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Sunday, 18 November 2007

Simple like me...

After my post about the new RSS capabilities in Mozilla Thunderbird, I started looking into the possibility of actually building a podcasting extension for Thunderbird. It turns out that both Thunderbird and Firefox are built on XUL, which is like XML for interfaces, and Javascript, which is pretty amazing, if you think about it.

What this means is that it's pretty easy (once you get your head round the actual programming side) for anyone to put together extensions to the Mozilla programs. Not only that, but using the just-announced Mozilla Prism, it will be very easy to turn any Firefox/Thunderbird extension into a standalone program, and make use of local file storage.

I've been having a play around with the XUL coding, and it seems immensely powerful, and more than enough for most basic data-driven desktop applications - I can't understand why more companies have not used this already to create programs and data-driven websites that act like programs on the users local machine, but from what I can see so far, for my podcasting app it should be more than enough for what I need, for playing MP3s and videos I can use flash, so it should be a pretty good all-round program.

Now to get back to re-learning Javascript!

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Thunderbirds are go!

After seeing the Zune software fall a bit short of the mark with podcasting, I've been playing about with the Pre-Alpha version of Thunderbird 3, Mozilla's email client. I respect Mozilla as a software company (if you can call them that, how much money do they actually make from selling software?) because they're innovative, but what they do works, and works well. Probably due to the fact that being an open-software company, each piece of software is like a forum of ideas, unlike Microsoft these days ;)

Even though this is a pre-alpha release, it's been working for me with no problems so far (more than can be said for some companies' final releases, not mentioning any names). One thing that is really looking good, even at this early stage in the game, is the RSS reader capability, which lets you see your RSS feeds alongside your inbox - why has nobody done this before now? (OK, I know you can get extensions for Outlook to do this, but the fact of the matter is that Microsoft should have added this functionality a long time ago). When you click a post, the actual link back to the site hosting the article is opened within a Thunderbird pane, which means no more clicking "read..." links! The really surprising thing though, was how well this all worked with podcasts - the audio/video file in the enclosure just shows up as an attachment to the post, allowing you to just save it where you want on your computer. Elegant, and all you really need from something not designed specifically for podcasting. I'm sure at some point Mozilla will add some basic mp3 player functionality so you can preview episodes and play them back once downloaded, or perhaps automatically generate a playlist within Media Player/iTunes with all the received episodes from a certain podcast. I'm just throwing ideas around. Of course because it's built by Mozilla, it has the Firefox rendering engine built into it, meaning that podcasts can take advantage of full HTML formatting in the description.

Now all somebody needs to do is build a podcast directory that bolts into Thunderbird, and there's the beginnings of some fairly decent podcasting software finally!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Microsoft FINALLY wakes up to podcasting...

I read with interest yesterday that Microsoft have finally got round to adding podcast support to their new Zune players, so I thought I'd have a look into it to see how the support fared against that found in iTunes.

I have a very love/hate relationship with iTunes - it seems to be getting slower and clunkier with every new version (I use it on windows, I understand it works much faster on Macs, but go figure), it looks ugly, and for such a huge company, the visualizations are laughable to say this has come from a huge company with such a huge budget when compared to single-man programmed vis's like Milkdrop (Winamp) or Twisted Pixel (Windows Media Player), which I can watch for hours and not see the same effect twice, and they're silky smooth. On top of that, not only does iTunes act slow, but it also slows your entire system down to a crawl as well (and this is on a 2.4Ghz Dual-Core with 2Gb RAM)! On the other hand, iTunes has pretty much been the one piece of software that has made downloading and listening to podcasts a no-brainer, which is really what it needed. Finding a podcast you want to listen to in iTunes is almost simplicity itself, and the reviewing system is helpful for finding out if a podcast is a waste of time, or other similar podcasts. Whilst making podcasting nice and easy for users though, iTunes is still lacking a lot of developer-end features like the ability to see easily how many people have downloaded and listened to your podcast, as well as basic HTML formatting in the descriptions for the episodes.

For my main media player right now, I've been using Media Player 11, which looks pretty, I can control from my taskbar, has good visualizations (once you've installed Twisted Pixel or something similar), rips super-fast and at decent quality (very important for a DJ), and the search is nice and fast also. I used to like Winamp for all my tunage needs, but even this has got a bit slow on the old search function in recent versions - but I can forgive that with them having a team of developers smaller than Microsoft's cleaning staff. The only downside to Media Player is that it has absolutely no podcast support, which is a real shame, and I'm sure would stop a lot of podcasters/listeners having to rely on iTunes just for this function (and I know a lot that do).

I decided to give the Zune software a try, if only to see how it fared against iTunes and Media Player. Installing it was no problem, and the download was less than half the current size of iTunes. It took about the same time to install as iTunes, but was much quicker to load once all my tracks were loaded into it's library (currently around 20k tracks). Interestingly, there was no feature to just work with Media Player's library, meaning that you have to go through the import process again, and the 2 libraries have to be maintained separately, which was a bit of a bummer.

The interface, whilst a little confusing at first looks beautiful, and you can choose from about 8 themes if you don't like the girly default one. It seems strange to me that the Zune2 players look very masculine, yet the software looks very feminine. It also seems strange to me that Microsoft would not just bolt the Zune syncing, podcasting and picture features into Media Player, which people will probably be using already if they don't have iTunes (which, if they're buying a Zune, they probably won't). All the menus fade in and out smoothly, or slide around, and compared to the grey boredom inducing look of iTunes, it really is quite refreshing to behold. It will not only allow you to organize and play your music, but your videos and pictures as well. The pictures part is especially nice for showing off your pics, as the interface is there over the top of the pictures, but doesn't get in the way, so you can see your pictures take up the full screen (with all the fady wizzy slidy effects you could want, it's all very pretty). Finding how to get to the podcast directory took me a bit of time, as the Zune software separates what's currently on your computer from what's on the internet, so going to your 'collection', then clicking on podcasts only shows you your current subscriptions, and their episodes. To get to the directory you first have to click on the marketplace (which I didn't think I could as Microsoft wouldn't let me create an account because I was born in the wrong part of the world), then on podcasts. This is a little confusing, as the assumption is that anything in the Marketplace is something you have to pay for, which is something which is invariably not the case with podcasts.

Once you've found it, the podcast directory is nice to look at, but quite slow to load, even though it loads the podcast artwork after the page has loaded. At the moment, the directory is pretty sparse compared to Apple's huge directory, but it's early days yet. Apple are very good at keeping up with podcast additions to their directory, I've just submitted Ruforia to the Zune directory, so we'll see how long it takes to show up. Choosing a podcast to subscribe to is very similar to iTunes, although once you're on an individual podcast's page, it seems to take an age before you get a list of the actual episodes within that podcast. Clicking on an episode does show the description in place of the actual series description, which I think is much better in usability terms than the iTunes method of clicking the small grey 'i' next to the episode (which you'd be surprised how few people know how to use). Aside from the general lack of speed accessing the podcast details, the only other downer is that people can not review podcasts like in iTunes. What would have been one better for Microsoft would have been the ability to discuss in a forum-like manner podcasts and individual edpisodes (since they seem so hell bent on creating yet another social network... can't they have one social network that you can bolt extra components onto as you need/want rather than a million different ones... xbox live, MSN messenger, Zune, Live Spaces, it goes on...). Other minor gripes in what would have otherwise been a pretty decent media player:

  • Editing Track/Artist information in the library list view is a complete pain, and really slow.
  • What's with the girly pink/orange bar along the bottom of the window all about?
  • Why can't Microsoft program software that conforms to it's own UI guidelines? Every other program has a drop-shadow under Vista now, except the Zune software :s
  • On that note, why could they not have given it a full-size Vista icon?
  • Ok, I realize that this is primarily software designed for use if you have a Zune player, but could they not have all the 'device' options hidden until you register a Zune player with the software so that they don't get in the way. iTunes doesn't show any iPod options unless you actually have an iPod connected to it. Much less confusing for newbies.
  • It's actually harder in the Zune software than in Media Player to add album art to tracks. Can't someone invent a nice easy way to batch add album art to your tracks???
  • They've pretty much covered everything (almost) iTunes does in terms of podcasting and nothing more, how unimaginative.
  • Why do all the titles have to be in huge capitals? Most podcasts/tracks end up being cropped off the edge of the window. I can read you know, Microsoft.
  • No 'Users also liked...' function? Have we not established this is a Good Idea® if you want more business by now?
  • Only 3 levels of rating?? Every music software that uses the ratings system uses 5 stars! Oh and we've changed it to hearts/broken hearts to rate the tracks? I'm sorry, but just because I don't like a track doesn't mean that I've had my heart broken by it, I don't get all emotional just because a crappy Trance track has wormed it's way into my collection.
  • No visualizations??
  • Not only does it not tell me the title of the track currently playing in the task bar, but it doesn't allow me to control what's going on without maximising the application first. This wouldn't be so bad if it took any notice of the multimedia keys on my keyboard, but it doesn't.
  • Would it have been so hard to install a little sidebar gadget for Vista along with the software, so that you can see when new podcast episodes are available? It seems like it's just going to be another of those technologies that Microsoft heralds as the feature that will change the world, and then not make use of it in it's own programs.
One really thankful thing is that the Zune software actually reads the iTunes tags in the podcast definition file, instead of requiring it's own XML definitions. That could have been a lot more painful for everyone concerned. But apart from all that it could be a really good podcasting alternative to iTunes about 10 years down the line. By which time iTunes will have moved the goalposts again of course!

Friday, 9 November 2007

Moby the cat

Today we welcomed another member to the family in the Moby's apartment, Moby the cat. Krystle found him last night, trying to get to his mum (who had got to that stage where enough was enough, and he was big enough to look after himself now, and couldn't get far enough away from him), and gave him a bowl of food outside the Posiedon hotel. When we went back to look for him today, his mum was around, but he was nowhere to be found. Just as we were about to go home, he jumped over the fence, and could not get enough attention. We took him back home, and he's been asleep on the sofa ever since, apart from when I brought him some kitty litter home, and he used it like a total pro (although he seemed a little disappointed that we had no cat literature for him to read while he went about his musings.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Burn, baby, Burn

Once again, so many people are trying to download the Ruforia XML file that it's exceeded google's bandwidth limitations on my site, meaning that some people will not be able to get the podcast today. I've now moved the XML to another server that has more bandwidth, and set up a redirect in my old XML on Google. It will take a couple of days for everybody's iTunes to update, but I think this will be a lot better in the long run.

If you are having problems getting the new mix on the podcast, you can click advanced>subscribe to podcast... on the iTunes menubar, and copy/paste this address: - this should allow you to get the new episode and any future episodes no problem! (Your iTunes will do this automatically on it's own, but it may take a couple of days, and I know how desperate some people are to get their hands on the new mix!)

For anybody that subscribes to the podcast in any other podcast software, please update your subscriptions to this new address.

Thanks a lot for your patience!


Well, yesterday came the true evidence of how popular Ruforia is... So many people downloaded the podcast XML file (only a 100Kb file on its own) after releasing 'Unless You Wear a Rucksack' that it maxed out the bandwidth on my Googlepages, stopping many people getting the podcast for most of yesterday. This is great in popularity terms, but not so great for my server. I'm just going to have to find somewhere else to host the xml file that doesn't have these bandwidth restrictions!

Perhaps this would be a good time to start running my podcast through feedburner, so I at least know how many people are downloading it!

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Ruforia: Unless You Wear a Rucksack

After just over a month being back in Ibiza, and just under a month of having no electricity, we've now joined the civilized world, and all their 240v glorious advancements. Meaning that I can finally get back to producing some Ruforia mixes again! This time I've enlisted my long-suffering girlfriend (long suffering because she's had to listen to all these tracks and a million others about 600 times in the process of choosing tracks for this mix - a Ruforia mix doesn't just happen over night you know!) to help with the track commentary for this mix:

  1. Luis Paris Vs. Adamski - One of the People (First Life's One Nation Mix)
    Rufus: I was given this track handed to me on some random promo CD when I first got back to Ibiza this year, and haven't stopped playing it since! I really love the "anytime I find myself... wrestling with my mental health... playing that same old song... all night long" lyric, something I think everyone can relate to at some point in their lives! Plus I think it's just one of those tracks that you couldn't stay in a bad mood after listening to, it was destined to start a Ruforia mix!
    Marisa: Every time Rufus plays this track, I get an image of Rufus dancing around in the kitchen like a tard. Then I go into the kitchen and he actually is dancing around like a tard. With ABANDON. It gives me great joy, this track.
    With: Ivor Cutler - If Your Breasts
    Rufus: How can one 10 second sample make me laugh so much every time I hear it? I don't know, but Ivor Cutler clearly took a lot of drugs in his life. Long live Ivor Cutler! May his wierd Scottish soul rest in peace.
    Marisa: Long before Jack Black and / or Kyle Gass and / or any of our other perennial favorite comedy / folk rock duos ever picked up a guitar, there was Ivor Cutler. Being bizarre with a harmonium, and the occasional company of his muse and girlfriend, Phyllis King. She wasn't his baby mama, and I don't even think she is on this track, but I felt her name bore mentioning, for reasons unbeknownst even to myself. I'd like to add, Ivor Cutler is a very researchable guy, with his very own ''.org''.
  2. Bassmonkeys feat. Naomi Marsh - The Answer (Eric Kupper Dub)
    Rufus: It's been a long time since I heard a piano house track with so much funk and passion behind it. It made me want to hump the walls. Nothing more needs to be said.
    Marisa: Piano house. I don't know what to say. It has taken me a year of solid, unrelenting exposure to the genre, which, kicking and screaming ''this is GAY!'' I eventually succumbed to. Now I love piano house, diva house, Dr. House, all house. Blame the DJ.
  3. Delano & Crockett - Walking on the Moon (Delano & Crockett's Grand Club Mix)
    Rufus: The only thing better than Sting is Sting + Piano. The only thing better than Sting + Piano is Sting + a drink, while he lets you beat him at pool and relives his acting in "DUNE" in vivid detail. That never happened (at least not to me), but this is a fair substitute.
    Marisa: This is exactly what a pop remix is supposed to do: maintain the original voice of the song, multiply it by 7,000 times the dance and rock-ability, and serve it to you over a heaping pile of beats and piano plinks. I really have nothing else to say about it, other than the only thing better would be what Rufus just said, videotaped by me.
    With: Admiral Titbit - Upside Down (Acapella)
    Rufus: The image of the guy singing this turned on his head and inside out, so his guts were spilling all over the place, while at the same time trying to pen a love song about how he feels about his present situation still haunts me to this day. I'm going to stop thinking about it now.
    Marisa: This track reminds me of having a girlfriend.
  4. DJ Spinnin - Punk Chic (Johan S Original Mix)
    Rufus: If any one track is responsible for getting me into Funky House in the first place, this would be it. An old friend of mine gave me this on CD (Where are you Alex Parks? I miss you!!) when it first came out, and after hearing it, I alienated myself from the entire world trying to find more tracks this good. I'm still trying.
    Marisa: If someone would drop this after ''Common People'' at [insert Los Angeles club venue here] I'm pretty sure I would stay and keep dancing, and so would ever other vintage store clothing assistant and record label intern there as well.
  5. James Kakande - You You You (Alex Gaudino & Jerma Mix)
    Rufus: My new "Love Generation" - the only difference being that this one hasn't been ruined for me (yet) by being played 6 billion times a day on every radio station, and every cheesy club in the UK.
    Marisa: As I was passing out on the stairway in Pacha, and this came on over the speakers I thought to myself ''Wow, me and Erick Morillo actually have something in common'' and ''I am going to hear this every day for months after Rufus gets it off Beatport.'' But I'm not mad.
  6. Danny Rodia & Dave Gallucci - Electro Move (Harmo Bass Mix)
    Rufus: I shamelessly pilfered this off a Record that Donald bought, and if he thinks I'm not going to play the bloody socks off it, he should think again. Buy more records like this Donald (and then let me nick them).
    Marisa: Remember that part in The Anchorman where Ron tells the jazz club band to take the bass line for a ''walk''? Exactly.
    With: Joe T Vanelli - Sweetest Day of May (Acapella)
    Rufus: One of my all-time favorite Ruforia tracks finally makes a welcome return in Acapella form. Don't touch any of the remixes from this year, you'll be sadly disappointed. Besides, why would you - you can't improve on perfection! Sadly, this means whatever I mix the acapella with is going to do it an injustice, but even I'm not shameless enough to just play the original in 2 different Ruforia mixes.
    Marisa: Finding an a capella that showcases the talent of the vocalist, rather than the talent of the studio production team is a rare thing indeed. You could loop it over a gravel truck driving over nails and her voice would still sound amazing.
    Rufus: What She said.
  7. Mr. Fuzz Pres. Twisty Fuzz - Disco Biscuits 3000 (Original Mix)
    Rufus: Not every track can get away with the line "How tall are you? 5'10''? I didn't know they could stack beauty that high!". It's cheeky and funky in equal measures, and therefore I like it. Plus there's not enough house tracks that mention biscuits at all, and I say that in my professional capacity of biscuit connoisseur.
    Marisa: You thought you were bored, but you were definitely ''thirsty'' so you headed over to the bar and got a mojito and then you heard this, chucked a bunch of cash at the bartender, made a start for the dance floor and started texting like mad to find some chemicals. Your night just got saved.
  8. Josep Gardinho - Acid Workout (Soul Avengerz Vocal Remix)
    Rufus: We're getting a little bit darker now, but not dark enough to stop with the awesome piano solos. This isn't Jimi Hendrix (if he played piano) quality solo material like "The Answer" is, more kind of Jimmy Nail on pills quality (ie. take a few choice chords and just keep repeating to the beat), but that doesn't mean you can't dance to it.
    Marisa: Aren't you glad you stayed? Even if you haven't gotten a hold of any disco biscuits, by now I'm certain you don't care. Saying you will be home by sunrise is pushing it. I hope you don't have to work tomorrow.
  9. Fun Da Mentalists Feat. One - World Wide Party (Hoxton Whores Full Vocal Mix)
    Rufus: If I'd have known I was going to get this dirty, I wouldn't have had a shower before doing this mix. Classic "We're going to talk about how much you can dance to house music" house music. (That's an actual genre in my collection)
    Marisa: Every time I hear this track I instinctively expect to hear Rockwell's ''Somebody's Watching Me,'' but I'm never disappointed when an artist combines the epic synth riffs of the past with the uplifting message to shake one's ass.
  10. D. Ramirez - The Ramirez EP (Side B Whitelabel)
    Rufus: This was one of those infuriating finds in Delta Discos, that just says something like "The Ramirez EP" on the label and nothing else. Who did these remixes? Maybe we'll never know. Side A sucks donkey balls (The Lost in Rave Remix of "Lost", but with more vocals!), but if you come across this one, it's worth it just for Side B.
    Marisa: The best thing about this track is how the hollowed out production functions to make a bigger deal out of the vocals, rather than competing with them. There is so much going on in this track I suggest you listen to it many, many times, both in and out of context.
  11. Liquid - Sweet Harmony (Spoon & Talk Mix)
    Rufus: The first of my 'back to the old skool' selection on this mix, this one couldn't disappoint if it came home one day with all F's on it's report card, apart from in General Studies, which everyone knows is gay.
    Marisa: Yes, please and thank you. This track is tight and economical without being spare or minimal. Try pulling that off while busting an Eddie Van Halen double arpeggio technique and kick flipping off a seventh-story roof top into a pit of fire, why don't you?
    With: Chemicals are Important
    Rufus: I have a feeling this came from Steve. I love samples from old black and white English television and government education television. They remind me of an innocent time when going to a club involved ballroom dancing, and the only drug people were getting high from was the mercury used to make the top hats.
    Marisa: Chemicals are important.
  12. Roar & Baumartner - The Beat (Josh Nordlander Mix)
    Rufus: You can't go wrong with this song - every track that's ever used this sample has been amazing, and this one is no exception. I like the shameless use of Ableton Live's beat repeat effect in the second breakdown.
    Marisa: I haven't been this excited since I heard the original played at the Hi-Fi in Leeds. People always make a fuss about how Buddy Rich is the best drummer in the world and what-not, but I always thought the chick singer was cool. I still do.
  13. Gat Decor - Passion (Moss Szade Mix)
    Rufus: Just as I managed to unearth the original single of this in Oxfam, with a view to putting it on Ruforia, along came a shed load of remixes. Few tracks can be so famous from a 1-bar riff, but this remix manages to take that 1 bar and turn it into an entire track on it's own. Take out the weedy vocals from the original, and turn the piano riff into an entire breakdown, and you've got the makings of a true leg end.
    Marisa: I never got anything neat from Oxfam. But I won't say Oxfam never gave me anything.
  14. Moby - Porcelain (Daft Mix)
    Rufus: A house mix of Porcelain is looooooooong overdue, and I'm glad this one does the original justice. The speeding up is noticeable, but necessary. Never has a string hook been reversed in such a haunting way before now. Now I just need some remixes of Massive Attack, and I'll not know whether to dance or get stoned for ever more.
    Marisa: Why is it not cool for me to feel the same way about Moby as I do about Beck? Moby is a perfectly stand up guy, and he owns Teany, for god sake. Give the man a break. He also recorded this, and let's not forget ''Raining Again.'' We can forget that thing he did with Gwen Stefani. Bygones.
  15. Mick Jagger & David Bowie - Let's Dance (Whitelabel)
    Rufus: Do they smoke grass in space, or do they smoke astro-turf (such an artificial high)? I don't know, but if they did, this is probably what Bowie (Ya freaky old bastard) and the Mick Jaggernaught would compose.
    Marisa: Not that this would ever happen, but let's just say that you were dj-ing a wedding, and a bratty 23 year old came up to the booth with her mom, her mom's chain smoking, angry older sister, and dad. And they were all like ''I'm sorry, but do you have anything we can DANCE to?'' You'd know what to do, I'm just saying...hypothetically.
  16. DJ Joe K. - Born Slippy (Instrumental Mix)
    Rufus: The apex (I just wanted to get that word in somewhere to be honest) of this mix, in my opinion. The first time I ever went clubbing (Jabez Cleggs in Manchester, if you must know), they played this at the end of the night, and I realized this was a turning point in my life. I would never listen to music with the same ears again. Pair with 'The First Time' acapella for extra sentimental meaning heaped on top.
    Marisa: Much in the way that The Pixies ''Hey'' reminds me of every crush I have ever had (real or imagined) Born Slippy makes me nostalgic for memories I've never had in the first place. I don't know why. I didn't even like Trainspotting that much, honest.
    With: Roland Clark - The First Time (Acapella)
  17. Blur Vs. Jonathon Ulysses - Parklife (Rufus Returns to Bora Bora Mix)
    Rufus: Another first on Ruforia, a friend of mine wanted a version of Parklife he could play at the closing party of Bora Bora this year. And so this mix was born in an afternoon. A blatant splice between Parklife and Jonathon Ulysses - "This is how we... ROCK!", I take minimal credit for this track: the groundwork for it's awesomeness was already done for me ;).
    Marisa: Like upstart younger siblings vying for the respect of an older brother, Lucky and I fought over the speakers for the better part of an afternoon-- ''listen to my MY track!!!! Me next, me next....!'' while Rufus quietly bimbled away on his laptop, producing this gem. And then we were all like ''awwwwww Heaaaaaaaath....'''

Monday, 29 October 2007

Don't you think a little more love is the answer?

As the NI forums start to get more heated about the new release, I thought it would be a good time to sit down and have a think about what it is I like about the new release, and what features I actually wanted to see in 3.2 that would make it a truly usable piece of software.

Let's start with the things you don't see: NI has done a really good job of reducing the time it takes to start Traktor - in 3.2 I usually have to wait around 2-3 minutes for my collection to be loaded and verified, in 3.3 this is reduced to less than 30 seconds. Shutdown time is also much faster, and for these things alone, NI deserves to be applauded. The speed improvement is carried through to the loading of tracks and searching in the browser, which feels much more responsive.

The system information across the top of the screen is a total godsend, and it's really useful to be able to have one place where I could diagnose any problem I might have with the software, or just to see what my levels are. I don't know how long I've been asking for a big clock (yes, I said clock), but it seems my prayers have finally been answered.

The coloured borders around the deck and their counterparts around the information panels has been widened, which is a big help in working out what panel is relating to which deck - this has also been carried through to the browser where the colour coding showing which track has been loaded into which deck has been made more vibrant. With the new colour choices, and the increase in the amount of colour there is on screen though, the new release does look a bit like a visit to lego-land though, but you can't have it all ways I suppose.

OK, well, that's about as far as my liking of the new release goes, and as I've said previously , I'm sticking with 3.2 for now until all this mess is cleared up. Here's a few small things that could have been changed in 3.2 that would have made it a really good release for me:

  • Mute button for each deck. I've been asking for this since version 3 came out, and it makes my mind boggle how something so simple and useful could have been ommitted for this long. The mute button would mute the sound of the playing deck, but not any effects assigned to that deck, eliminating the need for the freeze button in the delay and reverb effects. I'm sure turntablists would also find a mute button a huge bonus.
  • Triplet timing on/off for effects - just a little red light I could click on or off so that as I was changing the timing of the delay effect, I could go up or down in only double times, instead of hitting a 3/4 timing, and the delay sounding out of sync. This would work the same in Flanger, X:92 filters, and Beatmasher.
  • Hotkeys for effects. Why has this still not been implemented? Still, I have to change deck effects by clicking the effect type, and then clicking a new effect from a drop down list. I should be able to hit one button and the effect is changed instantly. Perhaps there could be a modifier so that shift-press switched the effect and turned it on as well.
  • Hotkeys for effect/loop timing. Right now, I can assign hotkeys to up to 3 loop lengths, which since I generally use quite long loops (8 or 16 beats usually) means I set them to 8, 16 and 1/2 loop length. Unfortunately bugs in the looping controls mean that I have to hit the 1/2 loop length button twice for it to do anything, which when trying to create buildups is pretty useless. Id like to be able to work the tempo of the effects and the loops at the same time. The way I see this working is to have 3 hotkeys (or one that toggles between 3 states): for loop, effect or both. You would then have up to 6 user assignable hotkeys set to however many beatlengths you wanted that switched both the loop length and the effect timing at the same time, or either one on its own, depending on the state of the loop/effect/both buttons. You could create some seriously crazy buildups using this method.
  • Copying from deck to playlist. I can copy from deck to deck, why can't I drag from a deck to a playlist as well? This would stop me having to find the track again, then find the playlist and drag to it.
That's 5 simple things that would have made 3.2 vastly better for me. Here's some more ideas for future releases that would keep NI ahead of the game.
  • Tagging. Vista now supports file tagging (I'm sure OSX has something similar), allowing you to quickly find files and photos that relate to the same thing. Currently I have hudreds of playlists set up for all my house tracks called things like "piano" "just funk" "cheese" etc. Tagging would eliminate the need for these playlists, whilst giving the added benefit of seeing what other tags that track has instantly, allowing me to quickly review the mood and style of the track. I should be able to double-click a tag, and be shown all the other tracks that have that tag. When tagging tracks, Traktor should auto-complete using previously used tags (like blogger does when you type in the tag field).
  • File Organization. A menu entry to allow me to instantly change the filename based on the Artist - Title (Mix) information would be a godsend. Currently I have to use MediaMonkey for this functionality, and keeping the collection updated with the new filenames is a complete nightmare. The option to do this the other way round (populate the ID3 tags from filename) would also be very useful.
  • Track recognition. Services exist on the internet now that will sample a 10 second burst of music, and hit you back with the artist/title information. There's still a lot of tracks in my collection that don't have this, and it would be useful to do a bulk identify on them. I would pay a yearly subscription for this if nessessary.
  • Effects routing. This would really remove the boundaries when using the effects, and put Traktor in the same league as Ableton live for DJing. This would remove the ties of having 'one effect per deck' plus the master effect. The number of effects channels would be kept to 4 (for simplicity's sake, and the fact that most people have their MIDI controllers maxed out with 4 effects already), but would allow you to 'rewire' the effects, so that one effect is feeding another so that you could achieve some crazy mad effects. So, for example, deck A might be wired into a beatmasher, which is then feeding a reverb, which is then wired into the master. Deck B is just wired straight into the same reverb, but is missing the beatmasher. Deck C is routed straight to the master, so it's output is clean. This would mean that as you changed the paramaters on the reverb, both decks A and B would be effected, only Deck A would be effected when you changed the settings for the beatmasher, and throughout it all, Deck C would remain clean. The creative possibilities for a system like this would be amazing, especially if you could re-route decks to effects on-the-fly.
  • A set of 'simple' effects. Many mixers with effects built in make the process of selecting an effect and using it stupidly easy: Dial in an effect, choose the timing, and the amount, and press a button to turn the effect on/off. There are far too many paramaters even in the 3.3 release (although it is better, just wildly unpredictable), which makes getting an effect that you use often a matter of selecting it, then taking a few seconds to get the parameters set up. By the time you've got things set up, the moment to use it has passed! This takes a lot of the spontinaeity out of the mix process. These effects would be selectable alongside the current ones, so that if you wished to use the added tweakability of the old effects, it would be possible. The way I can see this working: to select the 'simple' effects, choose 'simple' in the effects drop down list as with the other effects. However, the difference is that this one 'umbrella' effect contains cut-down versions of all the other effects, mapped onto 3 knobs instead of 4, allowing you to use the top knob to select the effect quickly - as you turn the knob, a menu pops up showing the currently selected effect and gives visual feedback on which direction you need to turn and how far to get the desired effect. I've tried to group paramaters that have the same default settings together on the same knob across the effects (hence the Beatmasher's 'Rotation' being on knob 4, the same knob as the other effects 'amount' controls).
    • Filter T2
      1) Effect selection - this knob remains the same for all the simple effects.
      3) Low/High - This would work the same way as the Pioneer DJM800 single knob filter: To let all the sound through, it is set to the middle position. As you turn the knob left, frequencies from the top to the bottom are removed. As you turn the knob right, frequencies from the bottom to the top are removed.
      Amount - Wet/dry control
    • Filter X:92
      Would be split around the dial into 3 sub effects, like in T3.3: Low Pass, High Pass and Band Pass.
      2) Resonance
      3) Timing, in beats. Button 2 turns triplet beats on/off.
      4) Amount - Wet/dry control, but simultaneously adjusts the frequency at the same time, so that the more 'amount' you add, the bigger the difference in frequencies allowed through at the same time.
    • Delay
      2) Frequency - works in the same way as the frequency in T3.3 - set to the middle, the delay will carry on repeating the same frequencies. Turned to the left it will start removing frequencies from the top to the bottom end, and vice versa as you turn to the right.
      Timing, in beats. Button 2 turns triplet beats on/off.
      4) Amount - Wet/dry control, also when set to 100%, automatically engages 'freeze'.
    • Reverb
      2) Frequency - works in the same way as the frequency in the delay in T3.3 - set to the middle, the reverb works on all frequencies. Turn to the left to take more of the treble out of the reverb, turn to the right to take out more of the bass.
      3) Size
      4) Amount - Wet/dry control, also when set to 100%, automatically engages 'freeze'.
    • Flanger
      2) Depth - same as the same function in T3.2.
      3) Timing, in beats. Button 2 turns triplet beats on/off.
      4) Amount - Wet/dry control
    • Beatmasher
      2) Gate - same as this function in T3.2
      3) Length, in beats. Button 2 turns triplet beats on/off.
      4) Rotation - same as this function in T3.2
      Button 3 controls the reverse function of this effect.

I'll add some more, and some pictures of how I imagine these things working within Traktor as I come up with them.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Don't look at me like I'm stupid...

Following my rant yesterday about the shortcomings and bugs in the reworked effects section in Traktor, it seems there are a lot of people who feel the same way on the Traktor forums. The infuriating thing is that NI are trying to convince people that the problems they are having with the effects are purely down to the remapping of the MIDI controls and their lack of understanding of how the new effects work. In some cases, this is possibly true, however, they are not giving credit for the vast numbers of DJs who know what they are doing, and have crafted their sound from the effects present in the 3.2 version of Traktor - changing the effects is tantamount to playing god with a lot of artists signature sounds. Imagine if the makers of Morillo's filters turned round to him one day and said "sorry, we've stuck with this
design for too long, we've found a better way of doing it - now the knobs are on the other side to each other, and where it used to go whooooooooooooowhomwhomwhomwhom before, it now goes wheeeeeeeeeee", he'd tell them to fuck off faster than you could say 'Xone:92'!

But whilst it would be relatively easy for Morillo to switch the hardware he uses for his effects, it's much harder for users of a piece of software (at least in the DJ world) to switch to a competing product - first of all that software usually makes up 100% of the interface the DJ uses (and therefore switching means he has to change his entire way of working), and secondly all the work the DJ has done organizing his collection and getting it the way he wants it will generally be lost if he switches. Unless a user is 100% happy with the way the software works, he has to keep up with upgrades in order to use new features and take advantage of increased stability. Unfortunately, there has never been a version of Traktor that anyone has been 100% happy with (anyone?), and therefore it's users are locked into the upgrade cycle. For me, 3.2 only needed a few little changes in order for me to be very happy with it, and everything apart from the effects was a step forward towards this happiness. The effects section, however, was a major step backwards, one big enough to make me not want to use the new version.

NI seem very confused right now, as the testing team had all supposedly given the thumbs up to this new release - now it's in the wild though, the story seems to be a little bit different. I realize it's difficult for a company to know the true extent of people's opinions, however, as most users will just get on with using a piece of software and not say anything for as long as it works. Because of this, I'd like to propose a poll of Traktor users, to find out the true feelings regarding the new release - if there is a vast segment of Traktor users that feel a certain way, hopefully NI will do the right thing with this information! You don't have to answer all the questions, but obviously the more people answer each one, the more accurate the information will be. If you have anything further to add, please leave a comment on this post. If you would simply like to voice that you'd prefer to have the old effects back (or at least have the option to use them), just leave your NI forums user name in the comments.

Thanks so much for your input in this survey, hopefully NI will take this information on board with regards to the next update to Traktor.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Why do you have to do this NI???

Unfortunately, my love for Gmail is not extending to the new version of Traktor right now - NI have just updated Traktor to version 3.3. There's a few good improvements in there - for me, the biggest improvements are the fact that I can now show the name of the mix in the track info header, along with the new system information that now runs across the top of the window (and shows information like the current amount of CPU usage, battery remaining, and the status of your Midi/soundcard interfaces - along with a nice big clock, something I've been wanting for a long time in T3). I was getting really excited about the fact that NI had updated the effects though, and of course, as soon as I got my grubby mitts on the update, that's what I dived straight into.

After realizing that NI had swapped all the MIDI assignments around for the effects knobs (so knob 4 became knob 1, knob 3 became knob 2 etc) and reassigning everything on my UC33e (why they did this was beyond me, it wasn't hard to fix, but I can see it confusing a lot of people that have already got their MIDI controllers all assigned), I started to have a play.

My first impressions of the T2 filters was that they had much more impact than the previous version, and I liked the resonance that they now had - it seemed a lot less 'squeaky' and more like an analogue filter - they really reminded me of the hardware filters that Morillo uses. Again, NI confused me by switching the knobs for low and high on the filter - the way they had it before meant that the low-pass filter was on a fader that I moved up to take out the bass, and the high pass was on a pot, which I turned town to take out the treble. This really worked well for me, and I got a lot of response out of this setup. Now it's the other way round - except the fader needs to be at the top (the opposite setup to all the other effects, meaning there's a lot of fiddling before switching effects) to allow the sound through, and I move it down to engage the filter, which feels a bit flabby and unresponsive. The same with the low-pass filter now on the pot - there seems to be a certain amount of 'bounce' in the feeling of it, which just doesn't feel right at all.

Next I tried the Xone:92 emulation filters. These have now been split up into seperate effects to free up another knob (which they've put effect timing on - far superior to the tap button you needed to use before, and allows you to just increase or decrease the timing - in sync with the master clock - of the effect). Also, it seems that you can no longer assign the wet/dry of these effects to the motion of the crossfader - I only use this very occasionally, but it's a really cool effect when you do. The splitting of these effects seems to make sense, and they now sound a lot more like the filter effects on a Pioneer DJM600 mixer - lots of resonance, and really nice to play with. Again though, they seem to take a lot of setting up before you can use them - I thought this release was supposed to be centred on the ergonomics of the effects section? They seem to be so much more fiddly now!

Reverb was next to try. The reverb in Traktor 3.2 was difficult to set up, and hard to take the playing track out of without it sounding messy. On the other hand, it was powerful, and with a bit of tweaking, you could create some truly huge reverbs - great in buildups and breakdowns alike. The new reverb is completely the opposite - it has a nice tail-out effect, and it's much easier to take the playing track out of it without it sounding pants. Unfortunately, it's truly wimpy, and barely worth using. I managed to get a reverb tail that was about 5 seconds long at best. Meh.

I'd left the delay effect till last, as this is one of my favorites. At first, I couldn't work out how to get a delay that lasted more than 3 seconds - you need to start with the amount down, the feedback up, timing set to 1, 2, or 4 beats and the frequency set to the middle. Bring up the amount knob, and to get a long delay, hit the freeze button. Again, all very long-winded for something that I could set up within a couple of seconds in the previous version. Another really annoying thing is that the effect is set to on as you select it - meaning that if your track is playing it completely cuts out for however many beats you've sent in your timing - how to make yourself look really foolish in 1 easy step. The other annoying thing is that the effect carries on even after you've turned it off - you need to turn the amount knob down to get rid of it. NI says that this is to stop the 'dead end' tailoff that you get in 3.2, but I just find it confusing. If you turn an effect off, you expect to not get any sound from it. Several times I've tried using the delay effect, and got the most horrible sound from it - something akin to backspinning a turntable with a strangled cat - not good, and definitely not what I was aiming for. Also, increasing or decreasing the timing of the delay also changes the pitch, which sounds ridiculous! On top of all this, to hold a delay (ie. make it run forever) you have to hit the freeze button - before you just turned the amount knob all the way to 100% - one more exasperating step in an already overly-convoluted process.

A lot of people have already reported problems with the beatmasher effect, and I rarely use this, so I didn't even bother trying it.

The master tempo nudging seems to be a good idea if you have 2 or more tracks running in sync and you want to get them to the same tempo as a turntable/CD player. However, it seems to have been added at the expense of functionality within the whole master/slave timing functionality - trying to swap a master timing signal from a deck to the master clock results in the master clock being out of phase - a big step backwards in my book.

Unfortunately all the cons of this release have definitely outweighed the pros, and I've ended up rolling my version back to 3.2 - at least I know what's going on with it, and the effects are predictable. 3.3 feels like it's never been tested in the field by real DJs! You can see what NI are trying to do with the effects, but there's too many bugs and inconsistencies to be able to use it live right now.

I <3 Gmail

My love for Gmail continues to grow... they've finally implemented something that I've been wanting for a long time: IMAP support. After a couple of days of knowing that it was 'out there', but only activated on a few accounts, they activated it on my account yesterday, and I'm a very happy bunny :)

IMAP is basically like syncronizing your iPod with iTunes, except with your email - so I can now use a proper mail program like Mozilla Thunderbird, and have everything I do in the mail program stay completely in sync with how it will be if I log into Gmail through the webmail interface like normal. So for example, if I delete a message from my inbox in Thunderbird, it will be deleted when I log into Gmail as well!

Now what would really be useful is if somebody were to make an add-in for Thunderbird that would keep your address book synchronized as well!

Friday, 26 October 2007

Tour Glamour

After agreeing down at Ancient People to play at a new night in Ibiza town, I also said I would do the flyers for the night so that I could get my name around the island a little more. After much to-and-froing of proofs, it's starting to get to a point where everyone is happy with it... have a look... I'll post the final version if it changes much from this....

In case you're wondering, those are Marisa's legs lol :)

Friday, 12 October 2007

Ugly Dogs

No, I'm not talking about the girls in San Antonio, I just wanted to take another moment to illustrate how hideously ugly Krystal's dog, Dougal is again.

I really can't stress this enough: This dog is ridiculously ugly. If I was this dog's mother, I'd drown it.

Glowsticking across the universe...

Today we discovered a use for glowsticks. Usually I'm dead against them, having had numerous eyes poked out by them whilst on a clubbing foray, but in the absensce of power, they're useful for blu-tacking to walls that would otherwise recieve more than their fair share of bumps and elbows in the pitch black. Whilst packing her things, Emma found about 6745 unused glow sticks, which we put to use, lighting our dark-ages themed abode.

If only there was a way of using them to heat water and charge laptops as well, we wouldn't need electricity.

We used this glowstick creation to point out to the electrician where the fuse box and main power to the flat should go, if they were working.

The rain in Spain falls mainly on us.

We've been without power in our flat for 3 days now. As an extra insult, it rained like a bastard today. It's been pretty rainy for as long as we've been without electricity (which has made it pretty pointless to bum showers and laptop recharges off friends for the most part), but today the sky caved in and it sheeted from the heavens for most of the day. While I was out buying Coca-cola from the bodega, I had a conversation with the tranny behind the counter in Spanglish about the 'fatal' weather problems. Apparently in Alicante cars are being washed down the street. He/She didn't tell me this in so many words, but he/she/it was being so vocal about what was going on I can only imagine that must be the case.

We were supposed to be taking charge of Krystle's dwarf-hamsters, Eenie and Meenie today, because She doesn't love them any more, but instead we ended up looking after her dog, Dougal for the afternoon. Dougal is possibly the ugliest dog in the history of the world. He looks like an uglier version of the space alien in Lilo and Stitch. In between torrential torrents of rain, we took him for a walk on the beach, where he terrorized all the old men. I want a dog. If you live in Ibiza, you're not cool unless you own a small, stupid, ugly dog. The smaller, uglier, and more stupid your dog, the more standing in elite coke-nose circles you have. You'll see a large contingient of the Pacha VIP crowd on the beach every morning walking their insults to the canine beauty world, and sniffing coke out of a wine bottle. True story.

Anyway, back to the important parts of this post: for the moment, we have power, after running an extension cord down to the bar, we are now stealing power from Moby's, which means we have one (1) power outlet.

The other thing is, we need to name the hamsters, preferably before they arrive and we have time to work out their hamster personalities (if they happen to have them. The choices at the moment are:
  • Pancakes and Syrup
  • Bebop and Rocksteady
  • Emmie and Gorgia
  • Dave and Malaria
We don't know if they're girls or boys yet, and perhaps this information will never come to light, as I for one am not really 'au fait' with sexing small rodents.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Renovation for the good of the Nation.

Because if we don't... somebody will probably die from the biohazard that is the Moby's apartment. Ugh.

After our huge cleaning spree, yesterday, we spent the entire day gutting the flat. We'd already filled one of the industrial-sized street bins with all the crap we took out of the place, and then somehow we managed to get another load out of this place.

Marisa spent the entire day taking the horrible bobbly texture off the walls, whilst I tried to replace the plug sockets and light switches in the house. In true Reg style (god rest his tight-arse soul), none of the wires, none of the wiring corresponded to either UK or Spanish colours, so finding out which wire was meant to do what became more akin to defusing a bomb than basic home electrical wiring. All the light switches were so old that they all heated up when you turned them on, to the point where it became prudent to wear oven gloves to turn them off again. Opening the one above our bed revealed the reason why it smelled so much when you turned it on: a cockroach had crawled through the cavity into the switch, and then electrocuted itself, so that it burned every time you turned the switch on. Mmmmm, chargrilled cockroach. I wouldn't be surprised if McDonalds don't start selling that soon.

The super-stylish switches that have graced the Moby's apartment for more than 30 years. Notice the beautifully crafted bobbling effect in the paintwork that subtly shows the dirt off in it's best light.

Plugging something in adds an exciting element of danger to even mundane household tasks. For best results, try combining two appliances at once: we suggest a hairdryer and the fridge to really see the sparks fly!

Nobody knows what these wires do. Where do they go? The mystery continues.

Believe it or not, this wall looks 10x better now that the paint has been taken off.

Filling one of the huge holes in the wall with expanding foam just gave a more Alien Vs. Spieces effect to the flat than already existed.

"Structural Engineer" is dirty talk in Spain.

What does this picture mean?? Why does the man in the carriage look so unhappy? Who knows, but it went in the bin anyway.

One of the light switches after we replaced it.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

It's those tricky undersides, they can be a real dirt trap

Today me and Marisa both woke up at the same time, with the same thought in our minds... We have to clean this place. Last night we packed up all our bits at Ben's apartment, and wheeled them down the road to the Moby's flat after Vinyl Ritchie moved out. Then Kenny lent us his car keys so we could do a second run and get all the other bits and pieces we'd managed to accumulate in 3 weeks of island living. Luckily he'd never experienced my driving, so hopefully we can blame the huge scrape down the side of the car on someone else. I told him my parking was shite anyway, so it's his own fault.

By the soft glow of the sulfur light on the street outside, the Moby's apartment didn't look too bad. By the light of day, the place seemed to look like it had been designed by HR Giger, and not in a good way. We swept and mopped the whole place 3 times, and still it feels dirty in bare feet. We went through the entire place, and threw away anything that wasn't ours or Emma's (The other girl that's staying here for a week). By the time we got to cleaning our room, we thought we'd managed to get the worst of it over and done with, but when we moved the rug, there was quite a bit more sand than can be had in the Sahara desert. We've done what we can for now, tomorrow we're going to the DIY shop, to buy lots of things to try and make it look a bit less like the 9th layer of Hell.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Monkey Jenga

Yesterday I became the first person to get kicked out of Pacha before it even opened. Thanks to the wonders of organization of Subliminal records, they'd left a load of their promotional bits and pieces at Pacha (all the stuff that hangs from the ceiling and some big illuminated posters and stuff), and they'd only told Ben about it after they all left the island. This of course meant that yours truly had to go make all the packages ready to get picked up by the couriers. Don't ask me why this duty fell on me, I'm not entirely sure. I was actually probably the worst person to send down to Pacha, since I speak about three whole entire words in the Spanish language when required. I didn't feel too bad about it though, since my partner in crime for this task was to be Donald, who most people can't understand when he speaks English, never mind Spanish.

After waking up early, after stressing that we'd never be able to get everything done that we needed to before the courier came, I waited for Donald to come round. 15 Burn energy drinks later, and I'd heard nothing from Donald. Since Pacha closes for siesta at 1pm, we had to get there pretty early, so I grabbed the huge inflatable Subliminal logo that had been lamenting in a corner of Ben's house, and ran across the road to Donald's. Donald answered the door to the sound of "What te fuck a yoo daain here ya maad bastard Fus? Oh shat! Ah forgo we got tae go tae Pacha! FACK!". Turns out it was a case of the usual "phone running out of battery when you've set an alarm to make sure you're gonna wake up the next day to do something important" deal going on there.

After a scary-ass scooter ride with the huge inflatable subliminal thing hanging off the sides of the bike, we arrived at Pacha, and used my skills of mime artistry to converse with the Spanish guys that we needed to find 3 big boxes that belonged to Erick Morillo. This actually proved harder than you might think, as the mime word for box can be easily misinterpreted. Eventually we found them, soaking wet from the previous day's downpour in the workshop area of Pacha. The ceiling hangings were fine, as they were already in their own flight bags, however, the 2 illuminated posters that needed to be sent were huge, and weighed an absolute tonne. Donald went off to the post office, whilst I looked for the address labels so that the couriers knew where the packages were going. I looked all through the office where Ben said they would be, and more deft mimery to the Spanish, I found out that Simone, who was supposed to be the guy sorting out the labels for us was of course off today. I ended up being passed from Spaniard to Spaniard around pretty much all of the day workers at Pacha, until eventually someone took me to see the only English speaking person at the place: Mr Pacha himself, Ricardo Urgell. It was a shame that my first meeting with the owner of Pacha was in an apologetic begging capacity, but desperate times and all that. Ricardo actually turned out to be really nice, and had a look through all the paperwork in the office for me, but still to no avail. Mission non-accomplished. A couple of minutes later, Donald arrived back from the post office with similar disappointing news: A box the size of the poster things we needed to send simply is not available to purchase in Ibiza. Spanish people clearly only ever have to send very small things through the postal service. As we were deciding what the plan of action should be, and trying to get in touch with Ben to see what we could do, a grumpy little Spanish guy came up to us and asked us what we were doing. We tried as best we could to explain that even though we were from Scotland and Yorkshire, respectively, we were not there to steal everything from Pacha, but were there in fact in a 'Erick Morillo's bitch's bitch's bitches' capacity. Of course our hopeless attempts at Spanish only seemed to make matters worse, and he told us in no uncertain terms to politely fuck off.

There was only so much we could do about the situation without being in Pacha, so we decided to call it a day and go home. If Morillo was that desperate for his bits of flashing polystyrene, he could fly over in his private jet himself and pick them up.

Of course as soon as soon as I got home I started getting the phone calls from Ben: "What happened? They kicked you out?? Why???!". Of course in retrospect, the whole situation seemed a bit silly to me, but I could tell Ben was shitting a brick on the other side of the world. After Ben had gone on about packing tape for about 5 years (I'm not sure why, it's not like there's a shortage), I eventually agreed that I would go back to Pacha after siesta, but only if I could find someone that spoke Spanish to go with me to explain that I wasn't here to steal everything. After printing the addresses that we needed out at Linda's, I eventually managed to wake Kiki up, and persuade her that I would probably die a really horrible death at the hands of Ben if She didn't come with me to Pacha. One Spanish explanation later, and the labels were on the packages. We decided that there was no way we could really send the poster things without a box, and the Spanish seemed reluctant to give us any more bubble wrap after I'd popped most of it. Another 50 phone calls from Ben eventually persuaded us that we had to somehow do something with those as well though. I think Kiki obviously pointed her nipples of persuasion at a couple of the Spanish though, because a few minutes later they seemed happy to give us as much bubble-wrap as we wanted. All men are powerless against Kiki's nipples of persuasion. We got about 60ft of bubble-wrap and rolled the poster things up in it, and just covered the whole ugly thing in packing tape to hold it all together. Just then we get a phone call from Ben: "Oh don't worry about all this, nobody told the courier to pick the stuff up, so they won't be coming till next week now."

And so became the longest, most rambling, most pointless blog post in history.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Now I know why I hate MSN Messenger

I usually try and stay away from installing MSN Messenger these days -not only does it always take up a lot of time when I should really be working (and a lot of time where it's just thinking about doing something, it's so slow), but it just seems like a big piece of tat.

But I wanted to see if my sister had managed to install Skype or not, so I put it on just to have a quick chat with her. It seemed ok until I tried using the webcam setup wizard. The webcam in my laptop has already been working fine with Skype, so there doesn't seem to be a problem there, but MSN just hung. I mean it really wouldn't do anything. Not even Task Manager could get rid of it, and it's still just stuck there in my task bar taking up memory and bandwidth. Guess what's getting uninstalled as soon as I restart?

Give me a home where the buffalo roam, and I'll show you a house full of cowshit.

Today has been one of those really wierd days on the island. This morning, it was beautiful - nice and fresh, and far nicer than the wet sweatiness that was last night. Then, about 3 seconds after a huge roll of thunder, the winds started and the heavens opened, to the point where our street turned into a river.

Of course, as soon as I arrived on the island, I was drafted into fixing everybody's computers, and today I had to try and find out why Adam's wireless connection kept dropping back out. By the time I got down there, I was completely soaked to the bone, only to find that he was still in bed, and wanted me to come back later! I told him in no uncertain terms that I wouldn't be walking through this weather all over again just to get his internet working. After fiddling with the damn thing for the best part of an hour, it turned out his laptop had got so caked in muck (it's quite possibly the filthiest laptop I've ever had the non-pleasure to handle in my life) that it was stopping the wireless disable switch going fully into the 'on' position.

Of course, the one day it happens to sheet it down with rain in this place, is the one day when Ben wants us to go to Pacha, and mail all of Morillo's bits that he didn't have time to collect before he headed for New York. Luckily Donald has had enough accidents on the scooter to be wary of going anywhere on it when there's even the slightest bit of weather that's not 100% sun, and I'm thinking that a tidal wave moving steadily down Ave. D'Espania falls under that category.

Tonight we're throwing an end of season for the workers on the island but I'm not sure many people will be wanting to come if it means getting even the slightest bit wet. This is also a very strange year because the Space closing party is on the 7th of October (it's always the first Sunday), which means there's a week of 'limbo time' between all the other clubs closing and the Space closing (which marks the end of the season). So all the workers are suddenly stuck with nothing to do an nowhere to party. The sensible ones are using this week to rest a little before the Space closing, although if our house is anything to go by, it looks like most people have just been topping up the chemicals in their body all season, so now that there's a moment when there's no parties going on, it means that they're all feeling like death warmed up (and not even by that much, thanks to the rain). Pretty much all the roommates have had a large amount of 'sofa time' already this week (ie. fallen unconscious on the sofa), even Lucky - who is supposed to be the true drug-tank out of all the people I know. Although last night I wanted to bludgeon him to death with his phone after his alarm kept waking us up all night, and he was too unconscious to notice it.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Internet in Eivissa? You're haing a Giraffe in't Ya?

Yesterday we finally managed to set up a bank account, which meant that today I could go to the Vodafone shop, and hassle them about the internet again. Because we still don't have anywhere to live, I thought it would be best to go with the Vodafone deal, which was pretty much the same amount as getting a Telefonica line put in - although when we actually came to sign it, it turned out you needed a pre-existing Vodafone contract, plus 29E for the modem (which was advertised as free with the contract) - also of course, they wouldn't refund the 84E I'd already paid for a pre-paid data SIM card (which I never used) because everyone knows Vodafone are bastards.

Anyway, I'm back on the internet, and that's all that matters right now!

Woo woo!

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Home is where the heart is

So I've been back in Ibiza for nearly 2 weeks now, and barely had any time (or connection) to sit down and sort out all my internet stuff. As always in this place, there's a million and one things goign on all at once, and I'm just so happy to be back home. Already the madness of the island has set in, and within 10 minutes of being on the island and getting down to Moby's, we were being fed pills by people we didn't even know.

I feel like even in these 2 weeks of being back I've done so much that I could only dream about while being back home - I've been to set up the DJ booth in Pacha for Erick Morillo, and at the same time got a glimpse of the backstage areas of the club (I never knew anything about the huge workshops that they have attached to the club - pretty much everything that they use is made on site!), I've also been to Chris Leibing's villa party at 8am and auditioned for DJing at Penelope's that's opening in Barcelona.

We're currently in the process of finding a definite place to live - a couple of days ago we saw a perfect one-bedroom flat in the port in Ibiza town, it was a little out of our price range, but if we can make it work it will be much nicer than staying in the crappy Moby's apartment!

As soon as we're all sorted and have a proper internet connection, I'll write a longer post, I also have the Penelope's Demo CD which I'll put on the podcast, but for now, click the pictures above to see a couple of albums of what we've been up to since we've been here!

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Now I don't need a mac

The one feature I always get really jealous of mac users for is the "dock" thing that's in OSX. I mean it's just the way it jumps out at you and the icons get bigger as you get closer towards them - for some reason it's like GUI porn to me. Forget all that other stuff they tell me you can do with a mac, I just want to masturbate the dock all day. I'd be so good to it, I swear!

Then, while searching for big icons for my Vista desktop, I ran across a windows version, pretty much exactly the same as the mac version. It's called Object Dock, and you can get it free from Stardock. After telling Vista to hide all my icons on the desktop, I've got exactly what I wanted, without buying a mac :) What's more, it seems to be super-smooth, and uses barely any memory - it doesn't even make a difference while Traktor is playing 4 decks at once :)

Scared? I'm bricking it!

Tonight is going to be the scary one - I've got my new laptop all up and running, and last night took it round to Aaron's for a bit of a back to back session while he played on the decks. There wasn't a glitch in the sound, and everything ran smoothly, apart from after a while the monitor and the master outputs started running out of sync - eventually to the point where there was almost a second's difference between them, and it ended up making me look pretty stupid until I put my headphones on both ears instead of just one so that I wasn't distracted by the delayed signal coming from the master output.

I think I've sorted that out today by setting Traktor back to just using one soundcard (I guess I'll just have to use the splitter for the creative card, which I wanted to avoid if possible). I'll see how tonight goes, fingers crossed the laptop doesn't die on me halfway through the night!

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Iconologist Pt. IV

I gave up trying to make a Vista Traktor icon from just the logo - it looks a bit bland when scaled to that size, so instead I grabbed my record box, and after a bit of photoshopping, this was the result:
If anyone wants to use this icon, you can download it here. I hope you like it!

Iconologist Pt. III

I ended up getting so pissed off with the whole fireworks not having a Vista icon thing, that I photoshopped a set up quickly, I'll probably redo this, but if anyone wants them in the meantime, I've made up a pack of them, as well as the Firefox Vista icon which you can download for StarDock Icons by Shaun Taylor here (I've converted it to a .ico file so you can use it on the Vista Desktop).

Download the icon pack
- I hope it works out for you!

Iconologist Pt. II

After the wierd behaviour of Vista earlier, I had a play about with my icons again, and it just got wierder! If I right click an icon, and go to the properties for the shortcut, and choose any other icon from the box, then click ok, and hit apply in the properties box, the icon will go back to it's normal size, with transparency. I even found that Photoshop does have a Vista icon, but Fireworks definitely doesn't, which leaves my little icon arrangement looking a little jilted:


I seem to be having one problem in Vista already. In my eternal quest for customisation, I found a page on the net that tells you how to make your icons bigger in Vista by holding down ctrl and scrolling the mouse wheel. Using this method, you can pretty much make your icons as big as you want, and the Vista icons will scale up and still look good, as they're designed at a much higher resolution. The only thing I don't like about this is that the shortcut icon scales as well, eventually looking huge! I don't like the Vista shortcut icons at all, and will be getting rid of them as soon as I have chance.

Make your Recycle Bin big enough to fit all the useless crap that comes preinstalled on your new notebook into.

I did this, and had the icons on my desktop looking nice and big, and ready for action. Funnily, Flash and Dreamweaver (CS3) both had the updated large Vista icons. Fireworks and Photoshop didn't. Come on, Adobe, that's just slack!

Then, suddenly, without having done anything, the non-vista icons went back to a smaller than normal size. Now I can't seem to get them back to even their normal size, and they've lost their transparency! I was going to redesign them anyway, but this seems really wierd behaviour! Has anyone else had the same thing happen to them?

Same desktop, wildly different sized icons!

Vis a Vista

Well, my new lappie is all up and running now, and all ready to ship out to Ibiza with me and Marisa. I have to say that the customer service from (I won't grace them with a link) was absolutely appalling from start to finish.

First, after paying for next day delivery, it took nearly a week to arrive. They said it was because I'd ordered a recovery DVD, which they had to burn with the laptop - could it have hurt to inform me this when ordering, instead of after having to phone up 5 days running and spending nearly an hour on hold each time?

Then, when it arrived, it came with only 1GB of RAM instead of the 2GB I'd ordered and paid for! When I phoned them up to tell them about this (and spending another hour on hold to get through to someone of course), they had the cheek to ask me why I thought the laptop only had 1GB of RAM. I was like "well, there were 4 clues really - first, it said on the delivery note it only had 1GB, then it said on the box itself, then there was a big sticker on the keyboard telling me the same thing, then control panel told me when I opened the laptop for the first time!".

Then they went through a phase of telling me that they would be unable to accept the laptop back to fit the new RAM, as I'd already opened the box. I told them I'd paid for 2GB of RAM, and that's what I was going to get, and that I wouldn't send it back to them anyway, as I might never get it back in time before I left the country. After escalating the situation twice to the next supervisor up, they asked me how I'd like to see the situation resolved, as they were at a loss what to do. I told him to just send me the memory module, and I'd fit it myself. Finally they decided that it wasn't worth the effort any more, and agreed to this.

Now the laptop is all up and working (with 2GB RAM present and correct), I can tell you about Vista. Vista is basically XP, prettified with different bugs. I'm pretty ambivalent towards it to be honest, whereas when XP came out I was pretty excited, because we were getting rid of that horrible Windows 95/98 programming. Aero (the new Vista interface) is nice, I'll give you that. Everything is all very clear, and drop shadows behind windows are well overdue in my opinion, having being around on the Mac and Unix for donkeys years. They really have tarted up the XP interface a lot, but it comes at a price - you need a stupidly beefy graphics card just to be able to see all the snazzy effects. My laptop came with 512Mb GeForce card, so it was ok, but if you have a bog standard card, you pretty much get something that looks like a gay version of XP. Fuck that for a game of tin soldiers. Vista also sucks more RAM than Paris Hilton has sucked willies. There was a huge difference in performance between running the computer with 1GB and 2GB. In fact, from a clean startup, with no programs running, and Aero turned on, my computer was using 90% of 1GB, which is appalling, Bill.

Windows Media Player 11 - which seemed to run fine in XP, and I'd take any day over the bloated beast that iTunes has become - has become slow and crashy in Vista. I assume this is something to do with the fact that it's checking out all my music's DRM (or lack of it) and Window's march against non-DRM files (which is completely the opposite the the way the industry is headed, so why bother MS?). I think I'll be installing Winamp again very soon.

This audio-crippling spills over to all Audio applications, including Traktor, and the Direct Sound drivers for not only my onboard Realtek card, but also my Creative X-Fi Notebook card couldn't be set up with any degree of reliability or decent sound quality. Unfortunately there was also a lack of ASIO for the X-Fi card, which I didn't realize at the time when I ordered it. Stupid Creative - they made ASIO drivers for the Audigy 2 (which I used for DJing for nearly 2 years, which was why when I found that the X-Fi was pretty much the only PCIe compatible multi-out sound card, I had no problem with it), why not this one? Luckily, after a bit of fiddling, I managed to get ASIO4All working with my card, which actually allowed me to use both the onboard card and the Creative one simultaneously in Traktor, meaning that I don't have to use the splitter box from Creative after all (which they also failed to mention wasn't included in the price of the card, so I had to pay an extra £20 to get this, thinking I would need it for DJing). The ASIO4All solution works perfectly, and I now have my latency in Traktor down to 5ms, with no glitches in audio, and super-smooth wave display in Traktor. You can tell that the Core2Duo processor is so much better for these types of programs - before it would take about 5-10 seconds for a track to load into a deck, and there'd be a huge surge in CPU activity. On my new lappie, it loads pretty much instantly, and with the ASIO drivers, I'm able to run all 4 decks at once, with effects, timestretched at full quality, and the preview deck going as well, and not have the slightest drop in audio. The CPU usage meter stays below 25% the whole time. Amazing :) It amuses me that one man programming ASIO4All in his spare time has created something far more stable and usable than a whole team of Microsoft programmers (and there must be at least a few hundered) working on Direct X and Direct Sound.

So there seems to be a lot I don't like, or I'm ambivalent about towards Vista, what do I actually like? Well, as I've said before, the interface is nice, and I do care a lot about interface design. I like the nice big icons you can have (more on this in a minute), one thing I like more is the feedback the interface now gives you: If folders are going to take any amount of time to do anything, the percentage completed is shown as a green bar in the address bar. The address bar in folders has been re-thought, so that you only have to click the folder name in the heirarchy, and you'll be taken back to that folder - much better than clicking the "up folder" button loads of times. Also next to each folder in the heirarchy, there's a little arrow you can click to give you a list of sub-folders in that folder, making navigation very quick once you get used to it.

Instead of the super-slow search command in XP, there's now a search box in every folder (like firefox), which shows the results pretty much instantly, thanks to Vista's indexing of all your files while the computer is idle. I also like the fact that you can tag your files, which I think will eventually make folders obsolete - no need to organise things into different folders, just assign them relevant tags, and you can see everything related at once, even if some things can be grouped into more than one category.

The windows sidebar is a bit of an anti-climax, especially since Google Desktop has had the same functionality for years. There's nothing new here that hasn't been done better already, and without a major change to your operating system. Likewise with the windows picture album thing - Picasa does the same thing better, faster, and with Web Albums, don't even bother with the windows version. Internet Explorer 7 is the same as it's always been: a big pile of poo. I installed Firefox straight away before my system became riddled with spyware. Speaking of which, there's a spyware blocker built into IE7, but since I use firefox, I don't see a need to use it. There's also this thing called UAC, which blacks out the screen and asks you if you meant to do this every time you try to install a program, or delete a file or pick your nose or whatever. I turned it off as soon as I found out how.

One thing I did appreciate was the fact that Microsoft have finally included a screen grab utility - this must have taken about 10 minutes to program, but finally it's there! It beats having to Alt-Print and paste into MS Paint any day of the week. It also allows you to annotate screen captures.

There's a lot of things that are in different places in Vista - for example the menubars in folders are below the address bar (uh?), or "Add and Remove Programs..." has now changed to "Programs and Features" (which took me about 10 minutes to find). Some of these changes are difficult to understand the reasoning behind. Some less so - eg. instead of having a seperate "Run..." command in the start menu, you just type straight into the search box, and hit enter. You can also type web addresses in here, or names of programs and files, and the results will be shown in the start menu as you type.

Do I like it? It's memory hogging, slow, and still feels unfinished, but the same can be said about every previous version of windows, and hardware is catching up to be able to cope (as it always has). There's a couple of nice features, but nothing that will make you go "WOW!" like Microsoft's advertising would have you believe - more stuff that you see and think "I can't believe it's taken this long to get that", or stuff that you've already seen done better somewhere else (Apple, Google etc), so the impact is lost really with Vista's version. I'll keep with it for now - Traktor seems to be running fine in it, and that's all I'm really bothered about, so we'll see how things go from there.