The Dork Report for September 30, 2006

Me as a LEGO minifig

  • Like Doctor Who‘s perpetually predicted feature film, the Genesis reunion rumors keep coming back. Now The Sunday Mirror cites a source claiming Phil Collins’ recent divorce has cleared the way for a 3-piece Bands/Collins/Rutherford Genesis reunion world tour in 2007. I call bullshit, but we’ll see.
  • The LEGO Fanlisting, a collection of LEGO links, including these classic goodies:
    • Immortalize yourself as a LEGO “minifig” with The Mini-Mizer. (this is the closest I could get to me)
    • The LEGO set I always wanted as a kid! 1977! Wow! I’m old!
    • Field recordings of LEGOs being dumped on tables.
  • The Guinness Book of Records belatedly recognizes Doctor Who as the longest-running science fiction television show (it crossed that threshold, oh, decades ago).

The Dork Report for September 28, 2006

  • Claim a space for yourself on the official site for Neil Gaiman’s new short story collection Fragile Things (and see if you can find Neil while you’re at it).
  • MyDreamApp round 2 voting is open; vote for 12 out of 18 wannabe America’s Next Top Mac Programs. My favorite (the only one I can picture using) is still Ground Control. The last round featured guest judge comments by Mac gurus including Cabel Sasser from Panic, and this time the guests are eminent bloggers from Daring Fireball, The Unofficial Apple Weblog, et al. (although they seem to be generally negative about everything!)
  • AguaT, a free band-aid for iTunes 7 that reverts the button styles back to iTunes 6-style blue glossy buttons. I’m all for fixing Apple’s questionable design choices, but I’m not into permanently mucking around with my system:

    AguaT works by replacing elements of the /resources/ folder in the iTunes application. These changes are permanent to an installation of iTunes, so if you think you may want to revert back to the default iTunes 7 theme, you should back up iTunes.app before installation.

  • An unnamed source told The Star that unspecified producers of the Doctor Who tv series "decided to make a big budget film." What a tease; there’s no news here. Deciding to make a big budget movie is decidedly different from procuring a big budget.
  • Robert Fripp’s latest compressed overview of King Crimson, The Condensed 21st Century Guide to King Crimson (1969-2003), comes out October 16.

Joseph Arthur – Bowery Ballroom, New York

 

Joseph Arthur and Michael Stipe

I hope to post my reactions soon (the five stars should give a hint as to the general tone), but in the meantime, here’s some coverage of the show on the web: The Tripwire’s review features excellent photographs by Erin Chandler. Billboard also reviews the show and posts a video of Joseph’s duet with Michael Stipe on "In the Sun."

The Dork Report for September 27, 2006

  • Because I just can’t help myself, a few more comments on iTunes:
    • The iTunes 7.0.1 maintenance update has finally dropped. I haven’t noticed any real speed improvements, but Apple has fixed the bug of dragging image files to the album art window not working. Partially fixed, rather… you can now only drag one image, not multiple as you used to pre-version 7 (you can still do so via the pop-up Song Info window).
    • I’ve had an "iPod with Video" for months, but just now noticed an oddity. One of Apple’s touted features is the elegantly simple "Shuffle songs" menu item. One click and you’re served up a random steam of the entire contents of your iPod. The problem is, it draws from the entire contents of your iPod, including video! If a video comes up on shuffle, it plays the audio only, with a still from the video serving as album art. Obviously not looking at my iPod screen unless I need to change something, the only reason I noticed this issue is that it started playing a song for which I know I only have the music video purchased from the iTunes Store. Video soundtracks are typically of a much lower audio quality than a dedicated MP3 or AAC audio file, so it sounded terrible. To avoid having videos mixed in with your audio, you apparently have to forgo the Shuffle menu command altogether, and take the extra step to navigate through the "Music" menus or to a playlist you’ve manually created yourself.
    • And finally, an iTunes smart playlist question: is there a way to refresh a smart playlist generated by random? If you set up a smart playlist of, for instance, 10 random songs from the 1980’s, iTunes will create exactly that for you, but it appears to be frozen that way unless you change a criterion. What if I just want a different 10 songs from the 80’s?
  • Jasper Hauser on designing an icon.
  • Steven Heller interviews Gary Hustwit, director of the documentary Helvetica.
  • A new record in narrowly focused blogs: Hawk Wings focuses exclusively on Apple’s Mail.app. Who knew there were so many add-ons?
  • After being in litigation for nearly 10 years, guitarist Robert Fripp ostensibly "won" in the early 2000s, with Virgin/EMI’s control of King Crimson/Robert Fripp solo recordings slated to end in 2003. However, he is still struggling to this day with the megalithic corporation, which is using every delaying tactic (and inventing new ones) to avoid fulfilling their legal obligation to relinquish the materials they no longer own. In addition, they have repeatedly put Fripp’s music up for sale as digital downloads, which they expressly do not own the rights to do. How professional musicians survive I’ll never understand.
  • Disco is having Toast for breakfast. A much-needed tool for the Mac, cool-looking and blessedly cheap.

The Dork Report for September 26, 2006

  • Greenpeace asks for a greener Apple. Although Greenpeace is most concerned with the noxious chemicals in devices Apple markets as disposable (aka planned obsolescence), Apple’s product packaging has also long been an issue. Until recently, it seemed as if they had been making progress; iPod boxes, for example, went from large 6″ cubes stuffed with massive hunks of styrofoam to slim cardboard sleeves . However, they’ve taken a suprising step backwards with their new plastic Nano packaging.
  • Brilliant singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur relaunches JosephArthur.com. One notable new addition is digital downloads of studio (the Junkyard Hearts EPs are very rare) and live recordings.
  • Time travelling Doctor Who star David Tennant discovers an unwelcome surprise in his own past: his Scottish ancestors were Sectarian Protestants, aggressively anti-Catholic and home rule.
  • As usual, American Doctor Who fans must practice their patience: the Season Two DVD box set comes out on January 16, 2007.

The Dork Report for September 22, 2006

  • Aww, look! The cutest li’l spaceships you ever did see, from IconFactory.
  • Voting is open for the MyDreamApp first elimination round. You can vote for up to 18 projects, so the task is really better described as choosing which 6 will have to leave the island. The three I find most interesting and/or useful to me are Blossom (a virtual plant that feeds on productivity), Ground Control (an at-a-glance view of well, everything going on in your Mac), and Whistler (bringing music making to the masses in an amazing new way, which if is technically possible, could be huge).
  • Two of my favorite Doctor Who stories are coming to DVD as parts of the Return of the Master DVD box set: "The Keeper of Traken" and "Logopolis," plus "Castrovalva." The exhaustive repair work done by the Restoration Team should put George Lucas to shame for dumping sub-par copies of the original Star Wars trilogy out on DVD.
  • WHO’s a good dog? Park Entertainment posts details and a poster (WHERE’s the hyphen?) on their site about K-9 Adventures.
  • King Crimson singer Boz Burrell died on Thursday, and DGM Live posts an free unreleased mix of Ladies of the Road as tribute.
  • Download Peter Gabriel’s Passion Outtakes, a bootleg of unreleased recordings from the Passion sessions and location recordings for Martin Scorcese’s The Last Temptation of Christ.
  • Gorillaz’ Phase Two – Slow Boat to Hades, a DVD of videos and live performances from over the past two years, is coming out in Europe on October 30. Comes with a CD-ROM and an absurd amount of extras.

The Dork Report for September 20, 2006

  • Yo La Tengo, Hoboken institution, says I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass.
  • The endearing cat sites just keep coming; now we have My Fat Kat (I take it myfatcat.com was taken). I take back everything I ever said to Buckminster about his weight. I mean, look at Andy crushing his poor owner (herself not exactly svelt), for crying out loud. (guest submission from Andrea)
  • Arrrr, I be forgettin’ Talk Like a Pirate Day yesterday! Bah! ‘Til next year, maties! Undead monkey! (guest submission from Lady Cutthroat Andrea)
  • Beck’s two-turntables-and-a-microphone D.I.Y. aesthetic manifests on his next album The Information‘s blank cover and four sheets of stickers.
  • I have a Rubik’s Cube on top of my TV, but I’m too much of an idiot to solve more than the top layer. Is it cheating to read a solution? My feeling is that anything that involves learning algorithms can’t count as cheating.
  • MyDreamApp posts mockups of some of its contenders, which goes a long way towards clarifying what they’re supposed to do.
  • Another detailed iTunes 7 interface critique. (spotted on Dsandler.org)
  • While everyone (or should I say, everydork) is ganging up on Apple for changing a single pixel on iTunes, one should remember that the other giant computer megacorporation is far worse when it comes to inexplicable interface design. (guest submission from Dave)
  • The MPAA’s Greatest Hits, compiled on the official site for the documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated. The very first two items speak volumes. Also, I had never heard about Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction gambit:
    • “1994 – Quentin Tarantino, fearing an NC-17 rating for his cult hit “Pulp Fiction,” includes an effects sequence of a head exploding when he submits his film to the MPAA as a diversionary tactic. As expected, the MPAA suggests that he remove the image of the head exploding (which he had never actually planned to include) but allows him to hang onto the image of brains in Samuel L. Jackson’s hair (which he was worried they would reject).”
  • Rhino’s boxed set packaging design just gets better: A Life Less Lived: The Goth Box is bound in black leather and lace, and Tori Amos’ A Piano is, well, guess.
  • Weird Al wants to bowl with the gangstas in “White and Nerdy.” Multiplatinum Weird Al nails it again. How can one man cram 800 jokes into 3 minutes?
  • AppleInsider reports Apple is scrambling to slap together iTunes 7.0.1, which readers of previous reports will know this Dork Reporter eagerly awaits.

The Dork Report for September 17, 2006

  • A new addition to the litter of kitty sites Stuff on My Cat (Stuff + Cats = Awesome), Cats That Look Like Hitler (Kitlers), and Kittenwar (may the cutest kitten win), comes Cats in Sinks (It’s about cats. In sinks.). I don’t think there’s a way to link to a specific Cat in Sink, but until then, here’s Buckminster’s contribution. (guest submission from Andrea)
  • It’s your semi-daily Dork Report dose of Doctor Who:
  • Currently enjoying LEGO Star Wars II on my Playstation:
    • The official site is kind of fun; clicking around earns you lego "studs" (the currency of the game), which you can trade in for cheap downloadable goodies, just like Skeeball.
    • Some mainstream press reviews: MSNBC, Village Voice (there’s an odd error in the first paragraph… if the writer was actually the nerdy college kid he claims to have been, even one who would remember that Marv Wolfman wrote Crisis on Infnite Earths, surely he would remember it had nothing at all to do with teaming up DC and Marvel characters?)
  • The Maine national Guard is issuing "Flat Daddies" and "Flat Mommies" to the families of soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. No, really. (spotted on Big O)

The Dork Report Special Edition: My iTunes 7 Nightmare

Apple iTunes 7 icon

As Engadget reports, iTunes 7 may be more than a little flakey, and I have a nightmare story of my own.

First, some background: I use a PowerBook G4 17″, with a very, very large iTunes library of 16,000 plus tracks, stored on an external 250 GB LaCie Firewire hard drive. Perhaps unwisely, I was doing several things at once shortly after downloading the brand new iTunes 7: listening to a smart playlist on shuffle, and batch editing tags in another smart playlist (specifically, editing the Album Artist tags of all my compilations to read “Various Artists” — see The Dork Report for September 13 for more information). To complicate matters, I was running Last.fm in background (itself freshly updated to Version 1.0.6).

After batch editing tags for several minutes, I opening the batch info window for another dozen or so. iTunes suddenly stopped playing a few seconds into Pink Floyd’s “Time” from The Dark Side of the Moon, and then froze. I noticed Last.fm had frozen as well. I waited until it seemed neither would free up on their own, then I force quit both. I relaunched iTunes, but it was noticably sluggish (many spinning psychedelic pizzas of death for me). I selected a song to get info, and nothing happened. I tried another and a tiny exclamation mark appeared next to it (which I know from experience to mean that a track has been manually deleted or moved on your hard drive and iTunes can no longer locate it). I nervously switched to the Finder and clicked on the music folder on my external drive. To my horror, the folder was empty, and the custom icon I had applied long ago had disappeared!

Needless to say, I feared the worst: several gigabytes and years worth of music collecting (not to mention irreplaceable tracks purchased on the iTunes Store) gone. Not knowing what else to do, in fact thinking doing anything else might make matters worse, I quit iTunes and restarted my Powerbook. The external drive took longer to mount than usual (I’ve read that Mac OS X checks disks for errors on startup, so perhaps it sensed a problem and was running a repair). Once everything had started up and settled, I used Disk Utility to verify both my internal and external drives, with no errors reported. Taking the proverbial deep breath, I opened up my external Firewire drive… and the folder was back to normal. I launched iTunes, and again, everything was normal. As if nothing had happened. Thank god, right? But terrifying that several gigabytes of files could disappear and reappear so easily.

Shaken, I ran Backup to bring my Home folder backups up to date, and promptly went to bed to try and calm myself down with a nap.

There are a bevy of other problems being reported on Macintouch, including the very odd case of large chunks of people’s libraries being flagged as “Explicit.” But I think my story wins.

So. Lessons learned:

  1. For crying out loud, buy SuperDuper already! I’ve never properly backed up my music collection for the simple reason that I don’t have another drive big enough to duplicate it. Time, I think, to start deleting crap I never listen to nor wish to keep, and bring it down to a size more easily backed up.
  2. Resist the temptation to download new software as soon as it comes out. At the very least, don’t stress-test it with precious, irreplaceable computer data.

The Dork Report for September 14, 2006

  • Zune comes in (eww…) doo-doo brown.
  • I need to find a copy of Scott McCloud’s Destroy, the most violent comic book ever!
  • Despite what their name implies, the Star Wars "Original Trilogy" DVDs are certainly not definitive releases of the original films. The official word from Lucasfilm is that the original edits of the movies are included as bonus material to the special edition versions, and as such are mere dupes of the 1993 non-anamorphic (horror!) laserdisc versions. (guest submission from Dave)