Monthly Archives: December 2004

PubSub LinkRanks

PubSub.com has a new feature called LinkRanks:

LinkRanks are a measure of how many pages link to each particular site, with more weight given to fresher links and to links from a wider variety of pages.

I grabbed a screen shot of the ranking for Cantoni.org (shown below). Clearly there’s some volatility in the algorithm, but I’m not exactly sure what that means yet. Several sites have similar “ranking” concepts, but this is nicely presented as a graph over time. The images are dynamically generated with Flash which is kind of cool.

Update 2004-12-17: I forgot to include the link for viewing the LinkRanks details, including the graph. The URL is http://www.pubsub.com/linkranks_detail?dom=_______ (filling in the domain name). For my site’s results, the URL is: http://www.pubsub.com/linkranks_detail?dom=cantoni.org

PubSub LinkRank for Cantoni.org, Month ending 2004-12-14

[Via Brainwagon.org]

http://psi.pubsub.com/20040413:linkranks:1

Zen Touch Playback Problems

For the past couple of months, I’ve been getting good use out of my Creative Zen Touch 20GB MP3 player. I’ve copied over about 20 of my CDs but use it mostly for podcasts during my commute. Overall I’m quite happy with the device, but have noticed a problem with certain podcast files which would play back at the wrong speed — usually 1/2 or 1/4 speed.

Searching the web I didn’t find any similar problems reported, so I sent a detailed explanation to Creative technical support. Their responsiveness was okay, basically responding overnight to each of my queries. The tech support responses went like this:

  • “Download the latest device firmware” (which, coincidentally, had been released that same day). This didn’t fix the problem, but at least I have the latest software now.
  • “MP3 was probably ripped from a copyrighted CD”. Huh? This one makes no sense, and in this case it was a downloaded MP3.
  • “Our player can only support bitrate of 40kbps and above”. Aha! That’s the missing piece.

I did some experimenting and found that it’s not the bitrate but rather the sample rate that’s limited here on the low end. Two of the podcasts I had trouble with had sample rates of 11kHz and 12kHz. I used LAME to re-sample at various rates and found that 16kHz works fine. The filesizes are slightly larger, but they plan fine on the device. (I should note that these original files play fine on WMP, iTunes, and Winamp. They probably work correctly on an iPod as well but I need to ask someone to test.)

Now I’m going to modify my Bloglines enclosure download script to re-sample any files where sample rate < 16kHz. (Update 2004-12-15: Script now updated to work around this Creative bug.)

I closed with Creative by requesting that they forward this issue to the development team for future consideration. Perhaps someday this will be fixed. I can see how the problem would happen from the development side; they’re aren’t too many audio MP3s at such a low sample rate, but for podcasters trying to minimize download times, these low rates are essential.

My favorite piece of the exchange with tech support:

Creative: Since other MP3 files play properly in the player, then the problem could be with the audio file.
Me: Since other MP3 players play this audio file correctly, the problem could be with the Zen Touch.

For those interested, here are some files I had trouble playing on the device:

Update 2006-01-17: I just discovered that Creative finally released a firmware upgrade to support the PlaysForSure format (Yahoo! Music, Rhapsody, etc.). This firmware update may also help these playback problems, but I haven’t tried it yet: [http://us.creative.com/support/downloads/][http://us.creative.com/support/downloads/].

Automatic Weather Podcast

With the rising popularity of podcasting, I’ve been thinking about automated information sources that might be interesting. How about the weather?

RSSWeather.com provides RSS weather feeds for different cities. FeedSpeaker is a new .Net application that uses Microsoft’s Speech API to “speak” RSS feeds, recording the results in MP3 format. This is a manual process, but one could easily create a service that did this automatically.

Imagine syncing your MP3 player in the morning and catching the day’s weather forecast. (Or you could just turn on your AM radio, but that’s old school.)

Here are some samples I created for today’s forecast for San Jose, California:

[Funny aside: because I ran this test a couple times, I must have triggered a warning from RSSWeather; instead of getting weather content, I got a “slow down!” message which was faithfully captured in MP3 format as well: http://cantoni.org/files/SlowDown.mp3 (50 KB)]

Update: Here’s a playlist linking to all three songs: http://cantoni.org/files/weather.m3u

Newly-Painted Pickup

The wait was longer than expected, but the new paint job on my Dodge truck is finally finished. Check out the photos which I’ve posted to Flickr.

I bought the truck earlier this year from a good friend. It’s in great shape mechanically, but the roof and hood paint was beyond fading (and had started to come off in spots). It wasn’t cheap, but now the truck looks brand-new. (Of course, now I’ll be more paranoid about where I park…don’t want any dents!)

Dodge Truck Photos on Flickr

NASCAR in HDTV

Another reason to get with the program and upgrade to high-def TV:

Beginning next year, NBC and Turner Network Television (TNT) will televise their entire portion of the 2005 NASCAR schedule in high-definition. … TNT and NBC’s full-season of HD NASCAR coverage will begin with NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup racing during the weekend of July 1 and 2, 2005 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. … All of the main cameras used for NBC and TNT’s coverage, as well as the production truck, will be native HD. The feed will be transmitted in high-definition and formatted for 4×3 high-definition and standard-definition. … (NBC PR)(12-2-2004) [Via Jayski]

Update: Looks like FOX will also be broadcasting their entire portion of the season in HDTV as well!

“We’re thrilled to present the entire NASCAR on FOX 2005 season in 720p High Definition clarity and Dolby 5.1 audio,” said FOX Sports Chairman David Hill. “Our HD broadcasts will ensure that fans at home are treated to the visceral experience that NASCAR action provides to those present at the speedway, which is precisely what we at FOX Sports aim to deliver as broadcasters.” FOXSports.com

Also interesting were the TV viewership numbers quoted, showing Nextel Cup racing as second only to NFL (my emphasis in bold):

Last season, the average per-race audience for FOX’s “regular season” NASCAR Nextel Cup schedule (Rockingham through Sears Point) was 9.03 million viewers, identical to the figures posted in 2003. NASCAR Nextel Cup racing has retained its status as the second highest-rated sport televised nationally, trailing only the National Football League. NASCAR on FOX’ 2004 regular-season average rating of 5.6/14, topped the regular season average of the NBA on ABC by 133% (vs. 2./4/16), the biggest margin ever between those two sports. FOX’s 5.6/14 for regular season Nextel Cup racing was also +22% better than ABC’s 4.6/10 for the NBA playoffs. NASCAR on FOX is clearly the dominant player in the portion of the year formerly controlled by the NBA.