Alarm Clock Music

Beeps rule in alarm clocks. They’re annoying sounding, but they work.

Jars of Clay, Handle’s Messiah, Jack Johnson, and Norah Jones have all graced our CD alarm clock for a time, and all to a tragic result: the sound of any of that music – at any time of day – instantly annoys me.

Music Convert: CD Burning Help

I like to keep my computer lean, and I personally don’t care for applications that burn CDs, I often find them to be a pain in the neck. My easy alternative is to then use Media Player which comes stock on any Windows machine.

Every now and then this presents a problem; not all of the audio files I’ll want to add to my mix are in a format that will burn onto an Audio CD. This happened today as I prepared to make my June mix (a little later than usual). I have a copy of Spoon’s “I turn my Camera on” in mp4 format. Now I could go upstairs and get the physical CD that I own, or I can use my wonderous computer to change the format.

Sadly my open source audio program Audacity doesn’t have the liscence to convert an mp4 for legal reasons. I stubbornly don’t really want to download a converter as I recently took a bunch of little apps I never use off of my computer. This is where Media Convert comes in.

Media Convert is a neat conversion site I just came upon. Though it’s a little ad heavy it was able to convert my file into an mp3. My only critiques could be 1) it doesn’t allow bitrates about 256kbps, 2) it doesn’t encode ID3 tags (which burning will lose anyways) and 3) there isn’t an option for batch conversion.

If you’re stuck with a track or two that needs converting Media Convert is a perfect tool to get that mix where you want it. I should mention they also seem to do conversions for movies, text (including PDF), images, vector and more; but this is a music blog so enough of that.

http://media-convert.com/

Stand Against New Canadian Copyright Bill


I don’t usually get all activisty on things, but there is a new Copyright law that got proposed on the 12th of June that is just insane enough to get me off my chair. If it passes the very concept of mixtapes is punishable by serious fine of $500 for any song downloaded. Bill C61 is so strict that it would be illegal to rip a CD you actually own onto your laptop or ipod. This is insane. I just emailed some folks, maybe you want to to.

Even if you’re not Canadian you can get involved. If this bill passes I will stop mixtaping. This hurts non-Canadian with copyrightten materials. Take a Stand!

More information:

Defective by Design Bill overview – http://www.defectivebydesign.org/fight-the-canadian-dmca

Copyright for Canada – get the email addresses of your MP and a letter format http://www.copyrightforcanadians.ca/

If Applicable Email your MP and: ‘Prentice.J@parl.gc.ca'; ‘Minister.Industry@ic.gc.ca'; ‘Verner.J@parl.gc.ca'; ‘pm@pm.gc.ca’

The Bill C-61 – http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=3570473&Mode=1&Language=E

Facebook group http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=6315846683

This is the templated letter I emailed:
Title: Please Stand Against the New Copyright Bill

These recipients will be CC’d on your email:

The Honourable Jim Prentice P.C, M.P.
5th floor, West Tower
C.D. Howe Building
235 Queen St.
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H5

The Honourable Josée Verner, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Canadian Heritage
25 Eddy Street
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0M5

I’m a constituent who has been following recent developments in Canadian copyright law. I’m concerned that the Copyright bill presented by the government on June 12th goes too far in outlawing the lawful use of copyrighted material, and does not take into account the needs of consumers and Canada’s creative community who are exploiting the potential of digital technology. I’m disappointed that this bill adopts an American approach to digital copyright laws, instead of crafting a Canadian approach.

Canada’s copyright laws need to advance Canada’s interests. This means copyright laws that respect ordinary consumer practices, such as unlocking cell phones and copying the contents of purchased DVDs for use in video iPods. The current bill outlaws these practices. This means copyright that facilitates the work of Canadian creators, such as documentary filmmakers, who instead find that this bill outlaws the use DVDs as source materials for their films. This means we find made-in-Canada solutions to the challenges of file-sharing, such as consideration of the P2P proposal of the Songwriters Association of Canada. Instead, this bill paves the road to importing the consumer file-sharing lawsuit strategy that has failed so spectacularly in the United States. Canada deserves better.

Please ensure that this bill really is made for Canadians by allowing all Canadian stakeholders a say in its final contents. That means meaningful consultation in the coming months, and opening up Canada’s copyright policy to more than just the special interests that lobbied behind the scenes for this law. As my MP, I urge you to represent my interests in the copyright debate.

Musicovery

I love sharing resources for listening to new music online. Ordinarily these outlets allow you to chose music by genre, band name, popularity etc, but I’ve never seen a site that allows you to chose by mood.

http://musicovery.com allows you to pick how you’re feeling on a scale from “dark” to “positive” while choosing an energy level between “calm” and “energetic”. It is very intuitive and seems to work pretty well.

In addition to this you can check valid genres and eras. I have been playing with this for a little while and it seems to make some very decent choices.

It’s a great resource for mixtaping too as sometimes it’s hard to find that balance between songs of varrying mood.

The Computer

DI-700-SLI: Intel 700-class SLI workstation

- Case: 17 Inch Apevia X-Discovery case – black
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 Conroe 2.67GHz x 2 Dual Core 1066MHz FSB 4MB cache
- ASUS P5N-T Deluxe 780I SLI LGA775 ATX DDR2 3PCI-E16 2PCI-E1 1PCI GBLAN
- DDR2 Memory: 4GB Dual-channel: 2 x 2GB DDR2 800MHz PC6400
- Hard Drive with Serial ATA interface: 150 GB SATA 10000 rpm Extreme Performance 16MB cache
- Hard Drive #2 with Serial ATA interface: 250GB 16MB cache 7200RPM SATA2 hard drive
- Hard Drive #3 with Serial ATA interface: 250GB 16MB cache 7200RPM SATA2 hard drive
- Serial ATA RAID: RAID Level 1 (mirroring)
- Optical Drive : 18x SATA Dual-Layer DVD±RW w/ Software
- Optical Drive : 18x SATA Dual-Layer DVD±RW with Software + Lightscribe
- Video Card (PCI Express x16): 2 x 7950GT 512MB in SLI
- Removable Storage Device(s): 7-IN-1 Floppy Drive and Flash Card Reader
- Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Elite Pro w/ External I/O hub (not actually Vista compatible, I guess I’ll change this out for the mobo sound card)
- Network Card: Integrated LAN with 10/100/1000 Fast Ethernet Controller
- 2x Additional Case Fan: Extra case fan
- Power Supply: 700 Watt Crossfire/Quad-SLI ATX power supply with 120mm fan
- CPU Cooling: Level 3 upgrade: Aftermarket Heatsink with a 120mm fan
- Operating Systems (OS): Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium Edition
- Surge Bar: Surge Bar 7-Outlet and Phone Line Surge Suppressor
- Warranty: 2-Year Limited Warranty
- Service: Assembling and Testing

How I almost made "the switch"


I have had a long colourful history with PCs, and I have always defended them. Sure they have caused me countless hours of grief, I’ve had viruses well over 20 times, and hardware-issues is my middle name; but this stuff is usually my fault if only in the smallest way.

Last year around this time I bought a computer the likes of which I have been dreaming of for three years. It’s got everything, it’s really fast, suped up and is in one of those lit-up mod cases. I got it from BuyDirectPC.com. This company is great, awesome products, even awesomer service. This computer worked great (with the exception of some hardware issues involving the RAID), for seven months – then it died.

This death took the form of many blue screens of death. Luckily no work was lost, but I had to send it in under warrantee. My MOBO and RAID drives were replaced, but when I got it back it only worked for six hours. The problem it seems is my Motherboard was incompatible with my hardware configuration. When I think of this computer I feel fairly confident that there is no other computer in the world set up this exact way. Dangit!

This issue wasn’t my fault, in fact I’m not sure whose it is. But I haven’t had my computer in over a third of a year. In the mean time I work on my mid-level laptop which chokes and crashes a couple times a day. My old faithful desktop also died this week. It’s been very hard and frustrating.

This is why I finally considered the Apple Mac Pro as a viable option for me. Why not? I’m a graphic designer. I gave it a serious look – all the things I have ever hated and used to refute this platform before are gone (except for snobbiness, but those users I think are getting a bit better).

The only thing holding me back is the pricetag. BDPC doesn’t do refunds after a year naturally, and I can’t just drop this kind of cash on a whim, so unless someone wants to buy my nightmare I guess I’m a PC guy for a couple more years anyways.

Test your ears!

I find that the subject of music is one of the least covered areas on digg.com, but I did find this cool page a month or two ago. http://mp3ornot.com/ Basically it’s a test to see if your brain can tell the difference between an audio file of 320kbps vs. 128 kbps (320 is comparable to CD, 128 is a common web circulated quality for size considerations… I think Radiohead’s free In Rainbows was issued at this arguably low quality).

Basically audio quality is the amount of music information is passing through your speakers every second, the more kilobytes the more quality – to a point. While I think you will find this test is really easy, it’s not always. Inspired by this site I tested myself by playing a song in Mp3 (256kbps), on YouTube (I dunno, 5kbps (jokes)), on Vinyl, on CD and FLAC (lossless audio file, with ridiculously massive files, songs upwards of 20MB). It was neat. I couldn’t tell the difference between the mp3, CD and FLAC, YouTube sucked, and my amp for my record player is bad. Test yourself with the same song in a few formats, it’s worth it. Compare the same track on cassette, and it almost seems like an entirely different song.

Mixtapically, quality can be really important – especially on a mix with a range of songs in a range of qualities. A song you ripped nicely off a CD followed by a low quality track you got off of MySpace may actually be a painful transition. Aim high.

They say ‘less is more’ less now. When it comes to music quality remember ‘More is more’. Trust me, I’ve been guilty of the system-record complete with email received sounds stupidly added in the background.

Google Fan Boy

I have been called a Google Fan boy before, but it’s hard not to admire a company whose unofficial motto is “don’t be evil” (seriously). It’s also so easy to endorse a company who has personally made my life a lot easier. As a result, when I setup client sites it’s no surprise that I rely on tools like Picasa, Calendar and Mail to make my clients site flow work seamlessly. We can sometimes take this company for granted. While writing this I forgot that the behind the scenes tools making this entry possible; Blogger, YouTube and Feedburner, are all a part of this company.

Here are some examples of how Google keeps things fresh for me daily.

Email: I’ve had too many email addresses for over ten years. I have always juggled and distinguished account through various mail clients and browser apps. None can hold a candle to Google’s Gmail (somehow still called a beta). It has all your standard mail features in a fast loading Ajax shell (that somehow has back button functionality). The real kicker for me though is the use of Labels. Labels work in the same way that folders do in other mail clients, but it also allows you to view All Mail – which distinguishes all mail chronologically regardless of Labels. I wish Outlook did that. Gmail won my loyalty the first (of a million) times I accidentally left a composition – best autosave hands-down.

Calendar: I remember the first time I was asked to make a working calendar of events tool for a website. It was 2004 and I was in over my head. I researched at length various ASP and PHP tools, most which sold a single licence for over $100 – after which reams of code were to be customized and made to inegrate with a database. These products were either to costly or time consuming time after time, and as a result clients would opt for a listing of events. Now enters Google. I can have a fully functional calendar embedded in a site by an iframe that a client can easily manage. When I think of the time this saves me I can rationalize almost any amount of goofing off during work hours.

I was going to write three, but I could go on for ages and this is getting long. That’s just a small taste from a great company that is making, and forever refining a lot of tools that we use all the time without even thinking about. Nevermind that it’s supposed to be the best place to work in the world. Those stories are actually a little annoying to those of us who don’t work there.

This low-blood sugar documentary was my buddy Matt and I today on IM (Google Talk no less). Sometimes it’s hard coming back from a weekend.

Jake and the Fundamentals

Today was the launch of the site for North Bay and area rockers Jake and the Fundamentals. I got this project through my old friend, and bassist Danny Colomby. Though I have known him for five years, today (on the music page) was my first time hearing him play, and it makes me itchy to see this band. Check out their Upcoming Shows page; these guys are playing everywhere.

Also in recent weeks I have been diving deeper into the world of CMS. With sites in Textpattern, WordPress and Drupal on the horizon it’s very exciting times indeed!

http://jakeandthefundamentals.com/

No More Spam Please

Everyday I get a couple hundred spam messages. This is maddening for two reasons:

1. People are sending spam
2. Some people must actually be acting on the spam, thus making it profitable.

I recently read some interesting statistics. Spam makes up over 75% of all email sent these days. Think of the bandwidth that must take! I also read that 90% of all spam comes from EIGHT sources!

I feel like with technology what it is we should be able to find these places and put a stop to this. I would love to find the people responsible and literally bury their houses in AOL CDs and Pizza coupons. Maybe we as Internet users can band together in some kind of grass roots operation like that whole Anonymous thing.

Can you imagine a spam free world? It would be so cool if you were issued an email address at birth that you could use for your entire life. You could find childhood friends so easily. There could be directories like phone books of people’s email addresses. The only thing stopping this is spam.

If you have ever bought anything through spam please don’t admit it to me, just stop. There are other places to get your viagra, replica watches and prescription medications.

Well that covers my thoughts about general spam. I thought it only fitting to include this Weezer video which montages some of the internet memes that have filled your inbox from friend related bulk mails.

3 No-no’s for Concerts

Even though I’m not a huge concert-goer there are several things that drive me absolutely insane at concerts. I have often argued that for the price of concert tickets I could buy some albums and listen to them as perfectly and/or obnoxiously as I like.

Still, sometimes the irresistable opportunity presents itself to see some live music. Here are three things that I cannot abide:

1) Standing / Dancing in a Seated Venue
When I saw BB King this spring some idiot actually did this through most of the first half show. It was especially painful since he was in the seat directly in front of me. Shenanigans, and not the cool kind.

2) Constant Photography / Videography
When you get a new gizmo like a cell phone or camera it’s natural to go through a honeymoon phase of using all the perks and options. Don’t do this at a concert. Everyone should realize that a shakey clipped video in a dark room is not going to be watchable (like this YouTube clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eq2qGckHhU). Also, your camera won’t take a decent photo without some exposure time which means you’ll likely need a tripod. Your flash won’t reach the stage, so turn it off. While you might assume that the resulting footage is only your problem, the LCD on your gadget is actually irking everyone behind you.

3) Shouting at the Artist
We all cheer, w00t and go crazy at concerts, but there is also a minority who like to hear their own voices during quieter moments. At the Gordon Lightfoot concert I recently attended people responded to his ‘tween song introductions like it was some kind of two-way conversation! Don’t do that unless it’s your party. Write them a letter.

There are likely more. What’s filling you with ire at concerts?