From the Archives

I sent this video to the geek || nerd list while ranting about Windows 8 back in December.

Windows 8: The Animated Evaluation by blogphilofilms [YouTube]

I tweaked a friend’s new Win8 computer yesterday. It’s funny: I don’t have a copy of Windows 8 to play around with, yet I know my way around it better than most people.

Instead of updating this so that I’m speaking in the present, I’ve decided to keep the text as it was when I sent this email. Read this post as if it were 2012-08-11.

Audio cassettes

Audio cassettes. (Attr: Malcolm Tyrrell)

Recently, I’ve been longing to put some of the songs that I have which are only available to me on an audio tape. I decided to take my friend’s suggestion and digitize them using Audacity on Lyman. The reason for choosing this computer over my other ones is that it has a decent sound card: a First-generation Creative Sound Blaster Audigy sound card with a break-out box.

A First-generation Creative Sound Blaster Audigy break-out box

A First-generation Creative Sound Blaster Audigy break-out box (Attr: Caroline Ford)

I don’t use that computer much, partly because it’s not connected to a network, but mostly because it was slow. It used to run Windows XP and it was really dragging to use (I stress dragging). Now it runs openSUSE 11.0 and it’s still slow if you run KDE. Since it’s v11.0 and LXDE wasn’t included, I decided to work under IceWM. I used to hesitate using it, but now that I’ve migrated to Linux, I have no problems with it.

Unfortunately, when I went to turn on the switch to the power supply, the switch piece popped off. The inside of this toggle switch had two spring contacts and I had lost one. To repair it, I had originally intended to solder wires to the contacts to permanently close the circuit, but the space was too small for the soldering iron to fit. After attempting to melt the plastic, I pried the switch out. Not getting out far enough, I opened the power box to see how it was connected (this is something they say you should never do, but as long as you don’t attempt to open any capacitors, you should be fine). Before I did anything irreversible to the switch, I spotted the lost spring contact. I reassembled the switch and glued it in place with a hot glue gun.
It worked.

The power supply switch on Lyman hot-glued in place.

The power supply switch hot-glued in place.

So, I have successfully ripped two tapes (the audio, not the tape themselves) and I may do more. But one problem: the earbuds that I was using “snapped” near the jack (no sound at all; I know, why use cheap earbuds when doing these kinds of things?). When your cheap earbuds snap near the jack, you’re better off buying new ones. I wasn’t sure when (and if) I would bother getting a pair, so I wanted to try to repair it myself.

After painstakingly melting plastic, stripping wires, burning wire tips to get the paint off, soldering, and glue-gunning in place (I had no shrink-wrap and I wasn’t about to get some for this cheap project), I have only managed to get the right channel working. I’m not giving up quite yet. I’m going to try to solder wires with actual insulation to the connector and solder the earbud wires to those.

I think I’ll stick to software.

My friend ended up giving me a pair that he never used, and I’ve ripped a few more tapes since then.

Andy Fox nagging Jason about reading his textbooks

FoxTrot comic 2006-05-16

I know a lot of people with exams coming up, especially those guys in Canada. Their exams earlier in the year reminded me of a Foxtrot run from 1996, so I sent it to them to lift their moods little.

  1. 1996-05-27
    FoxTrot comic 1996-05-27
  2. 1996-05-28
  3. 1996-05-29
  4. 1996-05-30
  5. 1996-05-31
  6. 1996-06-01
  7. 1996-06-02
  8. 1996-06-03

And that spills over into the next week’s series.

Most people would say “good luck on your exams”, but if you think about it, that would be implying that the person would be relying on luck and not his/her skills.
Whatever, it’s the thought that counts.

I don’t have much to say about Phil Collins except that the drums often have a prominent role in his songs. What else would you expect from a drummer?

Phil Collins might best be known for being the drummer and lead singer for the band Genesis. When he wanted to pursue a solo career, he and Genesis made a deal that let him perform with Genesis and do his solo stuff at the same time.

Phil Collins also has a strong relationship with Disney. He wrote, composed, and sang all the songs for both Tarzan (1999) and Brother Bear (2003). He also voiced Lucky, one of the vultures in The Jungle Book 2.

With the exception of one song, this playlist will be a collection of those songs.

As always, listen to the songs in order and until at least the end of the first chorus for each.

Track List

New Feature: The song title now links to the track in the playlist. The arrow (→) links directly to the external video.

  1. Strangers Like Me
  2. Son of Man
  3. Two Worlds
  4. Look Through My Eyes
  5. No Way Out
  6. True Colors
  7. You’ll Be In My Heart

  1. Strangers Like Me (Radio Edit) (1999)
    Soundtrack version
    A song from Tarzan at the part where Tarzan learns about civilization.

More Phil Collins →

I find Apple Stores are fun when I’m with friends. Otherwise, I will refuse to go into one. It’s just so tempting to do things to their products when they encourage customers to touch and play around with them.

Here are a few things I’ve always wanted to do in an Apple Store, but would get me in a lot of trouble:

  • Replace the OS X partition with a Windows installation on a Mac
  • Jailbreak an iOS device
  • Hack a Mac
  • Pester the Genius Bar
  • Run xeyes on a Mac. Too bad I can’t do this one anymore; Apple stopped shipping since OS X Mountain Lion. Oh well, LookAtMe! would have a greater effect, anyway.

I guess I’ll just have to be content with thinking about it…

Picture of the Genius Bar in the Apple Store Regent Street, London

Picture of the Genius Bar in the Apple Store Regent Street, London (attrib: Maebmij)

If you haven’t already done so, please read the backstory.
Update: for more Oku Hanako, visit Thoughts on Oku Hanako, my blog dedicated to her.

I got another “attack” of the “Predicament” back in January, and it was sparked by stumbling upon Solarblade’s reviews on Oku Hanako’s singles and albums. He recommended many songs, all of which I probably listened to. I don’t agree with his takes on some of the songs, though, and that’s probably because I actually like her piano ballads; Solarblade seems to be more of the pop type.

Later on, I found Oku Hanako’s JpopAsia page and discography, giving me more songs to look up. Of course, the only official discography is on her official website, but that’s in Japanese and doesn’t include her really early indies works (most of which can be found on her album [2005]). I found that the only comprehensive discography is at the fan site 奥華子さんの歌詞を掲載するサイト (, which also includes the lyrics for almost all her songs.

As a result, I ended up increasing my song count from 14 to 36, and then to 47 about four weeks later. Heh heh….
Recall that I had the condition that for every Oku Hanako song I get, I would get one of Peter Cetera. I changed it. Instead of one-for-one, the condition is now that Oku Hanako’s songs cannot outnumber Peter Cetera’s solo works, partly because I started running out of his songs and partly because Oku Hanako had become a welcomed artist in my music library.

Perhaps part of the initial appeal was that her songs reminded me of those by some of my favourite artists: Peter Cetera, Phil Collins, Side A, Jim Brickman, Jose Mari Chan, Les Horribles Cernettes, and a few others.

Guess what? March 20 is Oku Hanako’s birthday! This playlist is just in time!

Listening Advice:
Since you most likely don’t understand Japanese, my recommendation for the best listening experience is to listen for the subtleties: the layering, the quiet notes, etc. The music students should know what I mean. Just don’t strain yourself in doing so. Also, it helps if your surroundings are quiet and you have good speakers/headphones, especially with the slow songs.
In short, just immerse yourself in the song.

  1. Garnet (Hikigatari) / ガーネット (弾き語り) (2006)
    Garnet is the theme song for the movie The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. It is what most Westerners who listen to her start with. Actually, even for the Japanese: Garnet is the song that got her famous!
    There’s also an arranged version with strings and drums, but I think the added flourish is a bit distracting.
    By the way, Hikigatari means that it’s just her and her piano; it means “singing to one’s own accompaniment“.

Intrigued? Listen to the rest of the playlist… →

I don’t know how I found Peter Cetera.

Before 2010, I didn’t really pay much attention to the music I listened to. One day, Karl Wolf comes on the radio singing his song Ghetto Love, and someone commented that it was a rip-off of Peter Cetera’s Glory of Love. I thought it sounded familiar, but I couldn’t think of the song until he said it. Karl Wolf “heavily sampled” from the chorus of Glory of Love. As I say it, he “stole the chorus, changed a few words here and there, and added rap lyrics”. I hate it! Why did he have to do that? Anyway, enough of that.

I didn’t find Peter Cetera on my own. I already owned his album You’re The Inspiration: A Collection, which is mostly a compilation of his duets over the years. I also had Glory of Love, which was the theme song for the movie The Karate Kid, Part II.

Peter Cetera used to be the bassist and lead singer for the band Chicago. By 1985, Chicago had gained huge success and toured heavily. Peter Cetera wanted to settle down a little more and spend some time with his family, and to produce more solo albums*, but they couldn’t come to an agreement and mutually parted.
* In 1981, Peter Cetera released his first solo album, the self-titled Peter Cetera, released under the Warner Bros. label. It was more rock-oriented than what Chicago was producing at the time. It wasn’t a huge success, and speculation has it that it had something to do with Warner Bros. not wanting Cetera to leave Chicago, with whom they were also signed.

Peter Cetera

Another trademark of Peter Cetera is his unique singing style. I quote

During a break in the touring in the summer of 1969, Peter Cetera was set upon at a baseball game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. “Four marines didn’t like a long-haired rock ‘n’ roller in a baseball park,” Cetera recounts, “and of course I was a Cub fan, and I was in Dodger Stadium, and that didn’t do so well. I got in a fight and got a broken jaw in three places, and I was in intensive care for a couple of days.” The incident had an effect on Cetera’s career and an impact on his singing style. “The only funny thing I can think about the whole incident,” he says, “is that, with my jaw wired together, I actually went on the road, and I was actually singing through my clenched jaw, which, to this day, is still the way I sing.”

I think it adds a greater sense of passion and energy by sounding restrained, but controlled. It’s unique and it really makes his songs his.

May I remind you of the notes for playlists.
Since this is the first playlist I’ve posted, I’ll state them here:

  • Listen to the tracks in order (painfully obvious, but someone has already managed to fail here).
  • Listen to each song until at least the end of its first chorus. You don’t give the song a fair chance unless you allow it to climax.
  • It is recommended that you follow any listening advice that may be given before the playlist.
  • All links in the post will open in a new tab/window to prevent disrupting any currently-playing videos.

Listening advice:
For Peter Cetera, I suggest listening to the song overall, with all the layered parts as a whole.

This playlist features his solo works.

Let’s begin.

Track list:

  1. If You Leave Me Now
  2. The End of Camelot
  3. I Wasn’t the One (Who Said Goodbye)
  4. Faithfully
  5. Glory of Love
  6. (I Wanna Take) Forever Tonight
  7. Happy Man
  8. Have You Ever Been In Love
  9. One Clear Voice
  10. After All
  11. You’re the Inspiration
  12. One Good Woman
  13. S.O.S.
  14. Baby, What a Big Surprise
  15. World Falling Down

  1. If You Leave Me Now [New Version] (1997)
      —Chicago version (1976)
    It’s kind of traditional to open with If You Leave Me Now. At least, that’s what he used to open his album You’re The Inspiration: A Collection. In a 2004 interview, he said that it is one of his special songs.

Listen to the rest of the playlist… →

February 13, 2013 was a sad day indeed.

Opera announced its intention to migrate from its Presto rendering engine to the WebKit rendering engine.
Star Wars WebKit

[Opera logo] Opera has been around for a long time. It was publicly released in 1996 as a commercial product and is one of the early major post-Mosaic browsers.
Many of the features found in today’s Web browsers originated in Opera.

Why abandon Presto? They’ve put in too much work to just abandon it. They should at least make it open-source and let the community make use of it.

One of the good things about Opera was that it either fully supported a feature or didn’t include it at all. It is (or at least was) the major browser that probably adheres closest to the current Web standards. It’s the browser that Web developers use to check their site’s cross-browser compatibility; if it looked right in Opera, it’ll be fine in the rest of them (maybe even in IE6).

[WebKit logo] WebKit is an infectious disease. It started out as Apple’s reworking of the open-source KHTML rendering engine for use in Safari, which was released in 2003 with Mac OS X. In 2008, Google used WebKit as the rendering engine for their then-new Chrome Web browser. Even KDE has used part of the WebKit project in its Konqueror browser, from which KHTML originated. Don’t get me wrong: WebKit itself isn’t bad. But since Apple and Google effectively dominate the mobile market, and with Google’s large browser market hold, WebKit has become the de-facto rendering engine of the Web.

Sound familiar? The same thing happened with IE6 back in the early 2000s.

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