Technology


My Portable Apps

DigitalI picked up this 1GB USB 2.0 flash drive last week. I then went to PortableApps.com and downloaded the following:

Residing on my USB flash drive, these apps leave no footprint on the PC and go with me wherever I go. If I'm in the office, I'm working off this portable drive. When I'm at home, same deal. I can pop this sucker into any Windows PC and use these tools. I've been doing this for over a week now and it's damn slick.

I was using all six apps anyways, so there was a seamless transition to the portable versions. I highly recommend these six apps for their intended purposes. It's a sweet suite.

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Songbird Proof of Concept

MusicSongbird, the highly anticipated open-source media player from Rob Lord and the gang, built on the same platform as Firefox, was released today as a "proof of concept". The official site was impossible to access, but I managed to download the installation file from a mirror.

Songbird crashed the first time I opened it, and the second time, and the third time. I uninstalled and reinstalled, but this pattern continued. Eventually, I learned the secret. If I let it hang for about five minutes in the task bar, she'd perk up and actually open. As frustrating as this was, I knew it was merely a proof of concept and I wanted to give this open source iTunes killer a whirl.

Songbird looks cool, all decked out in a mettalic black. It also looks a lot like iTunes, which is a good thing. Like a kid on Christmas morning, I excitedly added my music folder to my new Songbird library. This was a mistake. 1141 complete albums and 17,024 MP3s was a lot for this preview release to digest and while using over 90% of my CPU it spent the next hour digesting this grandiose meal until I finally pulled the plug. Oink oink, baby.

With about 15% of my collection indexed, I started shuffling, making playlists and giving it a thorough test drive. Not bad... The concept has been effectivey proven. With the bugs ironed out, especially that damn xulrunner.exe error I kept getting, and a diet, because right now it's a bloated resource hog, I see great potential.

I'm looking forward to the next release. Until then, it's back to the proprietary and evil iTunes.

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Movable Typed

ConstructionI warned you more changes were coming. This is the biggie.

For years I fought the push to implement a CMS solution. I derived a great deal of pride from hand-coding this entire site and ensuring it successfully validated as XHTML 1.0 Strict. Even the CSS and RSS feeds were hand-coded and validated by the W3C. I wrote about my CMS resistance here, here, here and here.

Today marks a new era for this blog, powered by Movable Type. New entries will have Permalinks, Comments, TrackBacks and all that bloggy goodness. Big props to my pal Mark for giving me the final push I needed. I recreated February's entries in MT, but I've left everything previous in its old school state. If I ever find some free time I'll start recreating older entries as well. There are thousands, so it hurts to think about it.

Although I implemented the Guest Blog because I didn't allow comments, I've decided to keep it. Anyone can write one and I'll post it as I always do. On the right I'm using a neat little plug-in that displays the last ten pictures I uploaded to my Flickr account. Let me know what you think of the changes in the comments.

It's evolution, baby.

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Ads

FirefoxWhen Firefox 1.5 was released the other day, I was quick to install it. It truly creates a better web experience and I encourage all of you to download and install it right now.

One of my favourite Firefox extensions is Adblock which filters ads from web pages. I've been using Adblock for quite some time but when I first installed Firefox 1.5 I noticed a few Flash display issues so I disabled Adblock until they released a version that works properly with Firefox 1.5. For one thing, the music players on this page and this page wouldn't display until I disabled Adblock. Visiting my regular suite of sites without Adblock enabled was like drifting through a minefield of ads. I totally forgot how many obtrusive image and flash ads were littered on a number of sites I visit daily.

Thankfully, there seems to be a new release of Adblock so I can kiss these ads goodbye once more. Firefox + Adblock = ♥

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Take That, Sony

CDI'm still angry about that XCP digital rights management technology bundled by Sony BMG on 52 of its audio CD albums. According to Gartner (not Mike Gartner, but the analyst firm), it can be defeated by applying a piece of Scotch tape to the outer edge of the disk.

This reminds me of the way one gets around Sony BMG's other anticopying technology from SunnComm Technologie. You simply hold down the shift key. Pure brilliance.

DRM doesn't work. It just pisses off the consumer and drives people to piracy.

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No Wonder These Are Paranoid Times

VirusA bunch of Sony BMG Music Entertainment CDs were recently sold with copy-protection technology that not only hides the copy protection from view, but also leaves open a hole that could hide other malicious software. The software is intended to prevent us from burning too many copies of the CD or ripping the songs to DRM-free MP3s. It's spyware, it's malware and it's bullshit.

Sony says they'll no longer produce CDs with this First 4 Internet software but for many it's too late. Because this software hides itself so well on a PC, virus writers are piggy backing on this gaping security hole and wreaking havoc just as far under the covers. Even your anti-virus software can't find it. This is totally irresponsible and worthy of one massive class action lawsuit.

Here's a list of the Sony rootkit CDs. You'll notice Our Lady Peace's Healthy In Paranoid Times on that list. I already teed off on this disc because I couldn't rip the thing to MP3 without my AnyDVD solution. Ironically, the fact these are paranoid times prevented me from installing Sony's rootkit. Long ago I disabled autorun and swore never to install a music company's proprietary software to play the tunes because it's never worth it.

If you think you've played one of these infected Sony CDs on your PC, go here and install the patch that unhides this crudware. If you don't have the software on your PC, it will tell you right away and you will sleep better at nights.

With companies like Sony aiding the bad guys, it's almost impossible to stay healthy in paranoid times.

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"MP3" Turns Ten Today

MP3Today, the name "MP3" celebrates its tenth anniversary. According to this, on this day back in 1995, the researchers at Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS decided to use ".mp3" as the file name extension for their new audio coding technology. Soon MP3 became the generally accepted acronym for the ISO standard IS 11172-3 "MPEG Audio Layer 3".

Those three characters totally revolutionized the way I listen to music. Back in December 2003 I bought an 80 GB hard drive and began converting my CD collection to MP3. My only regret is I didn't do it sooner. Having my entire collection digitized has resulted in me hearing more music from more albums than ever before. When I'm on the PC, I'm playing these files. When I'm lounging in the living room or dining room, I'm listening to these files on the stereo. When I'm walking or chillaxing on my own, there's my personal MP3 player. My MP3 collection is always close at hand, providing me with the notes that comprise the soundtrack of my life.

Happy Birthday MP3!

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Podcasts

DigitalIt seems everyone is talking about podcasts these days. In fact, it seems there are now more podcasts out there than there are people interested in listening to podcasts. Podcasting is the new blogging, or the new black, I get confused.

Personally, my beef is with the term "podcast". "Podcast" appears to have become the catchall term of the moment for any MP3 file that is intended to be a broadcast of sorts. For example, if I were to put together a half hour audio file of myself talking about and playing my favourite tunes, that would be a podcast. In reality, it would be an MP3 of me talking about and playing my favourite tunes that anyone could listen to anywhere that MP3s can be played. This kind of thing has been around a great deal longer than the iPod.

Many media outlets have introduced podcasts. Metro Morning, the local CBC morning show, for example, offers a new podcast each day by noon. This is pretty damn cool if there's a piece you missed or want to review, but to access the Metro Morning podcast, they want you to copy this URL (http://www.cbc.ca/metromorning/metromorning.xml) and paste it into your podcast software application. To hell with that, I just open the XML file in my browser, copy the url for the MP3 and throw it in a new Firefox tab. Try it... click here, find a title you're interested in and copy the url for it that ends in .mp3. Now paste that sucker in a new browser window. If you chose the Karla update, it would sound like this.

It's great content, but it's more accessible as a sweet and easy MP3 download. This podcast business is over complicating and needlessly geeking up a good thing.

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My iriver H10

iriverFor my birthday, my loved ones all threw a few bucks in my hat so I could buy myself an MP3 player. It's the only gift I got and it's the only gift I really needed. I had been doing a great deal of research these past few weeks to ensure I bought the right make and model for me.

I wanted a player that would hold a sufficient number of MP3s and play them with a top notch quality of sound. Furthermore, I wanted a player with a good reputation, good navigation and a built-in FM tuner. Finally, this player had to record voice and the radio, and convert these recording to MP3. These were my rules as I began my search.

The iPod was eliminated right off the bat. iPods are great if you just want to play MP3s, but I was looking for something a little more. It didn't take long before the iriver H10 began to jump ahead of the pack. The iriver H10 does everything I wanted my player to do, but it also allows you to view pictures and browse text files. Another cool feature is the clock and alarm as well as the ability to program the recording of a particular radio station for a specific period of time. Review after review praised the iriver H10 for producing awesome sound and many reviewers preferred the player straight up when compared to the iPod, without considering the extra features.

It's early yet, but I'm quite pleased with my choice. I've got a large collection of MP3s and now I have a great player to hear them on when I'm on the go. Thanks everyone!

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Going Backwards

CassetteJames enjoys music and I thought it was time he has own stereo so he could play his tunes whenever he wants. He's only three, so I knew anything I gave him could be destroyed. Initially, my plan was to give him a low-end CD player, but I quickly realized the best player for his needs might be a good old fashioned cassette tape player. I happened to have an old one lying around and now it belongs to James.

The next step was getting James' music onto cassette. This is where we go backwards in a round about way, converting the new technology to the old. The entire process makes me laugh, so I thought I'd share it here.

  1. The songs begin as MP3 files on my computer.
  2. I burn James' desired MP3 files to CD.
  3. I play the newly created audio CD on my DVD player.
  4. My old stereo I bought as a teenager, which happens to have a cassette deck, is connected to this DVD player via the line-in jack. With the audio CD playing, I record the feed on the cassette deck.
  5. James' music is now on a cassette tape and can be played on his stereo.

From 2005 to 1985 using equipment lying around the house, sometimes you've got to go backwards.

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