Journal: News & Comment

This is " December 2005," a page that archives an entire month's entries from my online journal. The latest material for that month is at the top. For my newest entries, visit the home page.

Saturday, December 31, 2005 - newest items first
# 10:16:00 AM:

I'm on drums for New Year's at Joe Fortes

Joe Fortes restaurant, New Year's Eve 2005-2006I realize that I completely forgot to mention that I'll be playing music with my bandmates Adam Woodall, Sebastien de Castell, and Mark Olexson at the famous Joe Fortes restaurant, near the corner of Thurlow and Robson streets in downtown Vancouver, tonight for New Year's Eve, for the third year in a row. The kids are with the in-laws, so for once my wife is able to join us.

So if you're making last-minute New Year's plans, Joe Fortes isn't cheap, but the food is excellent and you can help us bring the rock. It's your one chance in the year to see me in a tuxedo, which should be worth some money in itself.


Thursday, December 29, 2005 - newest items first
# 10:06:00 PM:

More reviews you can write for me

I forgot to mention that, in addition to being able to review my album at CD Baby, you can also write a review for my podcast at iTunes (you need an account, then just click the link under "Customer Reviews"), which would be swell.



# 8:33:00 PM:

A new promo, and my album for sale at CD Baby—please write a review

Penmachine PromoNow that Christmas is over and 2006 is almost upon us, I figured it was time to put together a new audio promo (871 KB, stereo 160 kbps MP3 file, 45 sec) for my Penmachine Podcast of free podsafe instrumental tunes to use and share. You can also hear it at the Podsafe Music Network.

What's a promo?

A promo is essentially a commercial for a podcast, which other podcasters play on their shows so that we all promote each other in a big warm fuzzy network of podcast love. Now you know.

Buy my album at CD Baby, or direct via PayPal

In addition, my CD album Penmachine Sessions is now available from the excellent online music sales site CD Baby:

DEREK K. MILLER: Penmachine Sessions DEREK K. MILLER: Penmachine Sessions

Podsafe instrumental rock from Canada’s featuring chunky guitars, Hammond organ, and funky beats. Free to rip, mix, and share.

Buy the CD

You'll notice that at CD Baby it's only $12.75 USD, rather than the $15 I charge (U.S. or Canadian, depending on where you are, or $19 USD outside those countries) for direct shipments. However, there are two differences:

  1. CD Baby charges extra for shipping, so it could cost you less or more than $15, depending on where you have it shipped.
  2. If you buy directly from me, you get both the audio CD and a bonus data DVD. At CD Baby, you just get the audio CD.

Please write a review for me

Nevertheless, CD Baby is cool place to buy from, and whether you get my CD there, from me directly, or just download the tracks for free, I'd appreciate if once you've had a chance to listen, you write a review at the CB Baby site. Thanks!


Wednesday, December 28, 2005 - newest items first
# 11:32:00 PM:

A great podcast about audio recording, and site about mics

Following up on my earlier post about microphones, connectors, and sound recording, I just stumbled across and listened (in one day) to all five episodes of a great Vancouver-based podcast called Inside Home Recording. The website is spartan, so if you want to subscribe, here are:

Anyway, hosts James Devon and Paul Garay do a great job of providing both basic and relatively advanced tips, tricks, techniques, lessons, interviews, and gear reviews in half-hour blocks. I just wish they had more than five episodes already.

The December 2 episode has a good overview of microphone technologies, and also recommends an online guide from Audio-Technica that talks about microphones, starting from the basics, in great detail.

The website for Inside Home Recording needs some serious work (show notes and some links to the podcast would be a great start!), but the show itself is fabulous, and you should subscribe if you can.


# 1:47:00 PM:

Moving from Entourage to

My unread messages iconOne of the things I did yesterday while no one else was at the office was migrate all my work email from Microsoft Entourage to Apple's Mail application (affectionately known as "" amongst Mac-heads). That's because I wanted to start somewhat fresh in 2006, and to separate my work and personal email. Now that I'm using Gmail for all my personal stuff (with my existing email addresses, not a new Gmail one), I can access it anywhere without copying huge mail archives back and forth from computer to computer.

So far Mail is working just fine. After many, many years of using Entourage and its predecessor Outlook Express (developed by some of the same people who worked on Apple's Claris Emailer, and round and round it goes), I find the transition—especially the different keyboard shortcuts) a little awkward—but there are many things about Mail that I prefer, including its generally cleaner interface, quicker searching, and other clever tweaks.

The worst part of the transition wasn't moving my work mail, which imported seamlessly using the built-in assistant, but sorting out my contact list between Apple's Address Book, Entourage's separate contact database, and my list in Gmail. There's still some slop in there, but it seems to be working okay now. I did use Andrew Escobar's Mail Stamps 2 utility to revert Mail 2.0 back to the old-style buttons it used to have in Mail 1.0, which I prefer, but that's more personal taste than anything.

One question: does anyone know how to get Mail to apply a rule to email in the Sent folder as well as the Inbox and elsewhere? I want all my work mail to get sorted automatically, and so far that's not happening. I should check the Take Control book for tips.

Oh, and I'm now up to nearly 7900 spam messages in the Gmail filter since I last deleted a batch on December 8, which is a mere 16 per hour, down from 20. But I notice that even spam slowed down over Christmas, so the rate may come up again.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005 - newest items first
# 11:55:00 AM:


UPDATE: It turns out the office was closed, but I didn't get the memo. Ah well, I had the coffee machine to myself, once I figured out how to turn it on.

iPods to InfinityHere is it, December 27, and my daughters let me sleep in till 9:30 a.m., when I'd been expecting them to be up at 7 so I could get to work. No big deal, I thought, since it would be a slow week at work anyway.

Sure enough, I arrived at the office at 11:00, and I was the first one here. It's now almost noon and no one else has shown up yet. That should mean I have a very productive day, but as you can see from the photo, that's not true so far.

Time to open up those documents I need to write, I think. But first, some more coffee.


Sunday, December 25, 2005 - newest items first
# 2:53:00 AM:

Changed, yet the same

Christmas Dinner CandlesFollowing the European tradition, my side of the family eats Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, December 24th, at my aunt and uncle's house. This year the power went out at 2:30 p.m., when the turkey was about half cooked. Improvising quickly, my uncle fired up the barbecue and finished cooking the food there, and it turned out great, despite the turkey catching fire at one point. We ate by candlelight.

Podulated!By the time the power retured around 6:45, we were opening presents. The house never got cold, because it is freakishly warm in Vancouver right now: something like 11°C, balmy enough to walk around outside in a T-shirt if it weren't raining (of course). As you can see from the small photo, I'm pretty happy with what I received, thanks to the lovely Ms. A. An even better present was how happy our daughters were, now that they're old enough not to be overwhelmed by it all.

P.S. My oldest daughter notes that there were reindeer footprints on the front lawn.


Saturday, December 24, 2005 - newest items first
# 3:40:00 PM:

Merry Christmas

This old image from Apple's iCards site remains my favourite Christmas image:

[Winter cabin from Apple]

Eat well, have family or friends close by, and enjoy.


# 2:06:00 AM:

Not quite ready for Christmas

Penmachine Sessions cover

UPDATE: It's ready now, earlier than expected. Go ahead and shop.

My new page at, where you'll be able to place an order for my brand-new music CD album of instrumental rock goodness, Penmachine Sessions, is almost but not quite ready.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas, everybody! If I don't see you in person, you can listen to me say it in MP3.


Friday, December 23, 2005 - newest items first
# 2:12:00 AM:

You silly, silly man

para embrulharWhat on earth am I doing up at 2:10 a.m.?

Wrapping, my friends. Wrapping. I'm finally all done, but I'm also all wired up from wrapping. Wrapping wired. And tired, although I enjoy the fuzzy time between 1:30 and 2:00, when I often seem to be up for no good reason.

Going to bed now. Tomorrow my youngest daughter and I go ice skating, while her sister and mom go to see a show. All after I sleep.


# 12:04:00 AM:

Explain all those cables and connectors on a mixing board, please

Beachtek audio mixerYesterday I dropped in to see Roland and we got to discussing mobile podcasting. I gave him a bit of a brain dump of what I know about audio engineering and recording, which isn't a whole ton (more like half a ton), and here's what I sent him afterward.

General resources

I've heard that Audio Made Easy is a fantastic book to start with, and it's on my Amazon wish list.

IT Conversations recorded an excellent talk from the Podcast Academy on portable podcasting. It has a wiki too.


In addition to those I recommended in my posts to TidBITS, here are some more links about microphones and stuff:

Connectors and cables

Some info about different connector and cable types:

Here are all the different connector types you're likely to run across (at least that I could think of). For mics, you're generally only concerned with XLR, Neutrik Combo, 1/4" TRS, 1/4" mono, and 1/8" stereo connectors. Phantom power for condenser mics generally only comes from the XLR or Neutrik Combo connectors, or from an onboard battery as in the borrowed AKG C1000S I often use.

  • XLR (standard for pro mics):
  • Neutrik Combo (accepts balanced mic with XLR converter, or unbalanced plugged straight in the middle)
  • 1/4" TRS (Tip-Ring-Sleeve) Phono mono balanced OR stereo unbalanced (also called standard stereo headphone)
  • 1/4" Phono mono unbalanced (like a guitar cable)
  • 1/8" Stereo (mini-headphone or mini-stereo, like your iPod or Walkman)
  • RCA (standard for stereos)
  • USB Type A (like on your computer) or Type B (like on a USB hub or device)
  • FireWire 6-pin (a.k.a. FireWire 400 6-pin, like on your Mac, IEEE-1394)
  • FireWire 4-pin (a.k.a. FireWire 400 4-pin) smaller, unpowered, also called Sony iLink)
  • FireWire 800 (different shape, adapter required to connect to slower-but-still-very-fast FireWire 400 ports or cables)
  • Speakon (locking, for powered speaker lines)
  • Coax (standard cable TV, old-style Ethernet)
  • RJ-45 (10BaseT, 100BaseT, 1000BaseT "Gigabit" Ethernet)
  • Optical/SPDIF/Toslink (SPDIF can also use RCA connectors)
  • MIDI DIN (MIDI can also go through USB)

You can also get an adapter like the MicPlug that goes directly from XLR to USB. I have one, it runs on USB power, and it works pretty well. There is a similar GuitarPlug that uses 1/4" mono to plug into a guitar instead of XLR to plug into a microphone.


Thursday, December 22, 2005 - newest items first
# 7:51:00 PM:


Swiss Bakery Gingerbread House Low View.jpgThe Swiss Bakery on East 3rd. Avenue in Vancouver, where I often get a sandwich for lunch, has a spectacular gingerbread house on display.

Here are some photos I took of it today:

Swiss Bakery Gingerbread House.jpg Swiss Bakery Gingerbread House Suspension Bridge.jpg Swiss Bakery Gingerbread House Low View.jpg Swiss Bakery Gingerbread House Balcony.jpg


# 2:20:00 PM:

Crying for Kong

King KongKing Kong is a fantastic movie, in both senses of the word: it's extremely good, and it is a grand fantasy, showing us places and things that could never exist, or which are long gone, and yet in which we can believe for the moment. I doubt anything else, for instance, could do as good a job of showing us in 2005 what the New York of the mid-1930s looked and felt like, at least in legend.

My seven-year-old daughter came with me, and she is just old enough to handle it, I think. She hid her eyes from the scariest things (no, not the giant swamp maggots or dinosaurs or Kong himself—that would be the people, especially the human residents of Skull Island), but she loved the movie. And, because she is young and among the few moviegoers in the world who didn't know the story beforehand, it is the first film where she cried at the end.

Her first experience with movie tragedy frightened her a little—I don't think she expected her emotional reaction to the film. But we discussed it and I told her that it was okay, that sometimes movies make us sad, as well as excited and scared and amazed. To take a fundamentally silly, if mythic, concept and make it work so well is quite an achievement. I sniffled too.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005 - newest items first
# 12:01:00 PM:

Looking for a last-minute stocking stuffer?

Full disclosure: if you buy something through the following links, I get a cut from Apple.

120x60 Animated BanneriTunes gift certificate Banner Holiday iTunes shopping

Now go ahead and print out a gift certificate before you run out of time, okay?


Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - newest items first
# 11:30:00 PM:

Left brain, right brain, music brain, editor brain

electric brain christmasA recent study from New Zealand shows that musicians' brains respond differently to music than those of non-musicians do. In short, when asked to do difficult language-based tasks with music playing, musicians did worse than in silence (indicating that their brains process music much like language), while non-musicians did equally well whether music was playing or not (meaning that they don't treat it linguistically).

That makes sense, of course. I recall when I was a kid that I could just let music wash over me without dissecting how it was made and how it is structured the way I do now, after more than 16 years making money playing it, even if not always often or well.

But it's not an entirely binary thing either, as I discovered yesterday. The two main interface designers at work were away, but we needed to make some application mockups for a presentation taking place today, so my boss called on my not-so-mad Photoshop skillz to get it done.

Normally at work I'm editing words—letters, web content, proposals, emails, and so on. I've found that while I can listen to music while doing that, I can't listen to talk s or other discussion-heavy audio, just as I can't listen to them while browsing text-heavy websites or writing blog posts like this one. I find myself focusing on the work onscreen, and missing out on the talk in my ears.

However, when working on the mockups, which are at least as intellectually difficult but are more visual than linguistic, I found I could happily listen to talk podcasts at the same time, or to music instead, and both get the work done efficiently and enjoy the shows or music. So my brain obviously treats written and spoken language differently than it does music, and differently than visual design as well. I notice that while working and listening to music, I actually do revert a bit to my childhood listening pattern, where I don't analyze the music as much, just hear it—presumably because my left brain is occupied with the tasks at hand.


# 2:52:00 PM:

UBC podcasts

My alma mater, the University of British Columbia, has been posting s of interesting public lectures at for awhile, but I just found out about them. Subscribed!


Monday, December 19, 2005 - newest items first
# 7:32:00 PM:

The real thing

UPDATE: I'd better get cracking. I already have at least three people (Roland included) who want to buy the thing, and I don't even have my music page updated with the info. I'll still take their money and send them early copies if they want, though!

Copies of my debut CD have finally arrived, and I'll soon be making them available for sale. In the meantime, you can check out photos and listen to all the tunes (plus more) for free at my Penmachine Podcast page.

Shipment - The Real Penmachine Sessions CD Front Cover - The Real Penmachine Sessions CD Back Cover - The Real Penmachine Sessions CD Spine - The Real Penmachine Sessions CD Open Case and CD - The Real Penmachine Sessions CD

Those of you who receive Christmas presents from me and who read this blog have now lost much of the surprise about what you might be getting.

And whether you are on that list or not, you might enjoy these photos of Christmas lights too.


# 2:08:00 PM:

Cool diabetic tools

darts anyone?I've had diabetes since the spring of 1991. The latest episode of diabeticfeed (who also use my tunes for their background music—even though they had no idea that I'm diabetic when they started doing it) lists some extremely cool tools. Here are the ones I want:

  • The Disintegrator Plus. Cool product, even cooler name!
  • Smart Charts "My Other Checkbook" notebooks. Simple, cheap, and useful.
  • The Guardian RT continuous glucose monitoring system. This is outstanding, but currently only in limited trials in selected U.S. cities.

UPDATE: Apparently it is available in Canada. For almost $3800. Guess I'll have to think about it for a bit. :)


# 12:12:00 PM:

Where we are, where we've been, where we're going

Jakob Nielsen: "Some time in 2005, we quietly passed a dramatic milestone in Internet history: the one-billionth user went online. Because we have no central register of Internet users, we don't know who that user was, or when he or she first logged on. Statistically, we're likely talking about a 24-year-old woman in Shanghai."


Saturday, December 17, 2005 - newest items first
# 10:58:00 PM:

Becoming a musician again

Derek Plays GuitarWhen I began classical guitar lessons in 1978 (sort of my idea, but not entirely), my dad said to me that, hey, you never know, you might need the skill to eat someday. I studied the instrument unenthusiastically with a kind but stern instructor at Aeolian Music Studios in our neighbourhood for four years, then quit when I started at a new high school across town—or really, I quit when I had a good excuse to. I'd taken my Grade Four Royal Conservatory of Music exam, done decently well because of a generous examiner, and then it was over.

I forgot everything. I'd never been all that good at reading music, and the skill leaked from my mind. I knew no real theory, so that was gone too. My guitar sat in my closet, and every once in a while there would be a loud TWANG! as a string broke inside the case. While over a third of the students in my school were in band, I didn't pick up a guitar or any other instrument seriously for more than five years. When I did again, it was trying the bass in 1987 when my roommate Sebastien borrowed one. At the end of that year, I tried the drums and found, to my astonishment, that I could play decently well without every having sat behind a kit before.

In 1988, my roommate and I set each other a challenge: on the same day, each of us would buy an instrument (he a guitar, me a drum kit) as cheaply as we could, and we would learn to play them. He found a crappy, silver-grey, plywood, eighties-style heavy-metal electric guitar, brand new in cardboard box at a pawn shop; I discovered what was probably a Sears brand blue sparkle drum kit, used, with god-awful cymbals. One of us spent $80, the other $75, and I don't remember who was who.

We learned, and within a year we'd played our first show, at the Science Undergrad Last Class Bash at UBC in the spring of 1989. By then Sebastien had graduated to a Squier double-humbucking Stratocaster, to which he stuck a Batman logo, and it became the Bat Strat, plugged into a solid-state Peavey amp. I still had the blue sparkle drum kit, but I'd added a better Pearl snare drum and some proper, but still cheap Sabian cymbals. As a band (with our other two roommates Andrew a.k.a. Elvis Flostrand on bass and Alistair on guitar, plus my classmate Ken, who is a now a university professor, also on guitar), we sort of sucked. But people were drunk, and we put on a funny show and had a good time.

We kept playing, from New Year's 1989-90 in a rough bar in Pemberton to a house gig at a scuzzy nightclub on East Broadway in Vancouver. I bought better drums, then bandmates and band names and one-off shows and house gigs came and went, and while I never learned theory or to read music again, I kept getting better and came to learn by ear, which works particularly well for the drums. I noodled on my guitar, which I was by then keeping strung, when I had the chance. By 1994, at the end of my university career, I was playing in The Flu and The Neurotics with Sebastien and Alistair and Dirk and we decided to go full-time. My dad's prediction came true, and though I only rarely played guitar, we spent some of our time busking in downtown Vancouver for money to eat. (Once we received a $100 U.S. bill in our guitar case, and never determined if that had been a mistake from the donor.)

I spent nearly two years as a full-time musician, traveling to Australia and Alberta, Powell River and Vanderhoof, Victoria and Prince George. The playing was fun; most of the rest (driving winter highways at night, fighting with bandmates, being poor, smelling like stale smoke and beer after every show without even smoking or drinking) wasn't.

I quit again, this time shortly after getting married, and spent the next five years hardly playing the drums or guitar or anything else again. I did the occasional fill-in with my former bandmates, creaking like the Tin Man after a rain and hurting my hands, since my callouses had faded. But by the end of 2000 I was back in the game, part-time, for a one-off show in New York City, and then, by the spring of 2001, a full member of The Neurotics again, with Sebastien still my guitar player. I've been at it ever since (part time, with day jobs), for five years now, almost 17 since my first gig.

My technique is not that great, on drums or bass or guitar, and especially on keyboards. I know what I'm doing, but only in the most haphazard and unschooled of ways. But aside from my performing live, I've found that since I started podcasting my compositions, people all over the world enjoy them, and some have asked me to write and record custom material. I'm no prodigy, never was, but it turns out I'm decently good at it.

Tomorrow, though, I'll play guitar for an audience for the first time since 1994, and classical guitar for the first time since 1982. Earlier today my daughters' piano teacher Lorraine asked me to play something for her year-end Christmas Recital, at the Cloud 9 revolving restaurant downtown. Without a second thought, I said sure, and agreed to a version of "We Three Kings," like the one I recorded last week. I may add a few more entertaining touches as well.

I thought I might be nervous, but I'm not. I've played so many shows in front of so many audiences over the years that I know, mistakes or not, that it will be fine, that I'll have a good time—and that I've played with less preparation, to truly hostile crowds, and come out the other side unscathed. It's a good feeling. I won't be playing for my lunch, but I'll be playing for my family—my wife, my daughters, their teacher, my parents, my in-laws, and the other students and their families. The thought makes me smile. After starting and quitting and starting again and quitting again and starting again and keeping at it, I guess I really am a musician now, because the idea of playing for an audience, and making them happy, makes me happy.


Friday, December 16, 2005 - newest items first
# 11:04:00 PM:

The semi-carefree life of the 1972 college girl

Seventeen Magazine, Oct 1972 - coverOne of my wife's co-workers found an October 1972 issue of Seventeen magazine and donated it to us. Reading the ads is a fascinating look at North American attitudes towards college-age women when I was three years old. Plus they're bloody hilarious:

Seventeen Magazine, Oct 1972 - tape deck ad Seventeen Magazine, Oct 1972 - Butterick fashion horror Seventeen Magazine, Oct 1972 - with a past (right)
Seventeen Magazine, Oct 1972 - with a past (left) Seventeen Magazine, Oct 1972 - ugly nails Seventeen Magazine, Oct 1972 - smockshift etc.

My favourite for its sheer creepiness has to be this one, part of a two-page spread for a Helena Rubinstein fragrance called "Heaven Sent":

A woman whose life is in the future should smell different from a woman with a past

To wit: "A woman whose life is in the future should smell different from a woman with a past." That reflects the overarching message on many pages of the magazine in those heady post–Summer of Love, pre-Watergate years, which was, "You're a young, free-spirited, college girl, unencumbered by the creaky old mores of the past. You can be and do anything you want! But if you sleep around, everyone will spit on you."

Ah, memories.


# 2:13:00 PM:

Maximum Security Christmas

If you like your Christmas tunes a bit twisted, I recommend the Tower of Song Episode #28 Christmas Show. It's been giving me smiles at work here while I edit. "Maximum Security Christmas" by Jenny Jusell and Country Sunshine (available at Oilville Christmas Dynasty) is particularly entertaining.


# 12:49:00 PM:

Apple's iTunes podcast directory in trouble

While I haven't personally had any problems, recent chaos in the iTunes podcast directory certainly is causing huge problems for podcasters. When iTunes began supporting podcasts with version 4.9 in July, it instantly became the 800-pound gorilla of the podcatching market.

It looks like, as er Todd Cochrane says, the directory is being "maintained by a third grader," and Apple needs to put some more people on the project quickly, or find a way to open the directory up for community maintenance.


# 11:23:00 AM:

Need help converting analog Video8 tapes to VHS or DVD

My wife and I received a camcorder as a present in 1998, around the time our oldest daughter was born. It was fairly high-tech at the time, using the analog Video8 format. But now it's busted, no longer willing to load tapes.

That's a problem, since we have a fair bit of baby and kid footage on tapes we can no longer play. So, does anyone out there have something we can borrow to convert those Video8 tapes to another format? Perhaps the best would be DVD, but I'd be equally happy with a simple way to convert them to another MPEG or digital movie format on our Mac, or (as a last resort) to VHS analog cassette.

If you have a Digital8 camcorder that can play Video8 tapes and output to FireWire (a.k.a. IEEE 1394 or iLink), that would probably be ideal. Or if you know of a better way that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, please let me know, either in the comments or by email. Thanks!


# 1:08:00 AM:

Songs I love right now

The first two came to me from podcasts:


Thursday, December 15, 2005 - newest items first
# 2:11:00 PM:

Excellent advice on how to interview someone

Michael Enright is one of CBC Radio's best-known broadcasters, having been an on-air personality for decades. Tod Maffin interviews Mr. Enright to interview people!

It's only 15 minutes, and is quite informative. They even talk about how to be interviewed well. (Key points: call the interviewer by their first name, and answer the question you would like to have been asked, rather than what you were asked.)


# 1:33:00 PM:

Free blues vocal satire MP3: "Comcast Connection Blues"

[broadband connection]Chris wrote some lyrics on December 7, 2005 as a blog post. Then he asked me to write a song around them. The result is perhaps the whitest possible white-boy blues, wherein two guys from the Pacific Northwest complain about an unreliable broadband Internet connection. It's "Comcast Connection Blues" (4.8 MB MP3 file), baby. You may download it and cry your broadband nights away.

It features me actually singing for a change, and also includes what I must say is some surprisingly fine lead blues guitar, which I recorded in only a couple of takes. It was mastered by Les Thorn in New York City. The tape operator was my five-year-old daughter, Ms. L. Miller. The track is also available via Chris's website, as well as on iTunes and the Podsafe Music Network. It's © 2005 by Derek K. Miller and Chris Pirillo.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - newest items first
# 4:35:00 PM:

Sorry, Santa

We didn't mean to do it, really.


# 4:28:00 PM:

Apple Aperture: not ready for prime time

Ars Technica goes to town on Apple's Aperture photo workflow software:

Hopefully this will be a lesson to Apple and all developers: releasing buggy launch products is bad. I'm sorry to say that until an update comes, Aperture is a program that will require users to carefullly dance around its problems in order to fit it into a professional workflow.

The Ars team is just clarifying the drubbing they gave Apple before:

They have only themselves to blame: they set themselves up for a big fall by attempting to dig themselves a chunk of the pro market by purporting to have the lossless holy grail of imaging. The trouble with that is they obviously didn't have the engineering or expertise in RAW processing to pull it off...


# 11:19:00 AM:


People like me who work in service industries often forget what a hassle it can be to assemble and ship physical products. Sometimes it can be a tough lesson.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - newest items first
# 3:53:00 PM:

CBC podcasting survey

Head on over to CBC's podcasting page and click on the Survey link in the upper right corner to take their survey about future CBC podcasting initiatives. The questions are intelligent and fascinating, and offer an intriguing look into what the Mother Corp. is thinking about—good stuff, in my opinion.

The survey will take you around 15 minutes, I'd guess, and if you like CBC and podcasts, or are interested in the idea, it will be well worth your time.


# 12:47:00 PM:

Derek on CBC Radio at 3 p.m. today

Okay, today's the day I introduce the Podsafe for Peace song on CBC Radio's "On the Coast" drive-time show, at 3 p.m. this afternoon. In Vancouver that's 690 AM, or you can try one of these other frequencies depending on where you live. There are also high and low quality online Windows Media audio streams.

I'm trying to get Audio Hijack Pro to record the show automatically, since I pre-recorded my intro this morning, and I'll actually be picking up the kids from school at 3, but if you get a chance to record it from yourself and mine fails, let me know so I can maybe obtain it from you. I'll only be on for a minute or two, then they play the song.


# 9:30:00 AM:

Keep visitors by sending them away

Last June I briefly met blogging, podcasting, RSS, OPML, and outlining software pioneer Dave Winer at Gnomedex 5 in Seattle. Until then I had been puzzled about why—when he's been around so long, had so many good ideas, and contributed so many things to the Internet community over the years, and even came close to dying from heart disease caused in part by the stress of it all (plus the smoking)—so many people hate his guts.

I had some of it figured out before then. Mr. Winer, for instance, is a pragmatic developer, a "just get it done" kind of guy who's made many things possible for the rest of us. But those who value elegance often dislike what he builds, because it's made to do things, and not always as cleanly as they'd like. Sometimes he eschews or actively ignores what other might like to do in favour of his own solutions. His software can be off the wall, occasionally a bit clunky, and might be hard to understand—even if the ideas underneath are good.

What I found at Gnomedex was that, like many smart people, if he thinks you're wrong, he won't hesitate an instant to tell you. In person, even more than on the Web, if he disagrees with you, he can be very rude. He shoots from the hip. He makes the kind of impression that's hard to dispel.

But once again, Dave Winer is right on target about how things work on the Web:

Now the fundamental law of the Internet seems to be the more you send them away the more they come back. It's why link-filled blogs do better than introverts. It may seem counter-intuitive—it's the new intuition, the new way of thinking. The Internet kicks your ass until you get it. It's called linking and it works.

People come back to places that send them away. Memorize that one.

This came up in a back-and-forth with Jakob Nielsen in 1999. The duality of the Internet. The dark side sees eyeballs and user-generated content. The light side sends them away, trusting that they'll come back. The beauty of it is that the light side works and the dark side doesn't. This is where the optimism of web people comes from. We called it Web Energy in the early days, and it's still with us today.

When I talk to students and others about making websites, that's one of my key messages too. Thanks, Dave.


Monday, December 12, 2005 - newest items first
# 10:38:00 PM:

Free Christmas solo classical guitar instrumental: "We Three Kings"

[Christmas bauble]Back in October 2005, I said I would record a Christmas carol, and thought that "We Three Kings" (2.8 MB MP3 file), written by John Hopkins Jr. (1820–1891), would be a good one. So here it is.

UPDATE December 2008: This recording and its successor "What Child Is This?" from 2008 are both listed at Uwe Hermann's page of freely licensed Christmas songs.

Unlike any of my other tunes, this has no loops, samples, MIDI instruments, or other fancy stuff. It's just me playing the classical guitar my parents bought for lessons when I was 10 years old, with a microphone and some reverb for that concert hall sound. It's short, just two minutes, so enjoy it. It's also available via iTunes and on the Podsafe Music Network. The composition is public domain, and the recording is © 2005 by Derek K. Miller.


# 7:38:00 PM:

If you take photos, read this

Here is one of the best articles I've ever read about digital photography, or photography of any sort, for that matter. A quote from the start:

To begin with, let's dispel the notion that a camera records what the eye can see. It does not and it cannot because a camera functions nothing like the eye. [...] Your brain infers information largely by generalizing from what it has encountered before. In doing this the eye and brain have to handle contrasts of light that exceed one million to one.

And author Charles Maurer goes on from there, explaining why, up to the advent of digital photography (or at least digital photo manipulation), painting was actually a better way of capturing the world than cameras were.


# 4:24:00 PM:

Really first Podsafe for Peace radio play

Slau writes:

Join the insomniacs of the world (at least in North America) and catch Slau on the Joey Reynolds show, originating out of New York city's 710 WOR Radio and broadcast on satellite. You can catch the Internet stream of the program. [...]

This will turn out to be the North American terrestrial radio debut of "If Every Day Were Christmas." Join Joey as he talks to Slau about the project. The show airs live at 1 AM (EST) on Tuesday, December 13, 2005.

That's 10 p.m. Pacific time, which is just about right for me since the kids will be in bed. My planned appearance on CBC Radio later this week has been definitively scooped, but may still be the Canadian-based debut of the song—at least on a program that isn't (i.e. is part of the traditional broadcasting infrastructure).


# 12:20:00 PM:

First Podsafe for Peace radio play?

UPDATE: Craig from CBC called me back to let me know they've postponed this segment, and will be playing Podsafe for Peace later in the week, so I'll let you know when that happens. In the meantime, the U.S.-based Westwood One radio network (home of Jon Stewart's radio version of The Daily Show) will be the first to play it. Their website doesn't seem to let you find your local station, I notice, which is odd.

I just got a call from a producer for CBC Radio's "On the Coast" here in Vancouver (one of our leading afternoon radio shows on the public broadcaster, heard throughout British Columbia in drive-time).

Their theme for today is Christmas benefit music, and since I out sent a few links to the Podsafe for Peace press release last night, he figured "If Every Day Were Christmas" would be a good candidate, as a totally new type of benefit tune.

So I'll be speaking briefly (maybe 60 sec) on the "On the Coast" show this afternoon at 3 p.m. PST to introduce the tune and my small role in it, and we'll get some actual SOCAN-licensed radio play. Since project producer Slau and Orlando Pagan, who wrote the track, are donating their automatically-collected publishing royalties to UNICEF, that's a good thing. I'm not sure if it's the first mainstream radio play for (Slau is doing interviews and sending out copies to various radio networks in the States too), but it might be. It should also encourage some online purchase revenue (all of which goes to UNICEF as well), I hope.

If you happen to have a way to tape or otherwise record CBC Radio in Vancouver (AM 690) or elsewhere in B.C. when "On the Coast" comes on, I'd appreciate getting a copy of the broadcast if I can't manage to record it here myself.


Sunday, December 11, 2005 - newest items first
# 9:51:00 PM:

The only B.C. artist in Podsafe for Peace

Podsafe for Peace imageI was the only British Columbian, and one of three Canadians (the others being Jim Fidler of Newfoundland and Tara Thompson of Toronto), who was part of Podsafe for Peace, the worldwide supergroup of 32 singers and other musicians from nine countries who worked together over the Internet last month to record "If Every Day Were Christmas." The song is a benefit single, with all proceeds from online sales (99 cents U.S.) and radio and TV play going to UNICEF.

Now that you can buy a copy of the song, for Peace has a press release that suggests story ideas for media interested in this first-of-its-kind event. Each of us who sang recorded our own vocal (mine in my basement studio, for example), then Slau in New York put them together. That's unusual enough, because it's only recently that such a wide-ranging project could even be possible, especially in the short time between when podcasting pioneer Adam Curry had the idea just after Halloween 2005 and the song's completion at the end of November.

The song is different in another way too, because it is podsafe, which means that it is available for podcasters to play and promote for free on their shows. The downloadable song for sale is also an unencumbered MP3 file, with no restrictions that prevent copying, sharing, or conversion to other formats. "If Every Day Were Christmas" takes a new approach to promoting a song—something particularly worthwhile when the money is going to charity. This approach is trying to take advantage of the Internet rather than fight against it.


# 8:33:00 PM:

Album shipping tomorrow

CD Prototype - CoverAs far as I can tell, copies of my album Penmachine Sessions should ship from California tomorrow, which means I should receive them by the end of the week.

I guess I'd better get cracking on figuring out how to sell them.

Exciting. In the meantime, you can listen to and download full copies of all the tracks from the album (plus more) over at my Penmachine Podcast page.


Saturday, December 10, 2005 - newest items first
# 10:12:00 AM:

Google advertises savory spam crescents. Mmmm.

Google's Gmail puts context-sensitive ads in your browser window based on the contents of whatever mail you're looking at. That's how Google makes money from the free email service. Sometimes the ads get interesting (I added the red box):

[Gmail screen with 'Spam Breakfast Burritos' ad at the top, emphasized with Derek's red box]

There's a new SPAM-related food ad on every page of spam email listings. "Spam Hashbrown Bake," "Savory Spam Crescents," "Spam Skillet Casserole." Each has a tagline: "Broil until golden," "Bake 5-10 minutes, serve with salsa," "Toss with linguine." Or how about "Vineyard Spam Salad - Combine grapes, spam, peapods and onions in large bowl"? That's my favourite.

I have to admire the initiative of Recipe Source, who's placing those ads. They got my attention!

But not my appetite.


# 9:37:00 AM:

Go watch Lucian's Daily Planet TV

[Daily Planet TV screenshot]If you're wondering whether any videoblogs are worth watching, I suggest you go check out Lucian's Daily Planet TV video podcast. I found him because he's been using some of my music on the show, but I've kept watching because:

  1. He's funny.
  2. The show is short, so I can fit it in any time of day.
  3. His production values are remarkable, especially when you find out he's doing it all by himself.

Lucian already has 91 episodes in the can, er, pod. Go check out his show. You can use the iTunes link to get to it directly if you want.

Oh, and don't confuse Daily Planet TV with Canada's Discovery Channel show of the same name.


Friday, December 09, 2005 - newest items first
# 11:01:00 AM:

Another free instrumental: "P and P"

[These two are P (Ponzi) and P (Pirillo), by Kris Krug]I'm churning out these free MP3 tunes fast and furious right now—just two days after the last one in this case.

When I first converted my free MP3s page page into a podcast back in June, my first track was "Pirilloponzi," with vocals sampled from the June 23 episode of the Chris Pirillo Show, featuring Chris, who organizes the Gnomedex conference with his girlfriend Ponzi. They are very funny together. Well, now they have a video podcast, and I sent them a very short, modified version of "Pirilloponzi" as a theme song.

After that, I extended the remix and made it into a full tune, which I'm calling "P and P" (2.8 MB MP3 file). It no longer has vocals, but it's the same guitar part I recorded before, with completely different background tracks, and speeded up to 140 beats per minute. If you subscribe to the Penmachine Podcast, you may already have it. (By the way, the photo is by Kris Krug, another er.)


Thursday, December 08, 2005 - newest items first
# 10:32:00 PM:

Podsafe for Peace song now available for sale

The Podsafe for Peace Christmas carol in which I sang is now for sale at The track costs 99 cents U.S. (about $1.18 Canadian right now), you get an unencumbered MP3 file that you can play anywhere, it's , and the proceeds go to UNICEF. Doesn't get better than that, does it?


# 6:37:00 PM:

CORRECTION: Concert is not public after all

If you had been thinking about coming to the show my band is playing at the Arts Club on Saturday, December 10, never mind. I just checked the calendar and it's a PRIVATE FUNCTION, public not admitted.

No one told me that. Sorry! You'll have to rock out some other way on Saturday.


# 4:01:00 PM:

Useful links via John Gruber

Via Daring Fireball:


# 7:50:00 AM:

Free instrumental: "Washing Off Like an Aardvark"

[Stained glass. Not an aardvark.]"I'm washing off like an aardvark!" said my seven-year-old daughter a few days ago.

"What does that mean?" I asked.

"I dunno. It just sounded silly."

"I like it," I said. "I should use it as the title for my next song." (3.9 MB MP3 file).

And so I have. It's a stompin', semi-Latin hard rock instrumental. I can't imagine what kinds of strange Google searches will lead people to it.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - newest items first
# 7:25:00 PM:

A live public concert with Derek, Sat Dec 10 - NOT!

UPDATE: Never mind! I just checked the calendar and it's a PRIVATE FUNCTION, public not admitted. (No one told me that.) Sorry!

I've been a professional musician for close to 17 years now, but these days it's rare for me to play an event that's open to the general public (most are weddings and private parties, like the boat cruise my band performed on last weekend). But this week is different.

I'll be on drums this Saturday, December 10, 2005 at the Arts Club Backstage Lounge near the water on Granville Island in Vancouver, with my co-musicians Sebastien de Castell (guitar, keyboard, vocals), Adam Woodall (guitar, harmonica, vocals), and Ricky Renouf (bass, vocals). The show likely starts around 8 p.m., and it's open to the public, so I hope to see you there.

It'll be a lot cheaper than paying to see us at Joe Fortes on New Year's Eve.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005 - newest items first
# 3:12:00 PM:

Raw power

As I listen to it now while editing a document, I still think that The Who's 1970 Live at Leeds (iTunes link for Canada) is the greatest live rock-n-roll recording available commercially.

The album took me a long time to discover, around 1991. I'd already been in a classic rock band for a couple of years, I'd seen The Who play live in 1989 (without the long-dead Keith Moon, of course), and I'd heard "Summertime Blues" (Canada), but somehow I'd missed the rest of the record. While visiting my parents, who then lived in Toronto, I heard "Magic Bus" (Canada) and the 15-minute "My Generation" (Canada) on the radio.

Holy crap! was all I could think. I've loved the album ever since, because I doubt it's possible to capture more of the raw power of three musicians and a singer in full, monster-distortion flight than that.


# 12:29:00 PM:

It's the right way to do things

Roger Johansson: Ten reasons to learn and use web standards.


# 11:33:00 AM:

Podcasting gear recommendations

Recently I wrote a couple of messages to TidBITS Talk, a mailing list I'm on, recommending gear for aspiring podcasters. The two messages discuss, respectively:

If you're interested in going further, consider the excellent bundle from TidBITS's "Take Control" e-book series. Take Control of Podcasting on the Mac is $10 USD by itself, or $17.50 combined with Take Control of Recording With GarageBand.

Here's a more comprehensive article on microphones. And no, I get no commission on those recommendations.

Speaking of podcasting, Canadian überpodcaster Tod Maffin has a new tech blog at (unrelated to TidBITS).


Monday, December 05, 2005 - newest items first
# 3:14:00 PM:

I like the Mighty Mouse

4x2Apple's Mighty Mouse seemed like a gimmick when it first came out a few months ago, but now that I have one that came with the new iMac at work, I'm liking it quite a bit.

Input devices like mice are very personal things: the particular fit of your hand, how you like to use the device, and many other things determine whether you prefer a mouse, trackball, tablet, or other input widget, and whether you want one button, several, or many. I have a whole drawer full of different ones, ranging from Apple's old ADB and pucklet mice to trackballs and other devices from Logitech, Kensington, Wacom, etc., all of which I've preferred at one time or another

The Mighty Mouse combines what I find to be the excellent size and shape of the one-button Apple Pro Mouse that preceded it with multi-button functionality and what turns out to be a very cool little mini-trackball in place of a scroll wheel. Not only does the mini-ball have a fun "grainy" feel to it as you turn (something I like in scroll wheels as well), it moves in two dimensions, and is also slightly spring-loaded to have a bit of "give." The resulting feel is something I find fits my work style quite well.

The multi-button trickery is a bit flakier, because there is only one main button on top: performing a right-click requires lifting your other finger off the left side of the mouse, so that the circuitry can detect that you intend to click the right side. The "squeeze click" and "centre-click" actions also feel odd. I'm getting used to each one, though.

Overall, I'd give the Mighty Mouse 7.5 out of 10. Not sure I'd buy one on its own, but if it comes with whatever my next Mac might be, I'd switch to it at home as well.


# 12:55:00 PM:

Converting document types on the Mac command line

There is a cool built-in command line utility on the Mac called textutil that will convert many different document types into others. I just converted some sort of WordML file into a Word .doc file and .html in a few seconds. Cool!


Sunday, December 04, 2005 - newest items first
# 11:18:00 PM:

Where ships come from

Photo (ariel view) Of The ShipyardMy boss Bill did another one of his insane halfway-round-the-world trips last week, and part of it was visiting a South Korean shipyard where they build liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers.

Among the photos he posted on Flickr was this spiffy aerial view. Zoom into the giant size version to see how the huge facility is tucked into the hills along the shoreline.


Saturday, December 03, 2005 - newest items first
# 12:19:00 PM:

Raising money

Yesterday, I posted the MP3 file of "If Every Day Were Christmas," the group recording, to my Penmachine Podcast. But after discussing it with composer/producer Slau and project instigator Adam Curry this morning, I've removed it from my server, and I'm now pointing you over to the Podsafe Music Network (PMN) to listen to it instead.

Why? Because the PMN provides a structured way for anyone to listen to it online, and for podcasters to get the track and report when they play it. Both collect statistics to find out how many people play and listen to the song. In addition, the organizers behind the recording hope to be able to sell it at the iTunes Music Store and perhaps on CD. If I had the whole track available, unexpurgated, for download as I did yesterday, that might take away from those sales—and with the money going to UNICEF, that would be a bad thing.

What I am going to do as part of this project is take any of my usual income from this website (ads, PayPal donations, etc.) for the months of December and January and send that to UNICEF myself. It won't be a ton of money, but I'll let you know how much it is when I send it early in 2006.


Friday, December 02, 2005 - newest items first
# 2:03:00 PM:

Excellent luxury gift suggestions

Reasonably expensive, but hey, they're worth it, right?

Funny how the list just assumes your giftee will have an iPod already.


# 11:48:00 AM:

Podsafe for Peace: "If Every Day Were Christmas" for UNICEF

Slau, in New York City, composed and produced "If Every Day Were Christmas," which involves nearly 100 podsafe music artists (including me) in a charity recording, with any income—traditional radio and TV play, revenue from sales through iTunes or wherever else it might be available for purchase—going to UNICEF.

The original idea to do that came from podcasting co-inventor Adam Curry. You can find out more at (once that site is up), or in Adam Curry's debut on December 2, 2005. Please donate to UNICEF too!

If you're a podcaster, get the song at the Podsafe Music Network, play it on your show, and report it, then encourage your listeners to donate too. Tag it on your website as well. Here's a list of some of the podcasts that have played the track already.


# 12:02:00 AM:

One step closer

Diskfaktory's online order status page informs me that my CD album is in production, i.e. my artwork and master audio CD checked out, and they're readying the printing and duplication process. They estimate shipping to me on December 8, meaning I should receive the package by FedEx the week of December 12.


Thursday, December 01, 2005 - newest items first
# 11:03:00 PM:

Get out your cellphones or lighters

UPDATE: Here's the lineup of artists.

Green Day 13The podsafe Christmas tune in which I participated will be released tomorrow.

The group will apparently be called , and any revenue generated from the song (if it gets played on traditional radio or TV, for example), will go to UNICEF. It might also appear here on the Podsafe Music Network, and I'll probably post a link to the Penmachine Podcast too.

If you think this all a good idea, then give money to UNICEF. Sound good?


# 2:06:00 PM:

Hey, cool shirt!

iPod click wheel shirt 2Here's a weird thing. Recently, my employer Navarik bought a bunch of new computers, including various PowerBooks and a brand-new iMac G5 for me (yay). Since we were spending quite a bit, our Apple dealer gave us some free goodies, including an old promotional T-shirt for the discontinued iPod mini.

Because I provide a lot of Mac support around the office, our IT people were kind enough to give me the shirt. I usually wear it under a cardigan or other open sweater, so all you can see of it is the undecorated iPod click wheel design on the front. The word "iPod" and the Apple logo do not appear. The effect, and what it says about the power of Apple's iPod brand, has been fascinating.

  • First of all, the first time each of my daughters (5 and 7) looked at it, they both said, "iPod!" and started mashing at the "buttons," saying things like "Pause!" and "Play!" And we don't even have an iPod with a click wheel. The iPod shuffles my wife and I use have a similar control, but it's not exactly the same. But the kids knew anyway.

  • Then, on repeated occasions, both my friends and co-workers, as well as complete strangers on the street, have said "Hey, cool shirt!" (Some of them were likely tempted to mash the buttons too, but other than my wife, who's allowed, they've avoided actually doing it.)

I have a lot of T-shirts, and I've never seen a reaction anything like this to any of them, or any other piece of clothing. Has a consumer electronics device—even the original Walkman—ever generated this kind of cultural buzz?


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