Monday, November 23, 2009

Questioning the Utility of the iPhone and iPod Touch

One of the main arguments most giddy teenagers use to convince parents to buy them an iPhone or iPod Touch is their actual utility for doing useful stuff (such as accessing Useful Crap (Oh my goodness, what a witty comment!)). Their irksome shrieking voices utter flawlessly planned lines that often breach these confines: "There are apps that'll help me do my homework," and "I can become more organized with calendars and stuff," and "I won't have to be on the computer all day to do stuff," and the always effective "BUT WHY!?!??!?!"
Of course, while it is impossible to combat the latter, you may have some luck using pure logic to clash with the other ones. But let me join their side (because after all, I am somebody who wants $300 crap that I'll probably never really use) for a second. It's true; you'll have to concede that there are apps out there that can help kids do their homework. There are study guides and question-and-answer apps and all the other stuff. There are many calendars and event organizers that can really be of great value. And in fact, it's quite possible that you will be able to re-claim the home computer as yours. This cannot be argued. You can even concede that the iPhone may be one of the most utile machines on the planet. I mean, it's got a phone and a camera and all those apps and a GPS; it's geektastical gold.
But that's not what the real question is. The real question is, how often are your kids actually going to use the goody-two-shoes features? Will they be reading up on the day's economic fluctuations or will they be reading up on the latest developments in the Paris Hilton saga? Will they be communicating ideas with friends about the American Revolutionary War or will they be communicating ideas with friends about the next big party? Will they be busy making an agenda or will they be busy popping touch-screen bubble wrap?
These are all questions that must be considered. Well actually, I'll just tell you the answer and save you the hassle. It's always the second answer. Simple as that. No matter how much they whine, "BUT DADDY!!! I WILLLLL!!!" they won't.
So come the holiday season, don't donate 300 bucks to Steve Jobs' plan to take over the world. You can get a workable MP3 player or even an iPod for $100, $150. Then hey, maybe you'll spend 20 bucks on getting them to remember what those obsolete books were all about.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Breaking News: Facebook Downed by Twitter in Number of Users, Bankruptcy Looming

OK, I'm going to tell you right off the top, Twitter has nowhere near the number of users that Facebook has and it'll be a while before Facebook goes bankrupt but we can dream, can't we? Well the deal is, Facebook is the most popular social networking platform on the web and its reputation is expanding faster than Barack Obama's line-up of misguided, utopian legislation.
Everyone wants a Facebook account because everyone has a Facebook account. The most popular social network generally becomes the even more most popular social network because social networking is a narcissistic popularity device, or euphemistically, connecting with as many people as possible.
Becoming a fan of crunchy looking leaves is obviously an attempt to make yourself look like a joker. At the same time, becoming a fan of Michael Jackson is an obvious attempt to make yourself look cool. And posting your responses to surveys is an obvious attempt to make yourself look frisky and likable and witty.
But when a narcissistic popularity device ceases to function just like every single one will eventually, people stray away to the new big narcissistic popularity device. Think about it, MySpace lost to Facebook because of its complex and less-than-sleek features that made operating a MySpace account, way to hard. Now think about this: Isn't Facebook just following right in MySpace's footsteps?
Facebook started as a humble college social network then expanded to cater to the entire world. It's changed the homepage layout several times to "improve the efficiency". They've added little customization features to the status updates and they've even started giving us recommendations on who we should start talking to more. They've stolen every feature that Twitter made and added them to its interface. They continue to develop because they think it's quite productive; after all, it has gotten them into profitable status.
However, if anything, all this feature-loading is congesting the site and being counter-productive. When you type in "", you don't see a nice, clean-looking page anymore; you see endless updates from every single friend and every single page you've subscribed to in the middle, each with profile pictures and other pictures and comments and "likes" and buttons prompting you to share these updates.
Then you've got more updates plus robotic suggestions and narcissism-extending requests and events and "pokes" on the side. It's gotten so bad that I'm just not looking at anything anymore. I've become a rebel and switched to Twitter.
Twiter barely has a feature and that's the best part. All you are expected to do is make updates on your status, maybe favorite a few tweets and participate in the number sign phenomenon. You're not obliged to check every photo that your friends have posted and watch all those boring ten minute videos. You don't have to bother joining fan clubs or sending people virtual gifts. There aren't applications. All you do is tweet. And that rocks.
Facebook is over-complicating itself and is failing to be that perfect way to inflict our self-centred comments on others. In fact, the internet as a whole is over-complicating itself. Who knows when Internet will be the outdated weirdo medium that radio and television are, and some other grand platform will take over the minds of our children? Who knows?

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Only Youtube FLV Video Converter that's Actually Working for Me

My search for a way to download YouTube videos as keepsakes began in the heart of the Obama Presidential Campaign, during the Democratic National Convention. I'd heard some pretty damn inspiring words on those few few days and I thought it'd be nice to be able to have Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama and the one and only Barack Obama on my MP3 player (which sucks, by the way). So it started with the search query, "online youtube video converter" on Google, which led me to VideoConvertX.
This site worked great for the longest time and in fact, I was very satisfied. However, when I wanted to download Bill Clinton's big speech, I went through the usual process: paste the URL, input my email, wait for the conversion to finish (indicated by email). However, once I received this very convenient email notice and went to click on the link, suddenly, no download thing showed up. I tried it several times after that, but it continued to fail miserably.
Then, one of my friends advised me to try It actually worked fine for a few conversions but then halted abruptly. And by the way, don't even bother trying to go to because the site has been taken down, although it remains at the top of most Google queries for video converters.
And after going through a bunch of sites that failed to meet my relatively loose requirements, I've found one that works. Yes. It's Convert For Me. It does what you want a video converter to do; it converts Youtube videos into several formats that you can save onto your computer or portable device.
And for those of you who skipped right to the URL, you missed a damn epic story.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Finally, An Alternative to Google Trends that Actually Works: Find the Web's Biggest Trends with Surchur

I've always thought that somebody needs to make a site that summarizes the big things happening on the web at any given time. Google Trends is an attempt at this, albeit the fact that it is horrendous. Well, I think I've hit the jackpot with Surchur, the most comprehensive listing of the web's trends.
Surchur calls itself, "The dashboard to right now," and rightfully so. The operators of the site provide hourly updates to "The Realtime Board", a list that aesthetically shows what's hot. There are two lists on this board: Hot topics and Catching fire. Hot topics lists what's hot right now, while Catching fire lists what's rising quickly. Meanwhile, each listing is followed by a ranking of its popularity on Surchur itself, the blogosphere and Twitter in addition to where the listing is most popular (the feared Google Trends, Yahoo! Buzz, Twitter Trends, Technorati, Bing xRank or CNN Popular).
Also accessible is a "surch engine", which lists hot URLs from blogs, social networks, news sites, media sites and product listings. Users can influence these results by making comments or voting on how good the URL is. And at the bottom, Surchur conveniently shows all the top results from other big "web categorizers" such as Digg, Delicious, Google Blog Search and Newsvine.
Plus, all this is packaged in a clean, appealing template that makes everything neat and easy-to-read. So Surchur is the site and check it out, it might interest you.