Fetish fulfillment

Summer’s almost here. And like all geeks with an Internet fetish, I’m spending way too much time indoors — searching the Web for random cool stuff. “There must be some reason I do this!” I cry out, as I click the mouse furiously in the dark.

Oh, that’s right. I do it for you, dear reader, so you don’t have to. Behold the results — only the best chunks from 10 straight hours of random surfing. Somebody had to do it …

Cool MP3 player: With just a few exceptions (read: eBay), e-commerce hasn’t caught on much. But sometimes it’s the only way to get what you want. Let me explain:

Lately I’ve been shopping for an MP3 player. Not just any MP3 player … I want the Havin Exonion HVC 100E, an absolutely bleeding-edge model.

The Exonion sports eight full minutes of skip-free memory. It plays CDs burned with MP3s, so you can fit hundreds of songs on one disc. Plus, it has a huge backlighted screen with user-friendly menus for finding all those tunes. That’s right, menus — like on a Palm Pilot.

Unfortunately, you can’t buy these things in the United States. Sure, TDK is thinking about releasing a similar model in North America at some “future date.” But the fabled Exonion is already on the streets in Japan. And greycommerce.com will sell you one.

Welcome to the grey market, the electronic industry’s dirty little secret. Greycommerce (their motto: “Technology you shouldn’t have”) is just one of many sites trafficking in overseas goods before they’re officially available in local stores. “Our man in Japan is constantly walking the streets, rooting around markets … with his tiny feet trapped in the doors of high-tech industry,” notes British-based Greycommerce’s Web page, adding: “He won’t stop till he’s found us some new bits and bobs to tell you about!!”

Greycommerce features all sorts of exotic gadgets that might appear on U.S. store shelves next Christmas. Or they might not. Thrill to the ultrasonic contact lens cleaner. And the key chain-sized portable hard drive.

Of course, all this high-tech naughtiness comes at a price. To get my dream MP3 player shipped to Detroit, I’d have to pay a hefty $286. And meanwhile, my warranty wouldn’t be worth the paper it’s printed on.

Too pricey for my thrifty blood. But for gear geeks desperate for a fix, it’s a very cool option indeed.

Cool Web sounds: Post-prog rock band Radiohead should change their name to Webhead. They’ve persuaded Capitol Records to let anxious fans play back their entire upcoming Amnesiac album from the label’s hollywoodandvine.com Web site. Since the new disc doesn’t even come out until June 7, it’s a pretty bold move.

Or is it? Jump on Napster (napster.com) and you’ll have no trouble finding a complete download of the record. In fact, Amnesiac has been there off and on for weeks. And that’s despite the beleaguered file sharing service’s adoption of court-ordered filtering software. Just search for “Amnesi@c” — or any other creative mix of characters.

So why not tease the Radiohead faithful with an advance Web-only playback? After all, unlike Napster, Capitol’s streaming version of Amnesiac cannot be easily copied to any permanent file format. And if the kids like it, they’ll buy it … right?

Perhaps. But enterprising Net heads have once again found a workaround. Using sound capture programs such as Total Recorder (get it at highcriteria.com), even streaming audio formats such as Real and Windows Media can be saved to MP3s.

With their much publicized ambivalence about fame and success, maybe that’s what Radiohead wanted all along.

Cool Web traffic: Been caught speeding lately? Then you need motorists.org, a Web site devoted to (among other things) fighting traffic tickets. Actually, this is the home page of the National Motorists Organization, a somewhat morally suspect lobbying group (protecting “your right to own and use the kinds of vehicles you prefer”!). Still, it’s hard to beat their tips for getting “traffic justice.”

For example, don’t overuse “sir” or “ma’am” when talking to an officer (cops call that “bootlicking”). And don’t voluntarily agree to a search of your car (if they ask, they don’t have probable cause).

Finally, it pays to measure exactly how far you were away from the police car when you got your ticket. Why? According to this site, most police radar detectors are only effective to 600 feet.

Weird and random, I know … but cool. And only on the Net.

Cool Web graphics: Here’s an animated quickie … worth a nice long look. Visit the peaceful animated world of Vector Park (vectorpark.com). The site’s creator (who identifies himself only as “Patrick”) brings a subtle, almost Buddhist perspective to the usually loud and obvious realm of Flash animation. With its strangely light touch, Vector Park is a brilliant time waster.

Move your mouse over the Park’s Tim Burton-esque landscape … each click leads to another new, surprising element — trees, birds, a miniature city and much more. Don’t miss the allegorical “Levers” section — where you must keep a scale in balance by using a giant submarine, a snowman and other increasingly whimsical objects.

One visitor called Vector Park “beautifully pointless.” I agree. Meanwhile, I’ll refrain from making any analogies to this week’s column.

Adam Druckman writes about the Web for the Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]
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