Thursday, May 31, 2007

How to Legally Convert iTunes Plus Songs to Play on any MP3 Player.

Yesterday, Apple began selling some songs, from the EMI record label (Frank Sinatra, Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney, etc), in a new format, called iTunes Plus. Since the new format isn't copy protected it means you can now buy an iTunes Plus song from the iTunes Store and play it on any MP3 player. But, there's one extra, simple, step, you'll need to do to play it on a player other than an iPod; you have to convert the song to MP3 format. Luckily, this feature is already included in iTunes.

One Step Conversion
Simply select a song or a group of songs you want to convert and ctrl-click (right click) on the selection. From the menu, simply choose Convert Selection to MP3. iTunes will make a copy of the original song, in MP3 format, and add it to your iTunes music library.

The "Plus" means several things:

1. No DRM (digital rights management a.k.a. copy protection). This means you can legally make as many copies as you want under the fair-use rules of copyright.

2. Higher quality encoding. Previously, songs purchased on iTunes were encoded at 128 kbps. iTunes Plus songs are recorded at twice that sampling rate (256 kbps).

3. Thirty cents (30¢) more per song. When the iTunes store first launched, 3 songs = 1 Mocha. Even with the higher priced, DRM free songs, that formula still holds true. Plus, you can still buy songs at 99¢, with DRM, if you'd like.

Quality Encoding
In the image, above, you'll see that the original iTunes Plus song was converted, twice, to MP3 (MPEG audio file). The 4.3 MB file is the MP3 with the iTunes encoding conversion rate set to High Quality (160 Kbps) and the 6.8 MB MP3 is an MP3 file with Custom (256 kbps) encoding.

AAC vs. MP3 at 256 Kbps
Personally, I've noticed that the AAC format sounds louder than the MP3 at 256 kbps. It's interesting to note that the MP3 file, recorded at 256 kbps, is smaller than the original AAC encoding format. You can change the default encoding when importing or converting songs through iTunes' Advanced preferences.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Running High Level Meetings:
The Lost Art and Science Of Staff Work

Good Staff Work - that seems to be a black art taught mainly in the military or government.

Simply put, a staff is a group of peers who report to the same boss.
Large staffs can get very complex with a chief, primary staff, and special staff. Many times, people can end up on a staff without even realizing it.

Each staff member is the resident expert in his or her field. Their job is to make recommendations to the boss with alternative courses of action.

Good staff members can break down their recommendations clearly in meetings or, when written, they can brake down complex decisions into point papers.

A point paper has three key sections: topic, discussion, and recommendations. It can be as short as a couple paragraphs or as long as several pages prefaced with a background section and in depth recommendations weighing the costs of each choice (time, money, resources, etc) in the context of maintaining a responsibility to either the short, mid, or long term.

Great staff members are the people who can fully support the boss' decision when the choice made is not the one at the top of the staff member's list.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Interesting iChat Feature

I ran into an interesting iChat feature, tonight, when I was video chatting with my wife between San Diego and Santa Cruz.

In the middle of our video chat I logged off of iChat which closed down both of my sessions with Bonjour and AIM, yet the video chat continued. I didn't test this using an unencrypted video chat session, but, I doubt that makes a difference.

Our video chat session obviously kept going since our two Macs had a direct connection. One minor bug I observed is the fact that she kept typing IMs to me which, from her end, looked like they were being delivered when they were really ending up in a bit bucket.

Can't Send E-mail More Than 500 Miles

Here's a true story that I read about a few years ago:
The faculty of a college campus discovered that they couldn't send e-mail more than 500 miles.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Stock Market's Real Value

Here's an interesting metric which compares the value of the U.S. S&P 500 index to the value of various currencies and commodities.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

New Gas BBQ

Laura and I bought two gas BBQs this past weekend. One was for us and the other was a belated wedding present for my sister-in-law and her husband.

On Sunday, my father-in-law helped put their BBQ together and it took them hours.

Needless to say, that was more time then I had patience for so I took it back to Sears to take them up on their free offer to put it together. The sales rep, Walter, who remembered me, said, "No problem - but it'll take until Monday."
I parroted back, "No problem."
And I left the BBQ with him as I went to look at patio furniture.

A few minutes later Walter came back to me and told me that they already had a BBQ assembled that I could take right now. I said, "Great!"
And wheeled it out to my car wondering if it was going to fit in my Honda Accord. Not a chance, so I walked the BBQ home – a first for me.

Monday, May 7, 2007

First Day of No Work

I took the dog for a three mile run this morning. As much as he loved it, he was pretty hot and tired when we got back and he did everything he could to lay as much of his skin against the cool floor.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Last Day At Apple

After 8½ years, today was my last day at work.
What a great company to work for, but now it's time for a break.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Cholesterol Down 61 Points in 5 Weeks

I hadn't been watching what I was eating before I went in for a check up in March. My cholesterol was at an alarming 245!

Ugh - the doctor had me convinced I was knocking on heaven's door. I'm 0x27 years old.

So, I watched what I ate very carefully (no saturated or polyunsaturated fats and no foods with cholesterol).

I just had my cholesterol measured again - it's now 184!

For breakfast, I would have a double shot of wheat grass and a bowl of acai (Brazilian berry) mixed with a banana and granola (very yummy). Lunch was usually pasta or a salad with low fat dressing. And dinner was either a salad, bean soup, vegan burger, or chicken.

Snacks were either fruit or almonds (the latter are high in fat, but the good kind).

Also, about every other day I'd have a tablespoonful of flax seed oil. Defiantly not yummy, but tolerable.

Oh, did I mention that I also lost about 10 pounds - and that wasn't water weight 'cause I've been drinking water like a fish (do fish really drink water?).