Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Fears and Frailty

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Mar 30, 2017 @ 7:19 pm PDT

We all have fears. Some find strength in them. Some let them shape their lives.

Fear, thy name is Apple.

This post, of course, is brought to you by the letters “i”, “t”, “u”, “n”, “e”, and “s”. Put them together, and they spell “iTunes” — the reason for this musing, especially after reading an article titled “How iTunes built, and then broke, my meticulous music-listening system“. I’m one of those folks: curing my iTunes library, making sure the meta-data is right, the album art reflects the version of the album I have — for all of my 40,000+ songs (yes, I’ve crossed the 40K song mark). Although the article discusses the problem of iTunes with newer devices, I’m dependent on the software to sync with my modded iPod Classic (512GB storage). I’ve even stayed on iTunes 11, because I know that will work with the device. I will never get an iPhone, because that would mean upgrading iTunes — and we all know that will spell doom.

So what are my fears?

Well, my iPods could die. I’d still have the music of course: tracks lovingly downloaded, ripped from CDs, recorded by hand from LPs, extracted from videos. Most of the music not available elsewhere digitally. But that’s why I have a backup iPod Classic. Primero and Segundo. Prime.

But what if iTunes 11 no longer works when I move eventually to Windows 10. How will I sync my music? How will I move everything to another library system. I really do not want my music in the cloud. There are so many places where streaming just does not work. Not to mention, of course, that it is MY music. I paid for it, I should be the only one to control it.

That, by the way, is why I tend to buy digital music from Amazon, but not use Amazon Music.

This brings us to the problem with MP3 download collections. Unlike CDs or LPs, there’s nothing tangible. Nothing to pass on. It is in a fixed format that might not be supported in the future. Then what? Pay for your music again, if you can find it. I can still listen to LPs from almost 80 years ago (alas, I can’t deal with 78s). We can still listen to CDs from 30 years ago. 30 years ago, the MP3 format didn’t exist.

30 years from now, how will we listen to our expensive MP3 downloads? We will probably still be able to find CD players (although forget those CD-ROMs you recorded — they’re likely toast now). We’ll find the cassette players, and LP players. But will our computers still be able to play MP3s? Ask yourself this: Could you open a Wordstar file?

So a big fear of my: My music won’t age well with me. Of course, in 30 years I’ll be 87. I probably will have forgotten how to use a computer. Hopefully, my iPod Classics will still be working 🙂

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Everything Old is New Again (or Refurbished)

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Feb 17, 2017 @ 11:07 am PDT

Let’s start clearing out some of the non-Trumponia news. In this collection of links, we look at things from the past that may be getting new leases on life:

  • The Triforium. Those outside of Los Angeles probably have no idea what I mean when I say “the Triforium”; hell, most younger Angelinos have no idea either. The Triforium is a art installation that goes back to when I was in high school, a “space-age-looking pointy edifice that stands six stories tall and is covered with 1,494 colorful lights that once blinked in time to music blasted from its four gigantic speakers”. It never quite worked as intended, and for most of its life has been a barely or non-operative artwork in a below-ground mall only frequented by those nearby on jury duty when they go to lunch. But that may be changing. The Triforium Project, co-founded by musician Claire Evans, Tom Carroll, host of the popular local web show “Tom Explores Los Angeles,” urban planner Tanner Blackman and Jona Bechtolt, Evans’ bandmate in the pop-dance group YACHT,  has a plan to “replace the computer system entirely with something that is network simple, easy to update, open-sourced and remotely accessible so that we can turn the instrument into something genuinely interactive for residents of the 21st century”. The improvements are now in the approval process.
  • Downtown Las Vegas Lights. Derek Stevens in Las Vegas is a man with a mission. He’s purchased one of the original blocks in downtown LV, and is tearing down and revamping the buildings, including Fremont Street’s Las Vegas Club casino and several neighboring properties, including Mermaids and Topless Girls of Glitter Gulch. All told, it adds up one entire city block that the Stevens brothers intend to demolish and build up anew. The problem? This block is home to a number of vintage neon signs that feel pretty essential to the character of the street, including Vegas Vickie, the kicky neon cowgirl that debuted with Bob Stupak’s Glitter Gulch casino in 1980; the sign for Herb Pastor’s Golden Goose casino, circa 1974; and the giant “Las Vegas Club” letters themselves, which have been part of the streetscape for more than 60 years. However, unlike many casino owners, Stevens cares about LV history — and is preserving the signs and planning to operate them — in some way — going forward.  According to Stevens, “The signs are going to be part of the design. Whether they’ll be internal or external, I’m not quite sure yet. … I’m a pretty big fan of Vegas history. I don’t see anything getting the wrecking ball.”
  • Nokia Candy Bars. For the youngsters out there, I’m not referring to the candy bars that are more expensive than the street drugs, at least according to our President. Rather, the candy bar phone — the Nokia 3310 — which the new owners of the cell phone name plan to bring back, at least in Europe. This was an extremely reliable, long-battery-life pre-iPhone cell phone, where you only had a numeric keypad (but you had a great version of the game “snake”). The phone, originally released in 2000 and in many ways beginning the modern age of mobiles, will be sold as a way of getting lots of battery life in a nearly indestructible body. The new incarnation of the old 3310 will be sold for just €59, and so likely be pitched as a reliable second phone to people who fondly remember it the first time around. It will be revealed at Mobile World Congress later this month. For those who want to know where this fits historically, here’s a chart of all the Nokia dumpphones released from the first one in the early 1980s until 2006.
  • LP Records. We all know by now that LP records have made a comeback (it seems everything old is new again, especially analog stuff). So what type of record collector are you? This article attempts to find out, defining 7 types of record collectors. As for me, depending on the genre and artist, I’m either a lifer, a completest, or a casual.
  • iPod Classics. For some, the iPod Classic is seeing a resurgence; for some, it has never left. For those of us using them, something that periodically resurfaces is the article on how to replace the hard drive with SSD devices. It just resurfaced again. The only problem with the article is that Tarkan moved his site with the boards to http://www.iflash.xyz. These are for iPod Classics 5G and later, and he has boards that can accomodate a wide variety of SSD, including SD cards and micro-SD cards. I’ve been using the iFlash Dual in two of my Classics for over a year now (each is at 512GB) with no problems. We plan to upgrade at least one more iPod Classic (a 7.5G). We also have a 80GB 6G, but we can only take that to 128GB. PS: If you are in the Southern California area and need someone to do the mods, I may have a contact for you.

 

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A Sweet Circular News Chum, with Raisins

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Oct 03, 2016 @ 5:22 pm PDT

round challah userpicIt’s Rosh Hashanah afternoon (L’Shana Tovah to all), and I’m exhausted from the morning. Yet I have a bunch of news chum to post. Let’s see if we can braid it into something sweet and circular, coming back by the end to where I started. This time, we’ll just give headlines and a few comments.

  • The O shaped iPod? On Rosh Hashanah, you dip Apples in Honey, so where else to start but with a circular Apple product. This article describes a new circular design for the iPod Shuffle that is quite cool, if a Shuffle has enough storage for your needs.
  • The Taxonomy of Tech Holdouts. As we’re talking about iPods, here are the nine archetypes of planned non-obsolecence, from the Anachronist to the Careful Curator. I think I’m the latter.
  • Navy scuttles sailors’ enlisted rating titles in huge career shake-up. Moving from holdouts to non-holdouts. The Navy is holding on to specialist ratings no more. Effective immediately, sailors will no longer be identified by their job title, say, Fire Controlman 1st Class Joe Sailor. Instead, that would be Petty Officer 1st Class Joe Sailor.
  • New college at Onizuka Station pays homage to the ‘Blue Cube’. Moving from the Navy to their sister service, the Air Force. Those in the Bay Area might remember the blue cube, the former Onizuka AFS. It has been converted into a local college, but still plays homage to its history. The walkways leading from the parking lot to the campus are speckled with flecks of blue paint harvested from the cube. Once inside, there is the Onizuka Cafe for hungry students and the Satellite Lounge next door for relaxation and study. Two murals that previously had been inside the cube are now hung in campus hallways. One features the Challenger shuttle with a memorial poem. The other is signed by many former employees of the Onizuka Air Force Station and coincidentally features a large owl—Foothill’s mascot—with a lightning bolt in its talons.
  • An Abandoned Hospital in West Adams Has Been Filled With Fine Art. Moving from an Abandoned Air Station to an Abandoned Hospital, although this one is still abandoned. The LA Metropolitan Hospital was one of the first black hospitals, but it close a few years ago and is pending redevelopment. However, for the next month, there is an interesting art exhibit in the abandoned hospital.
  • Texas prisons ban books by Langston Hughes and Bob Dole – but ‘Mein Kampf’ is OK. A hospital is a pubic service building, and so is a prison. So here’s an interesting prison story: prisons in Texas have banned books by Bob Dole, Harriet Beecher Stowe or Sojourner Truth. But inmates are more than welcome to dig into Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” or David Duke’s “My Awakening.” The rationale: they ban offensive language or violence or sex, but not offensive ideas.
  • Palestinians’ Abbas seeks British apology for 1917 Jewish homeland declaration. Moving from Hitler to another group that doesn’t like the Jews: the Palestinians. According to the Palestinian President, Britain should apologize for its 1917 declaration endorsing the founding of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and should recognize Palestine as a state.
  • Your Samsung washing machine might be about to explode. Moving from explosive ideas to explosive washers. The problem it appears, is a defective support rod that is causing washer tubs to separate, potentially launching wires, nuts and other parts.  Boom!
  • The one step you shouldn’t skip when cooking with your cast iron pan. Moving from the Laundry Room to the kitchen, here are some tips regarding use of cast iron pans.
  • Fat Flora? Gut Bacteria Differ in Obese Kids. What do you cook in a cast iron pan? Food. And what happens if you eat too much food? You get fat. Researchers have found that obese children have a different population of microorganisms living in their intestinal tracts, compared with lean children. These microorganisms appear to accelerate the conversion of carbohydrates into fat, which then accumulates throughout the body, the researchers said.
  • Attack of the plastic eaters: Can mushrooms, bacteria and mealworms save the planet from pollution? Speaking of bacteria, it runs out they may be the solution to accumulating plastic. As it turns out, nature might offer us the solution to our man-made problems. Scientists around the world are harnessing — in test tubes, under glass domes, and within large bioreactors — the power of living things that can digest plastic without suffering harm.
  • Inside Arizona’s Pump Skimmer Scourge. Of course, if you’re in Arizona, you should keep a close eye on your plastic — not due to bacteria, but criminals that are doing a lot of skimming of gas and other credit cards.
  • Why the Hallmark Card Company Owns Thousands of Priceless Artworks. Plastic, of course, refers to a credit card, and who is one of the largest purveyors of greeting cards? Hallmark. Here’s the history of Hallmark, and why the company owns lot of priceless art.
  • UC Berkeley mascot Oski celebrates 75th birthday. Of course, you send greeting cards on an anniversary, and it just so happens that Oski, the mascot of UC Berkeley, is celebrating an anniversary — his birthday.
  • Horses can communicate with people using symbols. Oski is a bear, and another type of animal is a horse. It turns out that twenty three horses learned to tell trainers if they wanted to wear a blanket or not. Subjects were shown three symbols: a horizontal bar to say “I want a blanket”, a blank square for “No change”, and a vertical bar for “I don’t need a blanket”. They learned the meanings in a day or two and using them to convey if they were too warm or too cold, building the case for self-awareness.

Of course, a square is a simple polygon, and if you keep adding sides to a polygon infinitely, you end up with a circle. An a circle, of course, is the shape of the new iPod Shuffle, which permit us to spiral back to where this post began. Of course, circles and spirals are the shape of a round Challah, which we dip in honey as we wish EVERYONE a happy and healthy new year. May you all be written and inscribed for the happiest of years.

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Some Tasty Afternoon Stew

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Sep 10, 2016 @ 4:20 pm PDT

Observation StewNow that the highway pages are done, and the water heater is repaired, I can start some stew cooking on the stove. Loads of interesting articles in here. I’ll group them the best I can.

Things Dying and Dead, But Then Again….

  • The iPod Classic. Nine years ago, Apple introduced the iPod Classic. Last week, they introduced the iPhone 7. The iPod Classic had 160GB in a spinning hard disk, for $349. The iPhone 7 can have 256GB for almost $850. Is this the replacement for the Classic, finally? Or, is it still better to get a 7th Gen iPod Classic off eBay, or from that drawer you’ve been hiding it in, and replace the hard disk with a Tarkan board, some solid state memory (I put in 512GB), and keep the classic. Going the Tarkan route is less than $400, and gives you more memory for about the same cost. Oh, and it gives you a 3.5mm headphone jack as well, so you needn’t pay for adapters or lost AirPods. Then again, the headphone companies don’t care. They’ve got product to sell you.
  • The Colony Theatre. Oh, the poor Colony. We thought you would survive. Now you’re having to rent out your space just to stay alive. And your poor subscribers: We’re left holding the tickets for shows that we will never see (literally — there’s no way I’m gonna see Patty Duke in Mrs. Lincoln — both are dead). Will the Colony come back? At this point, I’m highly skeptical. What they need is new artistic direction, a new board, and a new way of thinking about things. Their collapse shows the perils of keeping the same leadership for far too long.
  • The Advertising Jingle. Perhaps you hadn’t noticed, but the advertising jingle is dead. Who killed it? Cover artists and the licensing of modified lyrics, that’s what. Those are more easily recognizable. So, our hats are off to you, “I’d like to teach the world to sing”, “Like a good neighbor”, and “Plop Plop Fizz Fizz”. We’re just left with the Empire Carpeting jingle.

Los Angeles Development

Sensitivity and Culture

  • Tiki Bars. Here’s an interesting question: If you were going to add a third arm to your body, where would you add it? Whoops, wrong question. Try this: Are Tiki Bars offensive to Polynesians? NPR endeavored to figure that out. It is hard to know: Tiki bars are about as close to something really Polynesian as the Chinese Food you got downtown in the 1950s and 1960s was to real Chinese food.
  • Napalm Girl. The furor yesterday was over Facebook and “Napalm Girl” — the famous photo of the napalmed Vietnamese girl. First it was taken down. Facebook banned it. Then they reversed themselves. It makes me think about a debate that occurred many many years ago when that photo was first published: Should photos like this be published? When does news value override sensitivity? These questions are still relevant today.

And the Rest…

 

 

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The Future of Music

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri May 13, 2016 @ 7:25 am PDT

userpic=white-ipodEven though I’m on vacation this week, I’ve still been reading news and collecting articles. One subject that has been popular this week has been Apple, iTunes, Apple Music, and the future. Here are some of the discussions that caught my eye:

  • All About the Benjamins. A number of articles have been circulating about the skyrocketing value for older iPods, such as this article, which notes that the U2 edition of the iPod is now supposedly fetching $90K, but of course only if it was factory-sealed in its box. To us old timers, this sounds like the Cabbage Patch Doll craze of many years ago, or the Beanie Baby craze. iPods are meant to be used: to hold music, to play music, to be the center of your musical life. They are not meant to remained boxed. I have two iPod Classics, each modified to have a 512GB SSD memory instead of the 160GB Hard Disk, and I use them everyday (in fact, I’m using one of them as I write this up: currently playing, “Fireflies” by Vana Mazi from the album Izam Anav).
  • W3C, DRM, EME, and other Acronyms from Hell. Yesterday, on Boing Boing, was an open letter from the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) to W3C (the Web Advisory Council) about their stance on new DRM (Digital Rights Management) technology for the web. They are creating a video DRM standard designed to prevent people from implementing it unless they have permission from the big movie and TV companies, by invoking the notorious Digital Millennium Copyright Act and its international equivalents. Earlier in the week there had been a similar article about how earlier attempts at DRM could have killed iTunes and the iPod. That article noted that “iTunes was able to become a powerhouse in music by allowing Apple customers to legally format-shift their digital music. The fact that the RIAA hated this, said it was (or should be) illegal, and tried to stop them didn’t mean that Apple couldn’t go on.” I’ve been format-shifted music I own for years, and there’s nothing that can stop it (especially if you’re willing to go the old analog route, and actually do analog re-recordings of music). I do analog recording from LPs, CDs, and cassettes; digital ripping of CDs, and purchase music digitally. Back when I was much younger, I even recorded off of AM or FM radio (that’s how we used to “stream” music 🙂 ).  I’m of the belief that people should actually own copies of the music they listen to; if they do, they should have the ability to format-shift their purchase so they can use it.
  • iTunes and Destroying the Will to Collect Music. However, these days, collecting music has gotten much harder. Our interfaces to manage the music doesn’t help — witness how many people complain about iTunes (which is likely still the largest music manager for MP3 players and their brethren).  Here’s one man’s story about how iTunes destroyed his desire to collect music. What with fears about iTunes replacing carefully curated tracks with similar versions on the cloud, to the tendancy of iTunes to lose tracks or delete music, the ability to manage a collection — especially large collections — gets difficult. I can understand the concern. If you’ve visited our house, you know I have a large collection of LPs and CDs (and once upon a time had a very large collection of cassettes recorded from those LPs and CDs). I have just under 38,000 tracks in iTunes, and plan to add more. I recognize how I’ve grown tied to iTunes and its play counts and ratings, as well as how easy it is for iTunes to screw up and lose music.
  • iTunes vs. Apple Music. But the music industry may be trying to screw listeners once again. There are conflicting stories out there about how Apple is going to kill the iTunes store within 2 years; but then again, it may not. The conflict (and the reason for the conflicting reports) is the movement to streaming music (which I view as an insidious plot). Supposedly… Apple wants to get out of the profitable business of “selling” people music through the iTunes store, and replace it with the streaming of music through Apple Music, where you can stream tracks you are leasing (but I put “selling” in quotes, because in someways it was leasing as well, because Apple could delete the trick, or might have DRMed the track). I tend to side with the folks that say Apple isn’t doing this now, simply because it is a profit center. I think the risk of it going away is there, especially if more people move to storage in the cloud and a streaming model. Luckily, I think the artists still want to have the ability to get music in the hands of their fans — be it  through download, CDs, or other means. I have yet to hear rumors that Amazon is getting out of the digital music field — and I always get my music through Amazon if I can as they do not DRM protect their tracks; I subsequently import them into iTunes (which moves them out of Amazon Music’s reach).

So what is the upshot of these articles. I think it is simple. People have always wanted to own the music of the artists they like: be it sheet music in the early days, LP recordings through much of the 20th century, cassette records, and later CDs and digital tracks. With recording technology, they like — and need — the ability to format shift their music to formats of their choosing. They also need the ability to pass their music collections to their children (something that may be difficult to do). We should not be forced to buy new copies of recordings we own every few years, despite what the music companies claim.

As for Streaming Music: Streaming music is demon spawn. It is a reinvention of the radio, but under your control. However, with streaming, you not only pay for the music, you pay for the bandwidth used to deliver it. Further, the streamers can lose the ability to send you the music at any time. Further, it is only good if you have a signal to stream the music. Fight streaming. Purchase your music, record it to a format you can use, and just play from your collection — non-streaming or local (i.e., your house) streaming. Oh, and that iPod Classic you’ve got in your closet — don’t sell it as a Cabbage Patch MP3 Player, and don’t throw it away. Replace the hard disk with SSD, load it up, and use it. You can have your entire music collection with you, and listen to the songs you want.

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An Alphabet of Chum: From A to Almost Z

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Apr 02, 2016 @ 2:11 pm PDT

userpic=masters-voiceOur life is a litany of interesting news articles, of news chum, ripe for the discussion. Shall I enumerate? I shall.

 

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Weekend News Chum to Fill your Loving Cup

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Feb 14, 2016 @ 8:42 am PDT

Observation Stew’tis the weekend, and that means it is time to clear out the accumulated links that didn’t them… well, at least those I remembered to send back home from work. In the spirit of the day, feel free to share these stories with your sweetie.

 

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Breathing Room at Last

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jan 11, 2016 @ 10:46 pm PDT

userpic=ipodIf you recall, since Apple discontinued the iPod Classic, I’ve had a number of discussions about what my path forward should be. I initially thought about going with a non-iPod device (also here). But each had its limitations, including cost and abandoning my carefully curated playcounts and ratings in iTunes. Then I discovered another approach: modification of the iPod Classic to add more storage. But I’m a software guy. Modding hardware is outside my comfort zone. So I decided to do some men normally don’t do: ask for help. I found someone local, and… voila! Here’s a before and after picture. Note the “Capacity:” line, and the amount of free space:

Before

iPod Primero Before

After

Primero Prime After

Ah, breathing room. It is wonderful. A 512GB iPod Classic, for a cost of about $300. I used the iFlash Dual SD Adapter from Tarkan, two PNY Elite Performance SDXC 256 GB UHS-3 Memory Cards, and the help of Juan Salinas, who I met through the Tarkan boards. Juan took care of the hardware end over the weekend, as I’m a software guy (and he did a great job — things loaded just fine — did it in alphabetic chucks and it took about 5 hours).

After about 6 months of use, it will be Segundo’s turn to be upgraded to Segundo Prime. I have no plans to upgrade to iTunes 12. I believe Apple has moved iTunes to the direction of pushing cloud storage instead of on-device; I do not want to move in that direction.

P.S.: Pioneer has a $700 DAP that can go to 256GB, for $700 plus 2x128GB cards. Onkyo just announced a new DAP with a max of 482GB in micro-SD cards for $899, not including the SD cards. How puny. With the Tarkan approach, one could go to 1TB! (Of course, the iTunes database maxes out a 66K songs, supposedly).

P.P.S: Primero Prime Post Upgrade Status:

  • Day U (Upgrade)+1: One spontaneous update in the morning. Driving home, a reboot after the podcast, and then about 4-5 more reboots — some due to complete freezes, others due to interface freezes. Note that the drive home includes a power connection through a DC adaptor that could be flakier. Last reboot seemed to solve problems.
  • Day U+2: No reboots in the morning. For the drive home, ran Primero Prime off battery only. One reboot in the evening, before the podcast while switching playlists. Otherwise fine.
  • Day U+3: No reboots in the morning, during the day, or on the drive home (on battery). Perhaps it is settling in.
  • Day U+4: No reboots in the morning. Again, on battery for the drive home, and got one reboot when traversing menus. Otherwise, again, fine.
  • Days U+5, U+6, U+7: No reboots. I’m beginning to think the reboot is unrelated to iDual and more related to age (and spurious signals from the click wheel, as this happened occasionally before the surgery)
  • Day U+2 Weeks: Had a number of reboots and freezes yesterday. Could get a reliable freeze from the 2nd song on a 37000+ playlist, but that song played fine when chosen from a 11000+ playlist… and the 2nd song position on the 37000+ playlist was fine after a resync. Most occurred when touching the click wheel or navigating. It has been fine since.
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