Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Something Interesting About managingmusicfilesonyourcomputerandpersonalmusicplayer

Why thank you, Geoffrey.
Today, I proudly informed my friends on Facebook, I gave into "the strange obsession that my peer group has with Disney music", and loaded the Lion King soundtrack onto my mp3 player. When I inserted the cd, a box appeared asking me what I'd like to do with the cd. All well and good. I was given the options of opening it to look at the files, not doing anything, or to listen to it or rip music from it with Windows Media Player, iTunes, Creative Centrale or Nokia Music Manager. These programmes all have their own pros and cons:
Windows Media Player - usually just doesn't work. I gave up on it in 2007 or 2008. Sometimes I use it when I accidentally double-click on a video (when I should have right-clicked to select Open with PowerDVD) and it comes up and plays in Media Player. But most of the time I just never use it.
iTunes - I don't actually have an iPod, but I use this for most of my music needs. It works and I'm used to it. The only problem is that although I don't have an iPod, my sister does, and most of the songs shown are hers. And of those, only a fraction are actually on my computer - the majority ask me to find the file manually when I try to play them. Half of them are by Slipknot, so I don't mind.
Creative Centrale - this is the music programme that came with my mp3 player (a Zen Mozaic - I have the black one. Yes, it looks even more emo in real life). It's good in that it automatically finds music on my computer, and doesn't display all the songs that aren't there like iTunes does. Sometimes I find little gems on Creative Centrale that I didn't know I had - for example, today I realised that Bittersweet Symphony was on my computer, this being a song that had been on my "songs to get" list for months. I use this for putting music onto my mp3 player, even if I take it from a CD with iTunes.
Nokia Music Manager - part of Nokia PC Suite. I don't actually listen to music on my phone, because the last time I tried it took me about three hours to get one song on.
So I selected "Import songs with iTunes". After the Lion King had finished importing I inserted "Housework Songs [Disc 1]", and then realised that I could set up a sort of production line, where as one CD was importing on iTunes, the CD that was imported before it would going onto my mp3 player. In this manner, I copied 16 CDs onto my computer, most of which I also copied onto my mp3 player. Now I've got lots of new songs to listen to, some of which I've never heard before.
The way I organise my music is that everything goes on my laptop. Not literally everything - I don't go out and hunt down things like cheap, crappy modern hip-hop just because it's there. But if there's a chance that I might want to listen to something, or email it to a friend in one of my send-people-random-music sprees, I put it on the laptop - and not just the song, but the whole album, even if I only want one song from it.
From there, it's narrowed down to the music I have on my mp3 player. I tend to listen to my mp3 player on "shuffle all", so if there's an album that I only like one song from, usually I'll just put that song on - though you can discover good music that you didn't know about from listening to the rest of the album that you got for the one song. I found "The Best of Blur" on my computer once (a leftover from my sister), and the only song I knew was Song 2. Everyone knows Song 2. But I listened to the rest of the album, and decided that I liked Country House, Charmless Man, Coffee & TV and Tender waaaaaaaaay more than Song 2.
Since refreshing my mp3 player with this new music ("new" is relative - the CDs are all from my parents' collection), I've come to especially enjoy the addition of the greatest hits albums from The Eagles and The Beach Boys (don't laugh! The Beach Boys are the soundtrack of my childhood!).
If only I didn't now have "Fun Fun Fun" stuck in my head.
And she'll have fun fun fun till her daddy takes her T-bird away...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What time is it in Antarctica?

I noticed this today about settings on Blogger. You're meant to specify which time zone you're bloggging from, and they have multiple city options for each time zone. If you're in a narrow country like New Zealand, you just take the city they've got for New Zealand and shut up. If you're in a wide country like Australia, you pick the city you're closest to, I assume. For example my time zone, GMT + 12:00, has as options Auckland, Fiji, Funafuti and Kwajalein, as well as two very unexpected locations:

"Antarctica/South Pole"

Um, ay?

Soooo, apparently if you are at the South Pole, your watch should be set to New Zealand time.

I was incredulous at this suggestion, so I consulted the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia:

From "South Pole": In most places on Earth, local time is more-or-less synchronised to the position of the sun in the sky. This line of reasoning fails at the South Pole, which has 'days' lasting for a whole year. Another way of looking at it is to note that all time zones converge at the pole. There is no a priori reason for placing the South Pole in any particular time zone, but as a matter of practical convenience the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station keeps New Zealand time. This is because the US flies its resupply missions out of Christchurch, New Zealand.

Well. The South Pole is on New Zealand time. Fancy that.

Now I'm considering the possibilities of blogging from the South Pole. I read a book about blogging recently that featured on the front cover a man sitting in a snowy landscape, dressed like an (insert-politically-correct-term-for-Eskimo/Inuit/etc-here), with a laptop. And it was a photo, too. I inferred from this that he was meant to be somewhere near the North Pole.

Trouble is, I don't think the South Pole has wifi. But if it ever gets wifi, I'll go down there and blog.

And I won't even have to change my blog's time zone.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

An Interesting Way To Get Around

The YikeBike is an electric minifarthing - the minifarthing being a small, foldable and portable bicycle based on a penny-farthing. The designers say they originally considered an electric unicycle, but thought that the difficulty of balancing on a unicycle wouldn't make it terribly efficient. I think the best thing about this is that it was invented by New Zealanders, but there are a few other benefits - and downsides, too.
For safety, it is limited to a top speed of 20km/h - even when you're going down a hill. With full tyres and a full battery, it weighs 10kg - but it carries a maximum weight of 100kg, including the rider and their personal effects. So if you weight 95kg, you're not allowed to ride it wearing a 10kg backpack, and if you weigh 101kg, you're not allowed to ride it at all - unless you want to just ride it anyway and to heck with the warranty!
The range of the YikeBike, with a fully charged battery, is 9km. The creators invisage it as being used by commuters to travel short distances to work - when it's too short to drive, but too far to walk, and cycling would get you all hot and bothered in your suit and tie. If you can charge it at your workplace, great - but tough luck if you can't, cause you'll have to live within 4.5km of your place of work, unless you integrate public transport into your journey - more on that later.

The FAQs make me laugh. In response to the question "What happens when I brake hard?" the website says: "The YikeBike is the first in the world to have electronic anti-skid brakes, giving smoother braking and a shorter stopping distance than a bicycle. It is likely that you will jump off the front of a YikeBike in an emergency braking situation – this is very easy as there are no handle bars in the way." Sounds just like a unicycle in that respect!

As an answer to "Does the YikeBike come with a lock?" they say "No – because you can fold it up and take it with you there is no need to leave it outside where it can be stolen." I disagree with this. Just because you can fold something up and take it with you, that doesn't mean you should. I see the advantage of it folding up to be that you can carry it on public transport (in Auckland you have to buy a "cycle ticket" to take convential bikes on trains and they won't let you take your bike during peak hours - the YikeBike, being the size of a large bag, escapes this rule), or to carry it into your place of work/destination to charge it up for the return journey. Say you rode your YikeBike to a job interview. Would you fold it up and carry it under your arm into the interview room? Possibly. It'd be a great conversation starter. But even though it's the size of a large bag, there are lots of places where I would take a bicycle but not a large bag, because I can lock my bicycle outside.

I do admire the way it folds up. The front wheel goes back into the frame, and the rear wheel turns 180 degrees to rest inside the front wheel, while the seat and handlebars fold down on top. They say that it takes 15 seconds to fold up or unfold - but I'm sceptical of that. I know that it takes about two minutes of tugging and swearing to unfold a fold-up scooter, including locking all the moving parts into place so that something doesn't collapse once you're at terminal velocity. The Yikebike website doesn't specify whether their 15 seconds includes setting all the parts rigidly in place ready to be ridden (say that five times quickly!).

In conclusion, it's definitely interesting. We'll just have to wait and see how, and if, it takes off - although I suspect it might just be a gimmicky fad, like the Segway it was inspired by.

If you thought this was mildly interesting, you may also find recumbent bicycles worth a look. I had never heard of them before today.