Easy email to SMS gateway service

This is old news by now, but I found this useful: rather than remembering a multitude of special email addresses to send text messages to friends and colleagues, there is now a service to do it for you: Teleflip. Just send an email to your friend’s phone number at teleflip.com: for the cell number 508-555-1212, that would be 5085551212@teleflip.com.

Why is this easier? For completeness’ sake, here is a list of all the other ways you would have to address said email messages depending on the carrier, assuming you can remember who your friend has for mobile service:

  1. Verizon: 5085551212@vtext.com
  2. Sprint: 5085551212@messaging.sprintpcs.com
  3. Former Nextel: 5085551212@messaging.nextel.com
  4. Cingular: 5085551212@cingularME.com
  5. Former AT&T Wireless subscribers: 5085551212@mmode.com (which used to be 5085551212@mobile.attwireless.net)
  6. T-Mobile: 5085551212@tmomail.net
  7. Virgin Mobile: 5085551212@vmobl.com

Particularly useful, I think, in automating messaging to mobile customer service representatives—all you have to know is the person’s mobile phone number.

How to make a grown man cry; or, comparing file recovery tools

I’m here to tell you that my brain should have been screaming at me earlier when I wrote the following passage:

…this morning I bit the bullet and deleted the remaining 32 GB of files.

Because, of course, when I deleted the contents of my Music folder, I also blew away the special iTunes folder. Which, of course, iTunes wants to have in the Music folder rather than in the Library like everything else that matters about your account. And which, of course, contains the iTunes Library and iTunes Music Library.xml files, which contain pointers to all the songs (trivial to recreate), all my playlist definitions (not trivial to recreate), and all the playcounts.


Last time I lost the playcounts in the library it took me almost eight months to listen to every track again. One eMusic subscription and 200+ CDs of The Project later, that’s looking more like a year and a half. Not to mention recreating all the playlists.

So, I thought desperately, what to do? I know: in the olden days, I would have run Norton Utilities and undeleted the files. Simple, right?

Unfortunately, with HFS+ or Mac OS X or something, file recovery is a lot more difficult, as I discovered when I auditioned two recovery packages (and when I say “auditioned,” I mean bought, as that’s really the only way to test them out.

First up: FileSalvage, which has some really nice features, including a list that gets dynamically updated as new files are discovered, in-application preview (or at least text listing) of discovered files and … well, that’s it. Here‘s the trouble with file recovery in the Brave New World: there are no residual directory entries left to show what the file names once were. Somehow the type data is identifiable, but you don’t know the names. FileSalvage resolves this problem by presenting a list sorted by file type (good), where all the files of a single type have the same name (bad). If you are trying to find a single JPEG out of a list of 20000 items marked “file.jpg”, you’re really going to need that in-application preview.

Unfortunately there was a worse problem: it didn’t find either my binary iTunes Library or the XML based iTunes Music Library.xml. And of course at this point I discovered that not only did I not have the out of date backup I thought I had, I actually had no backup, thanks to a series of misadventures with Apple’s .Mac Backup software and the old 250 MB limit on iDisks.


So I turned again to Google and found a recommendation for another backup program, DataRescue from ProSoft Engineering. Another chunk of change and another disk scan later, I had progress—in the form of 89 little fragments of either the XML file or the main binary database. And of course, all of them are incomplete and all of them have corrupting interpolations in them somewhere. So while I may be able to rescue the data from the XML file, I will be hand-editing a bunch of them to try to pull back as much as I can.

So ripping CDs is temporarily on hold, as is syncing the iPod, or doing just about anything else fun. I think this is going to take a while.

Oh: Definitely today DataRescue gets the big thumbs up for actually finding the damned files, even if they were in a zillion pieces.

The Supreme Court: Anyone can play!

put your friend on the court

Democracy for America : America Needs a Friend on the Supreme Court. Why Not Yours?. If you saw Bush’s nomination of his pal Harriet Miers and said, “Huh. So the only qualification she has is that she’s his friend? I bet my friend could do better”—well, now’s your chance to put your nomination where your mouth is, Binky! I nominated my good friend Greg Greene, because he makes a killer gumbo. Though as an actual, you know, lawyer, he might be overqualified.

I’m sure that there are equally snobby qualifications that you could put forward for your friends. Enter early and often. Recommended nominee types:

  1. Your mom.
  2. The neighbor—you know, the one with the really annoying cough.
  3. Bono.
  4. Anthony Kiedis: because all of his friends are so depressed.
  5. Larry Lessig. God knows he needs something to do to take up all his free time.
  6. The Tin Man: because then he’d have to blog about something else.

It’s fun! Anyone can be a Supreme! Play along!

Making a happy Mac

As I alluded in the previous post, my Mac is a little unhappy right now. It’s been much unhappier on the software side—launch times of some applications are measured in minutes, the SBOD appears when doing even trivial actions in iTunes—and I’m going to try to find some measures today to fix the problem.

My first step was to bite the bullet and free some disk space. Since my iTunes library and all my music now reside on an external FireWire disk, I could theoretically have removed all the music files from the TiBook some months ago. I was reluctant, for no reason other than it meant I would have no access to music without the external drive (or my iPod). Realistically, though, I wouldn’t want to play music files in another location and mess up playcounts and library paths, so this morning I bit the bullet and deleted the remaining 32 GB of files. My disk free space is now up to 39 GB.

We’ll see how much difference that makes. My next step is to take a step back and do a clean Mac OS X install, archiving the previous installation, and see if there was something dragged along from an older system that was slowing things down. After that, I need to find an argument to spend the money to upgrade to 1GB of RAM, which I suspect will make the real difference. Since sadly both RAM slots are currently occupied on this machine, I can’t get away for less than $100. Around here, that constitutes Approval by Change Advisory Board required. We’ll see.

Update: the archive and install didn’t fix the problem.

Chore day

Happy Columbus Day—or Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day, if you swing that way. My company observes the October holiday (and the fact that it is the only reasonable holiday candidate in October is probably why), so I have a day off for house chores.

Which is more exciting than it sounds, because there is nothing more depressing (in both the colloquial and literal senses) than a bunch of half finished projects around the house. So my goal today is to have a bunch of three-quarters finished projects when I’m done. To wit:

  • Figure out a way to use the large-diameter hole saw whose shaft too big for all my drills, so I can…
  • Drill a hole in a closet door to replace the handle hardware, for which I need to …
  • Buy non-locking door hardware, which will also allow me to…
  • Replace the closet door handle that stopped working entirely yesterday morning. After that, I can …
  • Move the pegboard from my old shop area to the new one in the garage, for which I will need either to mount some firring strips with the big concrete anchors I have or else purchase some smaller ones. After that, I can…
  • Move one of the shelf units cluttering my library into the place where the pegboard sat, and then move the other out to the garage.

But first, and most important, I need to reserve a place at the Genius Bar. This PowerBook has a bad hinge, and I need to find out if it will cost as much as I think it will to fix it.

The other Weblogs(.com) Acquisition

Congrats to Dave Winer on the acquisition of his groundbreaking weblog ping service, Weblogs.com, by Verisign. This is a Really Big Deal, on a number of levels. Kottke articulates the value to Dave — or rather the liability that is avoided by having someone with deep pockets take on the task of keeping the infrastructure updated.

I think the value to Verisign is the more interesting story. First off, buying into Weblogs.com gives them an instant and important set of data about the blogosphere that includes growth rates, language usage, and a piece of the puzzle in fighting spam blogs. Second, though, there are a ton of services that are built on Weblogs.com and many more that might benefit from knowing which blogs are being updated. I can see (and Verisign acknowledges) that there is a business-to-business transaction model in which Verisign charges for access to things like changes.xml, or charges for aggregated data about participants in the blogosphere. Particularly important is the access that this gives to information about podcasters.

The real question is: is it too late? As I pointed out last year, services like Ping-o-matic have centralized access to the exploding multitude of ping services that are out there (up to 22, from 12 last July). I can see a scenario (particularly the one above) where Verisign makes the wrong move in charging for a formerly free service from Weblogs.com and people (and blogging platforms) stop pinging.

Note to anyone who is interested in the growth of weblogs in general: check my historical record, which spanned from 2001 to 2003. Unfortunately, a recent move of the Weblogs.com server (around August 22) seems to have blown away the historical data on that server for the high water marks.

Redesigns 2: CNet’s News.com: ho-hum design, good blogs

The second notable redesign today is at News.com. Reviewing this design is a little more difficult, because it’s harder to spot what has changed. The yellow is still there, now actually looking a little orange. The front page is still a total mess, and it’s still impossible to find an individual headline there. The URLs are still impossibly long and impossible to remember.

But there are three killer features. The treemap view of the hottest stories on News.com is brilliant, as is its placement as a sidebar on every story. It’s interesting to watch popularity change in real time, too, as the current hottest story (Network feud leads to Net blackout) gets hotter. I hope that CNet thought about the effect that this treemap has on their most viewed statistics, or they might just be getting into a self reinforcing loop here.

The Big Picture is even cooler, at least at first. This moving relationship map between stories is fun to use to explore the Related Stories that CNet has long featured at the bottom of every article. Two things are keeping me from being hyper-enthusiastic about the feature, though. I don’t always understand why the connections are drawn the way they are, or what popularity has to do with the relationship between the stories. Second, like all such spider graphs, the relationships are really hard to read once too many of them appear on screen.

The third feature has the potential to be the most controversial among bloggers. That’s because it’s yet another Top 100 list of blogs that are “worth reading.” The results are interesting, especially the Blog 100 Stream (recent posts from all 100 blogs in river of news format). Even if Fark.com is flooding that river right now. I’d like to see more interactivity though. Agree or disagree? What would have been cool would be if CNet partnered with Bloglines or Kinja to allow readers to build their own lists, not just talk about them.

Final note: I wholeheartedly approve of News.com’s shift in focus from Tech News First to News of Change. In 2005, focusing on technology means focusing on law, politics, and the sciences as well.

In fact, the only obviously dumb move I see from this redesign is the My News feature. I’m not going to take the time to customize my view of News.com, folks. I’m putting that time into my RSS reader instead, because the payback is better.

Overall score: Intentions A, execution B+. Great features, but the basic page design, particularly on the home page, could still improve to make finding information easier.

Redesigns Part 1: Salon misses an opportunity

Two big sites unveiled new designs today. Salon (as pointed to by BoingBoing) and CNET’s News.com both rolled out new user interfaces. I’m a little mixed on the design effectiveness of both, but there are a few interesting corners in the mix too. I’ll write a quick post on CNET but want to focus on Salon’s moves now, because frankly they annoy me more.

First the graphic identity. It’s cleaner, but some of the elements, particularly on the front page, appear unanchored and somehow floating—as though the former black boxes of the design were containing the content and it’s now just kind of drifting around the page. There’s not a good sense of an underlying grid. Take a look at the community sidebar for an example—it seems to bear little relation to what’s going on around it. I’m also getting lost in the headlines on the left—too much bold text, not enough visual separation or something. It’s hard to scan. Finally, the new design and branding doesn’t carry through to all the content, particularly Audiofile. Visual design: A for intentions, B- for execution.

I also don’t appreciate the “ghetto-ization” of Salon’s blogs, which are now (especially Audiofile and War Room) the major daily draw for me. While they’ve moved into the main column and feature updated headlines, they’re only small text links in a mass of illustrated spots and thus easy to overlook. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Salon’s other articles. I still click through on the RSS feed for some other articles, such as today’s Fall of the Rovean Empire by Sidney Blumenthal and last week’s article on the implications of the Vatican’s crackdown on homosexuality in seminaries. But for me Salon’s steady, unglamorous RSS feed (OK, it’s actually RDF) is much better at making their content findable than the redesign. And the link to the RSS feed is now gone from the front page! It’s not even in the meta tags, so you can’t use autodiscovery. This is brain dead. Discoverability: intentions A, execution D.

Finally, functionality. I like the addition of the font size controls and the print and email links. But they aren’t on pages that don’t have the new design. Intention B+ (page tools are ok but not revolutionary, really. How about telling us about your most emailed articles with those stats you’re collecting through Hotbox?) and execution A-.

Overall score: intentions A, execution C-. Not a good way to start your next ten years, folks.


The rumors were true: NewsGator is acquiring NetNewsWire from Brent Simmons’ Ranchero Software—and hiring Brent as a product architect. Big congrats to Brent. I look forward to the day when my NNW subscriptions sync seamlessly with every aggregator under the sun—though I want to see support for Bloglines continue in something more robust than “bug fix” mode.

Like some of the commenters on Brent’s post, I’m also concerned about the future of some of the other Ranchero work, particularly MarsEdit. You can’t let that one go, Brent!!! I still haven’t seen a blog editor on either platform that compares for usability and actual operation. Most of the ones I’ve tried on Windows can’t even connect to my Manila server (with the obvious exception of Radio). Hopefully Brent is able to find a good “other home” for it.

Happy anniversary to us

I don’t do it publicly nearly often enough, but I would like to thank my very patient wife Lisa today and wish her a very happy anniversary. (For the record, this is apparently the bronze/pottery/linen/lace anniversary, none of which are going to fit in my carry-on bags, alas.)

When we got married back in McLean, Virginia, and left the service for the reception, sleepless and getting slightly punchy, and left the church for that awful limo with the skanky Persian rug and the lingering cigarette smell, I turned to her and said, “It’s all uphill from here.” And you know? It really has been.

Good week for free music

Item number 1: Seattle band Harvey Danger, of “Flagpole Sitta” fame, has released its newest album as free MP3 downloads from its website and via Bittorrent. Should be good stuff. (Via Slashdot)

Item number 2: Indie stalwarts Steadman have released their major label albums for free download from their website. (Via BoingBoing)

Finally, the 31 tossed-off-in-an-afternoon tracks of Van Morrison’s contractual obligation album, featuring such fine songs as “Ring Worm,” “Blow In Your Nose,” “Want a Danish,” “The Big Royalty Check,” and “Here Comes Dumb George,” are available for download at WFMU. Go nuts. (Again, via BoingBoing)

Virginia football: too good to be true

Well, Virginia was off to a strong start. Too bad about Saturday’s game: 45-33 is an ugly loss by anyone’s standards. I DVR’d the game but missed the last five minutes, thanks to the game going over three hours, and consequently missed the last scoring drives from both teams. It really looks like there wasn’t a heckuva a lot of defense going on, though. The polls seem to agree, as we’ve dropped out of the top 25.

Oh well. Maybe I can get to Saturday’s game at Boston College and watch the Cavaliers make up for it.

Disney is around here somewhere, isn’t it

In the light of day, the Gaylord Palms looks like the sort of resort that makes you say, “Now I know what Disney’s contractors do on their days off from the Magic Kingdom.” The central atrium has a kind of Disneyfied view of Florida architecture, from a mock Everglades to a faux spanish castle to multiple fake Mission-style buildings. Not to mention the alligators. It’s all very theme park and all very subtly wrong. Gibson’s Cayce would convulse in a massive allergic reaction to all the not-quite-reality.

The show floor is about 80° and humid. If that doesn’t get better by the time the day is over, I’m going to be dripping wet. That makes for an attractive sales experience.