29 November 2008

ID3 Tags - The Bane of the Perfectionist Mind

When it comes to ID3 tags, I'm a real perfectionist. It's a curse. I have to get them just right or I can't even listen to the tracks. Decent ID3 are necessary for many reason. The way modern players like iTunes sort music really requires accurate tags. As do services like Last.fm, where particularly the artist tag is crucial.

So here are a few of the hardest things about tagging tracks:

1. For artist tags, should you give priority to composer or performer? This applies particularly to soundtrack albums, which often include a song or few, composed by one person, the overall composer for the work, but sung by one or more singers.

2. A related issue is guest artists singing duets on albums by another artist. How to tag them? Guests should be credited, but then Last.fm won't count the track towards the main artist's play times. That's probably not so crucial, but of course there's the question of how to format the attribution. Consistency is nice.

3. Genre is often a very difficult question. So many albums just don't neatly fit into a particular genre. Particularly difficult is the distinction between rock, hard rock and heavy metal. Take some albums by Queen, Jethro Tull or Alice Cooper, for instance, which can contain elements of all these. I'd prefer to tag genre for entire albums, however, rather than single tracks, as I like to take the album as a complete entity.

4. Capitalisation. Some people spell articles and prepositions and other small words in lower case. Many don't. There are no real rules for it, each publisher can have their own guidelines. But I like consistency.

28 November 2008

Bye Bye Bruce?

I don't follow the latest events in comic books. I just don't have any means to do so, English language comic books being somewhat hard to find here, and I wouldn't have the money to buy several issues each month anyway. Often I'll read classic stories years later when I stumble upon a trade paperback version in a library.

I was suprised, however, by this news item over at the BBC website. It seems that Bruce Wayne has apparently been killed in the latest issue of Batman. There seem to be indications that it may indeed be the end of Wayne's days as Batman, and that someone else could step into his shoes. Or cape, rather. Well, that remains to be seen.

If the solution is indeed final, I'm not really sure how to feel about it. Ok, superheroes have been killed and replaced by new versions many times. But there are few characters as iconic as Bruce Wayne. It would be a brave move, that's for sure. But of course that's why I love the big comic book universes of DC and Marvel. They're alive, everything's so complex and interconnected. And then a big twist comes along, and wham... While superhero comics need a certain amount of clichés, the best comics of all are those that take those clichés and kick their arses.

26 November 2008

FWF

I recently discovered a Firefox extension called CustomizeGoogle. It's pretty neat. It's got all sorts of little tweaks for various Google services, but most importantly it allows you to use a fixed width font in Gmail. I can't emphasize how important this is. Variable width fonts and email simply don't go together. Why there's no option for fixed width font in Gmail by default is beyond me. Come to think of it, why variable width fonts in email services are legal in the first place is beyond me. Some things just shouldn't be tampered with.

22 November 2008

And Song Number 10,000 Is...

10,000 plays at Last.fm since joining February 2007. I guess that's worth a blog post, if nothing else. That's an average of 16 plays a day, apparently. A lot of those plays are from this year, though, since I only started to accumulate a proper collection in electronic form after getting my MacBook last autumn, and it took a while to move my data from the old computer.

Whether keeping track of what you listen to actually affects what you listen to is an interesting question. Of course you don't need Last.fm to do that. iTunes counts play times for each track, as other modern players do, I expect. But of course Last.fm has a more holistic way of presenting that data. My MacBook has had a greater impact on my listening habits, though. Having a computer that's convenient enough to have turned on at any time, anywhere, with enough disk space for my music collection has made CD players obsolete for me.

For the record, track number 10,000 was Run Down the Devil by Alice Cooper, from the 2005 album Dirty Diamonds. Which, a little surprisingly perhaps, is one of Cooper's best, in my opinion.

20 November 2008

For What? (Another Candle Light Night)

It's dark outside
Reddish sky fading into black
Last remnants of first snow
Glow beneath street lights
I lit a candle
Tori Amos is playing
Singing softly about winter
A peculiar kind of calm
A magical moment
Other clichés
The minutes float by
While tracks turn into other tracks
And there are no words for

I Lost a Button

Update: A few new (old) poems added

I added a few old poems from my archives to the poem page. These aren't really particularly good poems, more like collections of thoughts that have been going through my head at the time. They're rather melancholy, and some bits are quite personal, too.

Interestingly, along with the haikus I added were a few haikus written in Japanese. I have no idea what they say. I must have written them years ago when I was taking a Japanese class, but I've forgotten most of it since. Especially the kanjis. (Really, if it wasn't for the kanjis, I'm sure I'd be fluent in Japanese by now.)

19 November 2008

Procrastinating with OS Woes

Still got that flu. Mostly it's just an annoying cough, with a slightly runny nose thrown in. I haven't been sleeping very well either. And I have to go to class tomorrow and speak. Great.

I've really started to yearn for a proper free software operating system again. I've used Mac OS X for well over a year now, and the magic is slowly beginning to wear off. I've written before about its flaws from a Unix user's perspective (just look at the posts labeled Mac OS X). Toss in the ethical problems of proprietary software, and I'm really starting to turn against it. OS X had its attractions, much of which were just simple eye candy. But free software systems aren't that far behind. Just look at these features in KDE 4.

Debian GNU/Linux would probably be my top choice. It's undoubtedly the best GNU/Linux distribution I've used so far. A great package management system with a huge software library is one of it's best features. And it's also more devoted to the GNU philosophy than some other distributions.

But installing a GNU/Linux system on a MacBook is no trivial matter. I need to find out more about how well it actually functions. I certainly couldn't even try it without making a complete backup of all my stuff, for which I would need a USB hard drive, which I just don't have the money for at the moment. Which leaves me kind of buggered. Not happy at all.

14 November 2008

A Typically Boring Friday Night Post

Friday night. Ten thirty pm. And I'm sitting in front of this wretched machine, wondering what to do with myself. So just to make sure I won't accomplish anything tonight I'll be writing a pointless blog post.

I've acquired a slight cold somewhere along the way. What joy. Not much, but just enough to not let me really focus on anything worthwhile for the last couple of days. Like schoolwork, which is building up at a frightening pace.

I've been re-reading Rumiko Takahashi's Maison Ikkoku. It's one of the few comics I love that have nothing to do with fantasy or science fiction. The characters are just so endearing. And it's hilarious as well, of course. Alas, I lack a few volumes, and the edition they're selling now is different than the old ones I have, with chapters divided up differently between volumes. If I just lacked volumes from the end it wouldn't perhaps be a huge deal, but the ones I lack are from the beginning and middle, which makes it rather inconvenient. Of course I don't have the money for it either, so the question is mostly academic.

Nothing much more to add. It has been a very boring week. Which is mostly my own fault, of course.

10 November 2008

Glamming Up

What's the world coming to? Grown men experimenting with nail polish?

I've always found glam appealing. I love 70's rock music, after all. T.Rex, David Bowie, the ever great and oh so hard to categorise Queen, and newer groups like The Ark as well... Trouble is, I don't have the build or face to be glam. I've always been destined for a more hippie style. There's no way I'm getting rid of this beard, for instance.

But yes, I'm wearing black nail polish at the moment. I put it on for Hallowe'en originally. And I found I liked it. Mostly, I guess, 'cause it's something new and different. Well, new for me, leastways. I don't know if it looks cool or just silly on a guy like me. But honestly, that's not the point, is it? This is something I needed to do at this point. Simple as that.

I'd like to try other colours as well. It's harder for guys to find shades that suit them, though. White might be interesting. Perhaps a very dark shade of green? It's hard to say without trying...

7 November 2008

Taking in Applications for the Position of the Next iTunes

I've written before about my love/hate relationship with iTunes. I keep my eye out for potential replacements, but the choices are very few.

Amarok 2 is one of the players that could have potential, but it's been developed on GNU/Linux. I read recently that it is possible to get it running on Mac OS X, so I thought I should maybe give it a go. Well, I did, and it didn't do me much good.

There's no official Mac installer yet. The only way to install an unstable version is with the KDE 4 Mac environment. Which was Problem #1. Installing KDE wasn't really difficult, but it meant I had to install a gigabyte's worth or more of packages, much of which I probably have very little use for. But I did it, and Amarok started up fine, albeit it took a moment to start. The UI looks interesting.

But that brings us to Problem #2. I haven't explored it much yet, but from the little I did, it seems this version still has too many problems for normal use. First of all, I couldn't resize the window. Which was annoying. More importantly, while playing a file on my hard drive appeared to work, making a library of my music didn't. This was actually noted on the KDE 4 Mac site, but, not familiar with Amarok's terminology, I wasn't sure what they meant. This makes its use very limited, and certainly means it's no competition for iTunes yet.

Until they release an official stable version for OS X, I'm buggered. There's a player called Songbird also available for OS X, which I maybe should try, but it looks like it's still somewhat a work in process and I'm not sure if it's as feature rich as Amarok.

In case anyone's wondering what my beef with iTunes is: it's proprietary software. As simple as that.

5 November 2008

V for Hallowe'en Elections

Nearly a week between posts again. And it's been a busy week for the world, indeed. The USA obviously made the right choice. There's the tinyist glimmer of hope now. Not a big one, but you know it'll be better rather than worse than it was with Bush, even though I must admit I know next to nothing about Obama. There's no such thing as a perfect leader, of course. Elections are always about choosing the lesser evil.

And there was Hallowe'en, of course. I was at a party with a group of friends, a tradition of many years. Nothing big or fancy, just good company, lots of food and Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas. I even had something approaching a costume this year. I just added a pic of it to the image section.

I re-read Alan Moore's masterpiece V for Vendetta. This was the first time I read it since the movie came out, so seeing all the differences was an interesting experience. As comic book movies go, I think the movie was actually quite faithful to the spirit of the comic, even though there are many differences. The main thing I noticed was that there were simply more, and more interesting, and more tragic, characters in the comic. Alan Moore is a brilliant, and very sophisticated writer. I first fell in love with his style in Swamp Thing, and have been a big fan ever since.

Edit: I didn't even realize it was 5th of November today!