Mississippi River Flood Stage Pictures, 05/06/2011

Submitted by jbreland on Mon, 05/09/2011 - 23:02

Since the near-record height and flooding of the Mississippi River is all the news these days, I figured some people might be interested in seeing some pictures. I put up a small, very basic gallery of a few photos I took of the event, along with some added commentary. These are of the river itself, from up on the Chickasaw Bluff in downtown Memphis. These were taken about four days before, and three feet below, the projected crest of the river, so I'll probably take a few more and throw them up later this week.

Feel free to view the gallery if interested.

Yay Cables!

Submitted by jbreland on Thu, 11/11/2010 - 01:18
Home Theater Cables
Mess of cables

I'm going to be changing up my home theater setup for the first time since moving to my house. I'm still using all of the same components, but they'll be interconnected differently, with several components now routed through a video switch, which will (finally!) let me hook up all of my various components and game systems at the same time and easily switch between them as desired. This will be a nice improvement over my current setup, where only my most commonly used components are hooked up, and even switching between them can involved changing inputs on multiple devices. I'm very much looking forward to making this change.

Unfortunately, this means pretty much rewiring my entire setup, and I'm not going to lie; I have a crap ton of cables. After disconnecting everything and piling up all the cables, I was so impressed I felt the need to take a picture for posterity. Shown here are (almost) all of the cables that were piled up behind my TV. This excludes a few cables that I couldn't easily remove (like speaker cables and power cords), but otherwise... yeah, that's a lot of cables. You'll want to click on the thumbnail to view the large image for the full effect.

Now, the fun will really begin this weekend when I need to put everything back together, along with the new switch and the 6 additional sets of cables I ordered for the new interconnects. Yay!

It Lives!

Submitted by jbreland on Sun, 08/15/2010 - 19:33

My first[1] computer was a Packard Bell Legend 418CD, which my parents bought for me toward the end of my freshman year of high school (1995). I'd always been somewhat interested in and fascinated by computers, but it wasn't until my freshman year that I began to take a strong interest in them (mostly because one of my friends in high school, Aaron Mielke (man, I hope spelled that right) was into computers himself, but unlike me actually knew what he was doing and taught me a great deal about how they work). My Packard Bell, despite the company's general reputation for cheap/poor quality, was a fantastic system that served me well for many years. When purchased, it had the following specs:

My Packard Bell
My Packard Bell (underneath the monitor)
The Gateway (right) supplanted it in 1999
  • 75 MHz Pentium CPU
  • 8 MB FPM DRAM (or maybe 4 MB - this was upgraded quite a bit and I forget the original amount)
  • 1 GB hard drive
  • 1 MB integrated Cirrus Logic GD5430 PCI video card
  • Some funky combo SoundBlaster 16-compatible sound card and 14.4 Kbps modem
  • Two (yes, two!) 2x CD-ROM drives
  • One ubiquitous 3.5" floppy disk drive
  • 14" XGA (1024x768) monitor with some pretty fly bolt-on speakers

This was a pretty pimpin' system back in 1995. It came with Windows for Workgroups 3.11 and MS-DOS 6.2, and although Windows 95 had been released a couple months earlier, I was perfectly happy with 3.11 as I really didn't like the new interface in 95 at the time (in fact, I didn't upgrade to 95 until 1998, and even then only because Final Fantasy VII PC required it, and I really wanted to play Final Fantasy VII). Retrospectively, I'm still glad it came with 3.11 because it gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about DOS and pre-95 versions of Windows that I otherwise would've missed out on.

I was really into gaming at the time, and was able to play any game I wanted on it at the time and, after some upgrades, for years to come (the last major games I can remember playing on it were Half-life and Final Fantasy VII, which were certainly not lightweight games). It served as my primary (and only) computer until the summer of 1999, when it was replaced by my Gateway P500 (Pentium III 500). By that time, my Packard Bell had been upgraded numerous times to include:

  • 133 MHz Pentium CPU
  • 40 MB FPM DRAM
  • 2 GB hard drive
  • 16 MB Creative Labs 3D Blaster Banshee PCI video card (3dfx Voodoo Banshee)
  • Creative Labs SoundBlaster AWE 64
  • 56 Kbps modem
  • Kingston KNE20BT 10 Mbps ISA NIC
  • 8x CD-ROM drive

I pretty much upgraded it as far as I possibly could, short of replacing the motherboard. After it was displaced by my Gateway in 1999, it still served a number of functions in the following years:

  1. Home computer for my parents/sister for a couple years
  2. Test box for experimenting with Linux
  3. Router/firewall for my home network, running Linux and OpenBSD at different times

This box stayed on router/firewall firewall duty all the way until 2005 or 2006, when I replaced it with a Linksys WRT54G. Getting eleven years of productive use out of a computer is an awesome accomplishment, and I was actually rather sad when I shut the thing down for good a few years ago. I simply had no other use for it at the time, so into the closet it went.

Well, fast-forward to a couple weeks ago when I pulled it out along with a couple other old computers I'd acquired to scavenge for some parts for a project I was working on. Of the three computers, my Packard Bell was by far the best maintained, still in the best shape, and the only one that was still fully functional. When I powered it on it even booted up to OpenBSD, still ready for firewall duty after all these years. :-)

I was actually so proud of it, after I finished the particular project I was working on I decided to fully revive it once more as a DOS/Win 3.11 test/play box. Granted, it serves no real useful purpose, but at fifteen years old it's still doing everything I ask of it. The most recent set of changes and upgrades included:

  • back to the integrated 1 MB PCI video card - I stupidly gave my Banshee away to an ex-girlfriend long ago
  • The 8x CD-ROM drive was dead, and the original 2x drive, while it still worked, could not read CD-RW discs, so I swapped it out for a 24x4x4 cd burner (which was the oldest/slowest drive I had that would read CD-RW discs)
  • 3com 3c905c 100 Mbps PCI NIC
  • 5.25" floppy disk drive - used to copy data off of some really old floppies I still had from elementary school
  • I replaced the system fan with a brand new one - the original had developed a nasty vibration

At this point, the box is up and running better than ever. I've had a good time fixing it up again, and given the history involved I thought I'd share this experience with my readers. Hope you enjoyed.

Also, I have another, related retrolicious post coming soon, so keep an eye out for it.

  • [1] Technically this is not the first computer we had in my home, but rather my first computer, and the first computer I had that I knew what to do with. Prior to this, we had a Commodore 64, but this was just a game machine to my brother and myself, and I was far too young (~4) to know what else could be done with it anyway. Sometime after that my parents purchased what I believe to be a 386-based PC when I was around eight, but no one in my family knew how to use it for anything more than running WordPerfect Jr., and even that required consulting a set of instructions every time we used it.

Desktop Upgrade

Submitted by jbreland on Wed, 02/24/2010 - 23:46

Update: 03/01/10 16:53
It's bought. I ended up going with the primary choices listed below. The motherboard was a tough call, as my current ASUS works so well, but I have a couple small nitpicky complaints that pushed me over to trying the Gigabyte board. Hope it works out.

Update: 02/26/10 03:00
I think I've decided on the motherboard and RAM. I updated the links below. I also decided to scale back to 4 GB of RAM. I'm simply having a hard time justifying 8 GB, even to myself. Since I'm only going to be using two of the four avaialble DIMM slots, though, I can always add more later if it becomes necessary.

At this point I should be ready to go, but I'm going to hold off a few more days (probably through the weekend) before making the purchase. I still want to do some more research to verify Linux compatibility with the motherboard and other stuff like that.

Update: 02/25/10 00:56
I've tentatively narrowed the motherboard down to two selections, one each from ASUS and Gigabyte. Models are listed below, but I still need to do more research on both the boards and RAM compatibility.

For the last several months I've been jonesin' for some of the new Intel Nehalem hotness (aka Core i7/9). From everything I've read, this is a major step up from the previous Core 2 generation of processors (which itself was a major step up from the Pentium line). However, I built my current desktop in March of 2007 (which, for the record, I'm very happy with), so I've bad to be patient and put off upgrading for a while. Given that March will be the three year mark for my desktop, though, I think it's about time to take the plunge. :-)

Now, as I mentioned above, I do very much like my current system, so rather than building a new computer altogether I'm just going to upgrade the guts of my existing one. For reference, here are the specs of my desktop. I plan on salvaging as much as possible, which should include the case, power supply, drives, video and sound cards, monitors, and all peripherals. The CPU, motherboard, and RAM will all need to be replaced (as well as the network card, which is integrated on the motherboard).

As I've done previously when researching components for my desktop and NAS, I'm going to post the details here both for reference and feedback. Since I'm just doing an upgrade this time, though, the list will be much shorter (and thankfully, much cheaper).

I'm just starting research at this point, but here's what I have in mind so far:

Intel Core i7-860 ($280 - Newegg)

This seems to be the real sweet spot right now in the Nehalem line up in terms of price and performance. It's smokin' fast, includes both Turbo Boost and Hyper-Threading (which are actually done right in Nehalem), and is not outrageously expensive. The Core i7-920 ($290 - Newegg) is another viable option, but although the two processors are approximately the same cost, the i7-8xx platform as a whole is cheaper than the i7-9xx due to the cost of other components. Unless something changes drastically in the next few weeks, the i7-860 will likely be my pick.

If you're interested in what makes this chip so lust-worthy, here are some (much) more detailed reviews by AnandTech:
Nehalem architecture overview: http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?i=3448
Lynnfield processor core overview: http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?i=3634
Core i7-860 review: http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?i=3641

Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD4P ($185 - Newegg)
alternative: ASUS P7P55D-E Pro ($190 - Newegg)

The motherboard situation is, as usual, a tougher call. There are loads of available options, ranging from <$100 to >$350, covering four different compatible chipsets (for the i7-860) and scads of different features. Here are a few options that should help narrow it down, though:

  • supports >= 8 GB RAM
  • includes >= 1 PCIe 2.0 x16 slot(s)
  • includes >= 1 Gb/s NIC
  • supports Serial ATA 6 Gb/s
  • supports USB 3.0

The RAM, PCIe, and NIC requirements are all pretty standard at this point. SATA 6 Gb/s and USB 3.0 are both brand-spanking new, though, so they're only available on a (relatively) few number of motherboards. I don't need either of these at this point in time, but I would like to have them available for future upgrades I'm considering (more on that below).

This excessively long Newegg link shows the current list of contenders, with prices ranging from $135 - $280. I'll narrow that list down just just two or three soon, but I need to do some more research first.

G.SKILL F3-12800CL7D-4GBECO, 4 GB (2x2GB) DDR3-1600 (PC3-12800) CAS 7-8-7-24-2N 1.35v ($120 - Newegg)
alternative: G.SKILL F3-10666CL7D-4GBRH, 4 GB (2x2GB) DDR3-1333 (PC3-10666) CAS 7-7-7-21 1.5v ($115 - Newegg)

I haven't decided on RAM yet, but the above options are the two leading contenders based on CPU specs and prior experience (I used G.SKILL in my current desktop and, once again, I'm quite happy with it). I won't be able to make a final decision until I've nailed down a motherboard, but here are my current thoughts:

  • I want 8 GB. Do I need 8 GB? No, but then again, this entire upgrade isn't based on need. :-) I currently get by with 4 GB just fine, and I expect that trend to mostly continue, but given how heavily I use my computer I'm pretty confident the extra memory available won't go to waste.
  • I have a few different options for getting up to 8 GB. 2x4GB kits are sold, and would be preferred because it'd allow me to keep two slots free for possible further upgrades, but they're prohibitively expensive at this point. 4x2GB kits are also available, but, oddly, they're both more expensive and offer fewer options than buying two 2x2GB kits. So, unless things change in the near future, I'll stick with two 2x2GB kits.
  • I'm paying attention to both CAS Latency and voltage. Lower latency will essentially allow memory to be accessed faster by the CPU, and a lower voltage will allow the RAM to run cooler and consume less power. However, there are trade-offs, involved, with price and overclockability probably the two most important. As with the motherboards I still need to do some research, but I think CAS 7 and 1.5 or 1.35v are reasonable choices.
  • There are several vendors who meet these RAM requirements, but as I mentioned above I've been satisfied with G.SKILL in my current computer, and their current models are still reasonably priced and have good reviews, so I see no reason to change.

Future Upgrades
There are several other components that I'd like to upgrade in the not-too-distant future, but I think I'm going to hold off a bit longer on them. Here are some current thoughts on this topic, in no particular order:

Hard Drives
I currently run WD Raptor 127 GB drive for my system drive, and a slower WD RE2 500 GB drive for my home/data drive. At the time I built this computer, the Raptor was the fastest consumer drive available, but it wasn't big enough to hold all my data, so added the larger, slower drive for that. It's worked out pretty well, but since than I added my wonderful NAS to the mix, and with 2 TB of usable storage on that, I just don't have a great need for a large amount of local storage on my desktop.

Within the next year or so, I expect to jump on the solid-state drive bandwagon. I already see extremely compelling performance from these drives, with the Intel X25-M G2 setting the current consumer standard (see the AnandTech review for details) and newer, more efficient SSD controllers recently being introduced. However, I think this market still has some room to grow before I'm ready to jump on board. I'm specifically looking forward to Intel's third-generation SSD (and the competition's response), which is due out in Q4 2010. I'm hoping that by that point the maturing technology will have the last few kinks worked out, and that the prices should start approaching "reasonable".

Back to the current upgrade process. I think I'm going to reformat the Raptor and use it for both my system and data partitions, and just lose the RE2 altogether. I simply don't need that much local storage anymore with my NAS, so consolidating to the single faster disk makes sense (not to mention the slight power and heat savings from removing the second disk). This will also act as a good transition to an SSD, as those drives are quite small.

While my current 22" Viewsonic CRTs are gorgeous, they're also big, heavy, power sucking beasts. They served me well for the last few years, but I'm definitely ready to move on. Unfortunately, that magic combination of size, quality, and price of flat panel monitors still has yet to meet my requirements. I can certainly find some options available to day that I'd be satisfied with, but since my current monitors are still going strong I'd rather hold off a bit longer until I can (hopefully) get something I'm truly happy with. I'm going to evaluate my options again around the time I upgrade to an SSD, at which point I'm hoping there will be some better options available.

Video Card
Since I don't game very much on my computer these days (thanks primarily to the rampant anti-consumer use of DRM), my current video card is more than powerful enough my needs. Unfortunately, despite being the top of the line model of the GeForce 8 series when I bought it just three years ago, Nvidia chooses not to support it properly for video decoding and acceleration (despite cheaper, lower cost versions of the same damn series of cards being perfectly well supported; not that I'm bitter). I'm also limited to 2xDVI output connectors on this card, which again works fine for my needs, but could potentially limit my monitor upgrade options.

For now, I don't have any definite plans to upgrade the card, but I'll reevaluate this if and when I finally get around to replacing my monitors. At that point, I can probably get a more powerful, more efficient card with more flexible output options for significantly less than what I paid for this card initially. I'm not sure it'll be worth it, but it's an option.

Sound Card
I currently use an Audigy 2, which works fine, but I almost want to upgrade the card out of spite for Creative Labs, which has become radically anti-Linux in recent years. I probably won't of course, if only because getting surround sound working properly under Linux requires a certain black magic that I have yet to fully understand, which makes me hesitant to even touch my working configuration. Plus, honestly, I'd be no better off after spending the money than I am now. Nonetheless, good Linux support is important to me, and I have no problem supporting companies that also support Linux. If I see something particularly compelling with great Linux support (or, as great as Linux support can be given the mess that is ALSA) I'll probably go ahead and pick it up.

Everything Else
That pretty much covers it. I'm pleased with my current speakers, input peripherals, case, power supply, and optical drive, so unless something just breaks and needs replacement, I'll be sticking with what I have. Granted, these components (with the exception of my speakers) are among the least expensive components of my computer, so I'm not exactly saving oodles of money by sticking with them, but I'll take what I can get.

This post ended up being much more long-winded than I originally anticipated, but I guess that's not terribly unexpected for me. If you stuck with it through the end, I hope you found it at least marginally informative and entertaining. If you have any feedback on my product selection, or in fact any of my comments above, please leave a comment below. I'll also update this post as I finalize product selection.

Happy New Year

Submitted by jbreland on Fri, 01/01/2010 - 00:16

I just wanted to wish all of my visitors a happy new year. I haven't posted much lately, but rest assured, I'm still alive. :-) I hope all of you have a safe and happy new year.

Ogg Vorbis (and FLAC) Comment Field Recommendations

Submitted by jbreland on Sat, 05/09/2009 - 13:00

Note: The following information was originally published at http://reactor-core.org/ogg-tagging.html, but this page is no longer available. I found this information to be extremely useful, so I'm posting a copy of it here for archival purposes. This copy was pulled from a mirror of the original site, located at http://age.hobba.nl/audio/mirroredpages/ogg-tagging.html, on 05/09/2009.

This is currently a direct copy of the original source content, modified only slightly in order to match the format of my site. In time I may modify or extend it, but any changes will be clearly indicated.

Updated 12/14/2010:  Additional proposed fields added below, indicated by "proposed by Legroom.net."

Suggestions For Tagging Vorbis/FLAC Files

Originally published Thu Jul 3 20:35:53 PDT 2003

The following recommendations were developed by a community of Ogg/Vorbis users for their own use.

The purpose of the set of tags in this recommendation is to provide information about the track that contains the tags. It is not the purpose of the tags to provide general information about the piece of music in the track, such as a listing of every recording that contains that same piece of music. External databases and the internal Ogg metadata stream are appropriate for information about the music, except where it fills one of the 4 goals listed below.


  1. Identify a track so the listener can know what he is listening to.
  2. Identify a track to allow music companies to profit from it.
  3. Meet goals 1 and 2 without access to external data sources.
  4. Identify a track within a database that contains information about the track.

NOT goals

  1. Stuff every available bit of information about a track and the CD it is on into the TAGS section. (liner notes, lyrics, the bandleaders dogs name...)
  2. Backward compatibility with ID3 and MP3 tagging schemes, structures, and infrastructures.

Piracy happens. We can't prevent it. At least we can encourage less damaging behaviors, such as making sure than when someone likes a track, they have enough information to reimburse the artist by going out and purchasing the original source media the music came on.

These recommendations are written in the context of http://www.xiph.org/ogg/vorbis/doc/v-comment.html, which is authoritative.

All tags are OPTIONAL; you can have an ogg file with NO tags present and it will still be compliant. It is RECOMMENDED that you put enough tags in the ogg to meet goals 1 through 4 above. The tags needed will vary with each recording, and will often be no more than the tags already used.

Before we continue, here is a nifty bourne shell function you can stick in your ~/.bash_profile:

ogg-grep () {
   for i in "$@"; do
      vorbiscomment -l "$i"|grep -i "$REGEX" >/dev/null && echo "$i";

You could use it like this:

ogg-grep "CONDUCTOR=.*Karajan" ~/music/oggfiles/*.ogg

It would display, one per line, all the ogg files where Karajan was the conductor of the piece.

What is the effect of following these Recommendations?

Users will be playing their oggs; their player software is expected to display the tags that exist in an oggfile, intelligently.
Therefore the users are not affected by these recommendations and need know nothing about them. Player programs ARE affected, and their job should be made as easy as possible.
There will be a subset of users who create ogg files. Inasmuch as it is their responsibility to tag their files correctly, it would be nice if they knew about these recommendations. However, their ripping software should make it trivial for them to fill in the correct tags in the common cases, and let them access the full tagset if they feel they need it.
Therefore, encoders will almost not notice the adoption of these recommendations, unless they wanted to benefit from its increased flexibility, in which case they will rejoice. Ripper and tagging SOFTWARE on the other hand will need to support these recommendations, and again, its job should be made as easy as possible.
Coders are those who write the software used by users and encoders. They are the ones who will need to make their software compliant, and the ones who need to make sure their software is easy for people to use.
Therefore, it is the coders who will be affected most by these recommendations. Their job should be made as easy as possible so they can support it trivially and well.


A compliant Ogg player program will intelligently display, or let the user specify how to display, all the tags in an Ogg file.

A compliant Ogg file may contain tags not in these recommendations.

Compliant tag editors and rippers may support tags not in these recommendations, but should encourage use of recommended tags over tags not in this document.

Character Set Encoding of Tags

UTF-8 is the default encoding for tag data. Unfortunately UTF-8 muffed it for Asian languages by doing the equivalent of giving the same character codes to English, Russian, and Greek letters.

Fortunately UTF-8 itself has an internal, standard solution to the problem: http://www.unicode.org/unicode/reports/tr27/#tag which basically says: mark the language of text with U+E0001 LANGUAGE TAG, followed by the RFC 3066 language ID (ie. "ja") encoded in lowercase ASCII plus 0xE0000. This is the only mechanism recognized by this document.

Programs which don't want to interpret such markup can simply ignore it; it is zero width. The scope of the language setting is until the end of the tag, or until a new language setting is encountered, whichever comes first.

We have the following STANDARD tags

Singleton tags, which should only appear once. If one of these tags appears more than once, its last appearance should be displayed if there is only room to display one instance of the tag.

if appropriate, an album name
for information to be displayed on systems with limited display capabilities. it is not a replacement for the ENSEMBLE and PERFORMER tags, but typically will summarize them.
who publishes the disc the track came from
who holds copyright to the track or disc the track is on
if part of a multi-disc album, put the disc number here
this number lets you order a CD over the phone from a record shop.
there may be a barcode on the CD; it is most likely an EAN or UPN (Universal Product Number).
the record label or imprint on the disc
record labels often put the catalog number of the source media somewhere on the packaging. use this tag to record it.
the license, or URL for the license the track is under. for instance, the Open Audio license.
the number of the work; eg, Opus 10, BWV 81, K6
the recording media the track came from. eg, CD, Cassette, Radio Broadcast, LP, CD Single
"the work", whether a symphony, or a pop song
the track number on the CD
Make sure you don't put DATE or LOCATION information in this tag. "live", "acoustic", "Radio Edit" "12 inch remix" might be typical values of this tag
The person who encoded the Ogg file. May include contact information such as email address and phone number.
Put the settings you used to encode the Ogg file here. This tag is NOT expected to be stored or returned by cddb type databases. It includes information about the quality setting, bit rate, and bitrate management settings used to encode the Ogg. It also is used for information about which encoding software was used to do the encoding.

Additional singletons proposed by Legroom.net.

full lyrics for the track
a full URL linking to the album's official web site

The remaining tags are multiples; if they are present more than once, all their occurrences are considered significant.

composer of the work. eg, Gustav Mahler
the person who arranged the piece, eg, Ravel
the person who wrote the lyrics, eg Donizetti
for text that is spoken, or was originally meant to be spoken, the author, eg JRR Tolkien
conductor of the work; eg Herbert von Karajan. choir directors would also use this tag.
individual performers singled out for mention; eg, Yoyo Ma (violinist)
the group playing the piece, whether orchestra, singing duo, or rock and roll band.
a division within a work; eg, a movement of a symphony. Some tracks contain several parts. Use a single PART tag for each part contained in a track. ie, PART="Oh sole mio"
The part number goes in here. You can use any format you like, such as Roman numerals, regular numbers, or whatever. The numbers should be entered in such a way that an alphabetical sort on this tag will correctly show the proper ordering of all the oggs that contain the contain the piece of music.
like the genre tag from the cddb but without the limitations. You can put any genre you want in this tag. If you think "Pink Floyd" are a genre unto themselves, say so here. For crossover works, or ambiguous works, use as many GENRE tags as you think it takes to describe the styles used.
date or date-time of relevance to the track. The date must be in ISO 8601 format, but may be followed by a space character, then any text you wish, including the same date in any other format. None of the alternate formats in ISO 8601 may be used. Only the primary format in ISO 8601 is to be used. q.v. http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~mgk25/iso-time.html eg, DATE="1999-08-16 (recorded)" or DATE="1999-08-16 recorded August 16, 1999"
location of recording, or other location of interest
additional comments of any nature.

Examples of Tag Usage

Here is a typical example for most POP music.


Here is what you might see if you played it with ogg123:

Album: Joyride
Ensemble: Roxette
Title: Joyride

Bitstream is 2 channel, 44100Hz

Here is a typical example for CLASSICAL music.

LABEL=Deutsche Grammophon
COMPOSER=Gustav Mahler
CONDUCTOR=Herbert von Karajan
ENSEMBLE=Berliner Philharmoniker
PERFORMER=Liza don Getti (soprano)
PERFORMER=Joe Barr (piano)
PART="movement 1. Allegreto"
TITLE="Symphony no. 4"
COMMENT=I was present when this recording was made; met my wife there.
COMMENT=The flautist ate a green pickle with a purple egg.

And here is what you might see if you played it with ogg123:

Playing from file ogg/mystery_file_I_got_from_gnutella.ogg
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Composer: Gustav Mahler
Conductor: Herbert von Karajan
Ensemble: Berliner Philharmoniker
Performers: Liza don Getti (soprano)
            Joe Barr (piano)
Title: Symphony no. 4 (Opus 8), movement 1. Allegreto
Comments: I was present when this recording was made; met
          my wife there. The flautist ate a green pickle
          with a purple egg.

Bitstream is 2 channel, 44100Hz

Here is a really whacked example that uses all the tags in this document.

AUTHOR=Reverend Lovejoy
PERFORMER=Nix Nax (piccolo)
ENSEMBLE=Upper East German Woodwind Band
ALBUM=Tootles and Tunes
TITLE=The Life and Times of Friar Tux
PART=1. Minuet (allegro con molto)
GENRE=classical (avant garde)
DATE=1974-09-03 recorded
LOCATION=Easthampton Cathedral, Chesterwickshire
COMMENT=This is the wierdest, ugliest piece of music I've ever heard. Its the ugly duckling of the classical music world.

And here is what it would like like from ogg123

Album: Tootles and Tunes
Track: 8
Title: The Life and Times of Friar Tux (Opus 1), first minuet (allegro con molto)
Composer: Stravinksy
Conductor: Zubin Meta
Performer: Nix Nax (piccolo)
Ensemble: Upper East German Woodwind Band
Arranger: Ravel
Lyricist: Puccini
Author: Reverend Lovejoy
Label: BIZ
Copyright: Unclaimed
EAN/UPN: 111111111
Genre: classical (avant garde)
Producer: Fat Fred
Recorded on: Sept 3, 1974
Recorded at: Easthampton Cathedral, Chesterwickshire
Comments: This is the wierdest, ugliest piece of music I've ever heard.
          Its the ugly duckling of the classical music world. It has a
          monotone reading throughout, of that famous sermon by
          Reverend Lovejoy, "Life and Times of Friar Tux"

Bitstream is 2 channel, 44100Hz

This document is provided for reference purposes only. It is not endorsed by Reactor Core staff or Jonathan Walther, unless otherwise stated. The battle for Christ's Kingdom is always changing, moving to new fronts. The Christian soldier must be trained to prove every thought, ideology, train of reasoning, and claim to truth he meets. Slander is from Satan; Truth is from the Holy Spirit. The wise and the just check every fact for themselves before judging. (1 Thessalonians 5:21, 1 John 4:1-3, John 14:26, John 16:26, Revelation 12:10, Proverbs 14:15, Proverbs 18:13)

Server Outage

Submitted by jbreland on Wed, 10/01/2008 - 16:23

All of Legroom.net was offline from Monday through Wednesday morning. This is because my truly dumbass server colocation provider:

  1. sold me a new colo plan hosted in a data center that was being shut down
  2. neglected to warn me at the time of sale that it was being sut down
  3. neglected to warn me at any point before it was shut down, taking out my server in the process
  4. disconnected technical support / customer service numbers for the data center
  5. failed to mention the shutdown on their website and network status pages (which, btw, was also broken at the time)
  6. failed to respond to the urgent ticket I had submitted about the mysterious server outage in any reasonable amount of time
  7. when they did finally respond, about ten hours later, sent the reply to my e-mail address hosted on the very server that was shut down

Once I finally got someone on the phone, and was informed of the extremely unexpected data center shutdown, I was told that all servers were being moved to their Dallas data center facility. All Chicago customers were supposed to have been notified 60 days ago of the move, which didn't do me a whole lot of good as I wasn't yet a customer 60 days ago. Not that it stopped them from selling service in that data center anyway. Fucktards.

So the server was supposed to be available again Tuesday afternoon. Needless to day, Tuesday afternoon, evening, and night all passed, and still no server. Finally I called again Wednesday morning to see wtf was going on, and was told that the server had already been powered up (since about 9:30pm Tuesday night, according to my logs), but nobody bothered to connect a damn ethernet cable.

Again, fucktards.

Everyone I spoke with during this ordeal (once I finally figured out how to get in contact with them) was polite and seemed genuinely surprised and regretful that I had not been contacted about the relocation, and moving an entire data center in two days is no easy task, so it's hard for me to be upset with them on that level. But the complete and utter lack of notification, the fact that I was sold a plan in a data center that was already scheduled to be shutdown, and the apparently lack of competence necessary to connect an ethernet cable to bring the server back online is just flat out unacceptable.

Alright, I'm finished my rant. For now. Just wanted to let everyone know what happened. With any luck (well, a lot of luck with these people), Legroom.net stay online without any more unexpected outages.

Magnatune is Awesome

Submitted by jbreland on Fri, 08/22/2008 - 21:21

Magnatune is an independent record label and online music distribution channel. Why am I writing about it here? Because as the title suggests, it's frickin' awesome.

I've been listening to my music collection in digital form for many years now. I first ripped my entire CD collection in 2000, and have since ripped it twice more in progressively better quality. My final rip two years ago was done as lossless FLACs (see my AutoFLAC utility for more information), so I'll never have to rip them again. I've also long had a computer connected to my home theater system, primarily so I could listen to my music collection through may main stereo system. A completely digital music collection, combined with an intelligent media player like Amarok, offers countless advantages and flexibility over manually playing individual CDs.

Despite my love of digital music, until recently I've never purchased a single song or album digitally. Instead, I've continued to purchase, and subsequently rip, compact discs. Why? Because most online music services suck balls. Why?

  1. Digital Restrictions Management (aka, DRM) - this anti-consumer technology implements technical controls to limit what you can and can't do with music that you legally purchased. Want to listen to it on something other than an "approved" player? Tough. Want to copy it to and play it from another computer? Nope. Want to edit/remix it? Not gonna happen. Want to send it to a friend so he can check it out? Ha, now you're just being silly.
    Think you own it and should be able to play it forever? Better hope your music service/provider doesn't shut down.
  2. Quality - Most digital music has been sold as 128 Kbps tracks. This is atrocious quality. Why would I want to buy something of significantly worse quality (digital music) than the same exact product I've been buying for years in stores (compact discs). Recently many services have begun selling 256 Kbps tracks, which is a huge step in the right direction, but even this is far inferior to lossless CD quality music.
  3. Proprietary/restrictive application requirements - Most services require some kind of proprietary application to download and/or play the music. Why should I be forced to install a really crappy media player, that doesn't even run on my operating system, just to buy and download music? Why do I need to install some proprietary browser plugin just to download files that my browser is perfectly capable of downloading by itself?
  4. DRM - Yes, this point is worth repeating. DRM is defective by design, and it's important to treat it as such.
  5. Physical media - I like physical media. I like album art. I like liner notes and lyrics. I like having a physical backup in case something happens to my digital copy. I like the whole CD experience. Simply buying a digital copy of a song and downloading it to your computer without all of the value-added features is really rather lame by comparison.
  6. Have I mentioned DRM is evil?

I could go on, but that purpose of this post is not to rant about online other music services. The reason I'm posting this is because I want to call attention to a really great online music service: Magnatune. Their motto is "We are not evil," and unlike Google, which shares a similar motto but is so busy compiling every last detail of your life into one massive database to remember that, Magnatune actually means it. From there front page:

We work directly with independent musicians world-wide to give you downloads of MP3s and perfect-quality WAV files. We never work with major labels, and our musicians always get 50%. You can listen to every album in its entirety before buying or becoming a member.

They expand much more on this. The reasons behind Magnatune's creation are also quite interesting, and that 50/50 split directly with artists is a big deal. Be sure to check out their full info page for all the details.

Ok, so Magnatune says they're not evil, has a lot of propaganda on their site discussing that fact, and seems to be quite fair to the artists involved, but how does that affect me as a customer? Well, it basically translates into a wonderful customers-first policy that is extremely rare today. To be completely honest, and this is something you'll very, very rarely hear me say, I was 100% satisfied by the entire browsing and ordering process. Let me walk you through it:

  1. Decide on something to buy. Magnatune makes this quite easy:
    • Music can be searched/browsed by genre, artist, or album, and includes best-selling and newest lists
    • ALL music on the site can be sampled in its entirety in reasonable quality streaming audio. These "preview" tracks are actually just MP3s that are streamed directly from Magnatune's servers.
    • You can listen to the samples through an embedded media player in your web browser or by opening playlist links in your own preferred media player. Magnatune even offers a special programming interface that allows the service to be directly integrated with music players so I can, for example, browse, play, and purchase any album directly within Amarok.
  2. Once you've found something you like, click Buy Download
    • Note that you also have the choice to buy a physical CD instead and have it shipped to you
  3. Choose how much you want to pay, from $5 - $18. $8 is the default, though I've been choosing $10 (remember, 50% goes directly to the artists, not the label or any other middle men)
  4. Enter payment info
    • It's not necessary to register or create a permanent account
    • It's not necessary to give them your e-mail addresses, although a receipt will be e-mailed to you if one is provided
    • Payment information (eg., credit card number) is never saved on the server, unlike most other online retailers who don't even give you this option
  5. Click Pay
  6. Note the provided username and password, then click on the download link
  7. Begin downloading in choice of audio format
    • FLAC, Ogg Vorbis, MP3 (both constant and variable bitrate), AAC, and even WAV are allowed
    • Album cover art is also available for download
  8. If desired, forward download link and password to up 3 friends
  9. Sit back and enjoy your new music in any way that you want

Now, with all that said, I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention the one negative aspect of the site. I mentioned at the very beginning that Magnatune is an independent record label. While this is a good thing, it does have one significant drawback: Magnatune as a much more limited selection than any of the major record labels. Basically, if you're used to buying music from a particular artist at Target or Best Buy, you will not find that artist's music on Magnatune. If you're only looking for big-name bands, you probably won't find much here. That's an unfortunate reality of the current industry environment. If, however, you're looking for some good music from lesser-known artists (I strongly recommend Rob Costlow if you like solo piano, and the rock group Atomic Opera is also worth checking out), you're not likely to find a better experience anywhere else.

I'm definitely not one to gush about, well, pretty much anything, but in this case I was so impressed, and so pleased, with my experience that I wanted to share it here. By all accounts, Magnatune is a good company doing good business and providing a great service to music fans and musicians alike. Check them out.

Server Outage

Submitted by jbreland on Sun, 06/01/2008 - 04:22

In case anyone was wondering why legroom.net was offline for the past few days, it's because of a hardware failure that occurred Thursday morning. The server hosting legroom.net failed due to a yet unknown hardware issue. As a result, all web/mail/database/file/etc. services have been unavailable since then. As of early Sunday morning, I just finished migrating all of the data from the old server (well, I hope I got all of it) to a new OS install on a different, though temporary, system. As far as I can tell, all internet functionality should be restored at this point, including e-mail.

Needless to say, this was a major inconvenience, but I'm reasonably certain I didn't lose any data. However, if you happen find any errors on the site, or any missing content, please let me know ASAP. Also, if you sent me an e-mail at any point from Thursday morning to Sunday night, please resend it as I may not have received it.

This site will probably go down a couple more times, albeit very briefly, over the next couple of days as I continue working on the migration. I still have a few remaining issues to take care of. I'm hoping that by Tuesday the site will be up again for good (at least until the next migration to a permanent home...).

Geek Humor

Submitted by jbreland on Mon, 12/31/2007 - 03:13

I've been out of town for a while, and before that rather busy with work. Obviously, I haven't gotten much done on the site. However, once again I felt the need to post a quick note just to let everyone know that yes, I am still alive.

And with that said, I'd like to wish a belated Merry Christmas and early Happy New Years to all my family, friends, and visitors.

Also, I'd like to leave you with this xkcd comic. I'm sure the simple fact that it's 3:00am right now has a lot to do with it, but this just struck me as one of the funniest things I've read all week. Warning: as noted in the title, prepare for hardcore geek humor.