix it. What a calamity.

So here’s the problem: the News Feed (and the Mini Feed) introduced an option that allows end-users to set the story “size.” When a Google shared item story comes through Feedheads now, it defaults to the “one line” size and as a result, it doesn’t say anything other than “Chris posted an item to Feedheads.”

Thank you very much, Facebook. That piece of information is completely useless. People who are reading your feed need to click through into the Feedheads application in order to see what story you posted — and the whole point of Feedheads is to help you share your shared items, not make them harder to find.

(As a result of all this, Facebook also broke one of my applications, called WhyI. It has < 200 users, so very few people care, but . . . the point of the app was to help people ask themselves and their friends questions that have to be answered in five words or fewer. And of course, the questions and answers would show up in the Mini Feed and News Feed. But not anymore! Now it just says: “Chris posted a new mini-update using WhyI.” Again, a totally useless piece of information. Drats.)

As an end-user, I can set the “size” of each feed item. So that means, after I hit Shift-S in Google Reader — which doesn’t take much effort — I have to wait for the story to be published in Facebook and then, if I remember (which at this point is unlikely), I have to go into that little drop down on the right and set the size to “small” instead of the default, which is “one line.” And here’s the best part: I can’t tell Facebook to remember this, so I have to do it every time.

All this just to share a shared item on Google Reader through Feedheads . . . ick.

Here’s the best part. I just noticed that Facebook added their own feature to the new and “improved” news feed. You can import your shared items from Google Reader! And, not surprisingly, the news feed actually shows the stories’ titles. In other words, Facebook took a great application — Feedheads — and replaced the functionality with their own feature; in the process, they rendered Feedheads useless.

This makes me sad. I only have one thing to say:

Wow, Facebook, how very Microsoft of you.

Nobody’s Gonna Read This (and Why That Makes Me Happy)

Boy do I love the fact that no one reads this blog. And to the few people who are exceptions to that general rule — thank you for being so supportive!

I just hit two or three web pages in a row (TechCrunch, Digg and the Meebo blog) wherein each post I read had 80+ comments that reminded me why I rarely ever actually read comments.

Haters, trolls, flamers, spammers — whatever you want to call them, the internet is ridden with people who are filled with spite and rage. The funny thing is that in no other forum (except for perhaps while driving) are people this cruel to one another. It’s just not socially acceptable.

I realize that e-hate isn’t a new problem: in fact, it dates back to the early days of UseNet, Netiquette and the ol’ “do we allow AOLer’s on the internet” debate. While doing some fact-checking on wikipedia, I was really amused to read about Godwin’s Law, which sums up what I’m talking about better than I ever could: “As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”

We all know the Kathy Sierra story. I’m glad she had a thick enough skin to re-emerge in the blogging world and on Twitter because the world is a better place with her contributions than it is without them.

We all remember The Great Sarah Lacy Twitter Massacre of SXSW 2008. I recently met Sarah at a tech event in DC and, believe it or not, she doesn’t have horns, literally or figuratively.

Jason Calacanis recently “retired” from blogging. When I read his post, I immediately thought that it was just a PR stunt, but I’m beginning to realize that I can sympathize with his viewpoint. I really don’t want to ever be an A-list blogger or “internet famous” because it’s just like painting a big target on your own ass.

I love my family and close friends, I love the physical neighborhood in which I live and I love the virtual networks that have developed around my career and my passions for the past 15 years or so that I’ve been using the internet.

But honestly, a big part of me doesn’t want anyone else to read this. Not because I don’t take criticism well. (I don’t, but then again nobody does.) I just wish some of the same general rules that apply to social interactions — at say, a cocktail party, a baseball game or at the supermarket — would apply to the internet.

Comments welcome. Just be nice, ok?

Are Twitter Replies Fundamentally Broken?

Has anyone noticed that Twitter replies are fundamentally broken? Or, I should say, at least the “Replies” *tab* is jacked.

This isn’t another “Twitter is down” post — this is about a feature that doesn’t work as it’s designed.

As far as I can tell, replies to me only end up in my “Replies” tab if my Twitter account name (@bucchere) is the first token in the tweet. Yet a lot of people reply to multiple people or use the “@” notation in context, e.g. “I’m playing tennis with @bucchere.”

That “reply,” although it’s clearly got my name in it, won’t end up under my replies tab. Oops.

In The Social Collective, any time an @ token is found, it stores the message as a reply. Isn’t that how Twitter should work as well?

Has anyone else noticed this? Is anyone else annoyed like I am by this obviously broken “feature?” WTF?

There is a workaround, but it’s kludgey. You can use Summize (now located at search.twitter.com) to search for @bucchere. I did this, then ingested the resulting RSS feed into Google Reader and now I go there instead of to my Replies tab in Twitter. FAIL.

[Update: This is now fixed. Yay, Twitter!]

Shakin’ My Money Maker

I just can’t get enough of the “new and improved” Black Crowes lineup featuring my favorite living guitarist, Luther Dickinson (of the North Mississippi All-Stars).

My TBC concert goals for the year 2008 are a little ambitious, but here’s the plan (asterisks indicate shows that I have actually attended or already have bought tickets for):

3/2 — Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, NJ*
6/27 — Hershey Park, Hershey, PA (opening for the Dave Matthews Band)*
7/5 — Charlottesville Pavilion, Charlottesville, VA*
8/3 — Wolf Trap, Vienna, VA*
9/10 — Van Duzer Theater, Arcata, CA
9/12 — Wells Fargo Center, Santa Rosa, CA
9/14 — Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz, CA
9/17 — The Greek Theater, Los Angeles, CA
9/19 — Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara, CA
10/7 — The National, Richmond, VA
10/8 — The National, Richmond, VA
10/10 — Borgata, Atlantic City, NJ
10/27 — Hammerstein Ballroom, New York, NY
10/28 — Hammerstein Ballroom, New York, NY
12/15 — The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA
12/18 — The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA
12/19 — The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA
12/20 — The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA

Rock on!

Removing iTunes DRM Using Tools from Apple

3d_Apple_Logo_102The other day I was creating a Keynote presentation that needed a soundtrack. I wanted to use some regular (non-iTunes Plus) songs that I had legally purchased on iTunes for my soundtrack. The problem was that I first wanted to cross-fade three songs together and cut them to the exact length to match my slide deck. To do this, I had to import the songs into Audacity, but I couldn’t do that without first removing the iTunes DRM.

Now, bear in mind that I didn’t (and I don’t suggest that you) do anything illegal with your music. Using some music you own in a presentation isn’t, as far as I know, illegal.

Now that that’s out of the way, let me tell you what I discovered. In the past, if I wanted to crack iTunes DRM, it was easy, but it cost the price of one CD-R or CD-R/W. But on this particular evening, I was working in the living room and there were two flights of stairs separating me from my home office where my stack of blank CD-Rs resides. (The old-school process is, if you’re wondering: burn the DRM-protected songs to a CD-R, then rip them back in.) Due not to the cost of a CD-R (pennies), but to the energy I would have expended climbing up and down two flights of stairs, I discovered a method of stripping DRM without ever leaving your seat and using, ironically enough, completely legal tools provided by Apple!

Here’s what you’ll need:

1. A Mac
2. iMovie or iMovie HD
3. A short quicktime movie
4. About five minutes

Here’s how to do it:

1. Open iMovie or iMovieHD and create a new project
2. Import the song for which you want the DRM removed into iMovie(HD)
3. Import a the short quicktime movie*
4. Export the iMovie(HD) project, select “audio only” and choose your format (mp3, wav, etc.)

That’s it! Bye-bye DRM.

*You need the short quicktime movie because if you try to import and export audio only from iMovie(HD), Apple will give you this funny little warning about how you imported DRM-protected music and you can’t export it without adding some video. There’s an easy workaround: add some video!

St. Croix, USVI

mermaidIn early February, 2008, we took a long weekend vacation on St. Croix, one of the US Virgin Islands. The trip was very spur-of-the-moment and it only came about because we noticed that one of our favorite bands, The Grandsons, was planning a USVI tour. Their music consists of a fun blend of 50s-style rock’n’roll, New Orleans R&B; and some very witty original numbers. Needless to say, they’re very dance-able.

It seems like on all our previous vacations, we’ve made such an effort to find places where we could dance. This vacation had the dancing “built-in.”

We planned to see three or four Grandsons shows while also spending a significant amount of time relaxing on the beach and indulging in our other passions, e.g. eating and discovering new cities and towns.

hotelWe arrived Friday, February 1st, leaving behind sub-freezing DC temperatures and a lovely morning of freezing rain, ice and slush. Getting off the plane in St. Croix, we were treated to their version of cold winter weather, which consists of 75 degree temperatures and light breezes. We took a taxi to our lovely resort complex, The Buccaneer, which came highly recommended by multiple friends. We were wowed by the palmtree-lined entrance and the pink grandeur of the hotel’s main buildings along with the perfectly manicured lawns, sprawling flowers and water fountains.

Getting a free upgrade to a luxurious ocean-view room with a four-poster bed, marble floors and a huge balcony was the first of many wonderful experiences we had with the hotel staff.

beachAfter getting settled in, we immediately hit the Mermaid Beach for conch salad, rum cake, sand, sun and surf (and ping-pong). We headed into the quiet town of Christiansted for dinner that night, having chosen the highly-recommended Bacchus Restaurant. We dined on beet salad, seared Ahi and “the best lobster ever.” We then headed to Chicken Charlie’s Roadhouse, a shanty-cum-dive bar frequented by pleasantly rowdy (and very much inebriated) locals whose only care in the world was how to have a great time. The Grandsons rocked the roof off that place and we danced the night away.

After our first dance, Chicken Charlie himself and his wife hit the floor followed by several other couples. Seems like we started something that night.

Saturday morning, Groundhog Day 2008, we slept in and then were treated to an amazing buffet breakfast including creamy and delicious grits, fresh strawberries, potent coffee and numerous other delights. We trekked up toward Cane Bay for the “St. Croix de Gras” parade and block party, which is the island’s version of Mardi Gras, if that wasn’t obvious form the name. (Tuesday is Mardi Gras, which fell early this year.) We were probably the only tourists at this parade (other than The Grandsons) and we were pretty much blown away by the raucousness, recklessness and rowdy-ness of this whole affair which consisted of cars, trucks, ATVs, floats and hordes of totally wasted party-goers. Beads, Jell-O shots and beers were flying left and right amidst honking horns, hooting and hollering locals and spurts of water from some indiscriminate water-pistol wielding marksmen. We ate beef and vegetable roti at a makeshift roadside stand and, later, at a beach shack bar thingamajigger, we drank rum punch made with the storied Cruzan rum, which is pretty much the best tasting rum we’ve ever tried. In fact, it doesn’t taste like rum at all — it tastes more like candy than alcohol.

viewWe arrived a bit late at this whole St. Croix de Gras affair, so we missed The Grandsons playing on Chicken Charlie’s float. We waited around a while for another show, but it never actually happened, so we hopped in a taxi and headed back to The Buccaneer for a cat nap on the beach. After getting cleaned up, we sat and listened to an amazing jazz pianist in the Buccaneer lobby while sipping “vintage” cocktails. He did a mean “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” and a “Take The A Train” that really rocked the house.

We danced. Of course we did.

That night we enjoyed an amazing dinner at the Thai/Mexican-style restaurant Savant: Vietnamese summer rolls followed by sesame seared Ahi (Allison) and a bacon-wrapped double-cut pork chop over jalapeno cheese grits (Chris). We sat in a most lovely and romantic, candle-lit, stone-walled garden replete with native vegetation and even a few chirp-chirping birds to accompany our fabulous dinner. Then it was back to Chicken Charlie’s for a reprise of the previous night’s dance-fest to The Grandsons. This evening we closed out the bar and helped the crowd of totally sauced locals convince The Grandsons to do an encore, which turned out to be Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” — a real gem.

Thomas the taxi driver, who had picked us up and dropped us off at nearly all of our destinations, arrived to pick us up that evening.

He tried to convince us that he was not the only cab driver on the island, but we remained dubious.

allisonSuperbowl Sunday arrived with many of the thematic elements from the days before: perfect temperatures, gentle warm breezes, a fantastic breakfast buffet and more Grandsons. After a luxurious post-breakfast nap (when do we ever get to do that?), we headed over to the islands other major city, Fredericksted, located on the island’s West side. There we had a great lunch at Blue Moon, a fine establishment billed as a “jazz cafe” which was completely true other than the “jazz” part. Our disappointment over the music (or lack thereof) was mediated by the great food — steak and eggs and a fantastic grilled shrimp caesar salad with homemade dressing. We topped it off with an “almond joy” sundae and mint chocolate chip ice cream cake.

We spent the afternoon reeling and rocking to the Grandsons at another beach shack/dive bar called Rhythms at Rainbow Beach. You could sit outside or in or sit on the beach or even go for a swim in the ocean and still hear the band playing their unique blend of American roots rock and New Orleans jazz and swing. We danced, we drank more Cruzan rum punch and we snacked on local dive-bar delicacies.

Sunday evening we had a lovely dinner at The Terrace restaurant in The Buccaneer overlooking the glimmering lights of Christiansted. We dined on beet salad (again), spinach and bacon salad, shrimp cocktail and Mahi Mahi over risotto. Mmmm. We closed out the evening by watching the second half of what turned out to be an amazingly close, nail-biter Superbowl game in which the Giants edged out the undefeated Patriots 17-14, coming back from behind (as a wildcard team) and spoiling what would have been a perfect season for them. Amazing.

chrisMonday morning, our last day in paradise, started the same way — we slept in late, had another phenomenal breakfast, had a spa appointment (Allison) and then hung out on the beach where we enjoyed a swim, more Ahi and Mahi Mahi, more ping pong and some welcome warm rain showers to cool us off. As Allan MacEwen of The Grandsons said,

“If you don’t like the weather on St. Croix, just wait five minutes.”

Whereas following an indie swing band around a tropical island may not be for everyone, it was certainly the right vacation for us. We may just have to do it again some time soon.

Integrate your iPod with your car — the right way

I normally restrict myself to writing about ALUI (Plumtree) topics, but I just can’t resist sharing my thoughts on a recent purchase I made that has changed my life (no kidding).

Up until Monday of this week, I’ve been a happy iPod user (3G, 20 Gb) who enjoys using his iPod in the car but who has never been completely happy with the available options for iPod automobile integration. I started with Griffin’s iTrip, a little cylindrical module that plugs into the top of an iPod and broadcasts the amplified sound to an FM frequency of your choosing. There are several problems with this approach:

  1. The sound is amplified — it would be better to start with a flat signal.
  2. You have to change frequencies when you travel because of interference from other stations.
  3. It’s incredibly difficult to change broadcast frequencies and there’s no way to tell which frequency you’re on.
  4. You have to operate the iPod while driving, which can be dangerous.
  5. You need to purchase separate accessories (such as a cigarette lighter charger) in order to keep the iPod juiced.
  6. You have to deal with messy cables and other electronica in your car that you need to remove and hide in the trunk when you park and leave the car.

Recently I purchased a better integration kit (also from Griffin) called the Road Trip. This unit addresses several of the problems, but not all of them.

  1. The sound is flat — it connects to the dock rather than the audio out.
  2. You still have to change frequencies when you travel.
  3. It’s super easy to change frequencies (and there are even presets) and there’s an LCD that tells you what frequency you’re on.
  4. You still have to operate the iPod in the car, but at least there’s a nice support structure that holds the iPod in a comfortable position for the driver.
  5. It automatically charges the iPod with the included cigarette lighter adapter.
  6. You still have to have the iPod in the car, although it’s more contained because the charger, FM modulator and holder are all part of the same unit.

So as you can see, I was getting closer to the ultimate iPod/car integration solution, but I still hadn’t arrived at it fully.

Until Monday.

After some extensive searching and several calls to the local BMW dealership, I found a product called the USA Spec iPod Adapter that solves all of my iPod/car integration woes, was easy to install, and well priced at around $130 (including tax and shipping) from Bavarian Autosport.

It works with most BMWs (as long as there is no navigation system installed) and it installs in literally 15 minutes.

To install it, I simply removed my car’s factory-installed, trunk-mounted 6-disc CD changer (which I’ve never used) and pulled out the two cables that power the unit and connect it to my Harmon Kardon audio system. I then attached these two cables to a cable (included with the adaptor) which plugs into the adapter. From there, there’s another cable that connects the adapter to the iPod. The whole unit (adaptor + cables + iPod) is safely concealed in the trunk.

I can now operate the iPod from my audio console, which sees the iPod as a CD changer. Playlists BMW1 through BMW4 are mapped to CDs 1-4, CD 5 plays all tracks on the iPod and CD 6 activates the auxillary RCA input jack into which I could plug satellite radio or any other component. The USA Spec adapter also charges the iPod, but is smart enough to shut off one hour after the car gets turned off to prevent drain on the battery.

So I’ve finally found it — the ultimate iPod/car integration kit. No more FM modulation, great sound, easy installation, easy and safe operation and the iPod is where it belongs: in the trunk!

How to pronounce (and not pronounce) Bucchere

 

No, it’s not boo-SHARE, it’s not buck-HEAR, and it’s certainly not buck-HAIRY.

Actually it’s easy: boo-CARE-eee. Once you’ve said it once or heard it twice, you’ll get it.

In fact, a lot of people call me Bucchere because Chris is just so, well, boring.