Wanted: Tightly compressed, sunny music for my cycle commute

I love listening to music and I love cycling into work. Not having a death wish, I don't ride along with headphones, oblivious to my surroundings. So I've rigged up a set of stereo Bluetooth speakers on the handlebars, which connect to my phone running Spotify for the music. The speakers aren't brilliant though: no bass, limited mid range. That pretty much rules out most electronic music, which needs some bass and clear mids. So I'm searching for music, suitable for cycling, that will sounds decent on these limited speakers.

If you've got a Spotify account, you can look at and add to the collaborative playlist I've set up.  If not, drop me a note in the comments.

So I suppose the specifications are:
  • Sunny, happy music you'd listen to on a bright, sunny Summer day.
  • Compressed sound that'll sound good on a $5 transistor radio over FM.
  • No reliance on heavy bass or mids.

Music currently in the playlist:
  • Belle & Sebastian - The Boy With the Arab Strap
  • Belle & Sebastian - I'm a Cuckoo
  • The Fratellis - Chelsea Dagger
  • OutKast - Hey Ya!
  • The B-52s - Rock Lobster
  • Miss Li - Bourgeois Shangri-La
  • Washed Out - New Theory
  • The Virgins - She's Expensive
  • MGMT - Time To Pretend
  • Cut Copy - Lights & Music
  • Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out

Rolling news is a scourge

Rolling news has always pissed me off.  When nothing big is happening and you just want a summary of the day's stories, they're running some long-form programming that's not news.  When something big is happening, they fill the dead air with minutiae and uninformed speculation, never giving the quick and succinct summary you want.

Working in London during the July bombings, the BBC switched to the rolling news format and was filled with pundits beginning their spiels with phrases like "we don't know all the facts, but if what we're seeing is a terrorist attack..." which was, of course, incredibly frustrating.  It wasn't helped by the fact the British media continued to claim there were "power surges" on the tube, not bombs, long after it'd been confirmed as bombs everywhere else in the world, including whatever my Mum was watching back in Sydney. (I rode my bike to work that day, so didn't notice anything unusual at all until I got to work and found a text message from my Mum asking if I was all right.)

The last few days, with terrible floods in Queensland, we've had Sky News on at the office. What a waste of space!  They fill the air with endless raw footage from a helicopter and random speculation about what could or might happen.  It makes what should be a shocking vista seem mundane with its endless repetition.  At one point we were treated to half an hour spent looping two minutes' footage of people making themselves cups of tea at the Ipswich dogs club evacuation centre.  Gripping stuff!

When I get home I find the ABC has been infected by this idiocy too.  There's a whole channel set aside for this inane crap, but when there's something big happening they switch ABC1 to the same pointless format.  At 19:00 when I expect my normal news summary, instead we get rolling news inanity.  File footage with the talking head speaking to the owner of a roadhouse in Goondiwindi.  THIS SHIT IS NOT NEWS PEOPLE!

Get a grip people.  We want news bulletins that summarise the big stories of the day.  Keep the rolling news crap where it belongs, on the rolling news channel!

A better format for news?

Here's the rolling news service I'd like to see.  It should be doable with IPTV these days too.  Have your talking head spend all the time putting together  and updating news segments in the style of a news bulletin.  These are then chopped into individual clips and stuck into a playlist in order of story importance.  Then whenever someone says they want the latest updated news, they get the current playlist streamed to them.

Of course being a one-to-one transmission, there's no reason you couldn't customise the story categories in your news stream.  Don't care about sport?  Register your preference and never see a sport story.  Particularly interested in stories involving France?  Register for that tag and more importance will be given to stories about France.

The clever way to do this would be to take your existing rolling news service and have a producer editing up the pieces as you go and sticking them in the playlist.  That way you could do it with minimal additional resources.

Beauty in the noise


"When I pulled up that first chart, we saw 'the knife,' we said, that's certainly algorithmic and that is weird. We continued to refine our software, honing the algorithms we use to find this stuff," Donovan told me. Now that he knows where and how to look, he could spend all day for weeks just picking out these patterns in the market data. The examples that he posts online are just the ones that look the most interesting, but at any given moment, some kind of bot is making moves like this in the stock exchange.

Algorithmic trading is a pretty wild and wooly area. Who would've thought to look at millisecond-level data?

Adobe's Omniture license agreements getting ridiculous

Some time ago I was invited to Adobe Omniture's Client Advisory Board to have some input into the next iteration of the Adobe's Omniture products. They sent me through an agreement to sign before I could attend and, on reading it I found I couldn't agree to it.  Along with standard terms about confidentiality and the like, it had clauses preventing me from working for any company competing against Adobe or writing "negative or misleading comments about Adobe or our product" in "any other communication method".

It appears the Adobe lawyers really have got their hooks into the company.  Check this clause out in the new Omniture agreement I must agree to before using the tool I require for my job.  In particular check out that last sentence. Ridiculous.  The other clauses are pretty crazy too -- given the breadth of products made by Adobe, who isn't a competitor?

The Adobe Products and Services are not available to competitors of Adobe, and competitors of Adobe are hereby expressly prohibited from using or accessing the Adobe Products and Services, whether or not authorized by License Company. Furthermore, by entering the Site, you are certifying that you are not a competitor of Adobe and that you will not share or otherwise disclose the Adobe Products and Services or Content with a competitor of Adobe. You further agree that you will not in the future engage in competitive business with Adobe.

Dear Australian Retailers

Your recent campaign to get GST levied on all Internet transactions has some rather major logical flaws.

1. Your prices are much more than 10% higher than overseas prices.

It's interesting that Angus & Robertson and Borders are part of your campaign. The book business is probably the easiest area where the massive price differences can be shown, thanks to the awesome Booko service which allows consumers to find the cheapest source for books, taking into account delivery charges and exchange rate fluctuations.

Cheapest foreign sale, AUD$10.61 delivered.
Cheapest Australian sale, AUD$18 delivered.
Price difference: 41%.
Price difference without delivery: 8% (though to be fair, the cheapest price without freight was 44% cheaper).

Cheapest foreign sale, AUD$38.15 delivered.
Cheapest Australian sale, AUD$56.39 delivered.
Price difference: 32%.
Price difference without delivery: 58% (clearly The Nile loads their "free" freight into the book price).

Cheapest foreign sale, AUD$18.33 delivered.
Cheapest Australian sale, AUD$25.57 delivered.
Price difference: 28%.
(both sources load freight into the price)

Cheapest foreign sale, AUD$4.02 delivered.
Cheapest Australian sale, AUD$18.04 (for the Australian edition).
Price difference: 78%.
(both sources load freight into the price)

Here we see two examples of books that are only really of interest to an Australian audience cheaper overseas, a science fiction novel with international release also cheaper and a mass market bestseller. All dramatically cheaper bought from overseas. My experience having ordered from Australian online retailers is that they also take much longer to deliver than the overseas vendors. 6-10 weeks for delivery from Australia versus 2-6 weeks from Book Depository US or UK.

So book retailers, come back when the difference between your prices and those overseas is less than 10%, and your service is at least on par.

Now I know that the book industry is difficult. The local publishers are absolute idiots, and the sooner they die the better for everyone involved. But what about consumer electronics?

Example 1: D-Link Boxee
Price difference: 34%.

Example 2: LG BD570 Blu Ray Player
Price difference: 38%.

So even if they charged GST on these sales, they'd still be cheaper overseas. Why's that Gerry?  Should it be a legal requirement that Australian consumers subsidize your horseracing hobby?

2. Your online sites are woeful

Have a look at the sites of the retailers sponsoring this advertisement and see how many will actually sell you a product online, or have most of their product range online. Now before I did this little audit, I figured none of the retailers listed would sell anything substantial online. Surprisingly, there's more than I expected selling their full range online. Interestingly the fashion sector seems to have gone into this in a big way, and fashion is the sector many have regarded as very difficult to sell to people outside of stores.

But the big, noisy players in retail, the ones complaining the loudest about competition from overseas online stores, have conspicuously crap online presences. David Jones, Harvey Norman, Myer and Target hang your heads in shame!

Retailer Online sales? Full range online?
Angus & Robertson yes yes
Borders yes yes
David Jones no no
Dotti no no (but an impressive effort)
French Connection yes yes
Harvey Norman no no
House no no
Jacqui E no maybe?
Jay Jays yes yes
Just Jeans yes yes
Mimco yes yes
Myer yes no
Nine West no maybe
Peter Alexander yes no
Portmans no no
Seed yes no
Smiggle yes yes
Steve Madden yes yes
Superchef Warehouse no no
Target no no
Witchery yes yes

3. Collection would cost more than it would raise

The final nail in the coffin here is that the cost to collect GST on incoming mail, by opening packages, working out the cost, then having a mechanism to collect the money, would likely cost more than the tax that would actually be collected. Making it useless as a tax revenue. Let's remember that raising tax revenue for government and its services is, after all, the point of taxation. It's not designed as a way to protect the revenue of local businesses!

Of course, the retailers would suggest that in addition to the tax being levied, there also be a "collection fee" added to cover these costs. This would handily bring the price you pay online somewhere closer to their ridiculously overpriced goods. How convenient. And they wouldn't even have to compete on price!