Posts tagged rant
Bitching about iMacs

Hey, who wants to hear me bitch about iMacs! I don't care, here I go:

Switching to a Mac has been great in every way except for like... the hardware. I should point out that I began this switch by buying a refurbished 27" iMac from Apple.com to save $300. I'm not made of money you guys. I've bought many things from there before and all the devices have been flawless. Except for iMacs I suppose. A rundown of the iMacs I have known:

iMac #1: Worked great! Then I went to install an additional 8gb of RAM. One of the RAM slots was so out of alignment I couldn't get one of the sticks in there. I contacted Apple Support, they offered to let me buy another one and then refund my money for the first when I returned it. Fair enough.

iMac #2: Right away I noticed the hard drive was noisy (even when idle). I had iMac #1 and iMac #2 beside each other before I returned #1 and could easily tell the difference. Turns out it was a noisy Seagate drive. Since I'm recording with this thing, that's kind of a big deal but bleh I didn't want to return it yet again. Then I noticed the left internal speaker kept making annoying intermittent crackling/static noises even when the audio wasn't in use.

I talked to Apple support and they suggested I unplug the power cord and plug it back in and see if that helps. The iMac didn't immediately make the noise when I started it back up, so the friendly Apple guy said to call back if it did.

It did later, but it took me three days call back. I was out of my 30 day return window at that point and was told I'd have to take it in for repair + be without a computer indefinitely. I told them that made me so so sad so they talked to various managers and eventually agreed to replace it, plus gave me $150 credit back for my troubles. Nice!

iMac #3: This is the one I have on my desk as I type this. The RAM slots are fine. The internal speakers make no unwanted noise. But I've noticed the fans getting loud a lot whereas I realize now I never even heard the fans on the other ones. When I'm recording for instance or watch a few Youtube videos in a row, the fan turns on and is pretty loud in this small office. After an hour of mixing just now the top of the case is too hot to leave my hand on for more than a second or two. The others were pretty warm but not at all like that.

So. Do I have the energy to complain about this one? The fan noise is annoying and maybe not tolerable. The extreme heat worries me that it'll be prone to failure over time. But I'm getting pretty tired of swapping these bastards out. Basically I want to give up on buying refurbished and go buy a brand new one, but what if they're prone to the same issues?

So: ugh.

Update: well, that resolved itself. The display on iMac #3 died last night. So now I'm on hold with Apple support. Woo hoo hoo.

Update #2: Here is what the display looks like! (The lines move!)

broken imac

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update #3: Talked to four supervisors. They're taking iMac #3 back and refunding my money. I'm gonna drive to the Ottawa Apple store and buy a new iMac that hopefully isn't a piece of junk.

iMac #4: Seven hours later my Time Machine backup is restored and I'm back where I was almost 24 hours ago.

Ottawa crime data lock-in

image Here is a nerdy data complaint:

Earlier this year the Ottawa Police announced they would be publishing daily crime data via CrimeReports.com, it's a nice searchable interface using Google Maps. I loved the idea and thought it was fantastic that citizens had an easy way to search and view this data.

Fast-forward a few months and I had some ideas I wanted to try with the public crime data. I hunted around for a way to access the data in a usable format or at least an RSS feed, but there were none that I could find. I looked into scraping the data from CrimeReports.com and that was non-trivial. CrimeReports.com offers emailed crime reports (blegh) and here's what their Frequently Asked Questions page says on the matter:

How can users access crime information for their areas of interest?
CrimeReports.com is a community-facing Web application, and as such, emphasizes the user experience. A CrimeReports.com user simply enters an address of interest (home, office, school, etc.) and clicks on "Get Report" to see criminal activity in a given area on an easy-to-use map interface. The CrimeReports.com Web application also integrates data from multiple agencies into a single interface and offers automated, location-based alerting services.

Which to me is code for “CrimeReports.com would rather lock-in the data, and as such, not help potential competitors.”

Finally, I contacted the Ottawa Police and asked if there's a way for regular folks to access the daily data they're providing to CrimeReports.com. They pointed me to the weekly reports (which look like this, and would be usable with some parsing). Only problem: these have been discontinued in 2009 in favor of sending all the data to CrimeReports.com. They said there's no public feed for that data and that I'd need to make a Freedom of Information request.

So we have a situation here where the Ottawa crime data has been moved to a site that's easier for 99% of citizens to access and understand, but the data is locked up in a third-party website and inaccessible to anyone who wants to do some serious work with it. Which to me is a huge step backwards.

MOTU

After having so many live performance troubles with the M-Audio Firewire 410, I looked around for the best alternative. My research lead me to the MOTU UltraLite mk3. People referred to it as “rock solid” and I had previously heard lots of great things about MOTU hardware. There's not a lot of competition in this area for some reason. Anyway, I bought one.

Immediately I started having audio drop-outs. Firmware upgrades were involved. I filed a trouble ticket and I complained on Twitter. I read lots of posts and comments about MOTU's “legendary” bad support (which was not so legendary that I knew about it before I bought one of their products). I wound up going back tonight to have a look at my ticket's status and check this out:

 motu-sucks

Wow, ten days later and my ticket's still Unread. I mean I guess appreciate that they're up front about not caring, but maybe putting forth at least the illusion of customer service would be a better business strategy. I don't know.

Free at last (Indy 4 was awful)

new-indiana-jones-4-and-the-kingdom-of-the-crystal1 Having now seen Indiana Jones 4 I am finally free from looking forward to anything by George Lucas, hooray! Indy 4 was terrible and at least as bad as The Phantom Menace. I'm not sure how it's managed a score of 78% on Rotten Tomatoes as I write this, but I have to assume that will be lowered by time and careful reflection.

Here's my ranty spoiler-filled list of things I can remember disliking:

  • Indy being a bumbly moron
  • Indy following around Dudey McMumbles for the whole movie going "what? what are you doing? what's going on?"
  • Whipping out the Crystal Skull every other minute.
  • Indy surviving a nuclear event in a refrigerator?
  • The plot made no sense.
  • Indy throwing a big ridiculous sissy-fit over the snake in the quicksand. "Say grab the rope"?
  • No sense of urgency or danger. None of the characters took the danger very seriously so I didn't.
  • Endless, tiresome exposition. Please, TELL ME MORE.
  • The one-liners were so weak. "I like Ike"?
  • Shia Tarzan
  • Indy dramatically picking up his hat like eight million times.
  • Why do the commies act exactly like Nazis?
  • Commie chick is psychic I guess? But she can't read Indy's mind? And also not Huxley's? And also not Marion's? And also can't make a connection with the crystal skull? And also does nothing with her power throughout the entire movie?
  • Why did the evil commies break into a US government top secret storage facility to get an alien body? They just poked at it and went "oh we have several other of these".
  • Triple agent Mack, tricking Indy any ol' time he feels like it.
  • Indy trying to save Mack after he gets betrayed again?
  • Why did Indy get promoted to Dean?
  • Why did Indy and Marion get married?
  • Why are there karate ninjas hiding in every long-deserted ruin?
  • "[Their] word for gold translates as treasure. But their treasure wasn't gold, it was knowledge. Knowledge was their treasure." THANKS FOR CLEARING THAT UP. TWICE.

I guess it might be easier to list the stuff I liked:

  • Intro stuff with Indy was nice to see. Him teaching, reference to Marcus & his dad. :(..
  • Shia as Mutt was good actually and managed to have an occasional bit of chemistry with Indy.
  • I liked the big UFO ending, but it was set up so poorly and at the end of a really bad movie.

3/10

State of the social networking

Time to take stock of my social networking participation.

Twitter - Still updating on Twitter against all odds. Being able to monitor and update it via IM is really all it's got going for it. I've had to start ignoring certain people though because the noise level got too high.

Pownce - I'm really not sure what to do with Pownce. It's nice, but the lack of IM makes me lazy about it. I really like the reply-to-posts feature. I've started experimenting with uploading songs I've been listening to, which is fun but would be way more fun if everyone I knew had access to it.

MySpace - I still log in and add friends who request it and try to reply to messages in there. Spam has reduced from a few months ago so MySpace doesn't bother me much anymore.

Facebook - Even though I only have around 70 friends on there and don't whore it out like MySpace it's rapidly becoming the most annoying social network. Check out what I'm met with when I log on:

facebook

Hey Facebook, I've got 1 leave me the fuck alone request for you. Oh and a fortune friend request.

socialBrad Turcotterant, tech
Windows apocalypse

As a follow-up to my hard drive terror I guess I'm now in a full-blown Windows apocalypse. I was fairly sure it was the power supply crapping out on me and it was only crashing during the night, so I was waiting till this week to get a new one. Then yesterday it rebooted in the middle of doing something. Then would only give me an "lsass.exe - System Error Object Name not found" error and reboot when I hit OK. Much research and fiddling hasn't righted things so I think my Windows is just toast.

Anyway if I'm extra slow to answer your emails that is why.

Brad Turcotterant, tech
Hard drive terror

Woke up this morning to my desktop machine frozen on the Windows boot-up screen. I hit a key and it rebooted. What the. Let it go through, it froze again. Tried safe mode, froze again. And a second time. Uh oh.

Tried some rescue LiveCD rescue stuff, maybe my Windows install was just barfed. My hard drive seemed to be gone. I fearfully checked the state of my backups -- was pleasantly surprised to see they were intact. Also Gmail meant my email still worked and Google Browser Sync meant I had all my bookmarks and cookies on my laptop. Sweet.

I started going through the motions of getting a replacement hard drive, rebooted the desktop again for kicks and everything worked fine. "Windows has recovered from a serious error." I'll say.

Hard drive on the way out? Power supply dying? Heat? I don't know but that was a dumb way to kill a couple hours.

Zen Stone

And the award for "most annoying music loop used in a Flash product demo" goes to Creative for the Zen Stone Plus! Way to go guys! You've driven me insane!

Seriously though, you make audio products. Let's show some hustle.

Brad Turcotterant, tech
I knew firewire would try to kill me

Way back I posted my hesitation about using a Firewire audio interface. While I love technology, years of abuse at the hands of SCSI, USB and many other acronyms has made me scared and wary. After dual booting my laptop and stripping XP down to its most efficient, I wrote to M-Audio asking why my Firewire 410 inputs kept hanging whenever I, like, used them. This was the reply:

Hi,

You've seen a lot of problem with the newest Dell laptop. The new dual processor have made computer to go faster than ever, but when there is IRQ sharing (or if the IEEE 1394 adapter is on a virtual IRQ), the chipset seems to be less robust with resource sharing.

I would recommend you to try a PCI firewire card (or PCMCIA or ExpressPort Firewire cards) to get rid of any IRQ conflict.

http://shopping.yahoo.com/s:Network%20Adapters:4034-Adapter%20Type=FireWire%20adapter:4035-Interface%20Type=ExpressCard

If I give a hundred dollars to everyone on the planet will all my problems go away?

Brad Turcotterant, tech
Could MySpace be any shittier?

So bands on MySpace are limited to posting 4 songs. Lame in this age of massive affordable bandwidth but OK. I can't change my songs around because lots of people have them added to their pages and I'll break those. But OK. Then there's this Myspace announcement today:

You know how you can list four songs on your band's MySpace page? Well, thanks to the fine peeps over at Bodog Entertainment you can now add a 5th song. More music means more ears, more ears mean more plays, and more plays mean way more exposure. Add Bodog Entertainment as a friend and up your band's song list to five on your MySpace Standalone Player. Get your 5th song heard.

Wow, that's ballsy. I mean it's one thing for everyone else to treat the MySpace friend system as the dumping ground of the internet, but for MySpace itself to just whore it out like that takes some nuts. They must really not care.

Update: Ryan points out that when you Google your new "friend" Bodog you find out he's really into online gambling. Check their Wikipedia page. I'm still surprised MySpace did this and now even more surprised News Corporation (MySpace's owners) are cool with potentially being accused of marketing gambling to the kids.

Maybe we can all add Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man as MySpace friends for a sixth and seventh songs on our musician pages! Hooray!

Brad Turcotterant, tech, website
Picasa Web Albums

I think everyone should thank me for upgrading my Picasa Web Albums account two days ago to get a little bit more than 250mb storage. Today they gave all default accounts 1gb storage just to make me regret my purchase.

Also what is it with services not offering refunds? World of Warcraft and Picasa have both told me that they're "unable to provide refunds" lately:

We're unable to provide refunds, so we encourage you to try the free service before purchasing additional storage.

Well I uh... did that. And then you quadrupled the amount of storage on free accounts a day and a half later.

Brad Turcottemisc, rant
Is the album dead?

As I was plodding along working on my album today I wound up reading a lot of posts about the death of the album (1, 2, 3).

I thought the album was dead when I started putting my music on the net years ago. I didn't even bother releasing an album until a few years later ("people just want to download mp3s!") but I was totally wrong.

I don't have much artistic or romantic attachment to albums but I do think there's a practical aspect to them. Assuming it's not one good song plus eleven songs of filler, I'd rather have 45 minutes of entertainment from an artist I enjoy than 3 minutes. It's the difference between watching one episode of a series versus the whole season.

But I don't see why it has to be exclusively albums or singles, it's the future now, they can co-exist! I think as budgets shrink, artists become more independent and audiences diversify and fragment, it's harder to decide or define what a worthy "single" is. That's what the filtration of the Internet is for, that's why file-sharing is awesome. The hits will bubble to the top.

Do you want each song to be focus-grouped before you get to hear it? An album's still a pretty good vehicle for putting out a batch of songs and seeing what spreads.

business, musicBrad Turcotterant
Ableton Dead

Setting up all this live show stuff is officially kicking my ass. I am angry and hurt and tired. I'm about ready to put together a live show of me configuring software for an hour and a half and call it "Working-on-a-Performance Art".

My mind is blown -- BLOWN -- by how annoying this all is with the tools currently available. I'm jealous of DJs. It's like nobody designing software wants anyone to change chords mid-song anymore. "You mean you have two SEPARATE chord sequences in a song? That's unsanity!"

I got some emails from musicians using Live who feel similarly and Peter Kirn from Create Digital Music listened to me cry on the phone. Matt from Flux Minor shared his live Ableton project with me. His approach was to render individual channels (drums, bass, etc) of the entire track instead of recreating it loop-based as I was.

It gives you less flexibility but he assured me they haven't felt the need to alter arrangements on the fly while performing. So I ran off in that direction as it sounded a lot easier. I was four songs into the rendering and recreating process when I realized Ableton Live can only send program changes to external gear (like my GT-6) at the launch of a new clip. So if you're not setting it up all crazy like I was before you're SOL for program changes.

Guess I'll go kick something.

live, softwareBrad Turcotterant, tech
Paypal's website sucks

Can I say that Paypal has the slowest, most poorly organized and frustrating website of all time? Because I just did. I'm basically at swear level 8 at this point.

Brad Turcotterant
Green screen with envy

I've been thinking about music videos a lot, mainly inexpensive but effective music videos. One of my ideas for the first single off the next album was to film myself playing and singing in front of a green screen and then put that online for people to remix (a la The Colbert Report's green screen challenge.)

Today I read that The Decemberists beat me to it. My hat's off to you, you damn, damn Decemberists.

businessBrad Turcotterant
Digg

I'm just about ready to give up reading Digg and it's not due to the latest "democracy" controversy. It's because I'm totally tired of reading stories about Digg. So tired. Also I've moved bradsucks.net to a new server. Hopefully this one won't crash all the time.

Brad Turcottemisc, rant, sitenews
MySpace pisses me off again

Got a show tonight, so yesterday I thought "hey, why not use MySpace to send out invitations to people who are in the area?" Man, what a good use for a social network, I think to myself.

I head over and create an event and it manages not to break. Then I search for MySpace friends that are in Ottawa to invite and the search totally doesn't work. It just returns nothing every time and that's just completely incorrect.

Anyway I was so angry and it was too early to kill the pain with alcohol so I wrote a script to grab all the URLs of my 900+ friends and then search their profiles for the word "Ottawa". Better than nothing. God I hate MySpace so much.

Brad Turcotterant
MySpace is a broken piece of junk

You know, it's bad enough that I'm forced to use MySpace because it's where all the people are at. Bad enough that I'm stuck replying to fan mail in their awful little inbox manager which is cluttered with ads, slow, inefficient and totally unable to search emails for later reference. Also bad enough is that every page I go to is an all-out assault of audio visual battery, violating at least two of my senses at all times, not even including my sense of good taste. It's bad enough that with each "connection" I make with a fan I'm entirely dependent on MySpace to contact them in the future as I have no email address for them. Not to mention that I will certainly lose and forget about them in my hundreds of friends. Who were those dudes from around here who wanted to come to my next show? Uhhh.

I also can't import my blog there and on top of that I can't import a gig list, so I have to maintain the one on my site at the same time. I can't change the four songs I've uploaded there without breaking all the pages that people have linked them on. Blah blah blah, on and on.

So on top of ALL of that, keeping in mind it being bought for $580 million dollars: COULD IT AT LEAST STOP BEING BROKEN ALL THE TIME:

"Sorry! an unexpected error has occurred." Man, don't surprise me like that. I nearly fell down.

I probably see this error four times a day and I'm by no means an avid MySpacer. I just log in to approve friend requests and reply to emails now and then. WHAT IS THE DEAL.

Brad Turcotterant
The Garden State effect

At first I thought The Garden State effect was going to be a ranty anti-mainstream essay -- and while it is indeed that, it turns into more of a self-examination near the end which made it worth reading.

There’s a sizeable portion of the population that listens to the music they listen to because it’s there and they don’t know any better—a reality that actually predicates the existence of mainstream music. Here’s what I mean: nobody thinks long and hard about music and what it means to them and then ultimately decides to listen to Toby Keith.

The main problem I have with this attitude is that it dismisses the opinions and tastes of anyone who isn't an insular Pitchfork-reading hipster. That seems more than a little self-important to me, but I have a hard time giving middle class twenty-somethings credit for anything.

A related story: I was at an Apples in Stereo show a couple years ago and afterwards I stood behind some young girls to talk to Robert Schneider. When they were done, I moved up and went on about how much their album Tone Soul Evolution meant to me in my middle class twenty-something way. My eyes might have gotten a little misty as I tried to put my intangible feelings for that album into words.

While we talked, he told me that the girls before me were disappointed that the Apples didn't play their song from the Powerpuff Girls Movie soundtrack. Robert said they "don't play that shit" but said he was disappointed they didn't play more songs off of Tone Soul Evolution for me.

I guess I should have felt like a true fan, that my interest in them was "pure" and that he and I shared some sort of special musical connection. But mostly I wished the Apples in Stereo had more teenage girl fans so they could have played a better venue with decent sound.