19 October 2009


Links of interest (2009-10-19):

From my Twitter stream:

  • My dad had cataract surgery, and now that eye has perfect vision—he no longer needs a corrective lens for it for distance (which, as an amateur astronomer, he likes a lot).
  • Darren's Happy Jellyfish (bigger version) is my new desktop picture.
  • Ten minutes of mesmerizing super-slo-mo footage of bullets slamming into various substances, with groovy bongo-laden soundtrack.
  • SOLD! Sorry if you missed out. I have a couple of 4th-generation iPod nanos for sale, if you're interested.
  • Great backgrounder on the 2009 H1N1 flu virus—if you're at all confused about it, give this a read.
  • The new Nikon D3s professional digital SLR camera has a high-gain maximum light sensitivity of ISO—102,400. By contrast, when I started taking photos seriously in the 1980s, ISO—1000 film was considered high-speed. The D3s can get the same exposure with 100 times less light, while producing perfectly acceptable, if grainy, results.
  • Nice summary of how content-industry paranoia about technology has been wrong for 100 years.
  • The Obama Nobel Prize makes perfect sense now.
  • I like these funky fabric camera straps (via Ken Rockwell).
  • I briefly appear on CBC's "Spark" radio show again this week.
  • Here's a gorilla being examined in the same type of CT scan machine I use every couple of months. More amazing, though, is the mummified baby woolly mammoth. Wow.
  • As I discovered a few months ago, in Canada you can use iTunes gift cards to buy music, but not iPhone apps. Apple originally claimed that was comply with Canadian regulations, but it seems that's not so—it's just a weird and inexplicable Apple policy. (Gift cards work fine for app purchases in the U.S.A.)
  • We've released the 75th episode of Inside Home Recording.
  • These signs from The Simpsons are indeed clever, #1 in particular.
  • Since I so rarely post cute animal videos, you'd better believe that this one is a doozy (via Douglas Coupland, who I wouldn't expect to post it either).
  • If you're a link spammer, Danny Sullivan is quite right to say that you have no manners or morals, and you suck.
  • "Lock the Taskbar" reminds me of Joe Cocker, translated.
  • A nice long interview with Scott Buckwald, propmaster for Mad Men.

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17 August 2009


My video course now at London Drugs

Remember my GarageBand training video? The one you can buy from MacVideoTraining (with a 20% discount using the checkout promo code ihr)? This one?

It's now available online from London Drugs too, as well as on DVD in their stores here in Western Canada. Why not buy some copies for your friends (and enemies, for that matter)?

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27 May 2009


Learn GarageBand from me on DVD

My Quick Start to GarageBand video course from MacVideoTraining (a company co-founded by my former podcasting partner Paul Garay) is now available on DVD:

My GarageBand video course now on DVD

You can get it at London Drugs and many other retailers in North America, or if you use the promo code ihr, you can get a 20% discount if you buy a DVD or download online. The discount code also works for John Biehler's iTunes course and other stuff from MacVideoTraining, including bundles.

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16 January 2009


Links of interest (2009-01-16):

  • Some photographers buy old lenses (even manual focus, manual aperture lenses) for their brand new cameras. Here's why.
  • This no-knead bread is apparently ridiculously easy, all the rage, and quite time-consuming to make.
  • Darrell Fandrich lives near Seattle. He takes cheap Chinese pianos, puts a lot of work and experience into them, and creates a great piano, like "upgrad[ing] a Hyundai to run like a Bentley, for the price of a Honda."
  • How to use Photoshop Elements 6 (which I don't own) to merge several mediocre group photos into a single good one.
  • Since I have cancer, several people have told me (and told me, and told me) about DCA and essiac tea—among dozens of other potential cures and treatments. As I said about DCA a couple of years ago, I'm still going with the evidence, and it's not yet there for those particular treatments.
  • Darren is a little frustrated with iTunes on his PC. And he draws a very cute sea kitten (actually, I guess it's probably a freshwater variety, so it would be, what, a pond kitten?).
  • My latest camera collage is up to 8700 views, 43 comments, and 67 favourites on Flickr. Its predecessor from June has passed 41,000 views, 82 comments, and 217 favourites. And my original version from December 2007 has reached 11,500 views, 109 comments, and 39 favourites. Yep, we nerds love our camera porn.
  • We've posted the first episode of the Inside Home Recording podcast for 2009: there are enhanced (pictures and links) and MP3 (audio only) versions, plus a separate full unedited half-hour interview with Peabody Award–winning producer Paolo Pietropaolo from CBC Radio.

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12 January 2009


Opening up music

LockSince the early days of this blog, I've written about how I dislike copy prevention technologies for software, music, and movies—and have hated them since my early days of computer use more than 25 years ago. That's because it's never wise to treat your customers as your enemies.

Today, crusading Canadian copyright lawyer and professor Michael Geist writes about how finally, slowly (at least for music), the big companies might be getting it. Until 2008, the recording industry was intent on suing file sharers, locking files with DRM copy prevention, and pushing through crummy copyright legislation. Now:

The decision to drop the lawsuit strategy was long overdue as it had accomplished little more than engender significant animosity toward the industry [and] helped to convince some of Canada's best-known artists to speak out against the practice.


Apple, the dominant online music seller, announced that it will soon offer millions of songs from all four major record labels without digital locks [which] reflects the recognition that frustrating consumers with unnecessary restrictions is not a particularly good business model.


In addition to the privacy, security, and consumer concerns with such legislation, laws to protect digital locks seem increasingly unnecessary given the decision to abandon their use in the primary digital sales channel.

I don't know if these changes mean that the recording industry is figuring out effective ways to do business in the Internet file-sharing world, or whether it is just giving up on failed strategies, but I find the trend encouraging. In practical terms, it means that, with six functioning computers for four people in this house, we won't have to worry too much about iTunes letting songs purchased from the iTunes Store play on only five computers anymore.

Alas, movies, audiobooks, and such are another story entirely.

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29 November 2008


Better start from the start

Heelin'My daughters, like most people, have different talents. My youngest, L, can turn cartwheels, hang from jungle gyms, and balance on those one-wheeled rolling sneakers known as Heelys like nobody's business. (Sometimes you're certain she'll crash catastrophically into someone or something, but she'll simply swerve nonchalantly out of the way.) I can't do any of those things, and neither does anyone else in our family.

A few weeks ago, she said "hey, watch this!" to her mom and me. Before we knew it, she was suspended in mid-air in our kitchen doorframe, legs braced against the sides. Zoop, up she'd gone, Spider-Man style.

Her sister, M, has an ear for music. Yes, she can carry a tune—they both take music lessons, but it was M who begged us for them five years ago. Here's her example. A few weeks ago we saw one of those "where are they now?" shows on TV, this one featuring Mike Reno of Loverboy, who lives here in Vancouver. Then, a few days ago, I was at a restaurant with my kids and our friend Paul and his family. M cocked her head and said to me, "Hey, is that that Mike Reno guy singing?" I listened, but could hardly make out any music on the sound system over all the noise of people jamming the restaurant.

Then, sure enough, in a quiet spot, there it was: "Workin' for the Weekend," barely audible but undoubtedly there. She'd heard a little part of it once, it stuck there in her brain, and she filtered it out of the background automatically. How many ten-year-olds can identify a snippet of Loverboy (?!) at 20 paces, and name the singer?

As a boastful dad proud of his daughters' good taste, I also have to tell you that on sick days home from school, L spontaneously gives herself math lessons out of books (her mom is a math teacher). And when M redecorated her room this summer, she insisted on covering the walls with Beatles posters (wonder where she got that?).

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12 November 2008


"Pepper Plant" and "Spokesmodel Six Eight," my two new songs, plus the archive

For the past two and half years, I've been using Apple's iWeb to publish my Penmachine Podcast of original free MP3 music, interviews, and such. It's always been a pain to use, especially when the files aren't hosted on Apple's .Mac/MobileMe service (which mine aren't), but I kept working with it out of inertia and because it was worth knowing how iWeb works, as well as because I don't update that podcast very often anyway.

But earlier this year, Apple went and broke iWeb for podcasting, and seems in no hurry to fix it. So while I figure out how to migrate my podcast over to some other platform (probably WordPress, but we'll see), I'm just going to post the two new songs I have for it here. I'll add them to the Podsafe Music Network soon too.

New songs

Each link goes directly to the MP3 file for the song, so right-click or control-click to download it instead of playing it in your browser. Unless noted otherwise, all MP3s linked from this post are available under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 license. Use them as podcast theme music, backgrounds, or remix them, or whatever—just give me credit:

  • "Pepper Plant" (4.3 MB MP3 file) - Of course I've been working on new songs and speaking and going on the radio since March, but I've been too lazy to update the podcast. No more. Here is "Pepper Plant", an instrumental tune I finished in October 2007, but thought I would add to, or at least remix. Yet somehow I never did. Listening to it again, it sounds just fine, so I figured I'd post it up. I'd describe it as something like an old Booker T and the MGs instrumental tune, though not quite as groovy. Give it a listen and see what you think.
  • "Spokesmodel Six Eight" (2.9 MB MP3 file) - Earlier in 2008, I borrowed a set of MIDI electronic drums from our friends KA, Jeff, and Clive. "Spokesmodel Six Eight" emerged from using that kit: its name comes from the 6/8 time signature I chose to play it in, since that's something not easy to find in the built-in drum loops for GarageBand. It's another track I expected to finish off, polish, and remix at some point, because it's nothing but drums and some guitars. No bass, no keyboards, no vocals, hardly any arrangement there at all. But it doesn't need more than that, and I particularly like the sounds of the guitars I managed to obtain. So rock out with it.

Old songs

As a bonus, here are all the free MP3 songs (again, mostly instrumental) I've published to the podcast since I started in 2004, in semi-alphabetical order. Tracks with an asterisk * are also available on my album Penmachine Sessions from 2005:

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10 July 2008


Interesting stuff from the App Store debut for iPhone and iPod Touch

Apple has opened the App Store for the iPhone and iPod Touch, and here are some of the programs that initially caught my eye—although since the required firmware isn't available for download yet, I can't install or try any of them out. My interest comes purely from the store descriptions and screenshots. You'll need the new iTunes 7.7 to view them:

Some are free, some cost a little bit of money. You'll also need the iPhone/iPod Touch 2.0 firmware to install and run them—but as of right now, you can't get it yet. So you could buy these applications, yet not be able to use them until tomorrow or so.

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16 June 2007


The story just rolls on

Fake Steve Jobs is supposed to be satire, but sometimes he cuts it so close it hurts:

The big thing to know about the media is that they're not out there "covering stories." The way to think about the media is that it's basically the same as one of those TV soap operas that's been on the air for twenty or thirty years. The story just rolls on, curving and unfurling, no matter who the actors are and no matter who the writers are. The story itself is bigger than the actors or the writers. The filthy hacks at the [Wall Street] Journal are basically no different than the aspiring novelists and screenwriters who take jobs writing for "General Hospital"; they've been hired on to the show for a few years and they're doing their best to keep it entertaining.

On an unrelated but mesmerizing note, if you want to see something roll on beautifully, install the Magnetosphere visualizer plugin for iTunes (via O'Reilly Radar). It's by far the prettiest music visualizer I've seen so far.

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10 June 2007


I love "The Hard Road" by Hilltop Hoods

I'm sure anyone from Australia is sick of "The Hard Road" by the Adelaide-based hip-hop group Hilltop Hoods by now, but since I'm way up here in Canada I just heard it for the first time. Then I played it twice more in a row. None of their material is even available on the Canadian iTunes Store.

Leesa sent me the Triple J 2007 Hottest 100 CD, and "The Hard Road" is #3 on the list (ahead of The Killers and Gnarls Barkley). I have no idea whether it's so overplayed Down Under that it's a joke by now, but I don't care. It's a great tune, just a spectacularly awesome groove. Plus it samples Leon Russell, making it even cooler. Thanks Leesa!

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30 May 2007


iTunes Plus, with no DRM

I've hated DRM (digital restrictions management) for a long time, so I'm pleased that Apple's iTunes Plus has finally launched. Gonna go buy some unrestricted music, baby. As soon as the iTunes server starts responding properly, anyway.

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