Saturday, July 22, 2006

Verona Swing Set from Toy "R" Us

It was my daughter's birthday two weeks ago. One of her gifts was a swing set. I picked up a Verona swingset from Toys "R" Us. Last week I put it together. This weekend I anchored it.

2 thumbs up for the ease of assembly. My only complaint is that things that were not supposed to be assembled were (necessitating my disassembling them) and things that were supposed to be assembled weren't. The packaging was sealed and all the parts were in the original plastic, so I'm fairly sure it wasn't a return.

Those in-ground anchors, I'm not convinced by them. If, while watching Miss A swing, I see to much movement of the set, the legs are getting put into concrete.

ROKU Photobridge HD1000 Discontinued

It looks like the next great thing is around the corner. The HD1000--the hardware WESTAF uses for ZAPP(tm) juries has been discontinued. They have announced something new early in 2007. It suprises me that they have completely depleted stock a half year before doing what ever they are going to do with the line.

Slingbox Encrypts Streams

I have been thinking about purchasing a Slingbox to experiment with place shifting. The concept is a bit like time shifting with a VCR or DVR and works rather well with timeshifting devices. Rather than shifting the time you watch something, you can use the Internet to shift WHERE you watch content.

Say I record a show on my ReplayTV and I want to watch something that I've recorded, but I'm in a hotel in Ottawa. I can use the Slingbox to steam that content to my laptop over the hotel's broadband Internet connection.

This is a very cool concept--there is a software varient of the same concept called Orb.

Slingbox appears to have caved to the big networks and started encrypting the stream. Prior to adding the encryption, third parties had build software that allows for recording of that stream--a feature not advertised by the company. PC magazine has reported that this action has broken third party applications like this.

As I see it, Sling added a form of DRM to the stream to avoid the kind of debacle ReplayTV found itself in when owned by SonicBlue. SonicBlue was sued into oblivion for features the RIAA were concerned about--specifically show sharing and commercial advance. Sling is taking steps to avoid these kinds of clashes in the future.

I understand why Sling has done what it did, but DRM is strangling people's rights to fair use. because of the worry of potential abuse. But this is *potential* abuse, not actual abuse.

The direction that DRM is headed is pretty troubling with issues ranging from disallowing timeshifting through use of network flags to the relatively recent DMCA which does, amonst other things, criminalizes the backup of DVDs purchased for home use.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

YouTube Hosing Content Providers

Holy cow. It turns out that the Terms and Conditions that YouTube published just a few days ago actually gives YouTube (and anyone that might buy them in the future) a non-expiring royalty free license to use the content posted on their site any way they please.

"…by submitting the User Submissions to YouTube, you hereby grant YouTube a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the User Submissions in connection with the YouTube Website and YouTube's (and its successor's) business… in any media formats and through any media channels."

This means that they can sell any content for any purpose--with 65,000 uploads every day, this could become quite a valuable asset.

We'll see how many people catch onto the new terms, but making changes like this could seriously disrupt what has become one of the most powerful social networks.

Be careful what you choose to upload to YouTube. You may lose control of your content.

Sid Meier's Civilization IV

For the last several days, I've been playing this game--it was recently ported over to the Mac--Civ IV. I've played previous versions, and like its predecesors it is addictive. The first time I ever played Civ, was back in Ottawa at a friend's house. I was hanging out over a weekend and he needed to go to work. I ended playing for 10 hours straight. It was engrossing.

This new version has great graphics and, it seems to me, takes the strategy one step further. It seems (and I've only played 3/4 of one game so far) that religion has taken a central role in this version.

If you are looking for a pretty darn addictive computer game, like strategy, and have enjoyed any other Sid Meier's games this one is a keeper.

I am nearly 37 years old. I grew up in the cartoon and video game generation. While I am deeply committed to the traditional arts like theatre, visual arts, dance, and music--this underlies the challenges that the traditional arts are facing. I spent money on a game which I am becoming quite enamoured with. The arts community need to embrace the gaming industry as an arm of the creative economy. A good video game IS a work of art.

Rose Water

We had a nice downpour of rain today. I caught a quick snap of raindrops on our rose bush.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Demographic Shifts in the US

Barry's Blog has a great discussion on demographic shifts in the US and what it means to the arts. No longer can theatres count on season ticket holders as the Boomers retire and gen xyz build up as consumers.

My wife and I had season tickets at a local theatre a couple of years ago. The theatre made it so difficult to swap tickets that we ended up missing more than half the season. We travel quite a bit and we like to go to theatre together--we can't plan to be at a whole season. If there had been more flexiblity, a willingness to see that lifestyles are different than they were in the 70s and 80s we probably would still be season ticket holders.

The blog considers that 77 million boomers will be retiring shortly. They will suddenly have enormous amounts of time and quite a bit of wealth. How can the arts capitalize on this?

Second, it discusses the doom of the non-profit arts organization model. Is it truly un-salvageable?

Spend 20 minutes reading today's post. It is informative and the conversation is illuminating. Again, it re-enforces the need for the arts to look at the changing population and how xyz is going to turn EVERYTHING on its head.

Kangaroo Loose in Ireland

This probably tickles me because of our recent trip to Australia, where we saw lots of kangaroos both wild and in parks.

In Ireland, a circus kangaroo decided that it really needed a nice walk and has only been glimpsed occasionally since. The kangaroo's keepers point out that it is warm, there is lots of grass, and plenty of water. He should be perfectly happy.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Art Scammers

In my work with at WESTAF, we've are very sensitive to the needs of our artist members. We want them to sell work, garner commissions, be successful. In the last year, we have seen wave after wave after wave of scammers trying all manner of deception to cheat hard working artists out of money and artwork. Pretty much every artist I know, that makes a living form his or her art, struggles for every penny they have. Granted it is a choice they make (and one I have chosen not to make), but this shouldn't target them to be stolen from.

I came across a page on ArtQuest that has a good list of these would be thieves.

As always, beware of the deal that looks too good to be true.

Beth Kanter

I've added Beth Kanter's Blog to my list of blogs on the right. I've known Beth for quite some time--I met her because of our mutual interest in the Arts/Technology sphere. She and I have sat on an NEA panel together.

I respect the work that Beth has done (and continues to do). Check out her blog for insightful comments on technology, the arts, and other good stuff.

Social Networking in the Arts Community

Social Networking has become a buzz word in recent months--and years. It was original coined back in the 50's before anyone had a clue that the Internet even existed. Social networks tend to run between 120 and 150 individuals--sometimes known as Dunbar's number. In a social network, each person is a node--just like in the parlance of computer networks.

Recently, social networks have eased into use on sites like LinkedIN where extended networks have become ridiculously large. My personal network on LinkedIN is roughly 25 people--but because of those that THEY are linked in, my extended network numbers in the millions. Do I REALLY have meaningful connections to all these people? Right. They don't know me from a hole in the wall. However, the LinkedIN community recently had me back in touch with a lost friend from University--a graduate from the Fine Arts program I was enrolled in who now works for a computer gaming company. While the extended network is virtually meaningless, real dealings can be had with those who are perhaps as far as two links removed. People who were connected to you in past lives may find themselves reconnecting to you.

Other social networks have been getting bad reputations lately. Networks like MySpace have ended up being pedophile stomping grounds. They've been doing a lot to clean up that reputation. Interesting collaborations might be found on such networks. For Example, standard search protocols on MySpace include: Music, Movies and Books. If you do a search for "artist" using "Music Interest" as the filter, you come up with vast numbers of records.

Social networks, blogs, podcasts, these are all normal modes of communication and socialisation for the current young generation.

The arts need to immerse, engage, embrace these technologies. The technologies in turn can give the arts a new voice in an environment where the classic sense of an "Arts Organization" seems to be dying slowly but surely. The models of the 60's, 70's and 80's are failing.

So lets get to work.

Best of ArtsColorado Juried Exhibition


On September 22 at Gallery 821, in Denver, there will be a juried show. There will be cash prizes for Best of show and for Best of Medium. Submissions are due August 14. You can download an entry at:

Monday, July 17, 2006

A view from Google Earth of the Denver Convention Center

700 14th St, Denver, CO 80202, USA

Latitude: 39.74323036542189

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Net Neutrality--Another post

You can find out where your senator stands by way of Net Neutrality They have a great FAQ that covers the major issues. Interestingly every last sentator that is against keeping the Net flat are Red senators.

The push to deregulate the Net and allow the ISPs to control what content gets the upper hand really seems to stem from the big CableCo and Telco need to control media. With services like YouTube coming online, the notion of broadcasting will become blurred just like journalism. The broadcasters see what is happening to the newspaper world--far fewer subscribers--and fear that they are next.

Truth is, that they probably are.

ABC recently announced that they would like DVR manufacturers to disable the ability of viewers to skip content. Trust me, that will just futher alienate the viewer.

So who will this kind of shift affect? Mostly you and me. We're the ones that will suffer when smaller businesses can't pay the extra money to make their content "premium".

My company, WESTAF builds software for non-profits. We have software that is designed to simplify applications to art festivals. We also custom build grant making software. If we were forced to pay additional moneys to ensure speedy access to our systems, we would likely be hurt very badly. The end users (folks who apply to art shows and apply for grant monies) would be similarly be harmed because they could potentially no longer have quick access to these non-profit systems.

Please contact your legislators and let them know how you feel about this. It is too important an issue to just hope it turns out OK.

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