Archive for May, 2007

Drm-No-More

Since this isn’t a news blog, I wouldn’t post this unless I had actually tried it. And that’s exactly what I have. So how did it go? And was it worth it?

Well, the obvious advantage is that the DRM protection is gone. If you happen to live in Norway, this means you can now share your music with friends (legally). If you prefer to keep it to yourself, at least you can now play it with any software (VLC works great) or hardware.

I was really hoping that I could now burn out my AAC files to a CD and play them in my car, but that was not the case. My player is supposed to support AAC, and it will in fact play files that I rip myself, with iTunes. It would however NOT play the iTS files. Then again it won’t play the AAC files from allofmp3 either, so I’m guessing the player is just very picky.

The second advantage is that the “upgraded” music has twice the bitrate of the old files – 256kbps. For AAC, that’s pretty high. I had to give it a try, and see if I spotted a difference (you get to keep your old files, even when you upgrade them to the new DRM-free version).

I played the two files, side by side, with a pretty decent pair of headphones. I have to say: not much of a difference. Most of the time, I couldn’t notice any change at all. There were more complex parts however, where it actually made an improvement. The bigger files seemed a bit softer, and less tinny. Unless you have a kick-ass stereo (and I mean an expensive one, not one with big speakers), there is no reason to upgrade your files for the better quality alone.

I only had 5 files to upgrade, and although 3 of them downloaded right away, the last 2 only got halfway before they hit a stall. One of them eventually resumed after a few tries, but the last one took several hours to get. I’m guessing it’s just some problems on Apples part during the first few days. Annoying none the less.

So, is worth it?
If you live strictly with Apple gear, I can’t see why DRM would be a problem. If you’re not quite as faithful however, there is a definite advantage of being able to play your files on other devices. The extra audio quality I’m guessing is just something they threw in to make the premium price a bit more appealing.

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Img 4693Does this make me a geek? 😛 And am I the only one who can’t help but doing these kinda things in games when I have the opportunity? Had I ever played The Sims, I would probably have modeled an Apple Store, well after doing my house and school anyways. Picture is the city flag of my town in Animal Crossing, a great game I might add. For the Nintendo DS.

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Logitech Desktop Review

I have promised a review of the Logitech Cordless Desktop S 530 for some time now, and so here it is (and it’s not sponsored either!).

First off: what made me buy this keyboard? I already had a Macally Icekey keyboard (white, low-profile keys), and an optical Logitech mouse. When I first got my hands on the S 530 though, I just had to have it.

It is all wireless, of course. No cords (except for the receiver). The mouse is also laser, not optical. This makes for more precision, and it also means it’ll work better on all kinds of crazy surfaces. For instance, I can use it on our lacquered wooden table, without the need for a mouse pad. I couldn’t do that with the old mouse. The last, and maybe best thing, is all the extra keys you get.

Mouse: your usual left and right buttons, scroll wheel with tilt and click (yes that means you can also scroll horizontally without the need for modifier keys), back/forward buttons for when browsing the web for instance, and you also get volume controls. Up, down and mute. These default to global volume, but can be programmed for specific applications.

Keyboard: low-profile keys, like a laptop. The usual letters and numbers, 15 F-keys, CD eject. Full size in other words. Then comes the additional keys…

– Power. Can put the computer to sleep, or shut down, but can’t power it on.
– Email. Launches your email client of choice. Defaults to Mail.app.
– Home. Launches your web browser of choice, defaults to Safari.
– Scroll up/down. To scroll a large document or a website from your keyboard.
– Back. To go back one page in your browser, for instance.
– Search. Defaults to open Spotlight.
– Play/next/previous. Defaults to iTunes control, but can again be programmed for any other player.
– iTunes. Launches iTunes.
– iPhoto. Right, it’ll launch it.
– Volume up/down/mute. You guessed it.

So, any key can be programmed to launch any application, repeat a keystroke, or to do things like increasing volume (list of some of the actions). In addition, each can be programmed for different things in different applications.

All this sounds lovely, right? Surely there has to be a catch…

Logitech and drivers don’t go well together, and I think this is something most of you with Logitech hardware and Macs have experienced. I didn’t have any problems back when I ran on PowerPC hardware, but when I switched to Intel, things got a bit more complicated. Crashes and stuff.

With that being said, the latest version (2.1.4 as of this writing) has worked without any of the real bad stuff. That is not to say it is flawless. The daemon might still crash/die occasionally, in which case some of the buttons might not do what you programmed them to do. This applies only to the “special” buttons, not the normal left and right click, scroll wheel or the numbers and letters on the keyboard.

In all cases, the daemon has recovered on it’s own after a few minutes for me, but you might need to restart the computer. Your mileage may vary, so to say. We can only hope that this issue will be fixed in the future, but knowing Logitech, it might not.

So what is my recommendation?
Personally, I love both the keyboard and the mouse. For me, it’s the best I’ve had. And I’ve had my fair share of Apple Keyboards (dating back to the good ol beige ones), the mentioned Macally Icekey, and a bunch of mice from both Apple and Logitech.
The hardware is top notch, no doubt about it. It’s just a shame the software is so horrible. Logitech HAS done some good improvements over the last few months though, adding a ton of configuration options. The only things still missing, or rather not missing, are the bugs.

If you can live with the crashing daemon, or are crazy enough to hope for a fix, I can absolutely recommend this set. And if you need your software to be 100% – well, I don’t know if there are that many other options out there for you, except for Apple’s.

Bugs-Bunny

Verdict:
I give the Logitech Cordless Desktop S 530 one carrot (and a bunny – isn’t he cute?).

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Drevil

So today I noticed my Mac was getting kinda sluggish all of a sudden. Turning to my process viewer (the excellent iStat pro, of course), I noticed 3 processes I hadn’t noticed before. “syslogd” consumed a whopping 100%, “ARDAgent” (Apple Remote Desktop Agent) 70% and “notifyd” a mere 50%. If you think the maths don’t add up, it’s because of the multiple cores 🙂

I did a quick Google search for the 3 processes, but nothing useful turned up. Seeing ARD up there made me think about closing that app first. And it did the trick. No idea what caused the hog, but I guess every app can get a little confused at times. Reason for this rant is basically just to let Google pick it up and hopefully save some other souls the same worries in the future 🙂

 
Micro-Payment-Bill

By now, I’m sure most of you are familiar with the term “micropayments”. Tiny tiny payments or purchases, usually electronically. But what exactly are they, and what does it all mean for you?

The scope of a micropayment can be narrow or wide. I would probably conclude that anything you get on the iTunes Store is considered a micropayment.

If you have a next-gen console, you will no doubt have entered this territory, too. Older games, videos and tv shows are just some of the things you can buy on the Xbox Live Marketplace for instance. And we see a lot of this even in terms of extra game content. We computer gamers are well aware of the word “patch”. Patches for games are a common sight. And although unfortunately most of them concentrate on fixing bugs that should’ve been fixed before it went out the door, there are times when actual new content is being added, too. I guess I can’t mention World of Warcraft here, as you pay a monthly fee, and thus really also for the new content. But I remember back when the first game in the Unreal Tournament series was released, Epic (the publisher) pushed out several bonus packs with new maps, all for free. I’m not talking about expansion packs here, but new free content.

Singstar is making a comeback (and what a comeback it’ll be!) on the PS3, and Guitar Hero is being released on every one of the 3 big consoles. We already know that Singstar for the PS3 will be based on downloadable tracks. No more buying the game and getting your songs. Now you can (must?) purchase the songs online. A neat idea, but you know you will end up spending more money on it than you would’ve on the old game. Same thing applies to Guitar Hero. Bungie also just released a map pack for Halo 2 for the Xbox. Not free, naturally. I like the idea of getting new stuff, and so easily. I just have a feeling they will milk us for all it’s worth.

The next big thing, where the mainstream will be introduced to micropayments, is IPTV. Many people already have the ability to watch movies on demand through their cable company. This trend however, will only expand. I can’t predict the future, but is it stupid to think that in the future, there won’t be any channels, and you will only pay for the shows that you watch? Either way, VOD (video-on-demand) will be a big thing in the very near future. And it won’t be free. I know if I missed an episode of something, and it was available to watch right away on my tv, for a small price, automatically added to my bill, I wouldn’t think twice about clicking “Play”.

I’m sure I’ve overlooked a million other micropayment situations. Know of any? What is you take on this? Do you like the idea of many smaller payments versus one big? Will it make you more selective as for what you’re getting?

 

Given that I now feel “done” with my car (it’s been a work in progress for the last two years), I thought I’d post some pictures again

More car and more resolution at flickr

 

About Me

19May07

AboutpageMarvin just posted an article called “The Importance of an ‘About’ Page“. The ironic thing, or rather the two ironic things are: I was thinking about this matter just yesterday, and second, that is also when Marvin wrote his post. I’m making a wild guess, but a couple factors lead me to believe my blog is part of the reason he wrote the article.

First: why is there no About page here? Those of you who followed my blog prior to the redesign will know I not only had an About page, but also several other sub pages. When time came to redesign, I wanted to trim down as much unneeded crap as possible. And really, what else is there to tell besides the info in my sidebar? I could list my interests and hobbies, but unless those are reflected in my posts, I’m doing this whole blogging thing all wrong, and should probably just stop. I want you to get to know me through my writing. If that doesn’t suffice, I have once again failed.

Now to the matter I was thinking about yesterday. Photos.
Put up a little picture of yourself on the blog. If there’s anything that’ll bring your readers closer, and make them feel like they know you, it’s a picture. The name of your pet, or when you got your first Mac / kiss (depending on interests) doesn’t really interest me. If I have seen a picture of you though, it is more than likely to pop up in my head whenever I read something you wrote. In a completely non-creepy way, of course.

About info, sure. About *pages*? Not necessary. Picture(s) – yes please!

 

Mcd Mocca Shake…when I hope you will be outside doing something non-geeky, even though I know the chances are slim. This is it.

Those who have ever had the pleasure to live with me, know that I’m not a big fan of black coffee. That doesn’t mean I don’t need my daily dose of caffeine however. Energy drinks or ice coffee will usually do, as there really is no such thing as a Starbucks around here. Well look what I found at McD today! Mocca Shake!

I dunno if this is a local thing, as a Google search turned up some pages from Sweden and Finland at the top. It could just be that it has a different name stateside? Like an Extra Large Barrel of Whipped Coffee.

Contents: espresso + ice + vanilla or chocolate shake.

Bottom line: it was gooooood!

 

Not sure how exciting this is, but I managed to get on tv again. This time I just happened to be at car show, and got to voice my opinion on expensive cars, like the Honda Legend. Yes I speak some weird language, it could be the language of the Hobbits.

 
Mint-Stats

One important thing when you run a blog is to know your visitors. You can of course learn a lot by looking at which of your entries are getting the most comments, or if you use FeedBurner, you can get a peek at your RSS stats. General stats however, are often overlooked.

If you host your own blog, chances are you have some sort of ugly stats software already at your disposal, like Analog, AWStats or Webalizer. Neither of these are made specifically to track a blog, and it shows. This is why I installed Mint a couple months ago. Mint is everything the aforementioned aren’t. It’s pretty, it’s modern and it does exactly what you expect, and a little more.

Mint is not a hosted service, you will need to install it on your own server. The process is pretty straight forward however, and shouldn’t prove to be a problem if you have ever installed any software/scripts before. If you are a bit shaky in this area, there is a screencast to help you through it. And yes, you have to add a little snippet of Java-Script to the header of all pages. This will take you a total of 2 seconds if you use WordPress, be warned.

Mint has all the 2.0 and AJAX that you would expect, also known as bells and whistles.

What’s even more, is that Mint has an open plugin architecture. Adding plug-ins, called Peppers, is as easy as a drag and drop operation. Peppers will let you track things like local searches, or fetch your RSS stats from FeedBurner. I have a few additional Peppers myself, and if your eyesight is above normal, you might catch some of them below. Yes, it’s the paranoia haunting me.

Mint-Highrez-Screenshot

If you are at all serious about your blogging, or your “other” website, Mint should not be overlooked. Is it for you? Maybe, maybe not, but at least check out the demo, screenshots and list of additional Peppers.

Yes, all this leetness comes at a price. And that price my friend, is $30. Definitely worth it in my book.

If you aren’t cool enough for Mint (get it?), there is always the recently released (and free) Automattic Stats plugin for WordPress.

 

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