Do you ever get the feeling that you’re paying for nothing?

Software and data in general is an artificial product created by our laws. We can sit here and argue about whether these laws benefit or harm society. But I’m not going to do that.

What is a valid product is the service of creating data. You can surely pay someone to create data that does or says what you want it to. But why is it that it is against the law to transmit this data to some unauthorized party? Something just seems inherently unnatural about this. Support is also a valid product. You create software for someone and then charge them to support it.

I think this is partly the basis for the free software movement.

Hell, I don’t even know if I agree with all of this myself. I have recently shelled out $189 for VMWare, when I could have easily just pirated it. I guess it is because I feel like they deserve my money. It is a good product. But at the same time, I see this as a donation in the sense that it doesn’t make sense that it should cost money once it is already written. I mean, other than the negligible cost of their bandwidth, it cost them nothing extra to “allow” me to download their software. In other words, I wouldn’t have felt particularly bad if I had pirated the software. I only would have felt as bad as, say, listening to free Internet radio without donating any money.

Of course, the software and entertainment industry wants us to believe that each time you illegally download software, music, movies, or some other sort of data, they are somehow losing money. Sure, some of the people that did it illegally would have otherwise paid for what they downloaded. But they would have you believe that a college student, had they not been able to download $250 Photoshop and $10,000 worth of music, would have paid for it.

Give me a break. More on free software to come (free as in speech, and free as in beer).

Here is an excellent interview explaining the free software movement.

Holy shit, I just made a blog post using Flock. Although I had to go back and edit it because it screwed up my link.

I was a long-time user of Internet Explorer until maybe 1 year ago. I switched to firefox. It is better than Internet Explorer, but it still sucks. Here is what is wrong with all web browsers I have tried:

  • Internet Explorer: no tabs. bad security. no pop-up blocking
  • Firefox: disables extensions when you upgrade to a new version. copy/paste doesn’t work correctly when you have two firefox windows open. scrolling with the up and down keys doesn’t work when you have two firefox windows open. firefox crashes. firefox has a serious memory leak problem. There are hundreds of unresolved bugzilla bugs. You can’t customize the toolbars like in IE
  • Opera: ads
  • Maxthon and Avant: standardized hotkeys for tabs don’t work (ctrl-t). f6 also doesn’t work.

Sigh. I guess I will put this on my list of projects. Maybe I should learn how to program better first. Something based off of firefox would be best, I think.

I have written a tutorial on using the Unix utility GNU screen. Click this link to read the tutorial.

Yahoo! today launched their new Yahoo! Music Unlimited. For $4.99/month (when paying for a whole year), you can listen to their whole music library from your Windows PC. You also have the option to pay $0.79 to burn a track to a CD.

You access their service with the Yahoo! Music Engine (pictured below).

The interface is pretty nice. It is much more responsive than iTunes, which I have found to take a decent amount of time between page loads and music imports.

When I first started the Yahoo! Music Engine, I was prompted to import the music that I already had. I directed it to the C:\Music folder, and it imported all subdirectories, including files encoded in ogg, flac, and mp3 formats. I was able to go about my business exploring the program while it was busy importing my music.

I decided to put Yahoo! Unlimited to the test right from the start. One of my favorite artists is Dieselboy. I attempted to type “Dieselboy” into the search box on the Y! Unlimited page, but my text would not take. Instead, I used the “Browse By Genre” dropdown box to the right to select “Electronic / Dance” and from there choose “Jungle / Drum & Bass”. I saw several tracks listed, and I wanted to see how quickly their music would start streaming after I clicked play next to one of the tracks. When I clicked the play button, I was informed that I had to download a security update to play the music. The download seemed to go pretty quickly (I am on a fat connection at work). When I next clicked on the play button, the album art simply greyed out. This seemed to be a deal breaker, but having the classic computer mentality, I restarted the program.

And, I am now successfully listening to an artist I have never heard before “MJ Cole”. Clicking “play” on the album started playing the first song within a second. Again, I am on a fat Internet connection, but this is still impressive. I had been wondering for a while where I could find good Drum & Bass. I have now found that place.

I have not used any of the other subscription-based music services to be able to compare, but Yahoo! Unlimited does seem to be lacking in one very important area: completeness. As mentioned before, one of my favorite artists is Dieselboy. My all-time favorite is Tool. Searches on both of these artists turn up a grand total of 0 albums. This isn’t a big deal for these two artists, since I have all of their albums stored locally on my hard drive, but it does not sound good for future searches. Other artists that I have searched have missing albums. I understand that this may be very hard to acheive, but what is really needed is for this service to have very close to all the music I would ever be looking for. Then it would really be of full value to me.

A great part about this program is that it integrates countless radio stations into the interface. You can pick from a standard Launchcast station on the left, or you can choose to “Play Artist Fan Station”, which is supposedly a mix of what fans of that artist will like. In the limited time that I have listened to the Tool and Dieselboy Artist Fan Stations, I have noticed a nice correlation to the artist, and the type of music that is played on the station. I have also noticed something very peculiar. For both artists there are no albums available for download/streaming, but their songs are included in the station mix. I am sure it is some sort of licensing crap, but still annoying that they can play it on the station but you can’t stream the album as a whole.

Another note about the stations is that it can be rather awkward on some stations to not have the tracks mix together, like in almost any electronic station. The tracks were meant to be played back-to-back, so you are left with an abrupt start and ending to each track. There may be a feature to do this, but I haven’t found it yet.

Even on the first day that this program has been out, there are plugins for it. One of them is “1337 m1n1 m0d3” (pictured below) which replaces the current inadequate mini mode.

Overall, this program and service seems to have some growing to do, but being the first day that it is out, I am very impressed. $4.99/month is a bargain, and I think they realize that. This seems to be a limited-time offer. I went ahead and signed up for a year, but my card won’t be charged for another week, so I can cancel if I don’t like it!

So I got tired of waiting for myself to write the custom blog software I had always meant to write. Well I did start on it and get a decent amount of code written at one point. But it was in CGI and, being the perfectionist that I am, I had decided that I was going to rewrite the whole thing in PHP. I had seen wordpress in action a couple of times, and it looked pretty nice. So, as you can see, I went ahead and downloaded it and installed it. At first, I was thinking “This is really nice, but there are still some basic features I want to implement, like nested categories.” Well, they done implemented them.

So now I figure that since wordpress is released under the GPL, maybe I can just help out and add/improve features on this software.

I suppose that’s all for now.