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XBox 360 Gamercard

RichAlot's Gamercard

A Minnie Site for Disney

One of the things I intended to use my site for was to promote my services as a for-hire Internet professional specializing in Web development, Web design, search engine optimization, standards-compliance, usability analysis, Internet marketing and promotions, Web site analytics, Internet advertising, etc. Phew! Besides sharing a few lines of code, I haven't done very much "me" marketing, so here's my start.

I just wrapped up a small project for the Walt Disney World® convention and meeting attendee division. I was commissioned to develop a micro site promoting Disney's special theme-park ticket prices for conventionears. Conventionears...get it? In any case, the Disney Conventionear Ticket site was promoted to production last week and is now live.

My primary challenges in developing the site were to ensure search engine optimization and handheld device compatibility (particularly the Blackberry and iPhone) while meeting Disney's strict creative quality standards. With my requirements identified, and my standards-compliant XHTML shell approved to go into the design phase, I was provided access to Disney's plentiful resource libraries for inspiration (I wish all my clients had such well-organized, asset libraries). I ended up compositing 4 unique page themes for each of the Disney theme parks, each sharing an evening backdrop since the tickets are valid after 4 p.m. Once the design comps were approved, I incorporated them into the XHTML pages using CSS to ensure the SEO would not be influenced by any non-indexable elements. If you visit the site, refresh the pages a few times and you'll see the themes randomly change among each of the Disney theme parks.

If you're interested in reading about my experiences in targeting a Web site for the BlackBerry, stay tuned for my next entry.

Adding Description Meta Data To Zune Videos

If you've synced any video to your Zune, there's a good chance you've noticed a "No Description Available" message when selecting certain video files. If you've tried to go back in and add the missing meta data to the description field, you'd be hard pressed in finding a way to do so because neither Windows or the Zune software expose the description value. Over the last few nights, I've spent some time ripping episodes of the '80s G.I. Joe cartoon to my Zune. Once the episodes were synced, I was very happy with the video and audio quality, but unable to identify any of the content because of the empty description value. After a bit of research I found a small application named zMeta. zMeta exposes all of the video meta data values used by the Zune, including the description value. Most importantly zMeta updated the missing description meta values for the videos during the next sync without forcing me to delete the and re-sync the content to the device. Since it took me a while to track down a working download link for zMeta I've made a downloadable copy available below.

Au Revoir HD DVD

Toshiba has finally waved the white flag officially announcing it will cease production of HD DVD players and recorders. The decision comes amidst weeks of speculation that the HD DVD format was doomed as major players including the movie studios, retailers and rental outfits chose to go strictly Blu-ray. So there you have it, go buy yourself a Blu-ray disc player, the format war is officially over. Or is it?

DVD is and will continue to be the market leader in video disc storage mainly because everyone has a DVD player. It's also less expensive than Blu-ray. Entry level Blu-ray players are still in the $250 range and even the cheapest Blue-ray movies will run you $15 a pop. For a mere $12 more you can buy an inexpensive DVD player with progressive scan and 5.1 digital audio decoding. So yeah DVD may not have the discreet 7.1 audio or 1080p resolution of Blu-ray, but how many people really know what that means much less use it?

Conceivably it could take Blu-ray a few years to turn the corner and surpass DVD's penetration levels (remember how long it took retailers to stop carrying VHS?) and by that time we'll be buying movies the same way we buy our music, through digital distributors. In the end, the true winner of the format war will be the one medium that has withstood the test of time; the hard drive.

Zune In

I finally got around to turning the privacy settings off in my Zune preferences. So what does this mean for you? If you look at my Zune Card (the Flash module at the bottom of the right gutter) you'll be able to see the music I'm listening to. It's a neat little widget—similar to the Xbox 360 GamerCard—with the intention of building a Zune user community.

For those of you who don't have a Microsoft Zune or know anything about it, I highly recommend you consider it if you're in the market for a portable music device. Besides being an MP3 player, the Zune can store podcasts, video, and pictures and has a built in FM tuner. The accompanying software is relatively easy to use and has a pretty intuitive user interface. Syncing music, subscribing to podcasts, wirelessly syncing and adding media to your device is a cinch.

If you keep a sharp lookout at places like Woot and Amazon.com you can find a 30 gig version on the cheap (especially if you don't mind brown). And if you're worried about buying an previous gen device don't be. Microsoft has put out a few firmware updates that give the 30 gigers the same features sported by the newer models.

Fooling around with Ms. Dewey

The masters of online viral marketing are at it again and if you loved bees, you'll love Ms. Dewey. Microsoft's veiled reference to Melville Dewey's classification system is a sort of Web 2.0 reincarnation of Ask Jeeves, except that when you ask Ms. Dewey you get a witticism, wanted or not, along with your results. Though the actual search results are a bit lacking, Ms. Dewey is an ingenious way to promote Microsoft's Live Search and a fun break from the run-of-the-mill search engine. If you pay Ms. Dewey a visit, be sure to ask her about Blockbuster Video.

Might As Well Jump

In the market for a USB jump drive or looking to replace your current portable hard drive with something that has a little more storage capacity? Consider a Western Digital Passport portable USB hard drive.

I've owned a 60 GB Western Digital Passport for about 2 months and can't say a bad thing about it. The Passport is compact, rugged and versatile; it works on both MAC and PC platforms out-of-the-box so there's no software to install. The Passport's best feature is that, unlike many other high capacity USB hard drives, it is fully USB powered and doesn't require a power adapter. Not having to lug around a power adapter and hunt down an open outlet makes the Passport truly portable. When traveling, don't forget your Passport.

Is It Time To Get an iPod?

I'm probably one of the last people in the civilized world without an iPod, but it's for good reason.  I've been holding off on buying an iPod in hopes that the competition would release the ultimate PC-centric media player; still waiting Microsoft. Well now, Apple teams up with Nike and through the magic of an iPod, my sneakers are going to be able to monitor and motivate me during workouts. I know this is one of those things we'll look back at and laugh about ten years from now - like MC Hammer Pants - but I want a pair of Air Zoom Moire. I keep telling myself that unlike the zipper pockets of the Roos my mom bought me when I was 9, I'd really use the Nike+ feature.