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Comment cellphones are a special matter (Score 1) 216

The problem when unemployed is that you need to monitor your phone for job-related calls, so you have to keep the ringer on.

Also, my particular cell phone makes it really difficult to blacklist numbers.

I seem to recall that the rules state that if you send them a note by snail mail, they are required to stop contacting you by phone.

Recently I was late on paying a Chase card, and I literally got called every single day about the matter. Eventually I called up and said, hey, I'm unemployed, I'm waiting on a check to arrive, and the rep explained that they will be robodialing my phone every single day until it is paid.

For a while I was giving out my skype number instead of my cell so they wouldn't keep harassing me, until I realized that I had enrolled in two step authentication using my phone as the second step. That meant they would always have my cell phone number. Which really sucks.

Comment Amarok as long as you have enough RAM (Score 1) 317

Amarok is a really robust solution which can organize files virtually by artist name or by actual directory structure. It lets you customize display (to show composer, etc) and save ratings which is awesome. It has lots of options for sorting.....

The conventional wisdom was that clementine forked from amarok, that amarok got too feature rich and complex. There's truth in that (and clementine works reliably), but amarok just has so many wonderful features. Plus, it is cross platform (although I don't think the Windows version works too well).

My main complaint with amarok is that it is a real memory hog and doesn't play well with Unity on Ubuntu 12.04. I recently upgraded to 8 gigs RAM and those problems mostly seem to have disappeared.

Finally, it's not cross-platform, but I really love Foobar 2000 on windows. It does a lot of things well, especially if you install the plugins. It's a decent-to-good CD ripper too (although dbpoweramp is the not open source gold standard).

Submission + - Does creating new online accounts to replace old ones prevent online tracking?

rjnagle writes: I'm concerned about the implications of storing personal data on FB, Gmail and other social media sites. I'm less worried about individual data than the accumulating mass of data which potentially be used against me (for targeted marketing, credit reporting and who knows what else?) One solution I'm considering is just to abandon individual accounts and start clean and new gmail/facebook accounts. So while Google/Doubleclick might possess lots of data about me from 2001-2012, from this point on, they only have a clean slate. Would this kind of solution address my privacy concerns? (assuming I remove cookies, change IP address before doing so etc). Or are an individual's profile by now so unique that simply creating a new gmail or Facebook account would fail to prevent these data collection agencies from figuring out who I am? Insights and tips are appreciated.

Comment Re:data sample question (Score 5, Informative) 476

the short answer is that sometimes CO2 trails temperature increase, sometimes it doesn't.

Usually when CO2 trails climate, it's because of orbital forcing, but interestingly, sometimes that temperature increase will increase ocean acidification and amply carbon feedbacks.

Hey, the carbon/feedback cycle is complex, no doubt about it. But carbon is a forcing -- no doubt about it, and right now GHG are responsible for the lion's share of the present and future temperature increase.

Here's deeper discussion of this issue:

Here's a video that responds to the CO2 trails climate meme

Comment used CD prices are VERY low! (Score 2) 294

I know you may say that CD prices are expensive based on what new CDs sell for.

But go back to say 2004 and earlier, and you will find for the most part the cost of CDs is practically nothing. You can buy 90% of CDs for $2 or less (plus shipping).

Most of the time, you can buy a CD for $1 or less.

For most part, prices of old CDs are still cheaper than mp3s of these albums.

Comment Re:actually benefit the artists? (Score 1) 166

One other thought. I'll all for liberalization and reform of copyright laws, but it seems that the pirated sites for Russian music (to take one country as an example) far outnumber the legit sites. I once tried to buy an obscure Russian electronica classic by Agata Kristi and couldn't find any site which sold it legitimately although I could find dozens which distributed it (some of which charged money, some of which did not).

Several years later, I was overjoyed to realize that the Agata Kristi album made it to . I guess you can draw your own conclusions.....

Comment Re:actually benefit the artists? (Score 1) 166

(I'm the original poster of the ASK SLASHDOT).

Gosh, does that mean I need to learn Urdu just to figure out where they think I ought to buy something? :) Or just to figure out which website is the official site and which is some fanboy's site for the same Pakistani popstar?

Seriously though, it can be time-consuming to go to sites for individual artists. A lot of them don't have good English translations. I tried buying something on a Russian site, and although I know a little Russian, i couldn't follow the instructions.

As a sidenote, I have noticed that a lot of musicians have abominable websites. Setting up a shopping cart for digital downloads might seem like a trivial task for a slashdot geek, but it's unrealistic to expect musicians to get it done. (I like bandcamp, which has simplified a lot of things-- but I doubt that much of the global music scene has discovered bandcamp).

Yesasia sells CDs, and it's a really slick site (I think it might be based in US though). But they don't sell digital -- only CD media...Indian sites have more digital stores, but frankly I have no idea which of them are legit.

And yes, I realize that "rewarding the artist" is a nebulous concept (especially when the artist may have signed the recording contract 30 years ago). But I think it's reasonable for it to be easy to tell which ecommerce sites are legit and which are not.

OT. I'm writing a book about music collecting for geeks. You can see my list of fave jamendo albums free for downloading here


Submission + - Best way to know which online Intnl Music Stores are legit?

rjnagle writes: "I'm an American lover of music who is interested in buying legally music from other countries. How do I know which CD/online music stores are legit and actually benefit the artist? I'm very cost-conscious and prefer indie music anyway, so the types of international music for sale on Amazon/itunes tends to be from the bigger labels. Suppose I wanted to buy music from Pakistan/Ukraine/China/Brazil/Chad. What's the best way to identify which labels or online stories are authorized to sell them? Perhaps all I need is a list of the best known online music stores for each region (, etc)."

Submission + - 11 Incredible Music Albums you can Download for Fr (

rjnagle writes: You may have heard about Jamendo , a free and legal music sharing site that offers more than 29,000 music albums for free download. Over the last 3 years I've listened to 2200+ albums and chosen the 11 Best Music Albums from Jamendo which you can download for free . Given the fact that Jamendo is reported to be experiencing financial difficulties , Jamendo may not be around for much longer. Is Jamendo too important to the music community to fail? What can it do to make it more attractive as a business model? And where will listeners go to find free & legal music if Jamendo were to disappear?

Submission + - Is Your Web Site Green?

rjnagle writes: Here's a two part story I wrote on "Is your website green?" Part One examines the challenges of trying to estimate the carbon footprint of a webhosting service or a data center. Part Two examines how data centers try to improve their energy efficiency and whether the new Energy Star rating system for data centers (due April 2010) will change things. Some questions raised here include: 1)should businesses ask for PUE ratings from data centers before they use their services?, 2)how confident can businesses be about the numbers provided from data centers? and 3)is an Energy Star rating system helpful if it doesn't take into account a data center's overall carbon footprint?

Submission + - Practical Plone 3 (Packt Publishing)

rjnagle writes: "With the proliferation of content management system (CMS) software, a need has arisen for good manuals. When a CMS starts out, user forums are usually the main place for help; then someone will start a wiki, and a few people will write tutorials on their blogs. But if the user base for a CMS grows rapidly, docs quickly go out of date, and it becomes hard to figure out which parts of the docs still apply for the latest release. That poses a risk for someone wishing to buy a technical book (or write one). Technical publishers use several methods to future-proof their books. This includes: focusing on core features unlikely to change between releases, anticipating future development, publishing smaller books that require less time to produce and group writing. Group writing (assigning different people to contribute chapters) has been a popular method because it reduces the burden on one person. As long as the assigned topics don't overlap and are well organized, group-written technical books can be extraordinarily helpful and can be released quickly, as in the case of Packt Publishing's latest Plone book (Practical Plone 3).

First, a little background. Plone is a python-based CMS that has a large user base and many enterprise features. It is deployed on many nonprofits and governmental sites and historically has been easier to secure than LAMP CMS's like Drupal. Data is stored in an object database (ZODB) as opposed to relational databases (although adapters have been written to connect to mysql, postgresql, etc). Plone is based on a platform called Zope, and in fact Plone's version 3 release in 2007 implemented many architectural changes.
Packt has published several Plone books already (including Martin Aspelli's well-regarded 2007 book Professional Plone Development), and the latest book is bigger, covers more topics and should interest a wider audience.

About half of the pages (and a third of the chapters) in this 565 page book contain screenshots to demonstrate functionality which can be controlled with the web interface. However, the book's audience is not really for novice users or content creators (despite the book's subtitle that is a "beginner's guide"). If you wish for something like that, try the excellent Users Guide to Plone --downloadable for free). Practical Plone 3 covers basic topics in Chapters 4-6, but it focuses on several topics which are not easy to find the answers for. This book would be useful for the website administrator or the developer or designer trying to customize Plone for an organization or company.

First, Plone includes lots of features not enabled by default which are hidden in the administration menu (called "Plone Site Setup"). Unlike Drupal (which seems to have a massively complex control panel), Plone Site Setup looks deceptively simple, but lots of things are hidden under the hood. So you need to know where to look. Practical Plone 3 explains how to use a lot of these features: versioning, managing groups and roles, creating custom workflows and using the portlet manager to control what sidebars appear on the left or right of the web page.

Plone differs in many ways from LAMP CMSs both in architecture and concepts. Usually, these differences remain hidden from users. But understanding these differences can help you understand why things work differently in Plone. For example, Plone uses the folder-file metaphor for content objects. They can have states and properties; they can be copied/cut/pasted into other Plone folders even though they don't really exist as files or folders on the file system itself. Another easily overlooked feature is the extensive metadata fields that exist for content types. (it exists in a secondary horizontal tab like this one).

The book chooses (wisely) not to talk too much about third party Plone products (i.e., plugins). But it does go into great detail about using PloneFormGen (an auto-generator of web forms) and cache-fu (an indispensable product for caching performance). These two sections were very well done.

The last half of the book describes how Plone development proceeds, beginning with creating new content types. In Chapter 16, the book covers how to use a graphical UML tool called ArchGenXML to create a new content type based on the builtin content types. Here you use Archetypes, a Plone-specific way of building content types. (Archetypes have been around since Plone 2). After you use the graphical tool to create UML, the ArchGenXML script will generate the product code for you to upload to the server's file system. Later, in Chapter 17, there is a good walkthrough of using Generic Setup to export configuration changes you make in the Zope Management Interface (ZMI) into an XML file on the file system. That allows you to replicate site configuration more easily and keep configuration information outside of the database. Chapter 17 also covers the Zope 3 architecture underlying Plone and how to set up browser views in ZCML configuration files and viewlets and portlets.

Chapter 18 covers the creation of themes and css for a Plone site. This process is slightly complicated because you make your changes to a themed product which is later installed/enabled from Plone Site Setup. The book walks you through the steps of using a python script called paster to generate a series of files which make up the theme product. Editing the css for the theme is possible only if you understand how viewlets work and which files you are supposed to edit (it is not simply a styles.css file).

The last two chapters cover caching and performance tuning. Overall, well done.

In general, this is an excellent guide and it covers a lot of ground thoroughly. Unlike the Drupal series of books by Packt (which struck me as flimsy--they have 12 separate books!), this book combines all the important aspects of Plone 3 into a single book. Everything in the book struck me as important--none of the material seemed like padding. The usage information in the first section was very well done (although it probably needed better coverage of Kupu, the rich text editor). The section on workflows was great, and the explanation about Zope 3 views seemed well done, but the look-and-feel chapter looked imposing. If editing a CSS class means having to edit a theme product and re-add it, that might discourage doing too many tweaks (especially on a live site!). It would have been nice to have an appendix summarizing the configuration files, location of important objects in the ZMI and CSS classes. I did not see any chapter about uploading images or multimedia files on the file system; that seemed to be outside of the book's scope. I am not a developer (I just play one on TV), but there seemed enough meat in the advanced sections to address many contexts.

Finally, it's worth pointing out that the site has a well-organized documentation section. The book may lack a good section on kupu, but has several help topics about Kupu. (In fact, many of the book's contributors also produce documentation for the site). One doesn't read this kind of book for narrative; nonetheless, most of it was easy to read and easy on the eyes. Except for chapters 17 and 18 (which were a little deep), the rest of the book got straight to the point quickly.

In summary: this book is a substantial guide which covers a lot of intermediate and advanced topics. Very well written and organized (with lots of illustrations), but the section on themes was hairy and even a little confusing


Robert Nagle is a technical writer and fiction writer who lives in Houston. He blogs about culture and technology on his idiotprogrammer weblog."

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