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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.

Monday, 3 September 2007

You're having a laugh?!

Somebody at Adobe deserves a slap upside the head with a large blunt instrument - I'm thinking something the size of a planet here.

All I want to do is create a nice box that pops up over the top of a webpage in flash, and allows you to enter some data into a form in order to get some information back from a database. In Flash 8, the XML coding was so rickety, I ended up giving up - sometimes it would load XML from the server, other times it just forgot. Not to mention that it would load everything fine the second time it went through the script, but not the first. That's sure to look professional.

So I decided to upgrade to Flash 9 (or CS3 as Adobe are calling everything these days) to see if it would sort the problem out. After discovering that they'd pretty much completely re-written actionscript, and that my file would have to be re-programmed from the ground up, I found that the new way of working with XML was not only much better, but it worked! W00t w00t! Finally I could select things in my comboboxes, and have the data load straight from the database into flash (via PHP and XML).

Unfortunately my joy was short-lived, as some pillock at Adobe had obviously decided that nobody would ever want to layer form controls over the top of HTML. Having the wmode setting set to "window", everything works fine, but setting it to "transparent", which is what I need to if everything's going to look nice on top of the HTML doesn't show the comboboxes at all. WTF??? In IE it's fine, but Firefox pretty much just keels over and dies the second you try to do this. I've reported this as a bug to Adobe, but nobody seems to be able to find a workaround for this at the moment. Dammit! Flash would be perfect for doing this if Adobe weren't the equivalent of programming gypsies.

The only mention on the Adobe website to the problem that I can work out is this cryptic message about The plugin version of Flash Player does not fire when wmode is set as transparent. (198515). Well, thanks very much, you really cleared that up for me Adobe. By the way, the link on that page takes you to a broken link page. Very professional to say these guys are supposed to be at the forefront of web design, and their own software has a site-wide link checking feature to make sure they all work.

Incidentally, has anyone noticed the download size for Flash has changed from about 70Mb for Flash 8 (when Macromedia were still making it) and 460Mb now Adobe make it? It took me about 3 hours to install it earlier, and still it's riddled with bugs. And they have the cheek to ask $699 for this?? I've seen less infections on a chinese whore with leprosy, AIDS and Windows '98(which is a well known ailment) all at the same time.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Would you like me to lapdance for you?

OK, I had to share this with you - this is (hopefully) the laptop that's going to be arriving on my doorstep sometime before we head off to Ibiza. I'm really happy about a couple of the features on this model. No it's not the fact that it's got a spill-proof keyboard (although that'll be useful for DJing with) or it's firewire 800 port (which I'm very happy about, nonetheless) - It's the fact that the promotional pictures for this model show a screen saver that says ASUS: Rock Solid, Heart Warming.

I mean, the rock solid part pretty much speaks for itself, and I'm happy about that, really I am - when I'm playing at a gig, I need my laptop to be my rock, because god knows none of the drunkards falling against my lighting rig are going to do that for me. What I'm really happy about is the fact that this laptop is "Heart Warming". I feel like this laptop has already warmed my heart. Because this laptop is on its way to me, I just want to leap out the door, kiss the first person I come across in the street, and shout things like "Yay fiddlesticks" and play songs that include lots of "Shoo-bob Showaddy-waddys" in. Only the bloody Japanese could have possibly advertised a laptop as "Heart Warming" and got away with it.

Which brings me onto the other feature I'm really looking forward to checking out - the ASUS Splendid Video Intelligence Technology which is built into it, apparently. It's all splendid, all the time. You Mac fanbois can keep licking Steve's arse for all I care, so long as my lappie has Splendid technology, I am good to go.