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Journal: Election 2004 2

Journal by schlach

Time to blow the dust off this thing, since slashdot became interesting again with the politics.slashdot.org section.

This is in response to two comments I just read on the end of Election 2004 story on slashdot. Comment 1 and Comment 2

Single-issue voters. God bless 'em. I listened to a woman call up NPR this morning (in Iowa, where I participated in this election), obviously a Dubya-supporter, and say, "We don't have slavery in this country because a bunch of Republicans put a stop to it!" She was completely oblivious to the fact that the party of Lincoln has since become the party of the Confederacy. She went on: "Yeah I voted my conscience. I've been voting my conscience for 35 years. It's about time people start voting their conscience rather than what's going to put food on their table or gas in their car."

So there you go. She knows she's getting screwed, and is okay with that. She - and probably a lot of others with similar views - feels that eliminating abortion, civil rights for homosexuals, and stem cell research is God's Work, and that if that calls for economic sacrifice because the Party representing that work is a bunch of crooks, so be it. She doesn't seem to question why she must sacrifice the food on her table to battle abortion, two seemingly-unrelated issues, but she's willing to. God tests us, God calls us to sacrifice, and she's answering the call.

What remains is some serious soul-searching by the rest of us. We know that abortions went down under Bill Clinton, who treated the causes of abortion, like poverty, rather than the symptom of legal abortions. I find anti-abortion single-issue voters to be hypocritical in their fervor of support for the life of the unborn, but not the life of the born. If having the baby would kill the mother, so be it. If outlawing abortions will kill teenaged-girls performing abortions with wire-coat hangars, so be it. Capital punishment, illegal war, shooting doctors who perform abortions, you name it, they're fer it. I have much more respect for those Christian evangelicals who are anti-abortion and also anti-war, anti-poverty, anti-capital punishment, anti-murder. Jim Wallis of Sojourners magazine comes to mind. But I feel like these Christians who are consistent in their belief of the value of human life are a dying breed. Certainly their percentage of support for a pro-war, pro-poverty, pro-capital punishment, pro-extrajudical-killing President who happens to be anti-abortion is telling.

The rest of us, who might not agree that abortion should be illegal, must nevertheless find a way to bridge the gap, because these people are not going to come to us. We might not want abortion to be illegal, but very few people are actually pro-abortion. The desire to reduce the number of aborted pregnancies and increase the quality of life for both the living and the unborn could be our common ground. The grandparent is right; logic and reason have no bearing on this debate. The only appeals that can be made are to their larger sense of Christian "compassion" out of which the support for some of these causes stem.

Some of them are too far gone, like the rising numbers of Christian fascists who, like the Left Behind series "preaches", believe that the world will end with the Second Coming and Armaggedon within the next couple decades. It's hard to start a discussion on environmental issues, or deficit spending, or anything, with people who are convinced the world will end soon, and the only thing that matters is getting into Heaven when it does. The numbers of these Christian fanatics is rising, and some accounts peg them at 20 million Americans already. Very disturbing. But all evangelical Christians are not this irrational and dogmatic, and we can find common ground with them to marginalize the dangerously schizophrenic among them.

I just hope we can do it in four years.

User Journal

Journal: The Matrix: Rewritten

Journal by schlach

After watching the new Matrix: Recycled^H^H^H^H Matrix: Regrettable ^H^H^H^H i mean Matrix: Revolutions, I feel ripped off. There was some really good discussion on /. after Reloaded came out, multiple matrices within matrices, the Gibsonian feel of the unplugged agents, Smith's real story, etc. In fact, I think that any of those lines of discussion here were superior to what ultimately was released as (we can only hope) the conclusion.

So, with that in mind, I am calling for papers to Rewrite, Re-do, or otherwise Repair the Matrix, for all of us fans. We'll never be able to Remove the stain of Revolutions, or Replace it with a better version, but we can at least have a lot of fun talking about how it should have ended.

User Journal

Journal: What's next?

Journal by schlach

I've been reading Rustin's, ces', and howell's complaints about slashdot, but otherwise I've already beaten them to it and gotten out of here.

I miss it.

I read and posted today for the first time in ... a month or two? It was on the invisiblog article. Someone mentioned that Freenet would be better used for anonymous blogging, and, having an opinion about why Freenet falls into the cool-but-doomed bin, I thought I'd say something.

The only thing I'm hanging around on Slashdot for is to hear about the system that will succeed it. The rest of my time is spent designing that system. I hear a lot of despair, but no one (that I'm aware of) is starting a sourceforge project, or even calling for a revolution. I hope to, soon.

Censorship

Journal: Akamai drops al-Jazeera network

Journal by schlach
This is a story submission that's waiting to be rejected...

Google News pointed me to the story of Akamai dropping al-Jazeera from its network. This comes after expulsion of its reporters from the NYSE floor, web defacements, DNS hijackings, and potential DoS attacks, almost certainly launched by supporters of a country that ostensibly endorses a free press. (Newsweek, "Censorship, American style") Another link (God bless Google News) reports: The Cambridge, Mass., company stopped short of saying the move was political. Akamai has been cultivating deals with the federal government. For example, it currently powers the U.S. Army's recruitment site. And lest anyone say that al-Jazeera, for its coverage of news for non-US viewers is nothing more than a propaganda tool of Hussein's regime, Google has found you an MSNBC article written during the Afghanistan war, In defense of al-Jazeera.

Today, al-Jazeera is staffed by many of the same [BBC] journalists I saw weeping in London that day, including Azar. It is the lone Arabic broadcast outlet to put truth and objectivity above even its survival. For its pains during the five years of its existence, it has been attacked by virtually every government in the Middle East.

That brings us to the final lesson here: what passes for news in America. For the past 10 years, roughly since the idiotic O.J. Simpson trial, the language of marketing has entered American newsrooms like a badly targeted cruise missile. Talk of plot lines and demographics, sexiness and "water-cooler" appeal have polluted a mission that is protected by its own constitutional amendment. Celebrity journalists interview celebrity dimwits about their sex lives, while American foreign policy is left running on auto-pilot.

The hard truth is that the U.S. media left America as unprepared for these terrorist attacks as any Air Force general or CIA bureaucrat. As we dropped bombs on Iraq for 10 years running -- justified or not -- the U.S. media failed to report on it. Then suddenly, on Sept. 11, we think "We're at war" when in fact there hasn't been a day since the Gulf War ended when an American aircraft hasn't locked onto a target with a missile or bomb. We were at war, it's just that the media didn't think it was interesting enough to tell you about it. That's our lesson to learn.

--

I'm not really following the war anymore, just the media's coverage of it. I'm disappointed. What interests me is the mainstream news coverage of bloggers' coverage of the war. We're taking over, baby.

User Journal

Journal: The truly important things

Journal by schlach

My EFF membership package came in the mail yesterday. A nice black ball cap, and an amazingly loud red t-shirt, with a picture on the back of a group of animals protesting, holding signs bearing the slogans, "Fair Use", "First Sale Rights", and "Time Shifting", with the caption, "Fair Use Has a Posse." And that got me thinking.

I am appalled at the hypocrisy and utter lack of human qualities I witness in the geeks I am surrounded by all day.

Slashdot Open-Source Acolytes. Microsoft Linux-hating Zealots. Holding hands for war. United in their contempt for all those opposed to an illegal, ill-planned, ill-considered, and ultimately needless war opposed by an overwhelming majority of the world, that will cost the lives of US Service men and women, tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers, and thousands of Iraqi civilians. That will cement the hatred of America and Americans in all corners of the world, that puts the final nail in the coffin of pro-American sympathy and support in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, and that will only bolster the rosters of those willing to perpetuate future attacks.

And for what? Because Saddam could attack us at any minute? Please. You're deluding yourself. His army is at less than half the strength it was in the last war. If he actually had the infamous weapons of mass-destruction we accuse him of, we couldn't attack him. See North Korea. It's precisely because Iraq is so weak that we are willing to invade. Because he will provide "dirty bombs" to terrorists? We have been completely unable to establish a link between Saddam's regime and terrorist attacks. That hasn't stopped us from making those claims, which has only further discredited the US Administration in the international community.

Because Saddam is a tyrant to his own people? No doubt. I believe any "president" that would spend his entire budget to expand his illegal arsenal at the expense of his own people and their economy; that would illegally disappear citizens without due process, without even a phone call to their relatives telling them that they have been taken, held indefinitely and denied legal counsel; should be removed from power. But the way we'll do it in this country will be peaceful. We will vote, and Bush will leave. Assuming the election is a more legal one than last time.

Saddam has been a tyrant for more than twenty years. Why are we so keen to remove him now? We have been content to ignore the suffering of the Iraqis while we were supporting Saddam, and under our own sanctions against them. Our last war continues to damage relations with Turkey, as sanctions cut off much needed trade along that border. Our fight was not with Turkey, our traditional allies, yet that economy became "collateral damage", the term we reserve for the non-military targets we invevitably destroy during the course of war. And I haven't even brought into the equation the implicit value of human life, because I don't think that is something that is shared by many of my peers. I'm appalled that we as a class no longer seem to be able to tell the difference between Age of Mythology and real life.

But that's not why I felt I had to write something. What bothers me is that the nerds who squeal like stuck pigs when a law is passed that makes it illegal for them to copy DVDs are actually cheering the dropping of bombs that will cost people their lives . That spit on their friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors who would show their outrage at policies that will kill people while they write their Congressman or Senator about the latest copyright bill that has been passed. And wonder why the "sheeple" don't appreciate their understanding of the truly important issues of the day.

It makes me sick.

So today I will wear my EFF t-shirt as a condemnation of my peers that are religiously opposed to the infringment of their fair-use and First Amendment rights, while being fanatically supportive of a needless, counter-productive, unilateral, undeclared war, in which people, not soldiers, not Iraqis, but people of all creeds and colors, will die.

Way to go, guys. I applaud your moral convictions. I envy your ability to digest the truly important issues facing us. Now let's go play some more Age of Mythology and try to forget this nastiness.

United States

Journal: Media ignores story of US spying activities at UN 7

Journal by schlach
Just found a passing reference to the new Pentagon Papers story. In this case it's a 28-year-old female employee of Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (NSA) who was jailed for leaking an NSA memo outlining illegal US spying activities on UN Security Council members in order to get the upper hand in the intense Gulf War II negotations.

You already know I'm anti-war, but this should revolt anyone's sensibilities who hasn't been brainwashed by our nation's new moral and intellectual leader to believe that the ends really do justify the means.

But the worst part about it? Our American medium (I'm pretty sure there's only one) has decided this is not a story worth reporting.

"Critics have said, Big deal; finding out that spying is going on at the United Nations is like finding out that there's gambling at Rick's. And to be sure, there is a long history of bugging and surveillance among the world body's members, a history The Observer itself detailed in a related follow-up story.

"Fine. But two points. First, can anyone say with a straight face that this memo isn't an interesting thing? Political strategy has been 'going on' for a long time, too, but when a memo outlining one is unearthed - such as Karl Rove's famous PowerPoint presentation of last year - it's news. Second, there's reason to believe that the American media's indifference to The Observer story reposes less in the fact that this is a dog-bites-man yawner than in the very reasonable suspicion - or fear - among our nation's editors that running this story would set off a firestorm here and would require, in this climate, more spine than most American news outlets are displaying these days."

The two Observer reporters "had been booked for appearances on NBC, CBS, ABC and CNN, all of which were cancelled."

For more stories on American journalistic censorship, I strongly recommend Into the Buzzsaw: The Myth of a Free Press . It's a collection of 18 stories from formerly-respected American journalists whose lives and careers were destroyed when they covered a story that our powerful corporate and governmental interests did not want to see the light of day.

So spread the word. The only way Americans are going to hear about this most recent act of US dishonor, and the unreliability of their own press, will be from their friends.

Update: Sumit just sent me a link to a blisteringly good commentary on the state of the media.

The Bush press conference to me was like a mini-Alamo for American journalism, a final announcement that the press no longer performs anything akin to a real function. Particularly revolting was the spectacle of the cream of the national press corps submitting politely to the indignity of obviously pre-approved questions, with Bush not even bothering to conceal that the affair was scripted.

Slashdot.org

Journal: Community 5

Journal by schlach

So I just spent like an hour reading trolls' journals.

That's a different perspective. And I found out I've got something in common with them. We both wish slashdot's editors were more community-minded.

How the trolls and I agree on that one, I don't understand. But now I know why Rob got so pissed off at me when I was critical of their community-mindedness. Because he associates that viewpoint with his enemies.

A post on slashback asking why everyone was so quiet about changes. Timothy constantly repeating "And yet, here you are." Getting modded down to -1 for it. Priceless.

And yet I think his responses are pretty insightful as to the general editorial malaise. I will say this for him - he posts. (Posts more than I do. Jesus. You'd figure he'd have to get paid to do that.) But he's down here in the trenches with the rest of us.

Here's the journal entry I didn't post last night:
--
Ok, so yesterday(? seems like longer ago..) I found out what happened to the old +1 karma bonus, that I'd been thinking about for a week or so. I posted a comment explaining it to everyone who might not know, and the process of figuring it out got me kind of upset that there still exists no place on slashdot where code changes are discussed.

This isn't to say that there is no place anywhere where one can go to figure it out. Usually reading Taco's journal will let you know what's been going on. You might not necessarily hear about everything that's been changed, or the reasons why, but it's better than nothing. And Rob will tell you the CVS is always current. There's also the SourceForge bugs / features mailing list, and the IRC chats. And of course, you can email him...

It's better than nothing, but I don't think it's much better. The changes that I was bothered about weren't mentioned or discussed anywhere. And even when they are, it's a notification of the changes that have happened, not a discussion of what should happen in the future.

And here's the difference between the way that Rob and I see Slashdot. I see the community and the discussion, he sees ... other things. Everything, maybe. Bleagh lemme quote:

You mention time limits. Delegate. A once-a-week discussion of changes by the person who's rolling them in, or your whenever-spaced journal entries about ...

I've tried. But these 'Once a week' things. Journals. IRC chats. Stories. To you they consume a few minutes. To me they easily can eat 2-3 days. A journal entry means dozens of emails. Suddenly everything I do becomes questioned. And I have to answer. If I don't, god forbid it means I'm abusing the oh-so-important Slashdot Community, and heaven forbid that happen. Nevermind the fact that I spend all day every day doing the best I can to balance the demands of that very community against the very real aspects of the limited number of hours we have of programmer time, writing time, sysadmin time, tech support time, CPU slices, DB IO Bus time etc etc etc.

I guess what it comes down to is it pisses me off when readers assume that the all important slashdot community is the end all be all of Slashdot. Yes, it is the most important part. But it can't exist without the hardware, software, man hours, and advertising needs that make it all happen.

And they like to assume that any time I make a choice that somehow negatively affects the users, that this signals Slashdot 'Jumping the Shark' or something.

It's horribly unfair. Slashdot readers don't see the countless times I say no to a ridiculous advertiser need. Sales contracts that we have to reject that could make our company money and could let us hire more help, but we say 'No' because the community wouldn't tolerate them.

I'm juggling here. Balancing. And you see only the tip of that iceberg.

Delegation doesn't work because there's nobody to delegate TO. It's just us.

Every action we do ripples outwards. A Journal Entry. Feedback. It bounces back on my lap and takes even more time. Not less.

This sucks. Slashdot has a quarter-million people in its community; there's no reason why we need to put every burden on Rob. I want a discussion of the features before they get rolled in; I should make it happen.

I don't have anything official, just this journal, but it's threaded, and can be moderated. That's all we need. So what I'm planning is to find out everything that has happened in the last week, and everything that will happen in the next week, and publish a write-up in my journal. I encourage everyone to discuss what's going on, along with what they like and don't like about the changes. People are already discussing what's going on, and how pissed they are about management - I just want to get it in one place, with a constructive goal. We can answer most people's questions ourselves, and hopefully provide them a format for feedback that will prevent them from needing to email Rob about everything to get some response to their questions. The most important feedback we'll pass along to Rob, and if people start moderating the discussion, it'll be that much easier for folks to read.
--

And we'll invite everyone. Even the trolls. =)

User Journal

Journal: Five Colors 7

Journal by schlach

[Editor's Note: posted a second ago, in response to the Superbowl discussion.]

Wow, who would have thought that there'd be a moderated discussion of football on slashdot... What's next? Maxim magazine reviewing computer games?

Seriously though, I was at a hockey game last week and witnessed the same phenemenon - "There are no good calls that don't go in your favor." Every time your guys trip, you're glad when the ref doesn't call it. Every time one of their guys trips your guys, you scream bloody murder, and if the ref doesn't see it then you invite him to join the game, or offer to buy his seeing-eye dog ice-skates, etc.

Their goalie blocked one of our shots, and one of the guys with me, an Aussie watching his first game, cheered. I said, "Don't cheer, that was their play." And he said, "It was a good play. Hockey was the winner." And that blew my mind, it sounded so foreign. Hard to imagine an American fan cheering for Hockey rather than a specific team.

So I was thinking about this, after the game. If we Americans have such an 'Us vs. Them' mindset in our sports, is it a condition of our cultural environment, or is our enjoyment of the sports conditioning us to perceive other conflicts in the same 'Us vs. Them' mindset? Or is it just part of the same mix of people->culture->people?

Specifically, why don't we have any sports/games with more than two teams? Does anyone else, for that matter? What is it that prevents us from being able to invent interesting games that perceive conflict in more than an 'Us vs. Them' fashion?

I remember WoTC back in the day (dating myself) publishing different variants for their Magic card game that were quite interesting, the best of which was the 'Five Color' game. I've never heard the mechanics of a good 5-team game described anywhere else, so I will describe it as the Five Color game.

5 teams are logically arranged in a pentagon. From the top, clockwise, we find White, Blue, Black, Red, and Green. The object of the game is to destroy the teams positioned 'across' from you, ie not next to you on the pentagon. The teams next to you are potentially your allies, not for any high reason, just because you happen to share an enemy. Additionally, your other ally is your ally's other enemy. Tricky.

The additional level of depth and strategy required adds an entirely new enjoyment to the game. You know every alliance is going to be betrayed at some point, it's in calculating the exact moment of betrayal that rewards the winner. It forces the player to be aware of conflicts happening between entirely other teams, and how to use those conflicts to perhaps set your enemies against themselves, or gain an ally. It forces strategy to become sophisticated in ways that calling a football game a chess-match doesn't even come close to.

And the interesting question would be, if America's favorite sports became 5-color games, would we see a corresponding increase in the sophistication with which we perceive international affairs?

I throw it out for conversation. (And secretly I hope that a few mod-makers (or budding sport-inventors) are inspired. I'd love to go hack WarCraft2 to make it support larger maps and a 5-color match up, or making a TF mod for such a game (maybe when TF2 comes out *chuckle*). Or maybe someday my internationally-savvy children will teach their old man how to play '5-color ball'... )

User Journal

Journal: Looking Back 3

Journal by schlach
Note: This is something that kind of rolled off my head the other morning, from some notes I took in church on Christmas Eve. The idea actually occurred to me last year in Church, on Christmas Eve, (I'm not even C&E, just C..), but I didn't remember it until I got to church this year. I guess that's why I look forward to my annual religious-meditation session. It's a different place, inspires different thoughts.

Incidentally, I believe I have finally found my Calling. Ironically enough, it's what I've been doing for a couple months, I just didn't realize it.


Looking Back

Man: Progressive in all things, save culture and politics.

There is an interesting split in this country along class lines. I do not mean economic-class, but rather political, social, cultural, age, and expertise classes. The split is in the answer to the question of whether we have more to gain by looking backward than looking forward.

Think about words like tradition, culture, heritage, history. Think about phrases like "the Golden Days", "the Glory Days", "the time of our forefathers", "the founding fathers". They all seem to conjure up images of the wisdom of ancient ways. There seem to be a great many people in our society, mainly the previous generation, that think that we have more to gain by going backward in time to a simpler age, pastoral ideals, "America's Golden Days". Recall Bob Dole's 1996 Presidential race? That was his theme. He was willing to lead us back to the most glorious of periods in America's history, the 1950s. When segregation ruled, Americans stayed glued to their tiny television sets for news of the impending war with Russia, and school children practiced "Duck and Cover" under their desks to prepare them for the nuclear holocaust. Who in America (at least pre-Dubya) would rather live in that time of fear and institutional racism?

In the last year and a half, it would be a competitive choice with our own current time of fear and institutional racism, which is why the question is so pertinent now. We are being led backward, by the most backward-thinking men that have ever been at the helm of this great country. Vague threats are aired by the Bush Administration to keep the fear level at a constant high, to keep Americans convinced of the need for a strong tyrant on the throne. Our current Administration so closely resembles Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm that we can be certain they have read Orwell; we just can't be certain why they decided to base their Administrative ideals on horrific images of a dystopian future, on the one hand, and raw political satire, on the other.

Do we hear scientists and technologists yearn for the time of their elders? Do they wish that they could roll back the clock of scientific achievement fifty years, that America would be better for it? It sounds ridiculous. Science is always new, always changing. Research is always about discovering new information, constantly improving upon what was known, accepted, and available at every previous time. Science is about never looking back. Technology is about making the possible easy, and making the difficult possible.

So why is there such a broad rift between those who make their life's work the pursuit of knowledge, and those who make theirs the pursuit of tradition; those who embrace the future as the realization of today's potential, and those who see today as the failed outcome of yesterday's dreams?

No idea. But I know how to tell them apart. And that gives me hope, because what I see looming on our country's horizons is a generation of technologists, perhaps an Age of Technologists. Connections are being formed on the Internet. Imagine a way to connect yourself, a progress-embracing youth, to every like-minded person in the world. Everyone who wants to plug in, can plug in. Technology and its progress is changing the way that your kids communicate, work, play, receive their information about the world, listen to music, watch television and movies, and, most importantly, think about the world around them. And the question they are asking is not, "Why were things so much better when I was younger?" The question they are asking is, "How can new technology be applied to old problems to make things better?"

When I say "old problems", I don't mean finding your car keys, getting your whites whiter, or brewing the perfect espresso. I mean such basic questions to humanity as political governance, work, and play, which can all be boiled down to the question of communication. "How do you design a communication system that everyone in the world can use to communicate with everyone else? And once you do, how does that radically alter the previous answers to political governance, work, and play?"

Our Mass Media will lose their grip on information and propaganda dispersal. When Americans will read about the effects of our latest bombing campaign, from the civilians being bombed themselves, it will be very difficult for our government to make its case for spurious war. War is only palatable to Americans when the enemy has been properly demonized by the war mongers, when they can be treated as "bodies" and not as human beings, when we can call our enemies by racial slurs or equivocate them with the "evil-doers", rather than recognize them as friends that are just as much victims of their government as we are of ours. When we all communicate daily with thousands of Iraqis, or Palestinians, or Israelis, or North Koreans, they will become our neighbors, and we would no more permit their deaths than we would Canadians'. And hopefully they, ours. Man's two-million-year-long history of Xenophobia will come to an end, and with it, War and Racism. And it will happen within my lifetime. I will help make it so.

User Journal

Journal: New MP3 Player 2

Journal by schlach
Note: this is where my internal notes were when today's WMP9 story came out. The ensuing discussion seemed like a good time to get these ideas out the door, so apologies for the rough edges. Please add comments to this journal entry if you have any, or know of any MP3 projects that I might have overlooked in my search, or if you're interested in planning one. I no longer think I have the time to code a player, but would love to help anyone get one off the ground.

TODO
  • Analyze currently available software
  • Pick a feature list, platform
  • Possible to write plugins for WinAmp / XMMS / MusicMatch?

Feature List

  • None of the software I've played with (WinAmp, XMMS, MusicMatch) is geared towards the guy with 100+ GB of music. Few people right now need something that is, but I do, and more people will need it very soon...
    • Library must be memory efficient, not O(n)
    • Must subcategorize (display by artist by album by ... )
    • Options to automatically remember playlists, history, track preferences, etc. Badlist/Goodlists?
    • Rate preferences in more than one situation (excellent for party, not bad for dance, etc)
    • Hierarchial 'Genre' tagging, (Dance->Electronica->Techno->House) or even better, Multiple Inheritance (Party Rap is child of Dance and Rap, but Gangsta' Rap is child only of Rap)
    • Version concurrency. Expect that most song selection is done by AutoDJ feature, ala MusicMatch, so have a way to specify that of the following N remixes, only n should ever be chosen at once by AutoDJ.
    • Have disk routinely indexed so that different files with same tag will update location?
  • Should have a nice, easy, clean interface
    • Easy to bind keys to functions
    • Can grab UI and controls over HTTP
    • Extensible plug-in architecture. Can we use XMMS's plugins and skins?
    • If v2 ID3 isn't constrained by extra fields, UI for tagging shouldn't be either
  • MusicMatch's SuperTagging is great. It stays.
    • Also need something for Track nums to portable MP3 player. Should I just leave track num in filename?
    • Larger problem is that different programs want different filenames. Explorer only needs song title, since it's organized by Album by Artist by Genre in folders. P2P programs need Artist - Song Title. Mp3 player needs Tracknum - Song Title.
  • No matter which organizational method, when you first import new files, they can go into a "Newly Imported" category, in case you need to change the tagging before losing it in your general mix.
  • Have an option for the AutoDJ so that when sampling, it picks X songs at "Excellent", X * 2 songs at "Very Good", X * 4 songs at "Good", X songs at "Fair", X / 8 songs at "Poor", and no songs at "Bad Taste". And of course all numbers and ratios would be user-configurable.

Ask Slashdot

It seems to me that there's a lack of MP3/Ogg playing software aimed at the collector with 100GB+ of media. This is still considered "a lot" of mp3s, which explains why very little software is currently designed with the 100gig colleciton in mind; but folks' collections aren't decreasing in size, and eventually many more people will find themselves needing software that doesn't exist. I've done some studying of the requirements, along with what possibilities are available as plugins or front-ends to existing players (XMMS, WinAmp, MusicMatch, and Windows Media Player 9). The alternative is coding a new player using Mozilla's XPFE (check out the Open book on it). I'm hoping that the slashdot community can tell me if (a)there's already software available that does what I want, (b)which projects come closest that I could join, (c)the best way to modify or add plugins to the above-mentioned players, or (d)what else should be in a new player, if I end up having to write one.

XMMS

  • No native library (for me to poop on).
  • I've got the source, so presumably can do whatever I want with it, if I've got the time to hack it.
  • All the existing library-style interfaces to it assume you've got no more than 15 gigs of music.
  • Most of them written for Apache and Perl with a MySQL back end. Some C++, with no back-end. Using a web server kills the chances for a decent UI, shell integration, drag n' drop, etc unless you code it in Java or IEML or something. On the plus side, makes it easy to control from other locations (in the office, home).
  • Very few of them even had a concept of "library" above "list" of albums and folders on your hard drive. None of them supported AutoDJ feature for playlist creation. THEY ALL SOLVED THE SAME PROBLEM WITHOUT ANALYZING THE EXISTING FIELD. Note to future OS hackers: do a freshmeat search before you start. Thank you.

WinAmp 3

  • Library resource usage is a beast, even with small numbers of files.
  • Library management is a disaster. Hard to remove files from the list, can't update information on multiple files at once, no renaming files from tags, no tagging from filenames, no support for preference, mood, tempo, and situational tags.
  • No AutoDJ
  • Searching is limited to filename.
  • Purports to have a plugin interface, but looking through the docs made me cry.

MusicMatch

  • Almost ideal. I use MusicMatch on Windows now, because of the functionality increases it offers over WinAmp3 and wmp9. I wish there was a way to change the few things I don't like about it, but it doesn't sound like the plugin architecture is useful at all, widely adopted, or even encouraged by the company. So the only thing I can think of is emailing the developers and asking them to change a few features.
  • Library has a respectable interface, but you can't thread BY artist BY album or something. Once you've organized BY artist, everything within that list is flat, no more expansion. Ditto with BY genre. Incredibly annoying.
  • Library is implemented horribly. Behaves well enough up to about 10 gigs of files, but after that it totally breaks down. I loaded 45 gigs into it, and it took about an hour to process them. Everytime starting the player, changing the sorting (from BY artist to BY genre), or even updating a single tag took about 90-120s to complete. And that's less than half my total library size...
  • Periodically crashes and takes down my entire XP box. How the hell does that work?

Windows Media Player 9

  • Can organize BY artist BY album, but organizing BY genre displays, again, in a flat list. Stupid.
  • Incredibly fast! Uses the XP DB API on the backend, so there is a minimal loading time when first adding large numbers of files to the library, and after that is damn fast. Unnoticable delay handling 15 gigs of music, need to try it with 50gigs and then 100gigs to see if it holds up to those.
  • Still can't encode MP3s. WTF
  • Has a plug-in interface, but don't know if I can change the existing UI through it. Maybe I can add my own interface to the library. There's a "Window" category (along with Visualization, and Input/Output), so I have hope.
  • Auto-pref'ing is dumb. Automatically loads every song at 3/5 stars, listening to it once increases to 4 stars, listening to it a couple more times puts it at 5 stars. I'm sure way too much of my music would be rated at 4 and 5 stars to make a useful distinction of what I really thought was a decent song.
  • I can always set my own preferences, which won't be modified by the auto-pref feature, but why add a useless feature then? Auto-prefing could be useful, because I spent a helluva long time pref'ing a lot of my files in MusicMatch. Which pisses me off, because that data is not available to WMP9, and there's no way in hell I'm switching without my preferences moving with me.
  • Another limitation: MM has settings for "Preference" (Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor, Bad Taste), "Tempo" (Fast, Pretty Fast, Moderate, Pretty Slow, Slow), "Mood", (Wild, Upbeat, Morose, Mellow, Tranquil, and Comatose) and "Situation" (Dance, Party, Dinner, Background, Romantic, Seasonal, Rave, and Drunken Brawl). WMP9 tries to these vary independent settings into one, called "Mood" (Angry, Groovy, Happy, Party, Quirky I shit you not), Rockin', Sad, Soothing, Spooky, Sunday Brunch, Trippy, and Work). It doesn't work. You can't combine all of them without something asnine like Work_Happy, Work_Quirky, Work_Dopey, Work_Doc, etc. You can hack around that by making use of the numerous-bordering-on-ridiculous UI fields that are provided in other areas, such as Artist, Lyricist, Orchestra or Band, Original Lyricist, Conductor, Composer, and Original Artist on the Artist Info. The Tempo can only be specified in beats per minute. Even though the UI is big enough for hundreds of billions of quadrillions of beats per minute, the UI will not let you type letters, if you prefer the "Fast, Pretty Fast" method of index.
  • The usage of all these hacks will ensure that your method totally differs from anyone else, making tag sharing totally incompatible.
  • I'm not switching platforms until all the work I did tagging my collection under MusicMatch can easily be switched over. I could write a script that would convert everything, if only WMP9 provided me a field to convert it to .
User Journal

Journal: Do something you love 1

Journal by schlach

[Editor's Note: this was a comment in reply to Thursday's What Should I Do With My Life? article. It spawned a pretty decent discussion.]

What it all comes down to is doing something you love.

Absolutely. It is extremely important to Be doing what you love, not "love what you're doing". Big difference. I imagine my situation is similar to a lot of hackers out there. I work about 10 hours a day, including travel, to pay the bills, and then I come home and do my Work. Do you know the difference between work and Work? There's a quote, would appreciate someone citing it for me, that goes along the lines of, "Once a person has found his true Work, he is never bored."

So it seems to me that my concept of Work-capital-W is the "What should I do with my life?" answer.

How incredibly taxing is it to only do one's Work after losing a 10-hour chunk of one's day? The majority of one's waking hours, gone. First of all, you start resenting your job, because it takes you away from your Work, and that's never a healthy place to be in. Second, you have to make a choice between a healthy social life and your Work. No matter which way I choose, I won't be happy.

So there you have it. My job "to pay the bills" is either costing me my life's Work or my relationships with the people I love (and the people I have not yet loved ; ) Anyway you slice it, they can't pay me enough.

Ben Hunnicut is author of Work Without End and is a history prof at UofI. Had the opportunity to chat with him a bit. He has devoted a serious part of his life to wondering about the worth of leisure time in American society. Work Without End is a look at the "shorter-hours" movement in this country from the late nineteenth century up to 1940 or so. We kind of take the 8-hour/5-day work week for granted these days, but it wasn't always so. The shorter-hours movement, both from within labor and without, got the work day from 12-hour to 10-hour, and finally 8-hour, and then got the week shortened to 5-day. The Kellogs factory workers even went down to 6-hour.

And then after WWII, the movement just kinda stopped. No one is questioning the 40-hour work-week, no one is calling for more leisure. Why?

What is leisure time good for? Improving oneself, contemplating the larger questions of Life, Love, and Happiness (insert God if you wish), studying the democratic process in order to be a better citizen, kernel hacking... when you get right down to it, I don't want to do anything that someone has to pay me to get me to do.

Ben points to a lot of utopians, socialists, Progressives, and authors that always figured that increasing industrialization would eventually mean that machines did most of the labor, and humans would be left with pure Leisure. Of course we are in a very good position to rule on what utter bullshit that turned out to be. As long as corporations own the machines, the People do not, hence the profit on the labor of the machines goes to the owners. Instead we find ourselves forced now to keep up with the pace of the Machine.

Don't get me wrong, wouldn't trade it for The Way We Was, but I would fix it. We should always be using Technology to study and answer the really big questions that are fundamentally human. Like communication, love, politics, work, play, war, and so forth. Questions that people have always had to answer, but haven't always had the tech that we do with which to answer them.

For what it's worth, I consider that to be my life's Work. Applying modern technology to answering the fundamental human questions. My dream is to be able to make the quality of life on this planet tied to the progress of technology, so that increasing technological progress brings a corresponding increase in the quality of life. I think this is slightly different than the way it has been for awhile, in that increasing technological progress has brought better ways with which to kill each other, while our political and cultural systems are largely stagnant and always looking backward to the glory days behind us...

Ok I'm monopolizing the discussion, someone take over. ; )

User Journal

Journal: A Working Model of Direct Democracy, at slashdot.org

Journal by schlach
[ Editor's Note: this is copied over from my blog, for a wider readership and more feedback. Whenever I get around to actually writing an essay on the subject, rather than just having conversations, I'll post that here too. ]

I believe that government exists for no reason more fundamental than providing a mechanism for a population to communicate amongst itself. A just government facilitates communication within its populace; an unjust one seeks to prevent it. Openness and Democracy versus Secrecy and Censorship.

It seems to me that Slashdot has already solved the hardest part of the problem. Five years ago you could easily dismiss a direct democracy on the grounds that no system exists for allowing a nation-sized group of people to communicate with each other. You can't do that today.

I think that Slashdot is the most interesting thing to happen to civilization since the Printing Press. And some day more people will appreciate that, too. When else in the history of Mankind has a stadium-sized group of people come together for an interesting and more-or-less intelligent discussion? It's never happened. Why don't more people think that's significant in its own right? Wait for it.

So the hardest problem of a Direct Democracy (hereon simply "Democracy") is communication. And we've got a framework in place that solves it. How exciting. So now, with the aid of others, I'm trying to figure out how to solve all the problems that are less important, individually, but just as important, collectively.

User Journal

Journal: Bookkeeping 1

Journal by schlach

AbiWord's PayPal Donation Fund Robbed

The Free State Project

Visiting the World, as a Geek

If anyone else is reading this, I'm just trying to keep track of the stories I don't want to forget. How do you do it? (don't say 'bookmarks' =)

I'm not sure if it's been done before or not, perhaps it's due for a repeat post, but the people should definitely be asked about their favorite discussions. I think the 'Visiting the World as a Geek' is the best one I've read to date.

The only problem with being a man of leisure is that you can never stop and take a rest.

Working...