Keith Olbermann rocks

I've seen a few of Olbermann's previous rants, and found them quite refreshing, especially when compared to the pablum that's fed to us by almost all television news outlets. This latest one, however, is required viewing for every American.


Deathly Hallows Eve

I'm sure I don't have to tell anyone that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be released to the public at midnight tomorrow. I will be bringing my 12-year-old daughter one last time to the midnight release party at Barnes and Noble, after which the whole family will be stealing the book back and forth as we try to all read it at the same time. And, yes, we all have color-coded bookmarks.

I'm also sure I don't have to tell anyone that the book is already available for illicit downloading, but apparently some brain-dead lawyers working for Scholastic Books think it is illegal to tell you that. Luckily, this blog, unlike TechCrunch, has such a miniscule audience that I am unlikely to attract a takedown notice. However, I do promise to post it if I get one.

In the meantime, the bonehead who posted the book did so by using his digital camera to photograph each page. For those of you who don't know, digital cameras embed information like the date and time the photograph was taken within the JPEG file that we all treat as the photo itself. The bonehead in question left all this information in the JPEG files that made up his Potter giveaway, even though one of the embedded data items is the serial number of the camera, and this may lead police right to said bonehead's door. (Via Boing Boing.)

Now, I probably wouldn't have posted any of this had I not followed Boing Boing's link to the TimesOnline story. Reading the story just made me want to rant: Journalism for Dummies at its finest, right from the headline that calls the metadata embedded in the JPEG files Digital DNA. But the most striking bit of misinformation was this:

"The Exif data is like the picture's DNA; you can't switch it off. Every image has it. Some software can be used to strip or edit the information, but you can't edit every field," Mr Solomon said.

I know we started with Harry Potter, but what are these, magic JPEG files? You can't edit every field? What if I convert it to a Windows BMP and then back to a JPEG, do the magic fields apparate into the new file? Is there a special enchantment that resists hex editors? I would suggest to Mr. Solomon, who is billed as a "product intelligence officer" from Canon UK (ye gods, even the job title makes me laugh), that he amend his comment to "you can't edit every field with the crapware we give you on the CD that comes with the camera".

Okay, end rant. I have to go plan my hiding spots for the book, and hope mine are better than my wife's and children's.

Accio wristband! (I hope that works at Barnes and Noble tomorrow.)


Producing music again

It's been a long time since I last produced any music in my basement studio. It usually takes some kind of catalyst to place me in the correct mindset. This time, it was twin catalysts.

The first was hearing from an old friend on classmates.com. Well, more than an old friend, truth be told. It was my high-school sweetheart. We had lost touch over the years, and it was wonderful catching up with her. I mentioned this to my old band mates, two of whom knew her and two of whom did not. I could quickly describe her to the other two by saying, "She's the one Times gone by is about." This was one of the first songs I wrote, and certainly the first one that didn't suck. Our band, the Remainders (who had the name long before Dave Barry) played Times gone by quite a bit. However, our one early attempt at recording the song never quite captured what I wanted.

The second catalyst was a disk crash. I take a long time to migrate from one Linux box to the next, and still had all my audio recording and mixing software on 'berkelium', a 600 MHz Dell Dimension that was a leftover from Lockstar, the dot-bomb I worked for around the turn of the millennium. Its disk crash finally forced me to finish my move to 'porky', a 2.6 GHz HP/Compaq that I picked up on eBay for a song. Playing around with ecasound, my favorite audio software, I discovered that jumping from 600 MHz to 2.6 GHz makes a big difference in what you can do.

So, Times gone by got re-recorded. I used Hydrogen for the basic drum track, but recorded everything else live. Ecasound is great for multitrack recording as well as mixing, and the fact that it supports LADSPA plugins allowed me to give the lead guitar a nice fake-Marshall sound.

Anyway, I put the track up on the Open Source Audio collection at archive.org, and you can listen to it or download it here.