Yearly Archives: 2007

Cover to cover to cover

Vital Signs

So what have I been doing that I neglect every blog I write? Once again, I’ve been indulging in my wannabe package designer.

A few months back, I bought a cross upgrade to QuarkXpress 7.1. I had an ancient version of PageMaker 6.0 lying around, and I figured I’d leverage it for a switch to Quark. I got it in my head that a layout program such as Quark or Adobe InDesign is a must-have for CD cover design.

Further research revealed that may not actually be the case. A number of local CD duplication services use templates in Illustrator, and the self-service Disc Makers site offers Photoshop templates!

After reading up about how CD duplication works, I started cleaning up the original Eponymous 4 cover designs with actual industry specs and went on a roll. I own a 10-year-old black-and-white laser printer, so the canned covers I could produce with Acoustica were limited. With Quark and Photoshop, I created artwork with a bit more color. (For some, not all.)

I’m still not graphic designer, but I like having tools that give me options.

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Adventures in vinyl transfers, or I’m sick of waiting for a boxed set by the Waitresses

Technophilia Aural

I bought a laptop. And because I want to work on studio stuff with that laptop, I also bought a USB audio interface.

A while back, I considered taking out an old boombox that had a phonograph input and setting it up next to my computer to transfer some vinyl. I have some records I bought from the Austin Record Convention that I never actually listened to because I don’t have time to sit and spin sides. With my mixer, external sound card and industrial strength audio software, I could make a decent transfer.

The thought occurred to me again today, but laziness, of course, reared its head. I didn’t want to disconnect my record player from the entertainment system and set it up in my cramped bedroom. Then I realized I now own a laptop, and the USB audio interface contains the drivers to power the industrial-strength audio software.

So this morning, I embarked on transferring Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful?, the long out-of-print debut by the Waitresses.

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If brevity is the soul of wit, what does that make Twitter?

Technophilia Social

I’ve seen a lot of words about Twitter lately, some of them kind, some of them not. In one case, both types said by the same person. (And watch him Twitter up a storm!)

Twitter, for me, is yet another opportunity to say the most with the fewest number of words. It’s something for which I strive in everything I write, and the limitations of Twitter take it to the extreme. I remember my very first online journal entries aimed for brevity, when the convention at the time was verbosity. In a way, Twitter is the writing format I wish I thought of back in 1996.

Maybe it’s age or more demands on my time, but there are days when I would like to write about something but won’t, knowing full well how much work would be involved for a particular topic. So I post to Twitter instead.

Of course, an examination of my own Twitter posts shows I’m nowhere close to Dorothy Parker for concise witticisms. But sometimes, the quick thoughts I jot down on Twitter can become blogging topics themselves. My recent frustrations with Finale, for instance, being one such topic.

The mobile phone and IM aspects of Twitter are lost on me, even though they’re the original focus of the site. My posts aren’t tailored to those outlets.


Vital Signs

Cigarettes? Check.

Cash? Check.

Ear condoms (a.k.a. earplugs)? Check.

iPod Nano with calendar of bands to see? Check.

Cellphone on? Check.

Wristband? Check.

Loan to buy laptop computer? (Huh? Whu’?) Check.

I think I’m ready for SXSW.

Adventures in music notation, or what crap will you pull now, Finale?

Technophilia Aural

I spent this past weekend getting familiar with Finale, and I have to say, it’s one of the most antagonistic user experiences I’ve ever encountered. I often felt it went out of its way to prevent me from accomplishing anything. I got curious about how Finale managed to earn its clout as the premier software for music notation. How can so many users settle for such hostile interface?

I did a search for "finale sibelius" to see what kind of discussion I’d find. One thing Finale seems to get credit for is minute control over all aspects of a score, and folks who use it value that thoroughness over any need for an intuitive interface. I also get the impression that Finale users just settle for what they have because it gets the job done.

This post, however, details the shortcomings I discovered in Finale on my first try. The author also compares Finale with Sibelius and found Sibelius easier to work with.

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Tunnel vision: Winamp

Technophilia Aural

I’m a creature of habit.

Most of it arises from the notion of not breaking what doesn’t need to be fixed. The problem with that line of thinking is that waiting for something to break can make you oblivious to doing something better.

I’ve never really explored the media library feature of Winamp. I organize my listening around playlists, and anytime some program offers to scan my hard drive to find all my music, I know it’s not going to be smart enough to discern music files from raw sound files used in applications.

Those prompts almost always come from media library features, and I’ve paid them no mind.

iTunes, however, is purely a library interface. It’s driven by the metadata in your media files, not by file system naming conventions. My library is my file naming convention, so when iTunes and my habits diverge, I usually end up cursing iTunes.

I wondered whether there was a way I could use Winamp to interface with my iPod instead of using iTunes. As a matter of fact, it can, but you would need to use the Media Library.

So I took it for a whirl.

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The web browser as media player

Technophilia Aural

I was doing some research on XUL for work when I ran across a reference to a Mozilla-based media player called Songbird.

So I was intrigued by what a read, and after I downloaded and installed the player itself, I was impressed with what I saw.

Songbird treats every web page you visit as a potential playlist. If the browser finds links to MP3 files, it’ll create a playlist of those files, which you can listen to with a built-in player. It’s much more convenient than waiting for a QuickTime plug-in to load, and you don’t have to click through each link to listen.

The media player in Songbird isn’t just restricted to web sites. It also contains a library to handle files on your computer.

The program is still in development, and the preview available has a number of interface quirks. I noticed an issue with scrolling when viewing an XML file. The browser doesn’t keep a history, and handling bookmarks in the side bar can be unintuitive. Future features include the ability to rip and burn CDs and synchronizing with playback devices.

When Songbird gets closer to a 1.0 version, it could very well be an incredibly powerful application.