Sunday, June 10, 2007

Budapest Tour Guides and Apartments

Some people, when they go to Budapest, get to stay with my friends and pretty much have the time of their lives. Now you can have essentially the same experience even if you don't know me! ;-) My buddy Pál (as in Paul) has teamed up with some awesome people to offer very personal tours of Budapest as well as downtown Budapest apartments for short-term rental. Lots of people do the rental thing, and I'm sure his are as good as anybody's (I can vouch for the locations). But the thing that makes this special is that Pál knows everyone in that town. No, seriously, everyone. He knows more people in Budapest than I do, which is something. (He has the advantage of being Hungarian, but still...) When he says he'll take you to meet artists and vintners, he really means it, and they'll actually be good artists and vintners, not the Váci utca tourist crap. So there you have it. If you're going to Budapest, or for that matter anywhere in Hungary, and you want to have a great time and see the real insider's version, but you don't already have friends there -- then ditch that stupid guidebook and send Pál an e-mail (or just call him, he speaks English). They offer prearranged tours and creative as-you-like-it accompaniment in English, German and Spanish (Gina is a native speaker, which is not very common in those parts). I would especially recommend them to people who are interested in the authentic cultural and culinary delights of Budapest (yes, including bars). Here's the URL, pretty easy to remember if you can remember that Paul is Pál in Hungarian (plus he's totally a pal):

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

VernissageTV Art Video Blog

I just found a cool new art blog called VernissageTV. "Verissage" means "art opening" and that's largely what the blog is about. Or should I say vlog? No, I don't like saying vlog, it sounds dumb. VernissageTV, as its name implies, has a lot of video content available for free download. Beyond that, they also have your standard link-to-stuff blogging (you're soaking in it!) and a PDF virtual magazine, which is mostly pictures and hard to manage at a whopping 10MB for one issue. They're based out of Basel, the Swiss center of art and pharmaceuticals, but almost all the content is in English. Some of the stuff is obviously only of interest to us art geeks, but they also have virtual tours of major shows you might not otherwise get to see, as well as some pretty fascinating interviews. What they don't have much of is server capacity. Downloading the videos was sloooow. And the funny thing is that they're also selling the content on DVD, presumably in high quality. Note to VernissageTV: that's what YouTube is for. Put the low-quality version there and let Google worry about the bandwidth, then sell the high quality version (ideally on the iTunes store, but that's another topic). Likewise, their hosted PDFs feature gargantuan images poorly compressed. I get the general impression they aren't very tech-savvy, and I hope that situation improves. One of their people has a Flickr page that's much, much easier to play with than the PDFs, so you should start there if you want more "illustration" than the blog provides. I've tossed this one into my "ART" bookmarks folder, and I recommend a visit. Just don't go on dial-up.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Google, hire a copywriter already!

Google has this new tech out called Sketchup (acquired of course, they don't seem to do new tech in-house anymore). The deal: 3D modeling for non-professionals. Pretty cool, and I think the Google angle is about improving Maps/Earth through user-generated content. But OMFG the writing...
Developed for the conceptual stages of design, Google SketchUp is a powerful yet easy-to-learn 3D software. It combines a simple, yet robust tool-set with an intelligent drawing system that streamlines and simplifies 3D design.
Yet yet what? Come on, big G! I know you're a kingdom of dorks, but you're a very rich kingdom. Would it be so tragic to hire someone who cares about the English language?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Google Analytics

I have to say, I really like Google Analytics. It's a free site stats system based on Urchin, which Google bought a while back. It uses Javascript and is unobtrusive in modern browsers. You get really nice, clicky stats. There are a couple problems with it: first and most importantly, it doesn't give you any information on file downloads nor on errors. For that you still need your old-fashioned server logs. The other problem is that everything about it is geared towards sites making money with AdSense. But that's hardly surprising, and after all it's the reason Google can give the service away free: in addition to being useful for site owners, it helps them help Google help them make money. I'm trying it out on several sites for a little over a month now, and I'm very impressed. I just added it here as well - though I was a bit surprised Google hadn't already integrated that into Blogger, which they also own.