Appeals Court reaffirms DMCA protection for user-generated content

December 20, 2011

Check out Appeals Court reaffirms DMCA protection for user-generated content from Ars Technica

Designing a game soundtrack – kind of like we first got to pick the fonts in our documents

October 7, 2011

Can you compose crappy music? I had a field day today ‘designing’ a bit of music for my “Game Of Life” Android game. In the old old days, when computers for the first time allowed you to choose a font for your text. we all became bad amateur typographers and book designers. Do you remember the “ransom note” font in the original Macintosh (yeah, that was 1984?) It looked like this:

Ransom note

We loved it and everyone played with it. And there were lots of other ugly fonts but how did we love them.

Well now (for me) the same thing is happening with music. Yeah I am an amateur piano and guitar player but designing a sound track is not something I have a clue about. So I went digging through tools and toys and, more or less like those early days of customizable fonts, here’s what the tools allowed me to create for my video game.

I have to say it’s awful and makes me want to bash my head in but, for your listening pleasure:


[GEEKY] Mac Sound Converter Utility

October 6, 2011

Apparently (not sure why yet) on Android, sound effects files using the OGG format work better than those using wav or mp3. It might be an AndEngine thing, I am not sure. Anyway, here’s my result of half hour googling and experimenting for a reliable way to convert the files. I tried a bunch of things, and I finally settled on MediaHuman AudioConverter. Use it. It really works and is nice and simple.

My review of A Reliable Wife

October 5, 2011

A Reliable WifeA Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Odd book. In the end I really liked it but at first it takes a surprising set of turns and is not at all what you would think. The writing style is almost poetic which is what I think I enjoyed the most,

View all my reviews

Nation Building

October 4, 2011

Here’s a topic I have never written about before… Nation Building. I just want to point you to a great article I read in the Globe yesterday that puts some meat on the question of “Nation Building,” when has it happened before? How long does it take? What is really happening? How does it start and how does it finish?

Here’s the crux of the argument in “How to build a nation” – The Boston Globe

“Identities are chosen strategically, they evolve over time, and people make decisions about what identities to prioritize,” said Jeremy Weinstein, a political science professor at Stanford University who studies ethnic politics and democratic transition in Africa. “This suggests there is room for fluidity and change.”

The lesson of history, it appears, is that tribal division isn’t a permanent condition: It’s just the default when people don’t yet have a nation they have a good reason to identify with. As it turns out, there are examples to follow. And it does not take centuries — or even more than a generation — to build a sense of citizenship. In fact, what we know about forging national identities actually makes the situation in the Middle East seem less dire than it would first appear. (from “How to build a nation” – The Boston Globe)

An excellent article.

Update on Spotify II

October 3, 2011

I have become a total Spotify addict. I have almost totally stopped downloading MP3s and am gradually locating all my favorite music on Spotify. I posed a couple of semi-sceptical notes when I first started using Spotify and so I am due for an update, right?

So what has happened since? I find that I am using Spotify on my iPhone and on my computer, all the time. Occasionally I will dip back into my large iTunes collection to remind me of artists that I want to listen to. But I promptly go onto Spotify, and search for the artist and grab all their albums not just the one or two I had in iTunes.

It turns out that for me, not ‘owning’ the mp3s is not a big deal at all. I am almost always online when I am playing music, either on a computer or an iPhone. And when I am not actually online (on a plane for example) it is easy to make selected play lists available on my iPhone as long as I thought of it ahead of time.

Comparing it to Rhapsody, they are very similar services. They cost the same and seem to have similar sized catalogs. At least, most of the music I want I can find on either one. Still somehow I found that I am using Spotify much more often than I used Rhapsody. Rhapsody does not have a ‘real’ mac application so you have to have it running in a browser window which can be a nuisance.  Also the Spotify UI experience is a little more streamlined (although it misses some really important features that Rhapsody has.)

Comparing it to Pandora, the clear difference is that on Spotify you can play the specific album and/or track you want, over and over again if you want. On Pandora you can just ask for music that ‘sounds like’ another track. And while it does a decent job, you often want to listen specifically to Madeleine Peyroux and no one else.

Comparing it to iTunes, the clear difference is that I don’t own any music. And if tomorrow Spotify goes out of business or I decide to stop subscribing, my whole ‘collection’ disappears. What I own is the list of music that I like, and presumably I would be able to move the list over to the next service. Also I am constantly discovering new music and so my iTunes collection has lots of stuff that I don’t listen to anymore. On the other hand, lots of stuff, like NPR interviews, Technical podcasts, lecture series and other material is only available as mp3 and so I will keep using iTunes for that, I am sure.

What about the new integration with Facebook? Not sure yet. What music I listen to is no secret. But it is a little weird that people in my network can watch my listening habits, play by play as it were, and I listen to a lot of music. As soon as I wake up the music goes on.

Anyway, all in all, Spotify is great and is now my primary music service.

Solid State Disk (SSD) links

October 2, 2011

I’ve been looking into changing up the primary (and only) disk in my 2 year old Mac Pro to a Solid State Disk (SSD). Based on what I’ve seen on the new Mac Airs I think it will boost performance a lot more than adding more memory would.

The problem is that these beasts are pretty expensive, so I am not going to replace my 400G Hard Disk with a 400G SSD. Instead I will have a much smaller SSD to boot from and run from, and leave the larger 400G to carry the load of large files that I don’t use a lot.

Here are a bunch of useful links that I have gathered in case you are thinking of doing the same:


Check out CityPockets

October 1, 2011

I’ve been using various Groupon-ish web sites to great advantage. Whether it’s Groupon itself, or LivingSocial, OpenTable and others, I send all their offers to an email folder and scan the 10-15 offers I get a day in one glance (2 seconds) to see if anything jumps out. I end up buying a coupon from one of them about once a month.

Along comes CityPockets. The site solves the problem of how to remember what coupons you have and especially reminds you to use them if you lose track of what you have. It actually can log into each of your groupon-ish accounts and grab whatever new coupons appears there and displays them in one unified list.

Free, useful and saves money too. I recommend CityPockets!

My New EXCLUSIVE at Salon: National Security Lab Hacks Diebold Touch-Screen Voting Machine by Remote Control With $26 in Computer Parts

September 29, 2011

Continuing my linking to Election related news, check out this post Diebold Touch-Screen Voting Machine Hacked by Remote Control With $26 in Computer Parts from The BRAD BLOG:

"What makes this hack so troubling — and different from those which have come before it — is that it doesn’t require any actual changes to, or even knowledge of, the voting system software or its memory card programming. It’s not a cyberattack. It’s a "Man-in-the-middle" attack where a tiny, $10.50 piece of electronics is inserted into the system between the voter and the main circuit board of the voting system allowing for complete control over the touch-screen system and the entire voting process along with it."

Swipely, cool but scary?

September 28, 2011

So there’s this rather cool new service that says they will find and give you special deals to the stores and merchants you use already. The way they do it is to examine your credit card bills and help you find deals. They say:

With Swipely, you can earn automatic cash back rewards at the best local places Boston has to offer. There are no coupons to cut, vouchers to buy or loyalty cards to forget – with Swipely you earn valuable rewards on every purchase with the credit or debit cards you already have, automatically. Best of all, Swipely is free!

Sounds great, but you know how they do it? You have to give them your credit card info and login to the credit card company web site, so they can look at your charges. They say it is very secure:

Swipely downloads transactions to give you rewards via our banking technology partner using a secure, read-only connection trusted by more than 5,000 banks and 26 million consumers. Swipely uses 256-bit SSL EV bank-grade encryption and SAS 70 Type II secure data centers.

I am pretty promiscuous when it comes to this kind of thing (for example, I’ve been using for a while now) but still this one creeps me out just a little bit. What do you say?


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