Web 1. Everything Else 0.

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There was a time when you had to wait for weeks to get a decent review of a new product. Broadcast media has never stepped up to the plate, and only dead trees would do. It may have taken ten years or more for the internet to find a business model which could support in-depth analysis to accompany its immediacy, but there’s no doubt we’re here now. Case in point: the launch of Apple’s new OS X release, Leopard. The software is launched on the Friday, and by the weekend I want to see a decent review. And by that, I mean something unpatronising written by a genuine techie, not something written by a Sunday paper columnist for my Mum’s benefit. As an average potential customer, I now know the likely sources, and go to them directly, without even thinking of Googling “OS X Leopard review” (which by the way, suggests your first port of call is an outdated year-old hatchet job from a Windows site – d’oh!). That I now ignore the Google option is in itself worthy of discussion. And indeed I find what I want, already there, on Ars Technica.

Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard: the Ars Technica review by John Siracusa, is what I want, when I want it, and means I’ll never bother to buy a Mac mag to see whether I should upgrade or not. Big deal, you may say, Chris uses a bookmark to read an article. But I think there’s a story in there.

(By the way, the “icon” above – and OS X icons are more like photos nowadays – is the one in Leopard for a generic Windows PC, and it’s rather amusing. Yes, it is the blue screen of death. On a monitor I had in 1998, if I’m not mistaken).

I Useta Lover 2007-style

The ever-wonderful Saw Doctors have re-released “I Useta Lover” for a charity and to accompany it, they’ve shot a video on the streets of Galway. It is just about the most Irish thing I’ve ever seen. Brilliant.

How to convert email to RSS for your phone

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I came up with a neat workaround this week which might interest those of you who like to get news on your mobile phones, or would like to if it was easier. There’s no chance this is an original idea, but I was pleased with myself, nevertheless.

Many new phones (such as my recently-acquired Sony Ericsson W880i) have a neat RSS reader which is a great way of getting information on a cellphone. Despite manufacturers’ claims, web access on mobiles is clunky, so if it’s a chore checking the same website regularly for information on a PC, it’s so fiddly to be out of the question on a mobile. Email alerts are OK, but unless you’re a Crackberry user whose entire email life runs on your mobile, you’ll probably not want to scroll through loads of emails just to find out something from a particular news source. Finally, there are text alerts, but these are just horrible – they’re limited, often expensive, and come in when the sender decides, rather than when you want to read them.

The way forward then is to have simple access to various RSS news feeds, and mobiles like the W880i make this really slick. A couple of keypad clicks and I can read the latest BBC news feed, or BBC football feed, or anything really. But what about news sources which don’t come as RSS feeds? I’m in several email-only discussion groups, for example, which I’d love to have laid out neatly in RSS style. I also receive several email newsletters which again, I’d like to read at leisure on my mobile without having to access my email.

Here’s the beautifully elegant solution. Create a free blog at somewhere like Blogger – one which allows you to post to the blog by email. This will automatically create an RSS feed. Then anything you email to that blog will appear in the RSS feed. So if you’re in an email discussion group, add the blog posting address as a member of the group. If you want an email newsletter to be included in the feed, just subscribe to the newsletter with the blog posting address. If any of that proves difficult, you can, alternatively, set up a mail rule in your PC email program to just forward the relevant emails to the blog. That would introduce a delay, but that might not be critical for you.

Perhaps the neatest aspect of this is that you can combine several information sources or discussion groups into one feed.

Radiohead trounce allcomers on Last.fm

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I think it’s a fairly safe generalisation to make that the millions of people signed up to Last.fm conform to a certain stereotype, in terms of musical tastes. In fact, the main surprise to me is the semi-permanent position of The Beatles at number one. Radiohead are usually in the top three or four bands, but naturally with a new album out last week, I expected them to challenge the fab four’s supremacy. I didn’t expect this (above). That’s a lot of people listening to a new album, especially one released in such an unconventional format. My calculator also suggests that the average Last.fm listener who listened to Radiohead last week played an average 28 tracks from the band, which – given the long tail of listeners on permanent iTunes library shuffle mode who will have only played one or two old tracks – means that a lot of people played the new album many, many times over. This guy listened to 1,994 Radiohead tracks in a week. And the fact that the number of plays of each track seems to be the album in order suggests that people are listening to it exactly in the order it was presented (everyone has to bail out of a listening sometime).

Radiohead In Rainbows. In 1997.

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OK, so I was intrigued by the fact that Radiohead decided to distribute their new album online and via a “pay what you want to” method. Not only was I intrigued, I was also very supportive of the idea. So although not a massive fan, I thought I’d buy it.

Downside number one: where do you get the new Radiohead album from? Every news story I read said it was available from the Radiohead web site. Sloppy journalism. It’s not. It’s available from its own site. No problem with that, except try as I might, I couldn’t find a link from the official site to the one with the album. In the end, I found the link on some fan blog. What were they thinking of?

Then came the download. Lovely “store”, I have to say. Easy payment, easy download once you’ve done so. But hang on… a 48.8Mb zip file? I didn’t expect AIFF or even Apple Lossless Format, but what on earth is the quality going to be like? Once the download had completed (I suppose on the plus side, the uber-compression meant this was about 5 seconds after it began), I could inspect the files. And the news wasn’t good. 160kb/sec bit rate MP3. That’s right, 160kbps. What is this, 1997? So In Rainbows now sits proudly (ahem) in my iTunes library as by far the worst-quality 10 tracks out of the 8,613 there. If they’d told me that before I paid for the thing, I’d still have paid, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as much. I doubt they’d have been able to get away with putting such poor quality on a conventional CD without at least labelling the case with a warning. It’s a shame they feel they can do it with a download.

And where’s the blinkin’ In Rainbows cover art then? Again, no warning about the absence of that. Unsurprisingly, people have begun to make their own.

Music’s good though.