Yearly Archives: 2008

Music video social network shoot out!

Technophilia Visual

Now that YouTube has gone out of its way to ensure crappy sound on uploaded videos, I’ve been investigating other sites on which to post Eponymous 4 music videos.

The major social networking sites — Myspace and Facebook — both support video uploads, as does, and all three pretty much accept the same file types: MPEG-2, MP4, MOV, AVI.

To test the capabilities of Myspace, Facebook and, I uploaded MPEG-2 and MP4 versions of my videos. The MPEG-2 files averaged about 150MB, while the MP4 files weigh in at about 36MB. The MP4 files have impressive picture and sound for their size, and I was hoping the encoding processes of these sites would maintain that quality.

Of course, not all video is created equal, and one in particular — "enigmatics IV" — poses problems because it was not "shot" as digital video. The footage is actually stop-motion animation from individual digital pictures. This video would prove to be the Achilles heel of all three sites.

On the whole, the picture quality of the videos was on par between the two formats and between all four sites. The MP4 files showed a bit more degradation than the MPEG-2 files after going through each site’s Flash encoding, which is to be expected given the amount of compression in MP4.

The more noticeable difference — still not by much — is in sound. The MPEG-2 files fared better than the MP4 files after the encoding. For folks who aren’t particular, uploading an MP4 on a high-speed connection gets the job done and produces fairly good quality. But if you’ve got an office T-1 connection, uploading MPEG-2 files is a better bet.

Here’s how each service performed.

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What I learned: V-Vocal turns me into a female Japanese backing singer

Technophilia Aural

I’m not enough of a singer to dismiss V-Vocal, the Cakewalk SONAR pitch correction plug-in, as an essential part of my recording process. V-Vocal, in fact, helps me hear my own voice sing my own melodies properly, and that helps me develop better muscle memory.

A long time ago, I saw a bulletin board post on the Cakewalk web site claiming V-Vocal is really good for creating temporary background vocals. I decided to give it a try.

One of my songs, "Melt", sounds better if the third verse were doubled an octave higher, but that would put the melody far, far out of my comfortable range. I’ve attempted it and practically had to scream. The microphone didn’t like that, and the resulting recording was clipped as hell.

So I tried a different tactic — I recorded a second part in unison, then used V-Vocal to transpose that part an octave higher. The results were remarkable — it sounded like me an octave higher without the near-screaming and without the clipping. Listen:

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

var s1 = new SWFObject(“”,”playlist”,”400″,”40″,”7″); s1.addParam(“allowfullscreen”,”false”); s1.addVariable(“file”,’′); s1.addVariable(‘displaywidth’,’0′); s1.addVariable(‘shuffle’,’false’); s1.addVariable(‘thumbsinplaylist’,’false’); s1.addVariable(‘autostart’,’false’); s1.addVariable(‘author’,’Eponymous 4′); s1.addVariable(‘title’,’Melt (background vocal example)’); s1.write(“player1”);

If V-Vocal can create a frighteningly accurate facsimile of my voice an octave higher, what would happen if I went further into the female ranges?

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What I learned: Saving a fillable PDF that isn’t savable


I’ve been working with the forms available from the Copyright Office, and while they can be filled out in Acrobat Reader, they cannot be saved unless you have a full version of Acrobat.

Or so the Copyright Office assumes.

New forms with special bar codes that can be scanned are forthcoming, but if you want to back up the forms you fill out, you can instead print the PDF to another PDF.

On a totally different endeavor, I downloaded PDFCreator, a PDF creation freeware. I experimented with creating PDFs from scores made in Sibelius. I got some great results, and I wondered whether the same can be done from other PDFs. So I printed my filled-out copyright forms to PDFCreator, and lo and behold, backups!

It’s a nice temporary solution till the Copyright Office makes its new forms available.

A system of checks and balances


So let me be upfront about it: I support Barack Obama’s candidacy.

It’s not because of his platform. I’ve ignored the platforms of all the candidates because pragmatism will force them to renege on a lot of promises. It’s not because I find him inspiring. I don’t have an opinion about that because I don’t care to form one. It’s not because I toe the Democrat party line. I’ve voted for Republicans in the past.

I support Obama’s candidacy out of pragmatism (that word again) and history.

It’s all too easy to get swallowed up in the echo chamber that is political coverage in the media. And it’s all too easy to perceive no progress being made when opposing forces continually butt heads. But that’s how a system of checks and balances is supposed to work. The last eight years has been a spectacular display of that system pretty much breaking down.

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Inevitable discovery

Vital Signs

Inevitable discovery is a term I learned from watching too much Law & Order. Although the concept has a specific definition in legal circles, there’s an underlying idea that I guess could be analogous to the notion of fate.

If a set of circumstances would have prevented an outcome from happening, could it still eventually happen through the normal course of events?

Today, I am a web developer at a technology company. I became a web developer because I saw limited opportunities at my former newspaper job. I ended up at the paper because of an internship program to which I was accepted after college. I applied for the internship because I was confident my experience with the college daily paper prepared me. I worked at the paper because I was encouraged to pursue journalism as a course of study. I studied journalism because a number of people saw I had a talent for it.

One of those people was Robin J. Gould. She taught the first journalism course I took in college. She served as adviser for the student newspaper during the two years I was working as desk editor. She was, in short, my rabbi. (Another term I learned from Law & Order.) We lived through a lot of bullshit bureaucratic drama, thus developing a kinship based as much on survival as common interest.

She passed away in the last few weeks.

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I’m a numismatic tourist

Vital Signs

My office held a white elephant party right before Christmas, and I ended up with a 50-state commemorative quarter holder. So now I’ve been obsessing over all the change I get. I have yet to find a Web 2.0 application to keep track of these coins — because really, it would so be easy to build one, I figure someone must have by now — so I’m resorting to an old-fashioned blog entry with an ordered list.

Here’s what I have so far:

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Timing is everything


I joked to myself that once the laptop was completely paid off, something would go wrong with it. I was partially correct.

I sent off the final payment of the laptop on Dec. 31. On Jan. 4, my desktop died. As mentioned before, I thought it was a hard drive problem. It turned out it wasn’t. A support call to Dell led me to believe it was a heatsink problem, which seemed plausible since it was the heatsink that was exhibiting symptoms. So I ordered a new heatsink, choosing the cheapest shipping available. That meant I waited four days to discover … it wasn’t the heatsink either.

If it wasn’t the drive nor the heatsink, that left the power supply or — gracious me — the motherboard. Another call to Dell support confirmed it was the latter. I had suspected as much when I found a thread on the support forums that matched the symptoms my desktop was exhibiting. The technician on the phone had me take out the memory and disconnect everything from the motherboard except the power connectors. The computer didn’t complain about the memory missing. Motherboard, it is.

Before I called support, I looked up what a replacement motherboard would cost, and my jaw dropped. For that price, I may as well buy a new computer. Thankfully, my machine has 35 days left on its warranty, so the motherboard is being replaced gratis.

Thing is, I just paid off the laptop. I’m not really in the financial straits to upgrade the desktop. I would like to get another two years out of it before I consider getting a new one. Maybe when the second half of the company bonus comes, I’ll buy an extension to the warranty. I’d rather spend $158 now than drop $400-$500 when something goes wrong, and if that something happens a day after the warranty extension expires, I should be ready to get a new system by then.

All signs point to yes


The next Mercury Retrograde is supposed to happen at the end of this month (January 2008.) But this past weekend felt as if the Retrograde started early. Everything just seemed to be breaking down.

  • First, the heat sink in my desktop computer goes berserk. I diagnosed the problem incorrectly as a faulty hard drive and spent $30 more than I originally paid to get a new drive. Then I ended up spending another $27 to get a new heat sink. Since it’s going to take a few days to get here, I spent much of this weekend setting up my laptop as a substitute.
  • The weather went from extremely cold to extremely warm, so I turned on my air conditioning to cool down the apartment a little bit. After half an hour, the a/c started blowing hot air. My attempts to turn it off failed. So I had to cut off the power using the circuit breaker. Since the breaker isn’t labeled, I tried each one till the a/c stopped. As a result, the computer connected to my wireless access point rebooted. I don’t know how that affected the access point, but it did.
  • When I rebooted the access point from its web interface, I lost access to the interface after the reboot. So I had to reset it to the factory default and reconfigure it.
  • My laptop all of sudden dropped its connection to the wireless access point, and even after reconnecting it, I could not establish an Internet connection. Numerous attempts failed, so I renamed the wireless access point. Now it’s working.

I would say, "I’m glad [blank] didn’t break," but I’m not tempting fate.

It’s hot in there


People sometimes perceive as me some sort of technical whiz, and perhaps that’s true if you compare me to, say, my mom, who had trouble with the concept of double-clicking when forced to use a computer at her job. (She’s been retired for a number of years now.) And my co-workers certainly think I’m a miracle worker when it comes to writing scripts that cut a three-day manual job down to 30 seconds.

But when hardware breaks down, I’m dumb. I own my dumbness. I am not an electrical engineer, and after years of working with computers, I couldn’t begin to tell you what the hell happens inside the damn thing.

So this morning, I turn my computer on only to hear the fan whir like it’s about to take off the runway. I cut the power and plug it back in. Same thing. I conclude it’s a bum hard drive, although I have this nagging suspicion it might be something on the motherboard itself.

The drive was purchased nearly a month ago, so I took the old one and put it back in the computer. Luckily, I hadn’t wiped anything off of it. The computer started up with no problem — no fan sounding like it’s about to fly out of the room. Conclusion: hard drive.

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