August 2004 Archives

One of the fun things about wifi and cafes that offer it is that you often find other iTunes users sharing their library for you to enjoy.

Of course Apple makes it such that one can only stream these songs, but various solutions get around this (not that I've tried them)

One thing that always amazes me in this process of sharing musical tastes is how my tastes seem to overlap so many others but rarely the other way around, i've yet to find anyone who has the kind of extreme metal I have in my iTunes.

One of my biggest pet hates in web browsers is the need to endlessly log into things.

Of course this is inevitable based on the internet's fundamental design as no single entity controls all the servers and applications.

However many times these logins are purely unnecessary or just implemented with the aim of increasing revenue. This is particularly true with online news sites.

Just recently one of the few online sources of oz related news has started to harass for registration: This is the Sydney Morning Herald, in it's paper form a bulky pain in the ass to read paper filled with intelligent articles. My response to the need to register and login to read news. I go elsewhere, to the ABC's online site which aside from lacking RSS support has always been the best.

Why do I hate registration so much? Well there is the hassle of managing passwords and usernames across a plethora of sites that in some cases are rarely visited. For their part the browsers do little to make this easier, sure they offer the ability to remember passwords for you, however their implementation is ineffective.

Also the interface for recalling passwords is too intrusive: particularly when you are trying to recall a password and keep on guessing passwords, getting a "password not correct" response from the remote server. Having to deal with a "do you want to remember this password" option at the same time is a real pain!

Browser developers need to rework this functionality as below:

1) make the alert non-blocking but still attached to the specific window. If you ignore it, you can still go on and use the page and the rest of the browser windows, after a few minutes it fades away to only re-appear the next time you try an log on.
2) ensure the alert appears only AFTER you have successfully logged onto the site.
3) If the saved password values fail to work twice provide a message asking the user if the auto login values should be forgotten.
4) Provide a simple, well documented way to disable the saved password option ENTIRELY or for specific domains. This is key to implementing security policies in large corporations which usually don't want their users bypassing security restrictions.

A while back a friend gave me mp3s of the latest double CD release by Therion, a band I like but not love and hardly ever listen to.

However this recent dual album may just be their finest moment, achieving a fine balance between their pompous overly orchestrated albums and their early celtic frost influenced metal.

To me, there has only been one great proper Therion album, their groundbreaking Theli, which was the first point where extreme metal and symphonic choirs properly clicked. Regardless Theli suffered from the same bombastic pomposity that got even worse as subsequent albums ditched more and more of the metal elements. The only other release I enjoyed was a patchwork rarities compilation A'Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming.

With each album utilising more and more performers, larger choirs etc one expected that Therion's label would eventually declare enough as I am sure I was not the only one who was put off by the decline in quality of release after release.

So how is it that this recent release comes across as potentially having all the hallmarks of a potential disaster - the largest choirs so far, two albums released at once but not really as one. Despite all this, Christopher and crew actually manage to produce a work that stands as potentially their best yet.

Maybe maturity finally hit, we always knew they had talent.

Seriously though what makes this so much better is threefold:

Firstly: the growls and extreme vocals are back, but used sparingly as is appropriate
Secondly: The tempo is varied a lot more, many Therion albums and songs suffered from a neo-classical "sameness"
Thirdly: Stylistically the song-writing seems expanded, with a wider selection of styles and genres utilised but sensibly and appropriately.

Now I just need to find these CDs cheap, as it still isn't my style enough to pay full price!

Went to Amoeba again yesterday and yet again spent way too much on CDs

My big killer was the exceptionally expensive jap import version of the Ghost Dog soundtrack, this one works out to well over a dollar a minute for the CD! Have had mp3s of this for years but nothing beats owning the CD quality version once I could actually find it! At the cash register this one scanned as $0 and I joked I'd be happy to take that price! Regardless what I paid was still way below what amazon or some Aus store would have charged.

Picked up quite a few bargains in the used category including Katatonia's Brave Yester Days rarities compilation.

Busy ripping these CDs so I c an enjoy them in my wandering over the next few days.

For those reading my site via syndication (RSS), I have just increased the content in each RSS post to include the full text of each entry. Previously the limit was set to 75 words, which many other sites also do but I personally find infuriating. Yes RSS was designed as a headline syndication tool, but there is no technical reason to not display the full text. Many sites make revenue from their news information and thus have a business need to restrict access to the full text. Again I see this as ridiculous as the annoyance of not recieving direct access to resources usually leads me to find an alternate source!

I have just started to play with: Read it to me which can convert text from various sources into short audio clips that can of course be played back on your ipod.

It features nifty integration with NetNewsWire thus giving you an audible version of current news headlines, seems kind of cool and a great way to use text to speech that has been around nearly forever in the Mac OS but rarely gets used aside from the many musicians who have featured Fred on their CDs

After giving two albums by Aborym a heavier pounding I must admit that my prior comments might have been a bit hasty.

Whilst still very enjoyable, Aborym represent an evolution of black industrial metal, not a revolution as I might have suggested earlier. The only artist I have encountered who is truly remaking extreme metal right now is the mysterious single individual behind blut aus nord

Aborym make great music that is surprisingly accessible but could benefit from a much more clinical and careful mix and the expansion of the layered industrial found samples that already add depth to the music.

On other fronts, I sampled a whole lot of music whilst in the company of Misha and found some things to like.

Finally got around to giving the not so new RJD2 a listen, it's good and dramatically different to his previous work, highlighting that his skills are much more diverse than I had previously thought.

Last night, I passed on my initial plans to drive back to SF and instead flew into Oakland. Took the BART back to SF and crashed in a huge and anonymous hostel for the night.

Seattle was lovely and I had trouble leaving, but it is nice to be back in the warmth of california.

Still in seattle, last night rather than picking up my hire car and driving south, I ended up making a new friend: Mike Smith, used my trademark skills to upgrade his digital life and make a great new acquaintance

Well today is my last day in Seattle, I haven't written much because I have been busy enjoying the place. Yet I know I need to come back as there is much more I have yet to see.

Yesterday I did the obvious tourist attraction of the EMP (experience music project) and SFM (science fiction museum) the blame for both can be laid at the feet of one Paul Allen, who made his fortune in the earliest days of Microsoft.

Even for a self confessed geek, the SFM really is god awful. Mostly it shows how poorly modern popular culture gets science fiction, and how even the fans have been deluded. So much of the exhibition felt more appropriate in planet hollywood.

On the other hand, the EMP has a chance if pushed the right way of turning the corner and becoming an important aspect of Seattle's cultural heart. If they just learn how to apply the lameness filter more harshly. There is plenty of raw material to utilise, it just cannot be presented in a dry and academic fashion. Nor should they give in to the temptation and tip the balance towards a fun park, music style. More of the interactive exploring music styled aspect should do it!

The building has been criticsed as ugly and it definitely could date very rapidly, it's not particularly aesthetic, but situated so close to the space needle, it kind of fits in in a strange fashion.

Yesterday was a very frustrating day travelling wise.

Originally I was going to hire a car at Denver airport, but problems with my credit card prevented this and I ended up flying to Laramie

Of course it was much harder to get a car one way back from Laramie to Denver, then a huge car crash on the I-80 made it impossible to get a rental car at any price.

So i needed to fly back, bought my ticket late the night before as I had been intending to drive. After buying the ticket, thought I should reserve a taxi for the 6AM airport arrival needed the next day.

Then came my problems, I quickly realised taxis were not very good in Laramie. Three numbers all took me to voicemail and despite repeated calls, no one arrived to pick me up the next day!

So I missed my plane, ringing around, still no hire cars.

Rang the airlines, as I had a flight to connect with in Denver, and was going to miss that as well. Both airlines were happy to rebook me on later flights, one advantage for paying high prices to fly!

So I arrived in Seattle at around 8PM rather than 2PM like originally intended. Misha who I was staying with had long since closed up his shop where I was supposed to meet him, nor was he answering his mobile or home phone.

Knowing it was saturday night and he was probably out I just ended up taking a taxi to his house and waiting for him to come home!

Today I'm pretty washed out due to such a long and frustrating day traveling so been giving sunday the day of rest treatment it deserves!

As part of visiting Timm, I received a bundle of new CDs that I had purchased from various online sites which offered free shipping to a US address.

Many I was just purchasing the CD of an album I had already sampled as mp3, for example the only recently available internationally Blut Aus Nord

Some were based on reviews and others on seeing the band live.

In the live category was Aborym who really impressed at Inferno and as such I got their second album Fire Walk With Us which has been garnering a fair amount of plays since I got my hands on the cds two days ago.

Aborym play something that could be called Post Black Metal, but that's just a vague tag. In reality they integrate the extremes of industrial, electronic and techno music into a black metal foundation.

Featuring the legendary vocal extremes of Attila Cshair who once sang with Mayhem. Most extreme vocals are pretty ordinary and often just there for impact. Not Attila, who manages to endow each vocal with a unique aspect, that makes his croaks and moans so enjoyable and always enhances or counterpoints the rest off the music.

Speaking of the music, it's an excellent mix that downplays the guitars but also keeps the electronics in check producing an excellent work of music that is invigorating and experimental that paints more detail into a long obvious future genre that is unfortunately dominated by some really atrocious and stagnant work at the more commercial and accessible end of the spectrum

Inevitably, technology inches forward and I was dismayed to find that my digicam seems like it will be enjoying a particularly short shelf life.

In itself only a minor update to it's predecessor, my camera the S60 has just been replaced by a 7 megapixel model that otherwise seems quite similar.

Knowing how long it took for my camera to appear, i can only speculate that this will not be available in stores for a few months yet, that is unless you are in Akihabara

Met up with Timm and his daughter Autumn for a coffee early yesterday and ended up hanging out with them all day.

We had a picnic and clambered around the gorgeous rocks at a place cvalled vedavou which is 8,000 feet (2.5 kilometres) above sea level!

In the afternoon, we decided to go to the geology department of the University of Wyoming to see their musem filled with fossil treasures including the famous "Big Al" who is possibly the most analysed dinasour in the world, research which was used to great effect in the BBC Documentary: Ballad of Big Al

Finally we had dinner at a great vego restaurant where I stuffed myself with portabello mushroom fajitas

Yesterday was travel hell, but a sign of how much my travel has releaxed me I did not let it stress me one bit.

In short, Apple & the bank screwed up - double charging me and sent my credit card balance into the stratosphere and as such I got declined when I went to hire a car, and being such a credit orientated society, they would not accept cash.

Spent hours wandering around Denver airport trying to work out what to do, ended up paying to fly to Laramie instead and have since sorted out the credit problems.

Still a bit jetlagged, been waking up around 4AM each day, so was absolutely exhausted by the time my friend Timm dropped me off at my motel last night around 11PM

Yesterday after much deliberation I purchased a Powerbook, got the top of the line 15 inch model, and am quite happy with the purchase.

Was always planning on getting a new PowerBook anyway, but with my iPod in a sorry state, I decided that I needed to recover its data before I was unable to do so.

The last time I managed to sync the pod was on my second visit to Norway, 1.5 months ago when I visited Erik. He added a whole slew of unusual music, some of which I only just realised was there.

Since then, i've become an expert at fashioning wedges out of available cardboard which in combination with just the right wiggle/angle of the conector would result in the pod actually charging!

Syncing however required more accuracy and pins than charging but I had a hunch that a dock might help as the angled connector would naturally seat better due to the the weight of the pod pushing the connectors together. But by itself the Dock was not enough. Ended up taking the dock apart, using hairbands, foam earplugs, bits of cardboard and toothpicks to hold the pod at just the right angle within the dock.

After literally hours of trying different combinations I found a stable config with the magical last item! A broken off toothpick! Now I had a reliable connection, I fired up Disk Utility thinking a disk image of the entire pod's contents would be easier to recover files from than the broken pod. This didn't end up being that useful as the mounted disk image was not recognised by iTunes as a Pod.

So, I simply imported the entire contents of my pod into the blank canvas of my laptop's iTunes) and then ran a little app that could propagate from the iPod to iTunes key metadata like playcount and last played. The thing got to about 100 tracks remaining and bombed out, reviewing which tracks had recieved their key metadata, most of the important ones were done (it was somewhere around U or W alphabetically), so didn't worry about restarting the reverse sync.

My now defunct pod and I took a short walk to the Apple shop, where amazingly they swapped the pod for a refurb one in less than 30 mins!

It was a lot longer walk to Amoeba records than I thought, so I didn't end up getting to the other store.

Amoeba is huge and reminds me of a better JB Hi Fi, still not specialised enough in the extreme metal field for my liking though.

I did also go top another store that specialised in second hand CDs, where I picked up a copy of Rapture's first album for $8.60.

At Amoeba, I completed my collection of the finnish doom-death act by getting Songs for the Withering (Rapture's most recent release) for even less!

I also picked up a copy of the last Amber Asylum release (quite old now) and also got an EP collaboration between Kid606 and Dälek cheap.

Had to control myself in the DVD section partly cause I know I can't lend out US DVDs but I did pick up a substantially superior version of Ghost Dog than the crappy Oz release for $10.

Right now, I am deliberating about Laptop purchases...

My travel problems were solved by going the old fashioned real world travel store route. They happily accepted cash or my Oz CC and only charged me about $20 more for the privelege.

So I am off the midwest to Denver, then drive to Laramie and back to visit my good friend Timm. Then fly from there to Seattle, where I plan on hiring a car and taking my time driving back over 3 days.

That solved, I am planning on wasting a few hours checking out two of the citys finest CD stores: Amoeba Music and Aquarius Records

Salv has good things to say about Amoeba, but in the past many of my searches for obscure music online has come up trumps at Aquarius, especially the stuff I love on the finges of extreme metal. They are more pricey though, but I am hoping to find some eccentric gems at both places.

This morning I got up at 7AM and was out of the hostel well before 9, wandered to Telegraph Hill to find that the city's infamous fog ruled out much point in paying the $3 to get into the observation tower there.

Then wandered up Lombard St till I got to the world famous curvy section, referred to as the most curvy street in the world it has inspired many designers, most famously Apple who code named one of their G3 powerbooks after this street.

Yes cuz, the bronze keyboard mac you saw me covet at work (despite it's oudated G3 chip) is indeed this lombard, one of Apple's real design triumphs in my opinion.

After this, wandered to Fishermans Warf, which despite it's touristy shops has some nice water views and feels less built up than other parts of SF.

Feeling hungry, I stopped at Chinatown on the walk back and picked up all the ingredients for one of my favourite japanese dishes. Lotus Root with Sesame/Soy/Brown rice vinegar dressing.

Photographs from today can be seen at Photobucket: San Francisco

Wasted the arvo in the futile search for flights as detailed previously.

I really want to book a flight to the midwest (Denver, CO) to visit a friend.
but the websites (I tried the airline's own, expedia and orbitz) all require a
billing address in the US, one that is of course linked to the credit
card to prevent fraud.

I have an Oz Visa card which seems to be useless for these buggers! How do international travellers cope?

Got the time to upload more pictures from my digicam,

Here are the better ones from Stavanger

Plus, I uploaded more of the pics from Munich

Look I have been using gmail for a while, this is the (in my opinion wonderful) 1GB webmail solution by google.

It is invitation only and I have one invite to give to someone. All my geek friends already got their own accounts somehow and most of my non geek mates don't understand the benefits of it and still persist with hotmail (thus perpetuating the need to use MSN messenger)

So if you want this gmail account, add a comment. If no applicants, then i will probably give it to someone in the family.

Posting this from the SF Apple Store, which is amazing in terms of how infinitely better it is than any non US apple stores and also in how many people actually browse.

I had a genius guy look at my slightly dodgey ipod and he reckons it can be repaired in the USA but i'll loose all my data. 5 Months of playcounts and other goodies. I ended up solving the problem (as best as it can be solved) for him.

No travel ads ever really advertises how much fog and mist SF gets especially in late summer.

Despite me thinking my phone supported it, upon arriving in the US I have discovered that my phone is not tri-band, which means it won't work in the USA at all.

So if you want to contact me, use email rather than SMS

Knowing how much trouble I had getting booked into the flight way back in April, it came as no suprise that I was initially told "the plane is full" when trying to check in.

Despite being happy to be waitlisted, they managed to squeze me on the plane anyway and I spent the next 12 hours with a not fully charged iPod and far too many noisy types from screaming babies to "look at me" badly opinionated american teens.

Its funny how much better so many of the asian airlines are than the big guns of Europe, flying long distance via an asian carrier things like in seat televisions are the norm for all and business class get programming on demand. On JAL, they even had facewash, toner and perfume available in the bathroom. Plus it is only in Asia that my requests for a special diet come back with tasty and acurate food, the europeans keep on giving me a western vego meal, even though I did request vegan.

On top of this, the asian carriers are often cheaper, especially for flights ex australia.

Arriving at SF, I managed to pick the homeland security line from hell, which of course moved at 1/4 the speed of any other. For a huge airbus of people, they had 4 staff processing visas and security entry, that is unless you were a US citizen who of course breezed through a separate checkpoint.

I was lucky, as part of the visa waiver program, Australia does not require much for entry right now. Shortly (end of next month) the US wants to extend the criminal feeling mandatory fingerprint and photograph at entry even for those part of the visa waiver deal. It was this aspect that slowed down the whole process the most.

Last night I went to an excellent upmarket vego restraunt, Prinz Mushkin

Had a much more palatable beer than the swill they serve at the beer halls, a goregous flavoured dark wheat beer.

Being hungry/greedy I had two mains, the first was a gnocchi-like spincach, ricotta and parmesan dumpling that was quite simply divine.

Secondly, one of the daily specials a ravioli filled with ricotta and truffle, seasoned with a delicate butter sauce.

If I ever come back to München this restraunt is one to definitely give another try!

Initial pictures from Munich can be viewed at photobucket. I am having technical problems uploading more pictures but there are plenty more to be uploaded.

Today I spent most of my time in the English Garden, the largest city park in Europe as all the guides like to put it. It is also a very good and well loved city park, unlike some of the concrete monstrosities I recall from my time in Paris.

Downed a stein of dark beer which was quite a lot stronger than the pale lager they prefer to serve up.

The site has been reduced to no graphics as my bandwith limit from my hosting company is dangerously close. I think this is a glitch in their accounting as the logs don't show the kind of hits I would expect to cause this kind of bandwith crisis, but better be safe than sorry.

In addition I have also removed all links to photos from older travel posts, this will be restored once my bandwidth bounces back.

New images will be linked from photobucket to reduce my bandwith impact.

Until I fully debug the IE7 stuff and why it only half works, that too is disabled, this also reduces the bandwith used to load a page even though most IE browsers should cache these files once loaded.

Finally, the category pages, most significantly travel have been changed to show only the last 15 posts, with the rest available as a linked page. This is unashamedly a short term hack fix as the travel log had grown to quite a significant page size even without any images. Long term this will be addressed with proper pagination support using PHP.

I have been quiet with postings, mostly due to the fact that internet access was extremely limited in Stavanger.

At present I am in Munich for a flying visit before I sadly leave Europe for the unfamiliar territory of the USA

Whilst in Norway I was worried about organising accomodation for this short period in Munich, normally I either wing it on the day (if arriving early enough) or I book something over the internet.

Knowing I would be arriving late I booked a mid priced pension near the heart of Munich on the net, all seemed straightforward and I made sure to mention I would be arriving after 9PM. Imagine my suprise when the response was so firm on the matter that I MUST arrive by 10PM, I'm a customer doing the good thing and advising them in advance, polite customer service dictates that they find a solution rather than order me about.

To make things worse, I only discovered this little dilemma when checking my mail on an incredibly long and boring 8 hour stopover in Stanstead airport, which was the consequence of buying the cheapest fares from two different airlines.

So here I was en-route and worried my accomodation would not wait for me!

Even worse, England experienced something it doesn't normally get - exceptionally foul weather as the result of a once tropical cyclone somehow managing to hold itself together as it crossed the Atlantic. This of course threw air traffic into chaos and our plane was like many delayed for a variety of odd factors.

By the time I got through the flight and made my way to the airport's train station it was 9:55 local time and of course there was no way I would make the accomodation. So I made an extremely expensive mobile call to the pension, where the staff had realised their brashness was not such a good idea and offered to hide the key for me to collect when I finally arrived long after their reception had shut for the night.

Arriving at the right S-Bahn stop, I was happy to find that german efficency included maps of the surrounding area and after some confusion I found my way to the pension and then proceeded to follow the exceptionally poor directions to where the key was hidden. Relieved and exhausted I finally stumbled into my accomodation after 11PM, marking the close to a frustratingly long day of travelling.

I have been having a lovely time in Stavanger, not much to report at this point aside from the weather being great, a tall ships race is in town and I wish I could stay longer.

I am having too many hits to my site, going to need to switch to a better host, in the interim I am disabling some images and working on removing older inline images from my travel subpage.

Yesterday Astrid and I went to the beach, I asked to go to Hafrsfjord so as to see the huge viking swords as I had missed seeing them on my last visit.

Swords from across the beach
Alex & Swords

This monument is relatively new (1983) and one of the few modern nods to their Viking heritage by the Norse.

The swords were made by the sculptor Fritz Røed, and were unveiled in 1983. The sculpture stands near Møllebukta, the innermost part of the fjord, and commemorates the battle where shortly before the year 900, King Harald Fairhair finally confronted the consolidated forces of his enemies. By vanquishing them he became, according to the sagas, the first ruler of all Norway.

Whilst staying with Chris and having access to development tools and decent net connection, I took the opportunity to fix some bugs with my site. These mostly related to my usage of IE7, which is still alpha level tech, however it fixes so much of the annoying stuff that makes IE6 and lower second class, buggy browsers from a developers perspective.

I was encountering a couple of show-stoper bugs that will be fixed in the upcoming beta version of IE7 but I wanted them fixed now so I hacked my own code as needed. Now it should work for those who are running older versions of IE or their ActiveX library is way out of date.

OK, let me take that back, problem not fixed. Think it might possibly be my CSS believe it or not! Why do I have to waste so much time on IE?

Now trying to work out a way to optimise the image linking as the volume of images posted to my site from my travels has started to get out of control.

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This page is an archive of entries from August 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

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