Posted tagged ‘life’

Chrome OS goes open source

November 20, 2009

When the technology became available for personal computers on a desktop, there was a significant paradigm shift in the way operating systems worked.  And ever since the notebook has come into the mainstream, notebook operating systems (largely) have been desktop operating systems crammed into a smaller can.  Yes, mobile phones came along with their own OSes, but it’s about time operating systems had a significant shift in the way mobile computing happens.

That said, I’m not entirely sure Chrome OS is it.  But I’m interested to see where it goes.  I like their security model (as long as we can trust the application host?).  And for a group that has milked their customers for personal information for so long, I’m hesitant to think they should be the ones providing apps for you to, say, manage your finances on.  Sorry, call me a conspiracy theorist.  I’m actually not, because I don’t have a theory.  I’m just distrustful.

Bottom line: Chrome OS looks very promising.  If it is to OSes what Chrome is to browsers (as I type this post in a Chrome window) it might just be the catalyst that gets me to finally buy a netbook.


GeoCities and musing on growing up digital

October 26, 2009

RIP GeoCities (1995-2009)

We will miss your animated GIFs, your annoying <MARQUEE> tags (or <BLINK> if you used that other browser). Seriously, I shouldn’t care – I hosted my site on Angelfire -but the memories of hand-coded sites (or un-user-friendly site wizards) from the teenage years are making me feel so nostalgic. It was a good run, GeoCities. Thanks for helping the Web through its adolescence.

And last night, I watched live as Bono, The Edge, and the other two guys rocked Pasadena and the world watched on YouTube.  IMO, the blog community, in addition to YouTube and MySpace (which are both arguably just blogs 2.0 anyhow) were direct descendants of the 1990s trend toward a personal presence on the Web for those who don’t want to toil over code.  The fact I grasp how to edit the URL of this post (which I just did) started with the 90s and personal Web sites.

GeoCities (and the other wannabe GeoCities sites) really did bring the Web a long way by making it possible for nontechnical people to easily post content to the Web.  And while the Web was perhaps a teenager at the time, for me (and lots of others who were teenagers in the 90s) it helped US through our adolescence.

I was a late bloomer, and I caught on around 1998.  I got a giant tome on HTML from the public library, and started reading and coding.  Before long, I was lost in the world of <BR> and <A HREF>, where I searched long and hard for websites with free horizontal-bar JPEGs and JavaScript snippets to add a scrolling status bar.  It was my first experience in speaking a language a machine could understand, and it significantly influenced my development as a technologist.

My site only contained some personal views and a very long list of music-related jokes (Why do violinists put rags on their shoulder?  So they don’t drool on themselves!!!  Yes, that one was on there).  It was not impressive, but it WAS to me because I had my own world where I was the WEBMASTER, and the WEB was still just a little bit mysterious. =)  These days, it’s a glut of information, smut, and third-rate instantiations of Godwin’s Law (and parodies of such instantiations, and parodies of the parodies).  Still mystery, but more like the Badlands are mysterious, rather than the first-girlfriend mystery I felt back then.  Or maybe the Web WAS actually lame back then, and it was really just adolescence being mysterious.

So we will miss thee, GeoCities of yore.  Thank you for the precedent you set of free personal web pages for everyone.  We hope you understand how deeply you affected a generation.

Big news for me…

August 14, 2009

I’m officially a member of Mensa!  I’ve been wanting to join for some time, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized I unwittingly qualified over 12 years ago.  Apparently, when I took the OLSAT exam in high school, I scored high enough to qualify for Mensa membership.  So I sent in the score report and an attesting letter from the school, and they approved me.  It’s a big thing for me, so help me celebrate. =)

If you’re not familiar with Mensa, you’re missing out on a good thing in the world of geekhood.  Mensa is, according to the stuff they sent me, “an organization for anyone who scores in the top 2 percent of the general population on one of more than 200 standardized intelligence tests.”  It’s arguably one of the best known high-IQ societies.

I would add that 1 of 50 people is not that selective – you should try out.  Some local groups (if you don’t live in the sticks like I do) test as often as once a month for about $40 (US).  The test is not a scored IQ test – it’s simply a test for Mensa membership.  You must earn a score in the 98th percentile of the general population.  Alternatively, you can see a psychologist or your school counselor to take any of a large number of IQ tests.  Some older versions of standard educational exams (older ACT, GRE, and SAT) can possibly qualify as well.  See this link for details on which tests qualify.

Blogs vs. social networking

June 24, 2009

I read a post recently (and can’t find it now) asserting that blogs are basically outmoded by social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, etc.  It’s true that many bloggers are completely narcissistic.  Some blogs are informative but wordy or devoid of any healthy grammar practices.  I love Twitter for its prevention of wordiness.  Still, I disagree with the conclusion that social networking has replaced the blog.  Here’s why.

1) Blogs are relatively easy.  Once you get your social network set up, you have a great way to communicate with those in your network.  But you have to build the network.  I’d like to think I’m reasonably popular, but over about 2 years on Facebook, I’ve connected with about 365 people through my profile and a handful more through my musician page.  We’ve had a lot more hits than that on the blog in a single day.

2) Blogs can be used as information repositories to avoid cluttering up people’s news feed with note posts.  Just post the link and a 140-character summary, thank you.

3) People don’t become less narcissistic when they join Facebook.  In fact, the opposite may be true.  I saw a tweet yesterday saying “if I see your avatar more than 15 times in my timeline, I’m blocking you.”  And you know that friend who constantly talks about their Twilight fixation, or their bad relationships, or how they hate their job (which, by the way, is not a good thing to put up on either blogs or SN, because you DO like your job more than you like unemployment).

4) The blog network is wider than my social network.  Through tag clouds and friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend surfing, you can travel through all 6 degrees of separation in a few hours.  I appreciate this wealth of information, even if I have to weed through some useless blogs too.  With Facebook, for instance, you have privacy concerns and friend requests, and “I really want to know more about my VP, but I REALLY don’t want her to see my St. Paddy’s Day photos” concerns.  This leads us to the last, and perhaps most vivid, point.

5) Separation of roles.  This is probably the biggest one, and it’s the reason this blog exists.  I don’t really have anything on my Facebook profile to hide.  In fact, my St. Patrick’s Day celebrations to date have been very mild (think listening to The Chieftans orcorned-beef-and-cabbage eating corned beef and cabbage).  but the point is, I don’t want some people having unlimited access to my personal information (ahem, Bozeman).

The fact is, people separate roles in their life.  I avoid talking to my officemate about my marriage, but I don’t discuss network security with childhood friends who simply don’t care.  This blog gives me the chance to write about relevant technical and/or techno-cultural topics without posting it and tagging all my friends.  Likewise, Facebook gives me the chance to post friends-only photos of my vacation without having who-knows-who looking at my family.

Separation of roles is vital in a technologically driven world, and blogs are a way to accomplish that.  Facebook, Twitter, and my music blog give me a way to express another side of myself – a side that (in American culture) must be at least partially veiled from the work side.

Final point – this doesn’t mean blogging is better than social networking.  Just that SN hasn’t replaced blogging.  For those who are pouring their heart out about their recent relationship disaster, maybe it has.  But not for those with something that strangers might actually want to hear.


Music performance technology

December 19, 2008

I haven’t been posting much this week, mainly because it’s Christmas season and that means musicians are very busy.  In fact, I have a concert tonight at the local coffee shop.  It will be our first concert using computer-based recording.

There are a lot of programs and gadgets to do live music performance, but I’m not going to go into that here.  I will, however, share what we are using.

EW20ASENTI play an Ibanez EW acoustic-electric guitar (click picture or link for a better view).  It’s a work of art.  The figured ash body is probably the most beautiful guitar body I have ever seen, and the resonance is remarkably well-formed without being boomy. 

I usually run the guitar and mic into a 180-watt Fender Acoustasonic (the first series; they are no longer in production).  It’s completely one-of-a-kind — when I got it, the grill cloth was damaged, so I replaced the usual sand-colored grill cloth with a funky flannel.  It’s very unique looking.

I play a Kurtzweil SP88 as well.  It has excellent onboard piano sounds and works fairly well as a MIDI controller (though I don’t at this point use MIDI live).

I sing into a Shure SM57.  OK, if you’re TOTALLY new to music, the SM57 is one of the standard “classic” dynamic mics.  It is used for everything from vocals (G Love) to guitar cabinets (pretty much everyone) to snare and tom drums (also pretty much everyone).  Most people use the SM58 for vocals (folks like Bono) if they are using Shure, but the SM57 works well for me.  It’s probably the most all-purpose mic around.

We have changed our setup recently by adding Cubase LE to the mix.  Now, we run everything into a Tascam FW1082 (which I don’t particularly recommend, but hey, we paid for it already).  The Tascam serves as an interface between us, the computer, and the PA system (for which we use the Acoustasonic).  This allows us to run all the instruments and mic through Cubase, so that we can use the vocal compressor and EQ in the program.  Cubase and the FW-1082 support zero-latency monitoring, so the Acoustasonic really does work as a PA.  I just have to remember to turn the screen saver off and make sure the computer power is “always on.”

The computer we are running is a C2Q 6600 with 4 GB RAM and Vista Ultimate.  We use an Acer 22″ monitor.

So that’s the story.  Maybe I will add pictures of the setup to the post after the show.

Giving thanks

November 27, 2008

So most of us Americans are off work today (if we have international readers, get back to work!).  We take a day to celebrate and give thanks – a tradition which originated with some of the early American colonists.  I’m not sure if we Americans started the tradition of massive overindulgence in honor of holidays, but we may have perfected the art of gluttony.  =)  And although we do eat a particularly special meal (it smells wonderful as it’s cooking), I plan to enjoy it while being moderate.  It helps me avoid gluttony at this time to remember those who are eating a few cups of rice today (because it’s all they have).

I don’t usually get personal, political, or religious on this blog.  I will attempt to maintain this policy for the most part, though I think it difficult to give thanks without considering the ultimate question of origins and Deity which forms the philosophical bedrock our lifestyle (including gratefulness).  I personally (and I don’t mind that much if you think differently) am grateful for life, which I credit to God.  I am thankful for God himself – for his companionship and for the change He has brought about in my life.  I am thankful for my wife and child, and for my extended family.  I am thankful for technology and my career in it.  I’m thankful for music and the opportunities I have to be involved in it.  I am thankful to be among the most wealthy people in the world, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to give to those who are less wealthy.  I’m also thankful for video games, which I intend to indulge in today.  This is just a few things from my list.

Whatever your reason for being thankful and your mode of celebration, let’s enjoy the day and keep in mind a quote I found last year – “Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.”

YouTube goes to widescreen format

November 25, 2008

Last night, when I was on YouTube, they had the usual default aspect ratio.  If a widescreen video was uploaded, it displayed in letterbox.  Today, however, I found something different. 


Does this signal the death of the “standard” aspect ratio?  The site serving perhaps the most media content on the Internet has decided on widescreen as their default (and thus a “sideways letterbox” for standard ratio content). 

I personally am not totally used to widescreen yet, but then again, when I was growing up, a 20″ TV was big.  Now, people don’t even want to play games on a 20″ (I bought the 22 for my gaming and recording studio ‘needs’).  I’m starting to appreciate widescreen, though.  All that said, I am not here to rant, but simply to express fascination over the cultural implications of this minor shift.