Saturday, July 29, 2006

Taco Pizza

Finding a Pietro's, where I live, is tough. Of all the pizzas they sell, the taco one is the one I remember best. After some fiddling around, here is a recipe that will do the pizza justice:

You will need:

Pizza Crust (buy one, make one, whatever --just make sure it's a deep dish style one)
1 can refried beans (or make them, your call)
Grated cheese (moz, jack, cheddar) (enough to cover the pizza all over 1/3 of an inch thick at least --maybe two and a half cups for a medium pizza)
sliced and chopped lettuce (2 cups or so --medium sized bowl)
sliced tomatoes (two tomatoes or 1 cup)
diced onion (1/4 to 1/2 cup, depending on how much you like onions --get the white ones though!)
Dorito's Nacho Cheeze chips. (1 bag)
1/4 pound ground beef for medium pizza
optional: Spicy Jack cheeze
some small amount of corn-meal to sprinkle on cooking sheet

Spread the refried beans onto the pizza crust like you would pizza sauce. Make sure it's about 1/4 inch thick everywhere.

Sprinkle some of your onions on top.

Add cheeze to taste, sprinkling remainder of onions into the cheeze.

Roll beef into little balls, no bigger than 1/2 inch in size and place on top of cheeze. If you want to pre-cook these, that's a good idea too.

Put the whole works into the pre-heated oven for about 12-15 minutes at 425 degrees. If you like corn meal, sprinkle a light dusting onto your cooking sheet before placing the pizza on it.

Pizza is done, when cheeze is well melted and beef is cooked and brown. Depending on your oven, you might have better luck pre-cooking the beef or just skipping it.

Remove cooked pizza from oven and cut it to your preference.

Sprinkle sliced and chopped lettuce on top, followed by about 1/2 cup crused Doritos. Finish with chopped tomatoes on top and it's all ready to eat.

Enjoy a very good Taco Style Pizza!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

HD Radio: Digital Boondoggle? (Part 2)

Here we are another few months into the HD Digital radio saga. Time enough to check in and evaluate where we are with HD Radio and complete my earlier thoughts on the subject as well. Regular OpenGeek readers know I'm no fan of Digital Radio. On AM, it's a mess. We need to knife the baby right now and reconsider how we want to move the AM band forward.

Hint: Am Stereo support in every receiver made from today forward --this plus the modern DSP technology found in the new HD Radios would make for a potent AM solution. We are gonna invest in the design of the new radios, why not cover out bets huh?

On FM, to be perfectly fair, the technology has some merits and brings with it a unique chance for the radio industry to do itself some real good. Things like this just don't come along every day. That makes this discussion worth it on those grounds alone.

Frankly, if FM HD Radio manages to make it, we might actually get to a place where solid improvements to the AM band become viable. That place includes IBOC, BTW for those who might be thinking I'm just another bring back the AM Stereo geek. Well, I am, but I'm also fair too in that I simply want better radio. That means embracing IBOC where it makes sense to do so. 'nuff said, onward and forward!

Here we are some precious months later and the only new buzz I'm hearing about HD Radio still comes from the industry itself. The spots tell me more about Crutchfield than they do about the value proposition HD Radio brings to the table. That's gotta be fixed ASAP.

New radios are not on the shelves for all practical purposes, expectations about the technology are still being managed downward, and fundemental decisions about how to best apply the technology are off the map at this point. Most importantly, the early adopters are not buzzing about this new tech like they normally would a viable tech. What does this mean? It means they don't see the value proposition. Given all of the above, who can blame them?

So, how to sell HD Radio?

In a nutshell, put content on there that is not otherwise easily obtained elsewhere. Secondly, set the right expectations for the new venue (I refuse to buy into the ideal that radio is just another stream delivery system!). And finally, leverage the Internet for both listener interaction and feedback and content cultivation and aggragation.

Let's go through these one at a time.

Content not otherwise easily obtained elsewhere

Right off this means content outside the usual channels. With all the new content delivery choices these days, it's pretty hard to call most of the established content new by any measure. Your average hit single appears in a video game, on iTunes, all over the P2P filesharing services, on a movie sound track, internet radio stations, streamed from the artist web site, through a CD music delivery service, on a ring tone, as part of a TV broadcast, your friends iPod, and it goes on and on and on...

What's worse, for this model, is the reality that we are living today where the overall impact of the mega hit single is dropping. Greater overall availablity of music on demand has allowed people to focus on niches they find interesting. This, in turn, highlights pop music for what it is.

All of these things, and others I'm sure, have sharply diminished the value that 'new' (as in just released by the majors) content has where radio is concerned.

I propose the following: Given the primary strength of terrestrial radio is it's ability to deliver live and local content to it's potential audience, an ideal testing ground for this is the new FM HD subchannels. Things like this do not come along every day. Every FM station, broadcasting a secondary HD stream has a largely risk free venue to promote new ideas and content, without seriously impacting the bread and butter mainstream programming!

The lack of person to person marketing surrounding HD radio is disturbing. The early adopters and talkers should be promoting this technology to their friends, if it's to be a successful tech at all, we need people at this stage in the game to be talking it up to their peers. One such group, ripe for the picking, are local people into the local music scene.

So put some of the more talented ones on the air! (With a mentor of course.) They are going to jump at the chance to do some radio and are also going to be very interested in others hearing their efforts for obvious reasons. Tie these things in with an HD radio availiabity program and you have the makings for some local buzz.

Some of these efforts are going to be great. Run those as promos on the mainstream channel, thus letting ordinary people know not only that there is HD radio and that it has extra channels, but that those extra channels carry something relevant to them. Stream the new content as well, thus giving it a larger potential audience than just those people willing to buy HD radios for local content temptations. Overall, that's a more solid value proposition that resonates on many levels.

Set the right expectations for the new venue

First and foremost, radio is a venue. Position it as such, so that people can easily differentiate it from the other delivery technologies. Of course, radio can be a simple delivery system too, but that's not going to pack the punch required for longer term growth and mindshare being a venue will. There is room for both honestly. This advocacy essay is aimed at building new (and ideally better) radio experiences, so please take it as such.

Another expectation to set properly is content, not quality. The way HD radio exists today means either one digital stream that sounds pretty good, or two that don't sound so good, with one that has no analog backup. Pushing the whole digital means quality thing is just bunk. The bitrates and codec technology we have today just are not enough to meet this expectation, so why even bother setting it. Welcome to entertainment quality audio people.

Digital means choice and in particular it means more of it, period.

Leverage the Internet

Today radio can easily be a whole lot more of a two way medium than it has been in the past. This means we can more easily bond with the people (assuming there are people) on the radio. Technologies, such as e-mail, instant messaging, hypertext (web pages), online streaming, etc... all allow for a much greater interaction with a potential audience than was possible just 10 years ago.

The Internet also represents a potential content source as well. The local content, I mentioned above, may well have sharp limits depending on a lot of factors. However, there will be content online that appeals to the locals, whoever they may be. This content can be aggragated and presented in the form of shows just like the ones that currently pound home the same 40 or so hits every fricking week. This is beginning to show up on television, with shows detailing Viral Videos and other goofy internet culture / content offerings.

That's it on this topic for a while. Again, I've put these ideas here in the hopes of getting better radio --take it or leave it.

Making the switch to Ubuntu: Dapper Drake --That's Linux for the rest of you!

I've been living by a simple rule, where computing is concerned, for a while now; namely, only run win32 & win64 operating systems if somebody else pays for them.

That means Linux, or a Mac at home for personal computing. So far, I prefer Linux and an older SGI Irix machine for most of my computing needs. The SGI is more or less dedicated to a few tasks, the rest happens on my Linux machine and it has gotten a bit long in the tooth. Time for a new computer and some new Open Source Software!

Having been a very long time Mandrake user since about version 6, the idea of switching didn't hold much appeal. Despite being a fairly happy user, a couple of issues continue to nag at me. These are, package management and desktop functionality.

Enter Ubuntu. These two areas are a focus for this distribution right now and let me tell you, I'm a pretty happy user! Over the last few days, I've been installing some software, getting to know GNOME and generally just checking out the environment. The UNIXey bits underneath are somewhat unfamiliar, compared to Mandrake and it's SGI like structure, but the arrangement is sane overall and easily understood. That means just getting used to a few differences here and there. No biggie.

So far, the GUI controls for nearly everything but window focus behavior are more than adequate for my needs. (Somebody really needs to let these folks know what focus follows mouse means!) Multimedia support is easily added to the base software package as well. Core software included was properly configured and ready to use, making me productive right out of the gate. All in all a net positive.

Package management rocks, particularly with Easy Ubuntu added to the mix. I asked the system for a variety of emulators, editors, some development stuff, etc.. and it was all delivered and installed while I worked on other things. --Nice.

The only downsides I'm seeing right now are some cut 'n paste wierdness, the VMWare Virtual Player and Kernel not matching up, and problems playing DVD media. I don't depend on these things for my core computing, so I'll just work through them and that's it.

Oh, one other thing nagged at me too. The lack of a base development selection choice. Maybe there is one and it was just not obvious. Either way, I was frustrated with having to pick and choose lots of stuff in order to compile some classic game development software. Still having some issues in this area and I'm sure it's just me spoiled by the Mandrake development base. Really I should know better what I am using such that I can just pick it from a menu, but I don't! Guess that's gonna change a bit, probably for the better.

All in all, this has been a great move. My hardware works, including lots of USB stuff, my desktop is functional and productive, and the system runs fast without a hitch.

Nice job guys --appreciated!

If you are looking for a Linux to get started with, Ubuntu sets a nice high bar. Worth learning IMHO.