Wednesday, November 30, 2005

You Win Some...

Cool! At least it will be shortly...

I was walking around in an office supply store and came across an Antec 80mm SmartCool fan for $10.39. Double-ball bearing, variable speed, perfect! My joy turned to dismay when it rang up for $20. It turned out they were mislabled on the rack. That $10.39 was for something totally different. I wasn't going to make anything of it but the manager had the cashier sell it to me for the $10. Very nice! How often does that ever happen? Well... for me, not very often at all.

This is ideal since the system fan in the audio workstation sounds like it is dying. This will make an excellent replacement.

You know you're a geek when you post a blog entry because you got a good deal on a case fan! ;-)

(Hey! They also had some good deals on CD & DVD media. Man, I wish DL/DVD+R media would drop in price! 3 discs for $20?! No thanks...)


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Gone In A Crash

Oh how I despise it! Can I just say it?

I spent close to nearly an hour recording stuff in Audacity, only to have the application crash when I hit the stop button. When a riff hits me, I have to get Audacity (or another recording application) started ASAP. So there I am clicking the mouse while I am still playing. Have to, or I lose the feel of the riff forever...

That's how it started tonight. I was practicing a piece at 220bpm until I couldn't keep up with the pace anymore. I quit that piece and started noodling around to see what I would come up with tonight. I hit on something that caught my ear on the A string near the 12th fret. Quick! To Audacity with you. Of course the PC happened to be booted in Windows 2000 at the time. [sigh]

Anyway, I got the riff down to some degree but the feel wasn't exactly right so I kept playing... and playing... and playing. When I was done and clicked stop, it was instantly and forever gone. Nothing to show for it. Nothing at all...

Application error, blah blah blah...

I should have known...

What a waste!

I should just learn to boot up in Linux when I start practicing and start the recording application from the start. That way I won't end up losing inspriation when it strikes. Not that I haven't had my troubles in Linux before (it's usually user error), however troubles are much more rare when recording in Linux than with the other OS mentioned above...

I think people complain too much in blogs. I need to cut it out. I much prefer to see positive posts and useful/usable information. My rant pages get little notice. My computer fixes pages get all the attention. LOL


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Music: The Police Live!

I finally did it after all these years... well, ten anyway.

I purchased The Police Live! 2-disc CD set. Why is this a big deal? It's not... not in the grand scheme of things. It is kind of cool for me though. I've wanted to see this band live since junior high (now commonly referred to as "middle school"” where I currently reside). Trust me, that's been a good while now. All of the members are still alive (as far as I know) but I highly doubt a reunion tour will ever materialize. As far as I can ascertain the last two shows they played together were the 1986 Amnesty International concert (which I recall seeing & taping) and Sting's wedding in 1992 (which I do not recall seeing or taping). Aside from the Amnesty show, I saw the Synchronicity concert video and I suppose that is as close as I will ever get...

So now I have this two disc set that was released ten years ago. It's recordings from two shows. The first in Boston in 1979. This must have been the Reggatta de Blanc tour, as Sting mentions "Walking On The Moon" as being from the "new album." It's a blast! Blast from the past. LOL This stuff is great! The band is full of energy and confidence. Stewart Copeland is one of my favorite drummers ever and he definitely soars on this set! Andy Summers guitar is energetic & warm. The really nice thing about this show is you can hear the guitar and the bass. They aren't competing for the same frequencies which you find in some recordings where the lines between guitar and bass are blurred--particularly today where guitar based music is usually much heavier, even in pop songs. This power trio shines in these live renditions of their early classics particularly considering the archaic equipment used in putting it to tape.

The second show was taped in Atlanta, 1983, the last tour. Synchronicity. The sound is fuller and perhaps a bit more polished but the essence & energy is still there. Sting's voice sounds better. More control? Mature. I remember a quote from one of them, something about how you really learn to play from touring (or was that a U2 quote? I don't recall at the moment). I believe it. This show has the classic Police guitar tones in there (Summers' signature chorus sound), but it's definitely edgier which is really cool. The drumming as always is impeccable. The mix is well done. One thing I have always enjoyed about Summers style on guitar was his ability to create atmosphere without overwhelming the mix. The songs could still breathe. That carries over live as well. I think it's useful for building tension and anticipation in a piece. The folks producing the solid walls of over-compressed ultra-distorted guitars that you find in a lot music today could take some queues from these guys. Dynamics matter in a well arranged piece of music. I find that lacking a lot today, but I also see that trend somewhat dissipating as time moves on. One can only hope. Overdoing any one thing in your playing can invite boredom in the listener...

Dynamics in music. Man I wish more producers would remember that concept. You don't have to peg the meters all the time, but what do I know?

Well, let's just say I shouldn't have waited ten years to get around to this one. Good thing those "buy one get 12 free CDs"” clubs are still around! ;-)

My favorite Police album? Ghost In The Machine


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Music: Jam Sessions

My friend AD and I try to jam about once a week. We both play guitar. Our musical influences are quite varied and while we have some things in common, there are a lot of differences in out preferences. I think this generally equates to positive sessions, our diversity provides creative tension. Regardless of our differences in musical tastes, one positive aspect that we bring to our sessions is a willingness to listen to what the other has to say. A willingness to try something new even if we would generally be inclined to resist going in an unknown direction.

AD uses Audacity to lay down his idea tracks. I use Audacity (for quick idea takes) & Ardour (for multitrack ideas, when the creative vibe is really in gear and I have more time to work with it). We bounce these tracks off of each other and have quite a collection of original material to work with at this point, and we are reaching an interesting convergence. He has wanted to explore playing live, whereas I have been less inclined and even resistant to doing that. My focus has been on putting together original material and recording it which I think is less interesting to him due to the technicalities involved.

The convergence I see is that with our original material coming together, AD wants to get it recorded and onto CD, while I am more confident with each jam session that we could easily play live performances with our material.

Tonight we jammed on some new ideas that each of us had and it seemed to flow quite naturally. I am really at the point where I want to get this stuff down "to tape" which leads to some interesting challenges.
  • Drums. I appreciate drum machines but I love a real live, talented drummer. Neither of us plays drums or has access to a kit anyway, and to program a drum machine for realism you have to be able to think like a drummer. I'm afraid this is going to be a big issue. Drums can make or break a song for me. Lame drumming leads to quick disinterest in a song for me.
  • Bass and/or keyboard. Not a big challenge. I can take care of that.
  • Vocals. Now there's a real challenge. I doubt either of us want to ruin our recordings trying to do lead vocals. Which leads to the next challenge...
  • Lyrics. We would definitely want control of lyrics. If we brought in a permanent vocalist for the project it would be interesting to see how that would play out...
  • Arrangement. I want control of arrangements, I don't think AD would disapprove. The problem would be knowing when a piece is done. I am a very improvisational player. I like to go off on an idea and see where it leads, but that has to be reined in if were ever going to get anything finalized...
  • Fun. This stuff has to remain fun because that is why we do it. If it becomes a hassle or otherwise annoying it wouldn't take long for us to just say forget it. I think as longing as we're coming up with new ideas and learning as we go it should keep our interests.
  • Time. AD has more time on his hands then I do and it will be a real challenge if we want to get anything done. If you add a drummer and/or vocalist it could get really interesting really quickly...
Hmm, I suppose I would also have to invest in some more gear as well. At the least a real mic if we are going to get vocals--which I think we need. I don't think either of us want a CD full of instrumentals, although... who knows? If we find a drummer, then we need a mixer a set of mics for the kit. Lacking funds makes that unrealistic. Maybe we can find a drummer who's already set with that gear. I'm sure we could. Maybe he or she would have pity on us and not charge us a mint to lay down some kickin' tracks for us? One can hope, right?

Ah, the evolution of the recording hobbyist...

Too bad I can't post some samples here for family & friends. Feedback would be nice...


Saturday, November 19, 2005

Ideas Are NOT Things

This is a concept that really needs to be promoted and understood throughout the populace, particularly among lawmakers. There is a very informative article regarding the topic via Guardian Unlimited entitled Owning Ideas by Andrew Brown:
The difference between ideas and things is obvious as soon as someone hits you over the head with an idea - so obvious that until recently it was entirely clear to the law. Things could have owners and ideas could not. Yet this simple distinction is being changed all around us. Ideas are increasingly treated as property - as things that have owners who may decide who gets to use them and on what terms...

...This is madness. Ideas aren't things. They're much more valuable than that. Intellectual property - treating some ideas as if they were in some circumstances things that can be owned and traded - is itself no more than an idea that can be copied, modified and improved. It is this process of freely copying them and changing them that has given us the world of material abundance in which we live. If our ideas of intellectual property are wrong, we must change them, improve them and return them to their original purpose. When intellectual property rules diminish the supply of new ideas, they steal from all of us.
Recent news stories inform us that with pending legislation it is quite apparent that there is much confusion over this issue. Confusion that could lead to furthering bad law, stifling innovation, and further restrictions against consumers.

Even the established doctrine of 'fair use' is being called criminal by some lawmakers. Copyright law (PDF, 290 pages worth) is as strong as it has ever been--it's too strong in fact with the life+70 years term. And patent law is virtually screaming for reform--particularly so-called software patents. It is my firmly held belief that copyright is sufficiently strong to protect code and that software SHOULD NOT be patented at all. Total reform in this area is wanted, I daresay required if technology is to continue tremendous pace of growth. As the article mentioned above points out, Microsoft became unbelievably prosperous when there was no such thing as software patents. That says volumes...

What is it in society, particularly government that compels us towards killing innovation & ever increasing restrictions? That is, of course, rhetorical but I certainly wish that lawmakers would take a step back for a moment and remember what it was like when they weren't politicians--if that's possible. Just take a moment to think about what it was like to be a regular person (enjoying legally acquired books, music, video, software at home) and then judge imposing further restrictions on the population in that light. Would they like it if their Fair Use rights were further diminished? Would they like someone telling them what they can and cannot do with their property? Didn't they ever tinker with a gadget to make it work better or differently or simply to find out 'what makes it tick'? When did reverse engineering become a 'bad thing'? One of the points of issuing patents is to have a source of ideas to build upon. Now they are simply used as a club to steal your company and/or lock up ideas as the article linked suggests. How can this possibly be good for the governmental mandate to 'promote the general welfare' (that they so often use as an excuse to touch every aspect of our lives even when there is no provision to do so in the Constitution. It makes you wonder how Article X: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. is actually applied, if at all in the Federal government these days)?

I would just conclude by saying that enough is enough!
  • Repeal software patents.
  • Stop the Patent Office from issuing patents for the obvious.
  • Reform Copyright law.
  • Repeal the DMCA, or at the very least reform it in favor of the consumer!
Balance in the so-called intellectual property field is what's needed if technological progress and advances in our culture are to continue their march forward.

Treating ideas as things and locking them away is extremely bad policy.


Magnatunes: Pick Your Battles

I couldn't believe what I was reading today on NewsForge. A pathetic rant against Magnatune entitled, Magnatune: We're not as evil as we could be by Matthew Davidson.

He's bent out of shape because the MP3 encoded songs that you can freely download & freely redistribute from Magnatune (under a CC License) have a synthesized voice message tacked on the end of them with track/artist information and the notice 'from' The unmitigated gall of this ungracious article is truly unbelievable!

My response in full:
You are *totally* blowing this issue out of proportion and mischaracterizing what is 'free' on Magnatune and what's not.

First, you better check again because you certainly ARE free to redistribute the music you purchase from Maganatune under the specified CC license. There is NO separate license for the WAV, OGG, or FLAC files as opposed to the MP3/streaming license. It's one and the same.

The only difference beside bitrate quality between the streamed MP3 files & a purchased set is simply that the 'nagware' message is gone after the purchase.
But as you stated, even with the MP3s (that ARE freely & immediately downloadable) you ARE free to strip out the track/artist/title message, use them (non-commercially) & redistribute them according to the terms of the license. What REALLY is the problem? You should have taken this time and space to write about something TRULY threatening like software patents...

As to the 'nagware' in the streamed/freely downloadable MP3s, so what? It provides us complete track information: the artist, the album & what track we are listening to. Unless something has changed in the message since the last time I listened to a stream there is NOTHING in there to suggest that you are stealing or a freeloader.

In fact, I actually bought an album BECAUSE of the information in the 'nagware'. I was listening to a compilation set of various artists in a genre and heard an interesting song. Without the 'nagware' message I would not have known who it was that was performing. With the information provided, I listened to more from the particular artist that intrigued me, and I ended up buying one of his albums!

Gee, instead of being evil perhaps this is actually beneficial to all: artist, consumer, and distributor...

Pick your battles. This article amounts to little more then a poorly conceived rant about a total non-issue.

Updated 22 November 2005, 12:39am: It appears from lengthy discussions regarding this article on NewsForge that it is highly likely that WAV, FLAC, OGG, etc. files that you purchase from Magnatune are not sold to you under the same by-nc-sa 1.0 Creative Commons License that cover the freely downloadable MP3 files. My apologies to Matthew Davidson for the statements above that I have rendered with strike-thru. If you follow this thread you will find the basis for my original position on the issue, and why I now believe I was mistaken. Contact Magnatune for further clarification if needed. I am not a lawyer and aside from being a repeat customer, I am not affiliated in any way with Magnatune.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I LOVE Not-Summer

We get two seasons here, summer & not-summer. It feels like not-summer right now. The house is nice and chilly. The Athlon XP box is cranking away at 100% CPU load but only hitting 40ºC. The cat thinks she's freezing so she's sitting on top of the UPS for warmth...

Yeah... life is good! :-)


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Planet Sony! CD Phone Home

This is soooo cool! Unfortunate, but cool.

The kind folks at DoxPara Research have provided us with a visual demonstration of just how widespread the Sony audio CD rootkit has become.

Download --> Extract --> Run planetsony.bat and spin the world 'round.

Anyone who thought the Sony rootkit issue was just a lot of noise would find the images quite compelling I think. Find out how they did it at

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Bittorrent: Share The Wealth!

It's pretty amazing what you can do without even trying.

For example, I was looking at Azureus today--it's running all the time, I don't even notice it unless I am trying to use VPN and then I need to pause it, other then that I don't even think about it. Anyway, I was looking at the Azureus stats for the torrents I am seeding and saw something interesting. Without doing a thing, I have "given away":
Those are my share ratios. That is nearly 43GB of software uploaded. Now I'm not pointing this out to brag or anything pointless like that at all. I was just thinking how cool this technology is, how useful. Remember when you had to get your Linux ISOs via FTP. It would take forever, maybe even days, even with broadband to get the latest greatest distro--but we were happy the resources were their, thankful for those mirrors indeed! Without the mirrors I seriously doubt GNU/Linux and all the other innovative FOSS (Free/Open Source Software) projects would have advanced as rapidly as they have. Today, we not only get to download super-large files like ISOs much faster, but with BitTorrent we get to share the wealth when we seed the torrent--no longer draining & straining resources but actually becoming a resource for others. I think this opportunity strengthens free software even further.

Of course, as always, there are those among us who abuse the rights of others and create torrents that distribute materials when they have no right to do so. I'm certain when the MPAA folks hear the word 'bittorrent' they immediately have images flashing through their collective minds of movies being distributed far & wide across the internet at blazing speeds... before they even hit the theatres! I am not surprised that they fight these new P2P technologies tooth & nail. I don't agree with their methods, but I understand their motives.

I'll tell you exactly what my position is on this problem. You guys (you know who you are) who post/join pirate torrents or P2P shares of non-redistributable copyrighted software, movies, music whatever: YOU are the ones who are ruining it for the rest of us! Don't you get that? You may think you're "sticking it to the man", but you're hurting the rest of us in the process! It is utterly aggravating!

I may not agree with current copyright law but that doesn't give me the right to break it. Bittorrent is an awesome technology for all of us. One of many, but it is viewed in some circles as simply a tool for criminals. I don't enjoy it when the existence of technologies that I find useful (for perfectly legal activities) are becoming threatened because they get branded as 'evil'. It just gives (for example) people like the Sony execs an illegitimate excuse to add spy/malware to audio CDs. And, it gives other companies & legislators the impetus to call for more control over what WE can do with the products WE bought and WE own. They don't need any encouragement. So stop!

If you like a movie you saw, don't be so freakin' cheap, buy a copy! If you like some music you heard when you were driving down the road, buy the CD or hit iTunes and buy the songs you want. Whatever it takes. Please stop ruining it for the rest of us.

Sorry for the rant but I just don't think a lot of people care about these issues because they don't feel the negative & chilling impact they have on innovation. They may think they are not hurting anyone by downloading a few thousand of song--but in the end the media moguls will fight back and slowly & insidiously what we can do with the products we paid good money for, products we own (i.e. our computers, TVs, DVRs, etc.) is going to become more & more limited. Eventually to the point that they become useless to us (all the while being billed as the latest & greatest in tech) or we will become desensitized to the point that we just think, "that's just the way it is", and the way it should be. That will be a sad day. How lame will it be to say to your kids or grandkids, "I remember when we could buy music and listen to it as many times as we wanted. These media subscription fees today are putting me in the poor house..."

News flash, there really is more to life then movies and music put out by the giant media companies. Honest...

So do something useful with the technology we have. Share the wealth of Free/Open Source Software, and Creative Commons-type licensed redistributable media via P2P & Bittorrent. We will ALL benefit and just maybe we can keep playing with our toys the way we want to and not how some mega-media-funded legislator tells us to.

One can only hope...


Identify An AMD Athlon XP CPU

I wanted to verify the maximum die temperature for the Athlon XP 2000+ I have in the audio PC (see my previous post). I did NOT want to have to remove the heatsink/fan to get the OPN (the AMD Ordering Part Number) off the chip. A laborious search turned up a utility called Central Brain Identifier. This app looks very similar to the CPU-Z utility, except CBI returned the OPN whereas CPU-Z did not.

CBI identified the OPN of my processor as AXDA2000DUT3C. The AMD Processor Recognition PDF decodes this information for us. The third character from the right (the 'T') indicates the maximum die temperature for the CPU in question. And, it is in fact 90ºC as I had determined last night from other documents.

With the Central Brain Identifier utility & the AMD document, it should be quite simple to accurately identify your Athlon XP processor should the need arise.

Other utilities of interest along these lines can be found at AMD and Major Geeks. This Techspot thread was helpful in locating the correct combination of documentation & software.

Athlon XP: Inexplicable Shutdowns

Original Post (HDD Dying): 10 November 2005, 11:00pm
I know which one it is. I have two hard drives in the "audio workstation" box. It's the Fujitsu. Every one of these that I have ever used has died. Maybe that's why they stopped making IDE drives? You think??

This Athlon XP box dual-boots between Win98 and Linux. Windows 98 serves a dual role. The boys can play games on it, draw, write stories, etc. AND I can mess around with the free version of ProTools (which apparently only runs under Win98, not NT or beyond for some unknown reason) and Kristal on it. The Linux partition is for the serious audio apps.

I started to notice it yesterday. One moment this box was running along in Win98... walk by it later and it would be completely shut off. At first I thought someone might simply be shutting it down more frequently then usual, but no, this was happening far too often. I run Folding@Home on it, so I try to keep it running non-stop anyway (even though the boys always like to shut down when they are done using the box).

I was starting to get suspicious, so tonight I kept my eye on it while we were watching TV. I thought it might be CPU thermal shutdown (I don't overclock and I have the automatic shutdown level set to the lowest temperature setting in the BIOS). I decided I would test my theory, and found a free system monitor/configuration app for Windows, SpeedFan 4.25. I installed it and set it to logging. A decent little application if I might say so, but it did not get much of a chance to run. I sat there watching the sensor readings fluctuate when all of a sudden I heard it, "ka-chunk" from one of the HDDs and poof! The box was off...

Well, now I know. I just hope the drive lasts long enough for me to clone the partition onto it's replacement. I'll just have to make sure no one turns it on until I can get to it. Man! I do not want to reload the dang thing from scratch again! It's such a waste of time. I can't complain though, I knew this day was coming when I put that drive in the box...

Update: 12 November 2005, 12:42am
Upon further investigation this evening I find that my initial impression on the cause of the shutdowns was correct after all: CPU temperature exceeding the thermal shutdown threshold set in the BIOS.

I gave the CPU heat sink/fan a thorough dusting with some canned air. The processor has been running at 100% (courtesy of Folding@Home) for quite a while, and right now it is sitting right around 57ºC. This is acceptable as the (Athlon XP 2000+) has a maximum die temperature of 90ºC. I currently have the BIOS shutdown threshold set at 75ºC. I will let the system run all night, and check the SpeedFan logs in the morning. I doubt it will go much above 60ºC based on what I am seeing now.

Looks like my Fujitsu drive will live to see another day. Still, a snapshot of the current partition image for backup purposes is definitely in order. That drive will fail sooner rather then later, I can count on it...

Update: 13 November 2005, 9:31pm
Thank goodness for automatic thermal shutdowns & warnings. I did some more testing and had the shutdown disabled but I had the warning set at 75ºC. The beeping started and I checked the temperature 80ºC! Shutdown and fast. Long story short(er), it was the CPU heatsink fan. I removed it, took the back cover sticker off, verified it was a ball bearing fan, cleaned it with DeoxIT, replaced the sticker, reinstalled the fan, and have been running it at 100% load ever since (again, courtesy of Folding@Home).

Fan Speed Avg. 5700RPM
CPU Die Temp. Avg. 47ºC

Oh so much better then the numbers I saw previously. If the fan holds up after this cleaning it should be good to go. If not, thermal shutdown is on and ready to kick in. Case closed...


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Sony's Killer Audio CDs

It used to be (in the not too distant past) that when you bought an audio CD, it was yours to do with as you pleased aside from certain restrictions afforded the copyright holder:
First, a baseline. When you buy a regular CD, you own it. You do not "license" it. You own it outright. You're allowed to do anything with it you like, so long as you don't violate one of the exclusive rights reserved to the copyright owner. So you can play the CD at your next dinner party (copyright owners get no rights over private performances), you can loan it to a friend (thanks to the "first sale" doctrine), or make a copy for use on your iPod (thanks to "fair use"). Every use that falls outside the limited exclusive rights of the copyright owner belongs to you, the owner of the CD. [Now the Legalese Rootkit: Sony-BMG's EULA]
Pretty much what we're used to. Nothing scary, nothing dramatic. You bought it, you get to use it. Well, times they are a changin'...

By now I'm sure that virtually everyone who enjoys audio CD's has heard of the Sony-BMG DRM debacle. If not, here it is in the most simple of terms as I understand it. If you happen upon a Sony-BMG audio CD encumbered with their DRM rootkit and you attempt to play it in your Windows-based computer, you get the added 'bonus' of having a secret bit of software installed on your PC using common techniques employed by spy/malware coders. This is done without your knowledge, it leaves your computer vulnerable to exploits, and it is difficult to remove--possibly damaging your OS in the process.

This is completely unacceptable in my opinion, worse, it certainly must be against the law. The Sony-BMG response to criticisms raised against this overtly intrusive scheme has been ludicrous & condescending at best.

Finally compare what fair use rights owning the audio CD you purchased affords you (from the quote above) to what a Sony-BMG "licensed" audio CD takes away from you [Now the Legalese Rootkit: Sony-BMG's EULA]:
  1. If your house gets burgled, you have to delete all your music from your laptop when you get home. That's because the EULA says that your rights to any copies terminate as soon as you no longer possess the original CD.

  2. You can't keep your music on any computers at work. The EULA only gives you the right to put copies on a "personal home computer system owned by you."

  3. If you move out of the country, you have to delete all your music. The EULA specifically forbids "export" outside the country where you reside.

  4. You must install any and all updates, or else lose the music on your computer. The EULA immediately terminates if you fail to install any update. No more holding out on those hobble-ware downgrades masquerading as updates.

  5. Sony-BMG can install and use backdoors in the copy protection software or media player to "enforce their rights" against you, at any time, without notice. And Sony-BMG disclaims any liability if this "self help" crashes your computer, exposes you to security risks, or any other harm.

  6. The EULA says Sony-BMG will never be liable to you for more than $5.00. That's right, no matter what happens, you can't even get back what you paid for the CD.

  7. If you file for bankruptcy, you have to delete all the music on your computer. Seriously.

  8. You have no right to transfer the music on your computer, even along with the original CD.

  9. Forget about using the music as a soundtrack for your latest family photo slideshow, or mash-ups, or sampling. The EULA forbids changing, altering, or make derivative works from the music on your computer.
Can you believe this?! It just seems such an egregious affront to consumers, you'd think it was a joke. But no, this is all for real. I am (always) reminded of the CueCat debacle--they got all bent out of shape because people were using their product in manners other then what they wished. It was just the beginning and it looks like there is no end in sight to this line of thinking...

Just say NO to Digitally Restricted audio CDs!

Update: 12 November 2005, 12:54am.
EFF has posted a list of (known) audio CDs that employ the Sony-BMG XCP rootkit. Check the post, Are You Infected by Sony-BMG's Rootkit? see if any of your CDs are on the list. Sony has (without apology) decided to "suspend" the use of this spy/malware style software in their audio CDs for now--that doesn't necessarily mean they won't try this crap again...


CC Fundrasing Update

Do you get the feeling that I think this is an important issue? Yes, you better believe it!

Current status as of November 9, 2005 12:53 PM:
$ 47,836 Donated
$225,000 Goal (by Dec 31, 2005)

A long way to go towards reaching the goal. Bloggers can help. Mr. Lessig reports on the addition of new web buttons we can use to further the cause. Cut & Paste the HTML for the button of your choice. Easy & worthwhile too...

I chose the "$5 for the Commons" button myself because it takes the user right to PayPal to donate. Quick, simple, effective, IMO.


Sunday, November 06, 2005

Dvorak Gets Creative Commons After All

Back in July John Dvorak blasted the Creative Commons concept calling it 'Eye-rolling dumb...' His cristicisms regarding CC were themselves quickly & soundly obliterated by the community at large. Recently, (as we learn from the blog Corante) Dvorak has had a change of heart regarding Creative Commons work and apparently now he gets it.

Note, he's not admitting that his original piece was wrong however, in fact he states:
My column was never wrong, my column was questioning...I was saying, "I don't get it, will somebody explain it to me, please?" Yeah, [Larry Lessig] explained it. I finally got my explanation. Sometimes you've got to go public with bafflement, which I do...He's doing fine. You don't need my help.
Funny, he sounded pretty certain about his conclusions when I read his original opinion piece on the matter. Judge for yourself...

As the Corante post points out, the Creative Commons organization needs our individual support (see the Corante post and you will find out why this is necessary). Please consider a donation if you find their work useful as a consumer or content producer.



Why are the simplest things always the most difficult to do? Why do we procrastinate when we know it will come back to haunt us sooner or later (usually sooner)?

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." --John Lennon

I think often times we get lost in our distractions. This isn't a problem for the utterly impoverished whose sole goal in life is subsistance from day to day. No, this is a 'disease' of the affluent, the rest of us. (I'm certain the utterly impoverished would gladly take on this burden with us, but that is a topic for another day.)

There are so many good things in the world that we can be doing at any given time that it's easy to become blinded to the better things in life--the things that really matter. That's the real trick isn't it? For most of us (I believe) what we generally refer to as our conscience keeps us out of trouble--we don't have a problem avoiding the bad/evil things of the world. No, the real trick is choosing between the good & the better, right? There is only so much time in the day, we only live so long. Wouldn't learning to discern between the two, and actually choosing the better part be a really important skill & action on our parts?

Well, that's rhetorical you say, of course we want to do that. No one wants to waste their time when you look at it like that. The problem is I am easily distracted away from the better things by the good things. I daresay I'm probably not the only one...

There are a million examples we could think of where this is true, but I'll pick just one. In the time it took me to write this blog entry (which I view as being a 'good' thing, sharing my thoughts with others and all that, although some might disagree on placing it in this category) couldn't I have spent time with my family, furthering those ties & relationships? No... actually they are all out at the moment at my mother-in-law's house, so there! But, are there other more important things that I could be doing at this very moment? Of course there is! There always will be in this case. While blogging may be a good thing, there are always going to be infinitely better things that I could be doing with my time. The point is not that I should stop blogging, the point is that I should actively choose to be aware of those 'infinitely better things' in my life and make a concious effort to choose them more often then not. The only way to apply this is to practice it--to actually do it. To stop procrastinating, stop being distracted and take action...


Friday, November 04, 2005

Call Me "Vader J"

J couldn't find his Darth Vader mask for halloween, but a little late night GIMP action saves the day (or at least the picture I guess)...

We went out to a corn maze on Saturday and he was dressed up in his Vader gear (sans mask), light saber in hand (Vader model of course, not shown in this photo unfortunately). He had a good time but it's not quite same trying to be the big bad Imperial Menace himself without the mask I'll bet...

I think he'll like this when he sees it tomorrow. Made a wallpaper version for the kid's computer as well...

Updated 04 November 2005 (evening): I was right, he loved the wallpaper this morning when he saw it. Tonight he asked if I could add a lightsaber to it for him. No problem. LOL

Now I just need to get a shot of his brother in his Jedi Knight robes, add a light saber and put him in this shot as well. Obi Wan meets Darth Vader one more time...

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Guitar: Sweep Picking Video

Ultimate Guitar has recently posted a very informative instructional video on sweep picking entitled (appropriately) Swept Away.

The video quality is a little lacking production-wise (too much glare!) but I'm not complaining, honest! The instructional value is huge for novices in this technique (me! LOL!). The instructor's name is Marc Seal and he does an excellent job presenting the lesson. He covers the fundamentals of the technique, and getting the basics down (practice slowly, with a metronome, get the hands in sync, etc.). Then progresses on to more intricate exercises. All in all, a very useful approach to getting started in sweep picking. Many thanks to Ultimate Guitar and Mr. Seal for the presentation!

As I've said previously I sure wish someone had shown this picking method to me twenty years ago...

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Dog Damage

Back at the beginning of October some time, J's puppy decided that my Totally Guitar book was a chew-toy. Anybody that knows me, knows that I take care of my books--obsessively. (I actually used to read them at one time as well...sigh...) This is a travesty. Freakin' dog...


I was recently listening to the Magnatune New Age Radio Mix (New Age?!) and an amazing song came on. Was it guitar or keyboards or what? I had to find out...

It turned out to be hammered dulcimer played by Jamie Janover. Very cool. Notably different from what I have heard previously in my (very) limited exposure to this instrument. Well structured compositions. Very "world" sounding. Intricate melodic changes weave in & out as Janover employs a wide range of dynamics, rythyms and percussive methods--displaying impressive skill & technique. It's quite easy to find yourself captivated as you follow the complexities of a piece. The compositions are interesting & intriguing. Yet the ambient rhythmic nature in the manner in which Janover employs the instrument can be quite relaxing at the same time, striking a nice balance for the listener.

Sometimes it's worth it to take a look outside your musical comfort zone. You don't know what you might find.

Janover's works available from Magnatune:

PS FWIW, I have made a little web button for Magnatune fans. Magnatune: We Are Not Evil Feel free to copy/use it on your own site as you wish.

[Updated 2 November 2005: Changes made to the review.]

Recover A Windows 98 Product Key

[Windows 98; Product Key; Lost Key Recovery]

For whatever reason, you have lost the Windows 98 Product Key for your LICENSED copy of the same and need to retrieve it, but how?

From DOS run the following command for example:

C:\>find /i "ProductKey" C:\windows\system.dat

The Story:
I recently had an old Windows 98 PC that a friend needed help with. It didn't take too long to realize that the system would need to be reloaded. I installed his HDD in another machine and used Linux to back up the drive contents to a DVD-R (a very good thing I did too, as the drive got dropped later and was totally ruined). Obviously now a total reload would have to occur. I installed one of my own spare drives in his machine but I needed his Key to install Windows 98. I found a really easy way to get the Windows 98 product key online. I put the DVD in my box and used the following command from a DOS prompt:

C:\>find /i "ProductKey" e:\windows\system.dat

It returned the key from the file on the DVD. The reload was successful (as it turned out I built him a new[er] box with spare parts I had around the house). I applied all available MS security updates, and also loaded a full compliment of free (for home use) & OSS software (anti-virus; anti-spyware; anti-adware; firewall; FireFox browser; ThunderBird E-mail client; 2.0).

Unfortunately, he told me the PS went out after he got it home. Sad. That was a fairly new Enlight unit. Oh well, I have another one he can have...

I know there are other ways to accomplish this task but this is the simplest I have found so far. And, you would be surprised (if you are not in IT) at how many home users still use Windows 98. It's out there in droves...