stega

there is only one

After months…

of inactivity I’m going to update my site and give it a new look of some sort.  Complicating maters is the fact that I’m in Australia….this means I’m going to break things.  It will be fun.

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A quick overhaul

This weekend my websites got a bit of love and attention. The end result is that just about all the photos that were up on purgatory.org are now hosted here instead. This was done so that I could do more simplified galleries on purgatory and have a more scrapbook feel here. Not very exciting, I know, but still better than reading psychotic Facebook posts by people you went to HS with professing that their religion and political beliefs are one and the same.

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Adventures in CSS

One of the small projects I’ve been working on that I can talk about is creating some stock CSS templates for the Aperture Web Page export function. A few years back, I purchased a “set” of web templates from Jumsoft(.com) for $20 and with a few tweaks, one of the templates fit my needs. Unbeknownst to me and apparently almost completely undocumented by the interwebs, that project was spun off by Jumsoft to a sister company, Graphic Node. Then, when I upgraded Aperture recently, my ability to use those templates ended. (I did a bit of testing by moving things into and out of the package’s directory, and it turns out one or more of the Jumsoft/GN templates does not play well with the “new” Aperture.) My attempts to find answers/help via either company’s site failed miserably, so I worked on a new template this morning. I’m quite pleased with the result and it was really easy to do as I now use Sublime Text 2 as my default code-of-any-sort editor.

Not sure how many people out there use Aperture and it’s rather awesome ability to publish web galleries, but let me know via email if you’re interested in mine or getting some help/guidance making your own.


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Gracenote is failing

Gracenote (http://www.gracenote.com/) which owns CDDB has become the suck. While working on this mammoth iTunes re-org project the significant shortcomings of the commercial central information repository became all to clear. All the errors and issues I encountered can be placed into one overall heading: Gracenote apparently does not pay anyone to actually test and/or clean up their database. As a result, it’s a disaster of mis-information and in many cases, bad formatting mistakes.

Case in point: take the Yo Yo Ma Cello Suites. Look at the info for Disc 1 and then for Disc 2. The track name formats and even CD titles do not align making for a messy display within iTunes. Want another example? Look at the soundtrack to the _Shawshank Redemption_. Yeah sure, the Ink Spots and Hank Williams wrote all those orchestral pieces….

Sadly, with iTunes you cannot chose to use another source for your CD meta data. Happily, if you use Jaikoz, for a project like mine, you can suddenly access other, wildly accurate databases that leave the crap that is Gracenote/CDDB in the dust in terms of reliability and just general “right-ness”.

Another things that irks me: marking things like a greatest hits collection or a movie soundtrack as a compilation. I just had to clean out about 50 such albums within iTunes that Crapnote had placed in a Compilations directory. I take umbrage with this, as logic says a greatest hits collection/album by a single artist should be filed under the artist that recorded said hits. Yet the logic in CDDB/iTunes shoves the directory into a Compilations directory. On top of that bit of illogic, there are the soundtracks that can be classified either as “Compilations” OR as “Various Artists” OR as “Various”. Pick one people.

I think someone at Crapnote needs to become familiar with the definition of compile as it relates to their database fields/data designations:
compile:
verb (used with object), com·piled, com·pil·ing.
1. to put together (documents, selections, or other materials) in one book or work.
2. to make (a book, writing, or the like) of materials from various sources: to compile an anthology of plays; to compile a graph showing changes in profit.
(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/compile)

In my mind: a Compilation is a collection of related songs/musical pieces that stand together on their own. This is different from a soundtrack (which I always file under Various Artists if there is not one single compose responsible for over 50% of the work), as a soundtrack was created in reference to a movie and thus the pieces of music all relate to one another in terms of the movie and are usually not thematically related like they would be for a true Compilation such as _Essential Chillout (Disc 1)_.

But enough griping. Now if only my insider connections allowed me to lean my pointy little elbows into the necks of people working on iTunes, who would then in turn, tell Gracenote to sod off.

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More on that iTunes sorting project (and a diatribe against Rinse)

I have issues with Rinse, lots of issues.

My main problems are:
1) Not getting duplicates right 90% of the time
2) Rinse would not change the Genres for my music
3) It’s suggestions for unknown tracks were totally wrong.

I have just shy of 11,000 files in my music library, but most of those files are things I ripped off CDs I actually do own, so Rinse should have had an easy time of it. The one exception are some bootlegs from one particular band, but I knew going into this project those would require my personal attention.

So, after Rinse totally failed at what it was advertised to do, but AFTER I had shelled out $40 for it, I emailed support for help.
They got back to me the next day (points were lost for assuming I use Windows when the screen shot I sent in with my original request clearly showed I was not.)

This is when things began to go downhill.

The support person told me:
“You might want to try fixing the songs one by one instead of automatically. You can also type in how you would like the song to appear in iTunes.”

To which I responded:
“I have over 10,000 songs.  I do NOT want to fix them 1 by 1.  This is why I paid for your product.  I want it to fix the genres and find my duplicates. ”

The next suggestion was this:
“The iTunes library should match what was entered for each song in Rinse. To verify that a song has been fixed reopen iTunes, and under PLAYLISTS on the right hand side click on “Fixed by Rinse” it will show each song that has been fixed. You can also try the following: ….Include previously skipped songs when fixing & Include previously fixed songs when fixing.”

To which I responded:
“I have this playlist, but it only shows 20 songs.  Yesterday I was continually trying to “fix” more songs and nothing new was added.  I would shut down iTunes and Rinse, restart them (even giving iTunes a minute of time before starting up Rinse).  No devices were connected (phones/ipads/ipods).  And it still didn’t “connect” the two apps. I tried that:  my “Fixed With Rinse” playlist received 3 more entries (all of them the same song) and then Rinse popped up with “iTunes Is Not Responding”.  This keeps happening now every time I fix just ONE song.  I have to go back out to the Main Menu, back to “Fix Your Songs” and restart the process.

Then the support person suggested….I delete ALL comments in ALL my songs…I’m not kidding….Here is what they sent me:

“1. Open iTunes
2. Go to Music library
3. Select all songs
4. Right click to go to “Get Info”
5. Click OK when you see “Are you sure you want to edit information for multiple items”
6. Check “Comments” box
7. Click OK (Make sure the box is empty or delete any content that you might see)
8. Wait until iTunes completes its operation
9. Close iTunes & Rinse
10. Open iTunes & then Rinse
11. The Orange bar now should be all the way to the left
12. Now, you can fix the songs again”

Sure I could fix my songs again…but any comments I may actually want to keep would be…GONE.

Then to cap things off, I ran into this bug:
I clicked the “Fix My Music” option and then I played the song it was suggesting needed “Fixed”. This worked just fine. Rinse’s suggestion was wrong, so I went on to the next song. Only this time when I hit “Play Track”, Rinse played the previous song and not the song I had up in its browser. Only by hitting the Skip button a second time and going ahead 2 tracks does Rinse then play that current track (the second track forward). Going back one to the skipped track that wouldn’t play properly still resulted it in playing the track before it. It was at this point I gave up totally on Rinse.

Now, granted 1 of my 3 original issues with Rinse I partially solved with a quick chmod command to make sure file perms weren’t an issue. Rinse still would crap out when changing the genre for more than 100 songs at a time. My advice is don’t use the software and you certainly should never buy a license: I used it for about 2 hours and it failed at everything it is advertised to do.
1) The duplicates it “found” were only duplicates 10% of the time.
2) The track suggestions it made were never right.
3) It crapped out and had to be restarted about every 5 minutes.
4) The play feature of the “Fix My Song” UI is borked.

When you consider everything it “does” can be more easily done via some simple searches within iTunes and then modifying your files using the Get Info window within iTunes, it really becomes a no-brainer. I pointed this out to the support person and ended my email with “I would like a refund and I will remove your inadequate tool from my machine.” I have yet to hear back from them.

In the end, I did indeed use iTunes to sort through the mess of my music. It actually wasn’t terribly hard, nor was it a lengthy process and anyone can do it.
1) Make a new playlist and put all your music in it.
2) Sort that play list by Album
3) Scroll through it and remove “clean” items.
Clean items are albums that have all their tracks and artwork, or singles that you know you didn’t buy the full album they appear on.
To remove items from the playlist you just delete them.
Using a playlist has two advantages:
a) If you have to go do something else, you can just pick up where you left off
b) modifying track information fields within the playlist is the same as doing it elsewhere in iTunes, but deleting items from the playlist doesn’t affect your library

The above method managed to clean out about 500 duplicates from my library, caused me to pull out 6 CDs from my storage drawers and re-rip them to get the missing tracks back in my library, and in the end, left me with about 400 “unknown” songs. Most of these were either bootleg tracks with no album information or things clearly not labeled right.

This is when having a boyfriend with a license for Jaikoz becomes a great thing. At $40 (give or take depending on the currency exchange rate), Jaikoz is AWESOME. If you really want something to sort through your music and help you figure out what that “Track 04″ really is, get Jaikoz. Sure Jaikoz doesn’t have a simple “even a moron can use” UI, but it’s much more powerful–it does have a pretty decent online manual and support area. In addition it is much more stable–I never have to restart the thing. Plus, it actually works! Of those 400 songs, Jaikoz chewed on them and then successfully identified over 150 of them. This doesn’t seem like a lot, but remember, the random bootleg tracks I have are something most normal people would never have in their libraries. In many cases I had no idea who the artists for some tracks were. For example, I had a couple CDs my cousin gave me that were mix tapes of my Uncle’s barbershop quartet interspersed with random 60s music, yet Jaikoz took care of it and now I have a whole new obsession: Herb Alpert.

So in conclusion, Rinse sucks monkey balls and I wasted $40 on a piece of software that doesn’t do anything it advertises to do reliably, smoothly or easily. As the likelihood of getting a refund is close to nil, don’t make my mistake, you can easily do much of the sorting yourself (and in the same time or less than it would take if you used Rinse.) If you have a lot of duplicates and/or unknown/unlabled tracks and want help sorting them, get Jaikoz. It costs the same as Rinse and it actually works.

Now to post this on the Rinse FB page….

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a mess of music

Years ago I ripped all my CDs and pushed the mass off mp3s into iTunes. Sadly over the years since my iTunes library has gotten very messy and duplicate tracks have spawned while other tracks have just gone missing. So, since getting back from vacation I decided I would spend some time lavishing some TLC on my music collection. I thought I would find a nice application that would take most of the work before me and automate it. After a bit of research, I downloaded and paid for a license for Rinse. The was a big mistake. I’m still struggling with them to get a refund as it does nothing that it purports to do well. It marks things that are not duplicates as dupes but misses those that are actually dupes. It’s best guess for what an unknown track may be is wrong 90% of the time and it constantly loses its “connection” with iTunes so I had to quit and restart the app after making a single change to my library. I then had a look at Jaikoz. Sadly it has just too many bells and whistles and in the time I would have spent reading the manual to learn how to use it, I managed to manually sort through half my files.

So in the end, this is the method I used:

Make a new playlist and dump your entire library to it. Open the playlist as a new iTunes window. Sort by album and artist. Then start removing all the complete albums or files that you deem “clean” from that playlist. If you find duplicates, figure out which files you want to keep, then go back to your MAIN iTunes window and located the file(s) you wish to delete from your Music Library and delete them there. It sounds slow and rather tedious, but it actually took me just one day (10 hours or so of work time) to go through over 10,000 songs in my library of almost 11,000. Of those remaining 1000 or so problem files, about half turned out to be mis-labeled, missing tracks or duplicates. All of which were easy enough to fix either by re-ripping off my original CD, or by manually editing the track info.

I just wish I had done this project before I started to use iCloud. I now get to find out if and how iCloud will mess with my changes as I battle RealNetworks for my wasted $40.

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Fun with Netflix

Since moving further into the city a few years ago, Agent Smith and I have gone without traditional TV service and to be honest, we don’t miss it. Gone are all the commercials, the random crap and the channel surfing. Instead we have a combination of Netflix (traditional and streaming), an Apple TV, a large file server with all our DVDs on it and a few other streaming options like the very nice ABC app for iPads/iPhones.

Over the last few years I have thus enjoyed watching a great many shows and movies. One of my favorite things to do is to watch an entire series from start to end over the course of a few weeks or even months.

In no particular order, here is a list of stuff I’ve watched:
Psych
Wings
Frasier
Sherlock Series 1 (twice)
30 Rock
Monk
This American Life
The Bunny Shorts
Farscape (but only half of it as the constant shouting in space got old)
3rd Rock
Studio 60 (re-watched it with Agent Smith, as he had never seen it)
How I Met Your Mother
RuPaul’s Drag Race
Dick Van Dyke Show
The West Wing (which I watch 1-2 episodes of every week with Agent Smith, as he has never seen it while I have.)

Plus a ton of movies and documentaries.

And this is why the networks fear the internet. Although ABC seems to have it right. They have just about all their content online and available for viewing one day after it has aired. Sure there are some commercials, but I can live with 30 seconds of blather, AND some of those non-network commercials are amusing.

And my current series to watch? Top Gear. I’ve started back all the way with season 2 (the earliest season Netflix offers) and after having watched a few full episodes over the last few years, I was amused to see James May’s first few appearances before he wore patterned shirts and instead donned a suit jacket and matching trousers. Plus, it’s my way to learn about cars so that when we do replace the M3 coupe, I’ll have a better idea of what I’d like to drive.

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Read at Mass

Almost two months ago my paternal grandmother died one month shy of her 97th Birthday.  I flew to Ohio to attend the funeral and during the time before the funeral I wrote a short piece to read aloud.  I’m glad I did it, as the priest who performed the mass (it was a Catholic service) preached quite a bit of doom and gloom.  He even dragged out the idea of purgatory (which made me and some of my family giggle since I do after all, own purgatory.)  There was no real mention of the person my grandmother had been or her life, so my little effort, which closed the service was a much more fitting tribute.  I’m now posting it here.

——–

Monday, when my mum called at seven in the morning me to tell me the news that my grandmother had died, I was not completely awake, so it took a bit for the news to register–about one latte to be exact.

I find this awkward introduction rather amusing and rather sad. First, because my own mental state upon hearing of my grandmother’s death matched her mental state over the last few years and secondly, because my mental state at the time mirrored my grandmother’s over the last few years.

And that’s the double edged sword of having a relative with alzheimers, dementia, or whatever else it can be called. As time’s arrow progresses, what starts as forgetfulness, slowly becomes a sense of distracted attention until finally an almost infantile fog descends. Slowly, bit by bit, the person we love seems to slip away, yet somewhere, deep inside something remains, and we see it in brief, but brilliant flashes of recognition.

Since my grandfather, her husband of over fifty-four years passed away, she really had been taking her last, very long goodbye. And for those of us close to my grandmother, it’s hard for us to remember what my she was like before she got sick. So, in these past few days while in our own fog that accompanies loss, we’ve been telling each other stories as we seek to reacquaint ourselves with the woman who was a child, a wife, a sister, a mother (a working mother to boot,) a grandmother and even a great grandmother.

So as we say our goodbyes I want to share a few of my memories of my grandma

I will always remember the kitchen floor where my grandfather taught me to play marbles and I would sit for what seemed like hours while my grandmother cooked or watched her favorite soap opera “The Young and the Restless”, this was back when the Hoff was young and hot.

I remember taking bubble baths and then standing on top of the toilet seat so my tall or “Big” grandma could more easily towel me dry. I think that after raising my father she was quite delighted to have two girls for grandchildren.

I remember many summers when I would stay with them for a week, and my grandmother would set up the hose and sprinkler in the backyard. There are even a few memories of heading to the local public pool where my grandmother still cut a fine figure with her Ann Miller-rivaling legs.

I remember the beautiful white pleated skirt she would often wear when she and my grandfather went out dancing and how that skirt entered family legend when she rescued a stray dog after one evening at the Aragon ballroom. That Luckey dog, who was soon to become my family’s dog, refused to ride in the back seat of the yellow station wagon and would only ride in the front seat that night–thus necessasitating a trip to the dry cleaner for that lovely white skirt.

I remember the late night movies I’d try to stay up for when sleeping over; the attic that always had something interesting tucked in a corner, the Avon Catalogs the could be turned into endless mathematical story problems (and the samples she’d save for my sister and I); and the seemingly endless walk up a dark hill one halloween that just the two of us made when I was only 7 or 8.

So, like Russel in the movie _UP_ said, “It might sound boring, but I think boring stuff is the stuff I remember the most”.

Those are just some of the memories I have and will always have of my grandmother. Hopefully you have many of your own that can tell yourselves and those close to you. Stories about the woman born during the First World War who could play any song she heard on her piano, who loved to laugh, who managed to find a lasting love during war time in the 40s and then raise a fine son and later a good parent in his own right. Or perhaps you’ll just remember Bernadette’s smile, as through all of those almost 97 years, it was the one thing that never failed.

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I made a movie

It’s not what you think though….

Last month I finished a project that took me about three weeks to do, and the end resulting Instructional Video is now up on YouTube. It’s rather large and is thus broken up into 5 sections (Part I is here). So, if you’ve ever wanted to lead a raid in World of Warcraft, now’s your chance!.

If you just want to watch the trailer….

How to Lead a Raid

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Bathroom….

Last month our front bathroom was finally repainted. It went from being an awful orange mess to a very pretty grey affair.

Pics are here.

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