Podcasts on your Blackberry with Mediafly

Mediafly just released the beta version of their player for BlackBerry devices. For those of you who don’t know, Mediafly is a free service to enable you to manage all of your podcasts and discover new podcasts, across all of your devices (iPhone, iPod, Sansa, Zen, Squeezebox, chumby, PopcornHour, Zune, CastGrabber, and even plain old RSS). That may sound complicated, but it’s enormously useful once you realize how it works.

I listen to This American Life from Chicago Public Radio quite often – at the gym, on the bus, etc. In the past, I would have to remember to sync my iPod to iTunes to ensure the podcast is loaded onto it. With Mediafly Audio Edition for Blackberry, however, I can simply stream new and recent episodes quickly through the application’s interface whenever I want.

When you open the application, you are given a list of channels with default shows within them. Lots of great exploration here. There are a lot of audio programs I recently started listening to that I did not know existed before starting to use Mediafly. I’ve become a fan of Gordon Deal’s dry wit on the Wall Street Journal podcasts. And, the Chicago Booth Graduate School of Business puts out CareerCast, interviews with professionals on various career-related topics. I find these to be excellent as well.

Next, you can customize your own channel list. If you want to customize the list, you can register for free at Mediafly.com and link your BlackBerry to your device. You can then add and remove shows and episodes from both the BlackBerry and from the website.

Finally, there is a version that supports video podcasts as well in the works.

It’s definitely worth trying out, at the very least to see what kind of content you can find. The release is a beta, so please let them know if you encounter any bugs or other issues (you can do so right from the application, it seems).
To install, point your BlackBerry browser to: http://www.mediafly.mobi

The Agreeable Cat

With all the hubbub around Facebook Terms of Service, I thought this post was especially on-the-mark:

My cat, Simba, agrees instead of me. As he is not a legal entity, I don’t really know how kitty’s agreements would stand up in court, but I like to think he would be responsible for any breaches of contract, assuming the agreement is even enforceable. After all, he is not even of legal age, at least in human years.

Full details about The Agreeable Cat here.

Random thoughts about Android/G1

I received the T-Mobile G1 running Android yesterday and played with it essentially all evening. A few thoughts below, for those who care. (Sorry regular readers, this is a post for those who find this blog from Google…)

  • I thought I would be downloading games, but interestingly enough I haven’t even touched those yet. In fact, the application I’ve spent the most time so far is “Settings”
  • This is the first time I’ve had a data plan on a phone. While the possibilities are endless, I wonder how much value I will actually get out of it over time. I bike to/from work and don’t travel much, so I don’t get a lot of the entertainment value that others might. We’ll see how I feel in a month
  • I would love to start writing apps for this thing, but unfortunately my old laptop has only USB 1.1, which is unsupported

More specific stuff:

  • As is well documented, the POP/IMAP email client is a train wreck
  • I keep pressing “Menu” when I mean “Back”.
  • Task switching is annoying. I would love part of the Notification bar to be a list of open apps.
  • The included headphones and USB-to-headphone extension are really really annoying! The combination is massive, with overly long cables, and the included headphones sound tinny and get tangled in everything.
  • SSH and FTP seems straightforward (ConnectionBot and AndFTP). Nice touch to be able to log into any of my servers from my phone. However, there is an annoying ConnectionBot bug – all of my private keys need to be in the root directory of my SD card
  • New version called “Cupcake” coming out soon. On-screen vertical-orientation keyboard seems like a good thing. Hopefully it also fixes email
  • Google Voice Search seems like a gimmick. First, it doesn’t really work well (I said “Chocolate Grape” and got back “Chocolate Cake“). Second, to use it I have to 1.) Enter my password, 2.) Bring up the applications menu, 3.) Scroll down, 4.) Press “Voice Search”. Too much effort.

Context-sensitive hyperlinks on anything

Reshma had open a NYTimes.com article about the Ironman Triathlon when I opened the laptop today. Accidentally, I double clicked on the word “surgeon” that appeared in the article. The site popped up a new window with the definition of the word that I had double clicked on! The new page had only the definition, but I see the possibility of including articles related to that keyword, or even cross-promotional opportunities.

Effectively, every word in the article is now a subtle link. Now THAT’s context-sensitive hyperlinking!

Preventing unauthorized iPhone users

Apple has patented a new method of stopping a thief from using your iPhone. Each time the device is plugged into the computer, a code buried deep within the iPhone is compared to a code downloaded from Apple via iTunes. If the codes don’t match up, (i.e. you called in a lost iPhone and Apple/AT&T changes the code), the iPhone then prevents itself from being charged again.

It is a fascinating idea for mobile device theft deterrence. Most devices use a password system to attempt to accomplish the same thing. For example, my Blackberry requires me to enter a password each time I use it. Not only is this horribly annoying, it results in me setting the easiest password I can to minimize my pain.

(Granted, the Blackberry is not trying to only prevent someone from using it as a phone long-term, they are trying to deter someone from looking at sensitive information immediately.)

However, I see a few problems with this security method.

  1. It requires the use of iTunes. Hackers have already managed to change the iPhone into a web server that can serve web pages (yes, for the hell of it, this is what most hackers do with new devices). I am certain they can bypass the use of iTunes on the iPhone, as many hackers I know of hate iTunes.
  2. It requires me to plug the phone into a computer. What if I just plug it into a wall outlet and never into a computer? Unless the code can be sent wirelessly, you have just circumvented the security system.
  3. Sensitive documents can still be accessed at the time of theft.
  4. Eventually, someone will figure out how to bypass the circuitry that prevents the phone from being charged and find a workaround. This may take weeks or years, but it will be done – “hiding” security in a system almost never works to prevent unauthorized access.

(Are there other problems that I have forgotten?)

As we depend more on mobile devices, theft will affect us in more substantial ways. While this solution may have issues, at least Apple is thinking of ways to solve the problem.

Latest Harry Potter Book Hits BitTorrent

For those of you haven’t heard yet, the latest Harry Potter book can be found on BitTorrent. Sure, the quality may be crappy, (looks like someone has industrial carpet from the 80’s) but you can be the first to know how it all ends (unless you want to check out the predictive markets, which believe that the two characters to kick the bucket are Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort). Thanks to TechCrunch for thinking outside the book.

Tech Cocktail 5

I have signed up for Tech Cocktail 5, the 5th gathering of technology entrepreneurs and professionals in Chicago. Note that this is the 5th gathering in the past year of its kind. TC4 sold-out within 24 hours (although sold-out is not the right term – the event has free admission and free drinks).

If you are at all interested in web companies and other high-tech endeavors, I highly encourage you to attend.

(Note: for those of you who find this kind of event knee-knocking, I suggest you don’t attend…)