Software

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Firefox 2.0 RC2 Review

Ars Technica has posted a good review of Firefox 2.0 RC2 (release candidate 2). This review details the improvements over previous beta builds, as well as provides a good preview of the new features you can expect once Firefox 2.0 is released.

Ars Technica review:
http://arstechnica.com/reviews/apps/firefox2-rc2.ars

Audio Resources

I spend a lot of time listening to and working with music, so I thought I'd post a list of some of the more useful audio-related sites and software I use. If you know of any good resources that I've left out, please add them in the comments section.

Rippers:
Exact Audio Copy is a fantastic CD ripping and burning program for Windows. I use it for it's abaility to create perfect duplicate backups using CUE sheets.

AutoFLAC is a "frontend" (for lack of a better term) for EAC that automates the process of ripping to and burning from FLAC files.

abcde is a command-line ripper for Linux. It's very quick and easy to use, and used to be my preferred ripper until I began using CUE sheets.

DVD Audio Extractor is a Windows program that rips audio from DVDs to standard audio formats such as FLAC or Ogg Vorbis. This would typically be used to rip live concert DVDs so you can enjoy the music on your computer or portable audio device. Two notes should be mentioned. 1) Despite its somewhat misleading name, this does not support DVD-Audio discs (although you can usually rip the DVD-Video compatability layer). 2) It forces the use of Dynamic Range Compression on DVDs that contain this information, which is a good option to have, but can unfortunately be very noticeable and intrusive when trying to make a good backup copy. I've asked that they make this an optional feature, but they don't seem interested.

Players
Winamp is one of the oldest and best known media players. This is still my preferred audio player for Windows.

XMMS is the de facto media player for Linux systems. It is modelled heavily on the original Winamp, and despite showing its age these days it's still a very stable and capable audio player.

amaroK is the "new hotness" of media players for KDE. It supports various backends for actual media playback (such as xine-lib), which allows it to support a very wide breadth of formats and capabilities, and also provides a very capable playlist management system. These are the two features that won me over (finally, a decent Linux media player capable of playing multi-channel Vorbis and FLAC files!). However, amaroK tends to be extremely unstable on my system. Also, while the user interface sports all of the latest eye candy, the developers seem unmotivated to add commonly available features such as ReplayGain support or even proper TRACKNUMBER support when dealing with tag information. Development is still very active, however, so I'm hopeful these issues will be addressed in the future.

foobar2000 is another audio player for Windows. Audio enthusiests tend to promote it as the end-all, be-all of audio players, but I personally find the interface rather horrid. It does, however, support a very wide variety of formats and capabilities, and includes tagging and transcoding plugins that are second to none. I use it as an audio utility rather than an audio player.

Codecs:
FLAC is a free, open source lossless compression codec. Lossless compression means that it's a perfect copy of the original recording, as opposed to a lossy codec which actually discards audio data in order to acheive a better compression ratio. FLAC is a great format to use for archival purposes, but it's usually impractical for use with portable audio devices.

Ogg Vorbis is a free, open source lossy compression codec. While a lossless compression codec should be used for archiving, Ogg Vorbis can still produce very high quality tracks with a much greater compression ratio.

Editing:
Audacity is a powerful, cross-platform, open source audio editing application. It can be used for anything ranging from recording audio to editing and mixing existing tracks to applying effect filters.

Help and Information:
The Hydrogenaudio Forums is a fantastic resource for audio enthusiests to share the latest news and assist each other.

The Hydrogenaudio Knowledgebase should also be mentioned. This wiki is probably the most comprehensive source of computer audio related information available.

The Wikipedia article List of albums containing a hidden track is exactly what you'd expect from the title - a list of CDs that contain hidden songs, and brief instructions on how to locate them. If you know of any hidden songs not listed there, please add them! You may also want to check out HiddenSongs.com, which does essentially the same thing but provised and indexed and searchable interface.

The Internet Archive Live Music Archive contains a huge selection of live concert bootlegs available for download.

Firefox Extensions

With the release of Mozilla Firefox 1.5.0.6, I once again spent some time refreshing my extension list. Not a whole lot has changed since my 1.5 update, but I did add a few new ones to my existing set. Newly added are ColorZilla, PageSaver Basic, and Session Manager.

I definitely recommend that any Firefox users out there check out the full list for some additional ideas.

Mozilla Thunderbird Tips and Tricks

Although my Open Source page has been somewhat neglected as of late, I just added a new section for Mozilla Thunderbird. This section will contain various tips and tricks for Thunderbird that I personally use and recommend. So far I've only had time to write up the message highlighting tip, but more will be coming in the next couple weeks. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Mozilla Thunderbird Tips and Tricks

Mozilla Firefox 1.0 and Thunderbird 1.0 Released!

I know I'm very late posting this, but since this is so significant (and I happen to have a slight bit of free time right now), I wanted to post the news here.

For anyone who may be unaware, Firefox is basically a stand-alone version of Mozilla's web browser. However, Firefox has been greatly enhanced, supports a ton of useful new features, and can be easity extended with any of the hundreds of extensions and plugins available for it.

Similar to Firefox, Thunderbird is the stand-alone version of Mozilla's mail client and address book. It has also been greatly enhanced, and is officially (by my standards) one slick e-mail client.

Here's a compilation of useful links for both Firefox and Thunderbird. If you haven't tried either Firefox or Thunderbird yet, please give it a shot. Trust me, give it one week, and you'll be thanking me for turning you on to it.

Firefox Home Page
Firefox 1.0 Release Notes
Firefox Extensions and Themes
Switching from Internet Explorer

Thunderbird Home Page
Thunderbird 1.0 Release Notes
Thunderbird Extensions and Themes
Why You Should Use Thunderbird

Open Source vs. Open Standards

Here's a brief article on the importance of Open Standards, which, as the author rightly argues, is oribably the single most important consideration in technology today. Regardless of how superior some may feel open source software may be to proprietary software (and all readers of this site know that I feel that way myself), interoperability across all applications and platforms is the true holy grail of any project. Otherwise, you're simply limiting yourself, your application, and your customers.

Do read this article. Very important stuff.

The Luxury of Ignorance: An Open-Source Horror Story

Eric Raymond has a written a great rant on the usability problems of many Open Source programs out there, using his trouble configuring CUPS as a specific example. Now, hmm... why does this seem familiar? Oh yeah, because I spent nearly a year trying to get a similar setup working, and still haven't been able to do so. CUPS/IPP sucks.

Read the full rant. A must read for for any FOSS users and/or developers.