randomduck

thoughtful. entertaining. random.

Category: tech (Page 2 of 9)

on wikipedia politics

I love the politics of Wikipedia, especially when the “size of your manhood” debate rears its ugly, pointless head.

Case in point: the current uproar over the entry for Annabel Port, one of the co-hosts of “The Geoff Show” on Virgin Radio. Somebody suggested that Ms. Port’s entry be deleted as she is “of insignificant merit.”

There is a link for discussion of this issue, and many people – myself included – have chimed in with our opinions. Yet there’s a user who is trawling this discussion and trying to discredit those who haven’t made umpteen contributions to Wikipedia entries.

I’ve contributed to Wikipedia a total of 31 times. Most of these are edits to correct grammatical errors or add minor data. But in doing so, it’s increased the quality of these entries, making them more legible and accurate. I don’t contribute to entries where I have little-to-no knowledge of the subject matter at hand. You can view my contributions by clicking on this link.

Yet a Wikipedia user who thinks very highly of himself is harping on me for “only contributing minor edits to articles” as a means to somehow discredit my opinion on an entirely subjective matter.

Repeat after me: what the fuck?!?

If you check out my edits, many are, in fact, minor. But they’re edits that have stood the test of time. And some are major additions or necessary re-formatting of pages to make them more useful to Wikipedia patrons. The fact that most of my entries have survived intact should be a sign that my work hasn’t been trivial.

A look at MSJapan’s contribution history shows that he’s performed more edits and engaged in more discussion, but that his contributions haven’t necessarily been any more major than mine, or those of other Wikipedia users who he’s chosen to try and discredit.

So, to MSJapan, I say this: get a first life!

(Update: the eventual outcome of the Annabel Port entry was to keep it – yay, Annabel!)

upgraded to worpdress 2.1 “ella”

Late last night, WordPress 2.1 “Ella” (named after Ella Fitzgerald) was released into the wild.

Of course, I had to try it out!

I first upgraded Off The Eaten Path to the new WP engine, and the upgrade went through without a hitch. The one catch: OtEP is a very simple blog, with very few modifications or plug-ins.

So I approached the upgrade of randomduck with a bit more caution, as WP 2.1 does quite a bit of back-end tweaking to the system. The basic rule-of-thumb: once you’ve run the upgrade, you can’t roll back to version 2.0.7.

Eep.

But I carried on, making sure that I backed up everything before running the upgrade.

And?

Needless to say, it worked – after all, I’m writing this post in the WP 2.1 composition window (which auto-saves posts – so, so handy).

So hats off to the WP dev and testing team – they did a great job!

finally: photoshop for intel macs!

Adobe Labs delivered an early Christmas present to all Mac users who use Intel-based Macs: a beta release of Photoshop CS3. This new version is a universal binary, so it runs natively on both PowerPC and Intel Core systems, but the beauty is that I can finally run Photoshop at a decent clip on my Mac mini.

So far, the testing has revealed a very capable product. Launch times are quick, and all the tools run very, very quickly. Before I installed the CS3 beta, I was purposely running an older version of Photoshop – version 7.0.1 – to minimize any slowdown from Rosetta emulation. And while that was fine, I missed out on many of the improvements that make Photoshop CS2 such a great application. So now I have all of the cool tools without the speed penalty – what’s not to like?

Well, is there’s one gripe it’s this: the CS3 beta takes up a great deal of hard disk space, so it’s likely that I’ll need to install a new hard drive in the mini sometime in the not-too-distant future. Granted, I installed every available bell and whistle, so I could’ve whittled down the disk load a bit.

And this is a beta application, so there are bound to be a few spanners in the works. So I’m keeping Photoshop 7 installed on my mini, just in case, although I haven’t read about any major deal-breaker problems with this beta.

I’ll keep folks posted as my testing continues.

review: “love” by the beatles

The Beatles - LoveI finally picked up Love this past weekend, and have since given it a few listens with headphones. As I write this, it’s getting a first spin on the stereo in The Burrow.

And my impressions of the album, after a more detailed analysis, are still incredibly positive.

Firstly, the stereo mix is fantastic. George and Giles Martin did a fantastic job transferring the individual tracks from the multi-track master tapes, and really pulled off some mixing magic that’s most impressive. They had more limitations than Danger Mouse had when he mixed The Grey Album from material by The Beatles and Jay-Z, or djBC when he mixed the two “Beastles” collections from The Beatles and The Beastie Boys: they could only use sounds produced by The Beatles (the lone exception being a new string part composed by the elder Martin for the acoustic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – a perfect sonic marriage, to my ears).

So the most revelatory part of listening to Love is that every one of the sounds heard was recorded in the 1960s – and they sound like they could’ve been recorded yesterday. The Martins smartly stayed away from so-called “improvement technology” like Sonic NoNoise and let the recordings stand on their own: punchy, vibrant and, in many cases, raw. It’s when mixed together that the whole aural canvas is painted with vivid colors: awash in psychedelic clouds, hits of drums, crunchy guitars, booming bass and like-they’re-in-the-room-with-you vocals.

Seriously, the Martins did that well with their mix.

It’s quite clear that Giles Martin was “at the wheel” for most of this, given that his father’s hearing is severely impaired these days. Yet the younger Martin wisely asked the right questions of his father: “what was the level on this?”, or “how was such-and-such effect pulled off?” And he was given free reign to tweak the levels of any – or all – instruments on a track, which allowed him to fully utilize the extra sonic “space” of the digital realm. Apparently, this effect is even greater on the 5.1 Surround mix that’s included with the “deluxe” edition of Love, where the Martins created a whole new audio realization of many core Beatles tracks.

(I’ve also read that the Martins’ work runs very close to the unofficial 5.1 mixes done by Two Of Us Productions, which makes many wonder – myself included – whether proper 5.1 mixes of the original Fab albums are close-at-hand. If anything, Giles Martin has earned the right to do it by his work on Love.)

Some stand-out tracks:

  • “Glass Onion,” which blends in some interesting touches from “Hello, Goodbye” and other songs of its era.
  • “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” which opens with the crowd noise and band intro from the legendary Shea Stadium concert, then crashes in with a wonderful stereo mix of the studio recording – very “today” for a song recorded in 1964.
  • “Drive My Car/The Word/What You’re Doing.” In true mash-up nomenclature, this song would likely be called “Word, You’re Doing My Car.” It’s a wonderful mix-and-match of three disparate songs that work perfectly together. To many more “seasoned” critics, this is the most jarring track, but to me, it’s well executed and very catchy.
  • “Help” is presented in its best-ever stereo mix, sounding as if it was recorded this year, with the listener sitting at the mixing desk.
  • “Blackbird/Yesterday,” which melds the oft-covered McCartney walnut with his equally-soft “White Album” track to great effect.
  • “Within You Without You/Tomorrow Never Knows,” which takes two ragas – one Harrison’s, one Lennon’s – and mixes them to a surreal effect. This one probably kicks serious butt in 5.1.
  • “Here Comes The Sun,” which is a very potent, lively mix of the Harrison classic.
  • “Come Together/Dear Prudence/Cry Baby Cry.” The latter two songs don’t figure too much into the mix, which is fine, as this is the best-sounding version of “Come Together” I’ve ever heard. Apparently, the 5.1 mix is even better – I’ve gotta spring for a surround setup soon.
  • “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” As mentioned above, it’s truly beautiful with the string backing, showing that Sir George still has his arranging chops.

Love is truly a standout release for 2006. No, it’s not as essential as the albums released by The Beatles between 1962 and 1970. But it’s an album that makes you really listen to songs that have been in the vernacular for years. I’m still finding new bits and pieces in the mix with repeated listening sessions.

I think that John Lennon would’ve had a kick listening to this album, as he loved in-jokes, funky audio bits, and such.

It’s like meeting old friends again after many years: they’re still the same friends, only a few features have changed a bit. And in this case, that’s not a bad thing at all.

As I mentioned earlier, let’s hope that this marks the beginning of a proper remastering and remixing of the full Beatles canon – and give that young Martin a chance to take the wheel.

You can order Love from Amazon.com – either in CD format or CD with DVD-Audio.

busy sunday

Who says Sundays are lazy?

I got up at 9:00 am, had a little breakfast, rode to the office to help my pal, Michelle, resuscitate her PowerBook G4, got a PowerBook out of the deal (!), did some reading for class, and now I’m ready to head home.

I rode the bike into the office, and it was a bit painful – so I’m not completely healed, but I’m well enough to commute – a plus, because riding GUTS is a pain. But hey – it’s riding, and that’s good!

lj outage….

One of my first blog-type online journals was at LiveJournal, a community that evolved out of a teeny-bopper base (“put your diary online!”) to become a diverse, thriving community that spans all age groups.

A few years back, I decided that I wanted to go the DIY route, and this blog was born.

Today, LiveJournal having a major outage, which sucks for my friends who have their blogs on the LJ servers.

So a shout out to them – hope your blogs come back soon!

no, mr. bush, the u.s. does not own outer space

“President” Bush signed an order today that prohibits other countries from using outer space for hostile endeavors, and gives the U.S. the power to stop said activities.

Never mind that Bush is one of the leading proponents of a space-borne missile defense system that is, in all fairness, a hostile use of space. So do as Bush says, not at he does – very pedantic, Mr. Bush. You might as well take the next shuttle or Soyuz up to orbit and start peeing all over the place to mark your territory.

Okay, fess up: who actually voted for this clown to be our president?

looking back on eudora

Eudora iconAs a long-time email and Mac user, it’s with both great hope and some sadness that I read of Eudora’s impending transition to open-source, using the Mozilla Thunderbird engine. While I’ve known of this transition for a while, the fact that it’s official is bittersweet.

When I first started using email back at the University of Utah, Eudora was the email client of choice. It ran on a Mac, which was the dominant operating system on campus, and it fit on a single, 800 KB floppy disk – perfect for using in a campus lab or at home. The graphic interface and filters beat the pants off of ELM and PINE, the two Unix command line mail applications that were the options to Eudora.

I continued to use Eudora throughout my college years, both at Utah and at Conn, and used it during my first years in the workforce. As time progressed, email became more elaborate: the web took off, and with it the need for more advanced features arose: people had more than one email account, rich-text and HTML email arrived on the scene, and IMAP and POP3 battled for email server supremacy.

All the while, Eudora didn’t do too much to evolve. Multiple account capabilities and IMAP support came about in newer versions, but the interface didn’t keep up with new user interface standards. And HTML support was woeful: a message that looked snappy in the newer Microsoft Exchange and Outlook Express, or in Netscape’s Communicator, looked like absolute crap in Eudora (it took until Eudora 7 for Windows for semi-decent HTML rendering to appear). While many power-users who enjoyed Eudora’s still-superior filtering and sorting features kept using the app, new email users and folks who needed more robust mail formatting support looked elsewhere.

And here it is, 2006, and Eudora has decided to do the right thing: they’ve decided to abandon the tedious process of cobbling together their old code into a more modern email application, which was proving especially tough on the Mac OS. Instead, they are working with the most cutting-edge mail application engine – Thunderbird – and marrying Eudora’s excellent filtering and mail-handling abilities to the chassis. The Thunderbird HTML engine is the best in the industry, and its IMAP support is also industry-leading – two areas in which the current Eudora application is sorely in need of retooling.

If all goes according to plan, it should be a fantastic alternative to Outlook, Thunderbird, and Apple Mail. The price for the app will also come down, as Eudora 8 will be free. Eudora will have new inroads in the higher education and corporate markets with its new formula, and that could bode very, very well.

I’m glad to see the Eudora will continue to live, but I’m sad that the great business experiment that evolved out of a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign student project has ended up in the land of the no-profit, open-source wilderness. While there have been some notable success stories with this model (e.g. the Mozilla projects and various Linux flavors), there have been countless more that are floundering (e.g. the Opera browser) or failed. I hope that Eudora survives – and thrives – as an open-source project.

nyc: hot and cool

Back from New York City.

We chose a daft time to go: the hottest spell of weather that’s hit the east coast in a few years. It was insanely hot, so we tried to spend at much time indoors as possible.

As such, we spent time in:

– a Pret a Manger
– a bookstore
– a music store or two
– a coffee shop

We also had some fun – and spent time with old friends.

We saw Little Miss Sunshine, which is a wonderful and funny movie. The cast is perfect, the script and direction crisp and effective. It’s easily one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, and I’ll try and post a more detailed review soon.

Of course, the main focus of our visit was “An Evening With Harry, Carrie and Garp”, where Stephen King, John Irving and J.K. Rowling read their works and answered questions in the cozy confines of Radio City Music Hall. It was a superb event: the authors were treated like rock stars (Kathy Bates even compared introducing Rowling to Ed Sullivan introducing The Beatles), the audience was in great spirits, and the authors had a gas.

I’ll write more about the whole thing later this weekend. Needless to say, though, it was a lot of fun.

Oh, one more thing: we learned not to trust the Amtrak automated phone info system, which caused us to miss our train from NYC back to DC.

okay, i need one of these

Given that it can be a pain to GMap my routes, I think that an Adeo GPS unit would be very, very cool to have.

Major drool factor….

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