iPod Shuffle update

After using the iPod earbuds for a time, perhaps half an hour, my right ear hurts. I’ve now switched to some Sony earbuds, (MDR-ED21LP for the connaisseurs) as I heard some good stuff about them, but I think I prefer my old Philips ones more – however, they are attached to my previous 128Mb mp3 player.

No complaining about the iPod Shuffle itself though, it works very well, and controlling it is intuitive. Most of the time, it is set to Shuffle mode.

Privateer Remake!

Privateer was a DOS game made by Origin sometime in the 1990’s, when a 486 CPU with 8 MB RAM was still the top of the line ! I remember buying it and being flabbergasted by the video and renders in the game intro.

A group of people took the opensource vegastrike engine, and rewrote Privateer with up-to-date graphics.

Version 1.0 is out *NOW* and it’s playable for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. The file weighs in at 178 MB, so you are advised to use a bittorent download if your internet pipe is not large enough (and it keeps their ISP happy).

Go get it !

LinkSys Router WRT54G

Today I finally bought myself a LinkSys WRT54G router (the company is now owned by Cisco), to replace my aging Belkin wirelles router, which could only do 802.11b (which means 11Mbps). This new router can do wireless speeds up to 54 Mbps using 802.11g.

I’ve heard great things about the router, especially in combination with 3rd party firmware upgrades. I’ll be checking that out in the near future.

I have bought the very latest V3 of the WRT54G which also has the official V3 linksys firmware installed (3.03.1) – none of the 3rd party websites even mention V3 of the firmware or hardware !! So for now I’ll wait a bit and start reading up on the different firmwares and their capabilities and compare them to the factiry firmware installed.

So far, it seems that LinkSys has incorporated quite a few of the ‘hacks’ that were doing the rounds, like the ‘ping’ hack I read on the sveasoft support forum.

After a small struggle to follow the superduper friendly installation wizard, which assumes you are doing this for the very first time, I closed it. Kudos to the wizard for finding out I was cheating though – it correctly identified that I had already connected the router to the pc and the cable modem.

As I was not installing a router for the first time but rather replacing it, I figured I could handle it and went through the setup manually. This worked better than the wizard, in just a few minutes my net connection was back up.

Now I’m going to try for the difficult part – setting up the wireless network with encryption. Always fun with an apple computer which just has to have it’s wep keys entered differently than others …

Update : that was easy ! For the mac lovers out there, connect via a (wired) pc/mac to the router’s interface, activate wireless security, choose WPA Shared key (TKIP, and not AES) and type in your secret phrase. On the mac, you don’t get a choice, just WPA personal. Type in the exact same phrase, clicking ‘add to keychain’. That’s it, surf’s up !!

Carnaval in Halle

Candy. In huuuuge quantities (at least for a 3 year old) generously distributed by advertising cars with big, powerful soundboxes.

Big, rotating whatsamacallit polyester ufo beasts spinning round and round forever being pulled by an aging tractor covered up in painted plywood and polyester while children go aaaah and ooooh.

Children dressed up as tigers, elephants, crocodiles, rabbits, clowns, vampires. Whole teenager school classes participating in the stately ‘stoet’ going down the street, dressed up as tables, violins, cave people. Old people dressed up as young people, young people as old.

Brass bands (with majorettes), sometimes from the next city, some from as far Hamburg or Rotterdam.

And a bit later and a bit further down in the city, the consuming of large quantities of alcohol and greasy food.

Excellent !

Why the music industry has to set music to expire in order to survive

A strange and wacko idea just came over me while doing the dishes, while I was listening to music on my iPod Shuffle. Let me bounce it of your screen, and please do react with your own point of view.

In a few years time, the music industry must have completed their change of distributing music to either a ‘pay as you listen to all you want’ scheme or a ‘DRM-protected’ scheme or even a time-expiration scheme for them to survive. So what’s new you say ? They’re already trying to do that. But have you considered the reason why they want to do this ?

Well, here’s the twist I thought of : think of father and mother and children (and why not, then the grandchildren), all able to listen to music that’s as pristine as the day it was bought, wether yesterday or 10 years ago.

Heck, those songs will still be playing fine a hundred years from now !

In a few years, when the next generation of music lovers has grown up, imagine what will happen when those youngsters discover music : they have a library of music from their parents to draw on. And it won’t be sitting on a dusty old LP or tape cassette, like it did when I was a kid, no, it’ll be on the parents multimedia house server. And since it’s a digital copy, and as long as it’s unprotected, it’ll never ever become scratchy from much listening like those LP’s of mine did or lock itself up due to maximum number of times played.

I wonder if the music industry people are aware of this, and that this is the long-term plan behind their attempts to stop file-sharing and enabling DRM on all music. Or they could be obnoxious bone-headed morons protecting their profits, either way works I suppose.

Let me give you an example of how much music we’re talking about :
I’m not a very big music lover, but still, up to now in my life I have bought about 170 music CD’s. Say, 10 songs per Cd, that makes 1700 songs. Nowadays I don’t buy much CD’s anymore, but I do buy between 5 and 10 songs per month from the iTunes music shop (must ….control…. buying….impulse….). Say 7, that makes 84 songs per year at a minimum.
And yes, I do burn those iTunes songs to cd for backup, so that I can listen to in the car, but that also means they are DRM-unprotected. I can put them on another pc, or on a multimedia system.

If I extropalate those figures to the next 10 years, I’ll have about 2 800 songs, and that’s just for me. I believe I’m not a big music buyer. Now imagine a family with 2 teenagers, all music lovers. If they all buy music, similar to my way of buying, they’ll have about 11 200 songs to share between them in 10 years. I think that’s quite a lot of music.

Let’s assume that they are careful, and back it all up to cd/dvd and re-import or copy it into their house media system. What will prevent those teenagers, when they move out to college or get married, from bringing a digital copy of that music with them ? After all, they listened to it when they grew up, probably bought many a song, so they view it as a part of their lives. Do you really think they will buy a new copy of their favourite music because they moved out of their parents house ? I don’t think so.

What about those children’s children ? They’ll have a gargantuan music library to build on, all based on the music their family predecessors bought, and it has cost them nothing. Nada. Zilch. Will they go on buying music at the same rate ?

Sure, we all buy new music from time to time, but my feeling is that, if you already have a 100 000 songs in your library, you can probably find one to your liking in their as wel.

Quicksilver Beta (Mac OS X)

I’ve been using QuickSilver beta35 for some time now, and it is simply excellent. However, you do need some time to switch your thinking caps over to using it. I’ll clarify some more…

On the website it is described as a Framework for launching applications – for now. However, even in it’s current form it is already very useful. Basically it is a search engine that indexes user-selected parts of your harddisks (or all of your disks) and lets you use keyboard commands to select ‘stuff’ and ‘do things with it and to it’.

For example, you can do the ‘ctrl’+’space’ key combination (the default way to activate QS) and up pops a small window, you type the first few letters of the application you want to start, and it’ll show you – as you type – the results. Hit ‘enter’ and QuickSilver will launch the application, simply as that. Very handy to quickly launch an application if you know it’s name, which you often do. Takes you all of 3 seconds.

Now, just by letting you use the keyboard for this the application is already useful, however it allows you to do much more : if you hit ‘tab’ once you select something, you get an additional menu that allows you to do things TO the selected item.

Let me give you an example : ‘ctrl’ + ‘space’, type the first letters of a document you have on your hard disk, ‘tab’ to open the second menu, start typing ‘mail’, arrow down the list to select ’email SEND’ , type the name of a person in your address book you want to send it to, hit enter, and boom, you’ve send a mail with the file attached to the person.
Time used : 7 seconds.

I admit it takes time to remember that you can do it this way, and I don’t always think of using it like that, but heck, yo have to admit it is a very intuitive way of working, it’s all those years of working the wrong way that are making it hard to switch over.

In order to do some of these extra things, however, it needs plugins – this allows it to be infinitely adaptable – you install only those plugins you need, or all of them. You can install an iTunes plugin so your songs show up, or a Safari plugin so your bookmarks are indexed as well, there are several others.

My only wish : QuickSilver for PC…

New Maps for Counter-Strike:Source

Valve entertainment just released 2 new maps for Counter-Strike: Source as well as some bugfixes. I’ve started playing CS:S about 2 months ago, after I finished Half-life 2, and despite the many times I’ve cursed it, it’s very addictive.
I did like HL2 Deathmatch a lot more early on, but in the end, CS:S is much more rewarding when you think things through. I’ve noticed some new behaviour in my game playing style : I tend to rush less (erm, sometimes), and I try to aim better for the parts that count. And I don’t do foot shots (that automagically become headshots, due to a bug). And just this last week I noticed that I’m bettering my scores (from time to time). Depends on the map though, sometimes I’m still worth nothing. Slowly but surely I’m making it out of n00bdom.

I also think CS:S makes you think longer about what you do than HL2 DM : in CS:S once you’re dead, you’re out for the round, and have to sit it out. In HL2 DM, you die only to be respawned somewhere else immediately. Like most similar online games, really.

Sometimes I wonder if kids don’t take the wrong lesson from these games and become callous in real life : in real life, you often only get one chance to do something right (or wrong). After that, you can make amends, but there is no ‘respawn’ or ‘undo’ button.

Oh well, I guess they will learn from their errors as I did (and still do).

Plugin Problems

The last 3 days, I had some plugin problems which caused me some pain in managing my site. After installing a plugin (my bad, I think it was for the previous version of WordPress), I got lots and lots of ‘wrong valuetype’ errors in wp_settings.php and wp_plugins.php.

The blog site itself worked without a hitch (oef !) but the admin site was full of the above errors.

I put out a request for help in the WordPress forums, but had no response. At all. I read everywhere that the community is very friendly, but nada on my first query. Perhaps I was not factual enough. I did notice that a lot requests are in those forums, though, mine got swamped almost immediately in other posts.

In the end I found it myself : I had to edit both files, adding (array) to some variables on the offending line numbers (at least the errors also tell you at which line number things went haywire), and clearing the ‘active_plugins’ field in my db to get the plugins working again. It had the value ‘Array’ which I think is just a placeholder.
After doing this, everything worked again, I could Activate and DeActive plugins again, and the active_plugins field got filled with the list of active plugins.

Note to self : before next plugin essay, backup both php files AND do a database dump.