Monday, 27 February 2006

I tried so hard

I tried so hard, but I was defeated.

I was looking to buy Joe Satriani’s new album, “Super Colossal”, from a genuine UK retailer – ideally actually a UK copy. First of all, it doesn’t look like this is getting a UK release, or at least if it is, there’s no official information on it.

OK, so it has to be an import. I look on Amazon UK, it’s there, I pre-order it. About a day later I get an email – they’re cancelling the order. So now I’m buying from CD-WOW instead. Since this is Sony USA, I hope it’s not too badly DRM infested (although I am of course running as a limited user).

If you’re interested, Joe’s podcasting a little about each track, plus a one minute (or so) preview of the track. Schedule: Monday/Wednesday/Friday. If you want the videos, you’ll need QuickTime 7. I’m using Media Player Classic plus ffdshow codecs.

Tuesday, 14 February 2006

Back in time

I’ve been meaning to switch around the samples of the band I was in, back in sixth form. This is an appropriate day to do it, because the song I’ve put up was written the day after Valentine’s in 1995, and it was written because of what happened.

Song: Torn In Two (MP3, 128kbps, 7.2MB, 7:53).

The song, basically, is about Dave having a crush on a girl in his music class, and her not being interested. He sent her a card, she sent him a note, and he was pretty cut up. He wrote some lyrics that night (first verse and chorus, if I remember right), the following morning he and Roger put together a chord sequence and basic vocal melody, then that afternoon I joined them to practice. After Roger had to leave, I added the second verse, and David and I put together the third. I took some of my inspiration from my own feelings at the time (yup, more unrequited crushing) and some from the note Dave received. There are harder things to take when you’re 17 than ‘I just want to be friends,’ but not all that many.

We practiced the song for about a week, then Dave called his guitar teacher and asked if, instead of a lesson, we could record it. Our then-drummer, James, couldn’t make it, so we had Nigel, the teacher, program a sequencer with a simple drum beat. Roger and Dave played together, with me singing a guide track, to get the keyboard track into the sequencer as well. Then Dave let it all out (and boy, did he let it out) on his lead guitar track – that’s all one take I think, or it might be two. I added the vocals, then we asked Nige to add a bass track for us. There’s a little ‘fill’ bit in the bassline where the fridge motor cut in and knocked the sequencer out for half a bar! A quick mix later and we had something. I can’t recall if Dave sent the girl in question a tape or not – he may well have!

I’m not sure if we were asked, or Dave asked, to perform Torn In Two at a school concert. The girl asked us not to, but by that point Dave had got over it a bit, so we did it anyway.

Six months later we had a new drummer, Chris, and returned to Nige’s studio to record four more tracks (among them, Survivor). We asked if we could add a new, live, drum track to Torn In Two. We found the tape, which had miraculously not been recorded over, but the sequencer program was gone: Roger had to re-record the keyboards. Nige programmed in a ‘click’ track for Chris to follow, since the sequencer timing data was still on the tape. I’m still amazed at just how well Chris was able to add drum fills building to some key parts in Dave’s solos.

I love this song. It’s my favourite of the ones we recorded. Now that I have my own guitar, it’s one of the songs I practice, although I’m only playing the chords in a semi-acoustic setup.

I’ve left Survivor up for the moment; I’ve re-encoded to 128kbps to save some space and download time.

Thursday, 2 February 2006


Eric Sink has a great article “Yours, Mine and Ours” in which he discusses different types of software:

“I claim here that there are three categories of software:

  • MeWare:  The developer creates software.  The developer uses it.  Nobody else does.
  • ThemWare:  The developer creates software.  Other people use it.  The developer does not.
  • UsWare:  The developer creates software.  Other people use it.  The developer uses it too.”

Can I add WeWare to that list? I define it as MeWare but for your own development team. This gives it a slightly larger audience – requiring a touch more thought than MeWare in user interface and usability, but not really requiring the robustness or even completeness of true UsWare.

I spend a fair chunk of my time on WeWare – libraries for helping to complete a project rather than actually writing the code that solves the customer’s problem. Of course I do a lot of that too.

We’re still having trouble pushing Meteor Server over the chasm from WeWare to UsWare (from an application-development point of view, at least – there are plenty of installations where we wrote the application). We might have a couple of customers now, but it remains to be seen whether they’re able to run with it themselves.

Why you should install and enable a firewall on your PC

…even if you have a hardware firewall/NAT/whatever.

Larry Osterman has a great post “Firewalls, a history lesson,” in which he makes an analogy to the first world war. An interesting read.

I should take up this fight with my colleagues again. They all think I’m crazy for running as a low-privileged user and having the XP SP2 software firewall on, but when one of the salesmen brings their horribly-infected notebooks into the office for me to disentangle, I’m glad of it.

I remain unconvinced of the merits of a two-way firewall: the trick is not to get the malware onto your PC in the first place. Two-way firewalls are pretty annoying whenever there’s a change to the client software you use; you only have to configure an incoming-only firewall when there’s a change to the services you provide. There’s a common problem in computer security – ensuring that you don’t train the user to just click ‘Yes’ all the time. That’s why the ‘enter root password for elevation’ prompts in Mac OS X worry me, especially since there doesn’t seem to be a way for the user to validate that the prompt came from a secure subsystem rather than J. Random Malware. I’m actually happier that the initial plan for Windows Vista is that “Consent Admins” will default to being presented simply with a dialog explaining the elevation, to which you click Permit to elevate or Deny to refuse.