What month is it again?

05/21/20 | by Adam | Categories: Calgary

Well, I'm now into week, er, 12 or so of the lockdown. I ended up in seclusion a little earlier than most; my spouse had been visiting Rome just before Italy's outbreak became serious and my office decided that I'd better work from home just to be safe rather than potentially infect them. When the two weeks were up, I returned to the office just in time for it to shut down entirely as by that point the US was heating up as a major COVID hotspot. Shortly thereafter, the schools all shut which mean my K and Grade 2 kids became a major focus of the day. It took a while to figure out a workable scheme that allowed me to work while they "studied" but we got there.

So, what have I learned in those months?

Full story »

 

Ten year hiatus, over

01/12/20 | by Adam | Categories: Potpourri

About 10 years ago, I wrote a post here saying that my focus was elsewhere and I didn't really think I would continue blogging. So, now I've done the Twitter. I've done the Facebook. I've done the LinkedIn and the other social media aggregating sites. To be fair, each had their own benefits and attractions, but each also had limitations and drawbacks.

And so I've come to a conclusion: I like being on my own site. While technically it's Ritchie's site, the important bit is that it's not part of a giant conglomerate which passes around intellectual property like Monopoly street cards, casually discarding the bits that they could care less about, regardless of how important they felt they were six months earlier.

So, I'm back here, in my own quiet little corner of the internet where I can write for my own enjoyment and periodically whack the spambots who want to keep me company. It's an audience of about none, but that's enough. I should probably remind Ritchie to upgrade the software to something a bit newer though...

 

Farewell to Facebook

01/12/20 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

A year ago (roughly) I withdrew from Facebook. After repeatedly hearing from all the nonsense that they were up to their eyeballs in, whether it be using micro targeting on minorities or for political aims, leaving wide swaths of private personal data up for grabs for anyone who cared to write up a questionnaire, amongst other things, I figured that I really didn't need to give them my implicit support. They certainly weren't getting any money.

I say "withdrew" since I didn't delete the account; it's still there but deactivated. I didn't want to delete it in case a namesquatter opted to move in; is that likely? Dunno -- there's a lot of odd people out there who do utterly bizarre things for the LULs, or perhaps just an opportunity to make a buck or go phishing.

So, in the last year, what's been the general feeling of going Facebookless, having used it for years prior to that point. Well, apparently a bunch of my family and friends don't realize I've been gone so a lot of conversations and events happen without my knowledge or participation. I suppose that could be a blow to the ego. There was definitely a period of about a month where I wanted to log back in, and, y'know, just check in (every few minutes) so there is a degree of addictiveness there; fortunately it passes. Other than that, there's been so much going on that it's hard to say whether the stress levels are lower or not, whether I'm more focused on the things that matter. To a certain degree, it's a bit like quitting Ingress; you're definitely no longer spending a lot of time worrying about it but have you managed to reclaim all that time and put it to good use? Probably not; there's always something else to soak up those spare cycles.

Will I go back and reactivate the account after de-toxing? I did pop in briefly as there was a friend I needed to get in contact with several months ago and Facebook was, ironically, the only way I knew how to contact him. And, then, after dealing with that, I deactivated it again. I guess the answer to that question is "Yeah, if I need to" but I won't be making it a regular hangout again.

 

Where'd the blogging go?

01/11/10 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

As any (by now) periodic reader has noticed, blogging's gone way down on my side of the Nimblebrain site. The reason is relatively simple. I was finding that most of the stuff I was commenting on was really "Oh, this is interesting" which required very little further analysis or discussion. Fun to share but not really in need of a full-blown article. I've therefore moved pretty much all of what I have to say over to Twitter which with the abbreviated URLs and 140 character limit allows -- nay, requires -- me to be succinct and pithy. I'll still post longer items here but truly there's not been much recently that's motivated me to write them. Sure, I'm no fan of proroguing Parliament but better writers than I have already tackled that one.

Anyway, as part of my attempting to not leave trivially easy-to-follow trails on the internet, I'm not referencing my Twitter username here; if you know who I am anyway, it'll be easy enough to find my Twitter feed. See you there!

 

The Muppets Cover The Beatles

08/29/09 | by Adam | Categories: YouTube

Link: http://saturdaymorningcentral.com/music/the-best-muppet-show-beatles-covers/

Lovely collection of Beatles covers by the Muppets, including a superb "Let It Be" rework from Sesame Street.

(Via BoingBoing)

 

Producing address lists from the OSX Address book

08/24/09 | by Adam | Categories: Macintosh

Recently I was mailed a bunch of contact information to another OSX user -- basically by emailing vCards from within the iPhone. I would have done it from the Mac but that required the extra step of saving the vCard to the filesystem before I could send it. Did you know that the iPhone *includes* the memo field in the contact information when it sends it? You do now so beware...

Anyway, eventually I got the following query back:

How do I print an address book entry? Print just prints the street address in an envelope format with no other choice. So far the only way I could get a printout is to do a screen capture.

This resulted in a bit of headscratching, 'cause I couldn't figure it out either. After a bit of Googling, I found a few similar questions which were answered with "Hey, just change the style from the print requestor". Excellent, except there's no style option actually on the print requestor.

Well, there is. In an uncharacteristic bit of crappy UI design, Apple hid the options needed wanted with a very non-obvious arrow.

So, here's the process of printing a group of addresses from the OSX addressbook app:

- Create a new group with all of the attendees in it (create group, drag each address into it)
- Select the group and choose print
- This brings up the print requestor. To the right of the printer selection is a little down arrow. Press it
- This brings up a much larger option screen. Under "Style" choose "Mailing Labels"
- This will produce a page of addresses. The bonus is that they're formatted appropriately for address labels if you have the right sticky label pages.

Under the "style" dropdown there's also the option to print out selected fields from the address book for a more traditional style address dump.

 

How Do You Identify Music Without A Title (Redux)

07/22/09 | by Adam | Categories: Music, iPhone

Link: http://blogs.nimblebrain.net/index.php/2006/09/28/how_do_you_identify_music_without_a_titl?blog=5

Back in 2006, I posed a question on the blog of how to identify music without knowing its name. Ritchie pointed me at Shazam shortly after correctly identifying the specific track via its lyrics instead. Since that time, Shazam has been ported to the iPhone and I'm pleased to report that it really does a sterling job. There remain a couple of recordings in my collection that even Shazam has problems with and, alas, they're mostly instrumental pieces so the old lyric fallback won't work there.

But, hey, this really is progress!

 

Rebuilding the old tape collection

07/22/09 | by Adam | Categories: Music

When I first started buying music I had a choice of cassette tape or vinyl. For reasons mostly involving the availability of singles, I tended to buy on vinyl. After a while I'd accumulated a pretty good stock and found it was rather non-portable. A single record is relatively light; a bunch are both unwieldy and extremely heavy. Oh, and surprisingly fragile. As I was at school at the time and the proud possessor of a Walkman knockoff, I proceeded to copy most of it to cassette. Yes, I have a lot of white inner sleeves with a logo of large skull and crossbones over a cassette tape with text stating "Home taping is killing music". Plus ca change.

Over the years since, I've accumulated a pretty good collection of music. Certainly far, far more than I did when I bought music on vinyl. With all of my CDs converted to MP3 I thought it might be fun to try to recreate my old tape collection with the newer higher quality versions. The gotcha is that I wanted to try to match the originals: the cuts had to be the appropriate single version where possible rather than just the album edit.

I can't do it.

The culprits are for the most part the old 12" singles which I was quite partial to. Take for example New Order's "Blue Monday '88". I own the original 12" version on vinyl but it's never been transferred over to CD. You can find the original 1983 12" easily enough, and the 1988 7" release turns up at least once on a compilation. The 1988 12"? Not on your life. How about the Ben Liebrand "Sunshine" 12" mix of Bill Withers' "Lovely Day?" Yeah, you guessed it. Paul Hardcastle's "19" was released in two different versions depending on the market; the US version has a very different voice from the British one and sounds a lot weaker. Guess which version always shows up. Now try to find the a nice remaster of the UK 12".

However, they're not the only ones. Trying to find the charting 7" version of a lot of songs is pretty hard too. There are a number of compilations that do include obscure mixes but too often it's just the album version again. Unfortunately there's no way to find that out before it arrives, fully paid for, on your doorstep.

Then there are the utterly wacky obscurities although still pressed by mainstream studios. Try finding "The Young Ones" cover of Traffic's "Hole In My Shoe" (bummer, man) or perhaps the Steve Harley vocal of "Phantom Of the Opera" (Michael Crawford sure spoiled that one.) Perhaps PhD's "I Won't Let You Down" (that would be the Scottish band, not the American one)? Even something as mainstream as Sly Fox's "Let's Go All The Way" was surprisingly difficult to find. On the other hand, I expected Guru Josh's "Infinity 1990" to be impossible to find and promptly discovered a CD single of it.

And the B sides? Oh. The flip side of the single with the theme tune to "Dr Who" during the Peter Davidson years is a great little synthesizer number called "The Astronauts". See this link to get an idea of how hard that one is to find, even on vinyl. Hefti's "Batusi A-Go Go (I Shouldn't Wish To Attract Attention)"? Yeah.

Fortunately I still -- even after all these years -- have the original vinyl. I've converted it all onto CDs so at least it'll now remain accessible and not degrade further. All the same, the sound quality just isn't as good as a properly remastered release. The hunt continues.

 

iPhone notepad

07/16/09 | by Adam | Categories: iPhone

Link: http://daringfireball.net/2009/07/simplenote

Daring Fireball has an interesting take on why the iPhone's note application is the pinnacle of the breed, with one of two minor niggles.

I still can't agree: the time-based flat access system that John Gruber considers to be the appropriate design drives me nuts. Perhaps it's because I used the Palm notes for so long but I absolutely have to have a category to allow me to distinguish between notes for different purposes. Without that, and even with just a few notes, the whole lot becomes an unmanageable mess.

That said, the addition of syncing with OSX's Mail.app and the iPhone's new "Find" tool does go a long way to making it valuable again. And he's absolutely right on the poor font choice and the lack of internet/MobileMe syncing. It's horrible.

 

Cool baby furniture

06/08/09 | by Adam | Categories: Silly

Link: http://i.gizmodo.com/5276024/blade+covered-baby-equipment-perfect-shower-gifts-for-the-antichrist

I'm not really a baby person, but this crèche furniture is quite appealing.

 

Metered internet

05/17/09 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Did you know that it's really easy to get through a gigabyte of data in two days without using torrents or streamed video and audio (albeit with a little bit of Skyping)?

Neither did I up until a few hours ago.

Major contributors: Windows update, Outlook syncing, VMWare Fusion dmg download.

 

iPhones and roaming wifi

05/16/09 | by Adam | Categories: iPhone

Apropos of not much:

- Trying to sync over wifi when your laptop is already connected to a pay-to-play wifi hub doesn't work. Apple really needs to open up their iTunes sync API so that third party apps can piggyback on it.
- Pay-to-play wifi just doesn't seem to be iPhone friendly, what with the need of most of them to display an active window counting your connection time.

 

Things iPhoto thinks are faces

04/30/09 | by Adam | Categories: Macintosh

Link: http://www.flickr.com/groups/977532@N24/

I don't have a copy of iPhoto'09 with the feature that tries to automatically recognise people's faces and tag them. I'm looking forward to trying it out eventually.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying the Flickr group where people post some of iPhoto's near (and quite wide) misses.

 

On contracts and unlocking cellphones

04/29/09 | by Adam | Categories: iPhone

Link: http://emperor.tidbits.com/TidBITS/Talk/2606

TidBITS, an Apple-centred news/discussion site, had a very brief discussion on unlocking cellphones after the contract is up.

I have to say I'm unsure why cellphone companies are not obliged to do this. The rationale -- as I understand it -- is that the cost of the phone is subsidised by the contract and the longer the contract, the more the subsidy (i.e. the cheaper the phone is.) Once that contract is complete, the subsidy should be fully paid back and therefore the cellphone should be entirely yours. However, on a locked phone this is not the case as it's still limited to use on only that particular cell network. I can see why the cell companies don't want to do it as it's an extra impediment to switching, and if the phone was free with a contract I could even accept it, but when you're spending several hundred dollars on a more sophisticated device like the iPhone the device should be yours free and clear.

Imagine buying a house where the mortgage company said (after being paid back in full) "Ok, it's all yours, but you're still going to need to pay us to live in it."

It's a bit absurd.

 

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