Free Spotify Complicates Things

Technology continues to complicate the media landscape. The other day I learned on the Fedora Planet how to send Pulse Audio over the net – allowing one computer to listen to music (or other audio) from another. But, in the context of music, who cares? I have all my music on Google Music. I can just plug my phone into the sound system and listen to music (or any other speakers). This also eliminates my need to use DLNA / uPNP servers/clients to play my music. (They never worked all that well anyway)

Up until recently, it never made sense for me to sign up for Spotify. $10/month – I just didn’t spend that much on music – even on average. Most years I only buy 2-3 albums. Now it’s free – even for mobile. (Although free mobile only has access to a Pandora-like experience) Although the web player’s scrobbler is annoyingly broken, there are Google Chrome extensions I can install to fix that. So now what should I do for music?

With my situation, I don’t want to pay any more for music than I am now and don’t really want to waste the data plan on listening to Spotify in the car. So anything I want to be able to listen to in the car needs to be purchased so I can copy it to Google Music and then d/l it to the phone. If I want to be able to pick exactly want I want to listen to in the house, I either need to be on a laptop or buy the music so I can have it on Google Music.

So now I’m left asking myself – how badly do I want to listen to this whenever and however I want? Is it worth the money? And many psychologists have shown this is bad for the music because I am putting a dollar value instead of focusing on entertainment value. Although, with some musicians – like Taylor Swift – I don’t have a choice. Buy it or don’t listen. The question is – what do people do in the long run? And what if the musician thinks they’re more powerful than they are when they make that choice? Do they burn their good will?

Of course that makes me think of the ethics; this is getting pretty tiresome. Did people die for these diamonds? Were these fruits raised the right way? And now, is this artist getting paid for entertaining me?

Just as tablets, texting, and smartphones evolved in my mind as I saw various utilities when the technologies matured, there’s an interesting evolution of thought with all-you-can-experience vs outright ownership. Do I just watch movies when they’re rotated in and out of Netflix? It’s not too different from my childhood when I’d catch my favorite movies when they were on USA or TNT. Same with books and now music. Of course, I like to listen to the same songs over and over while the length (and other factors) make that much less practical for movies and books. Right now the only definite benefit to owning media is that it’s yours for as long as you can keep from losing it – theft, hard drive crash, home fire, etc. Spotify, Netflix, Amazon, and anywhere else you don’t truly own the media can take it away for any reason – creators don’t want it there, censorship, you piss them off (Steam basically says in their agreement that if you piss them off you lose all your games), etc.

And the only definite benefit to Spotify, et al is the ability to sample songs and/or albums at longer than a 30 second clip (mostly eliminating the “I d/l it to sample it” argument). Speaking of which, while I’m not hugely into pop music I like that Spotify has a Tuesday playlist of the new music that came out. It’s nice to be conversant in the new stuff even if I’m not going to listen to it more than once. I know WordPress supports Spotify playlists; we’ll see if this works. (Also I don’t know if you need to be signed in to Spotify to see the resulting playlist)

Upgraded my netbook, Kuribo, to Fedora 21.

fedup --network 21 --product=nonproduct

Went off without a hitch. Like the new login theme. Waiting to make sure the curl in F21 works with Kodi (formerly XBMC) since the current newest version in 20 doesn’t work.

Two nights ago Scarlett had her first nightmare (that she could articulate to us). She was screaming for us to come and then hyperventilating as she told us what was scaring her. I won’t share the exact details, but I’m pretty sure it had to do with the fact that she saw Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast that day.

Kill an African American?

No problem!

But kill an elk? You are going to get convicted, you monster!

Jurors deliberated for about four hours before convicting Sam Carter on all nine counts he faced, which also included forgery and tampering with evidence.

Carter shot “Big Boy” the bull elk with his buckshot-loaded shotgun as it grazed on fallen crabapples, and then called in a friend and fellow officer to help remove it as horrified neighbors watched Jan. 1, 2013.

Review: The Eyre Affair

The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next, #1)The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My brother Dan recommends a lot of stuff to me. I don’t always have the time or money to get to it right away, but when it comes to books, music, and comics I’m usually very in sync his recommendations. (At least when it comes to his recommendations to me, it’s been a bit spotty in the other direction) Examples of good recommendations include World War Z, Chew, Jonathan Hickman’s body of work, and Lucky Boys Confusion. Dan recommended the Thursday Next novels years ago. (At least five because it was way before Scarlett) I recently got a $10 credit on B&N Nook books so I went and grabbed the first book, The Eyre Affair.

I would say it’s not a home run; maybe a double. I enjoyed the characters quite well. They seemed realistic within the bounds of the world in which they existed. I think perhaps the biggest issue is that I don’t know Jane Eyre. I’ve read a lot of books, but still have a lot of gaps in the classics. While the book was enjoyable without knowledge of JE, I’m sure I could have gotten more out of it.

I’m sad to say it took me until the final battle to put all the clues together that Hades (view spoiler).

I think the biggest problem I had with the book was that it was so similar to our world except for little bits here and there. I was often unsure of what was right and what to expect.

I will give the second book a shot, but I’m not in a rush to read it.

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Garmin Swim

For my birthday, my mother got me a Garmin Swim watch. The watch uses an accelerameter and gyroscope to figure out how many laps I’m swimming and what strokes I’m swimming. It’s not perfect, but it works well enough that it was able to allow me to focus on my strokes instead of counting intervals on the first day I used it. I’m not sure what I am doing wrong with breaststroke, but it made it add 2 extra laps to my third set of 400 IM. Even with those issues, (and the fact that something I do with backstroke is so wrong, it thinks I’m doing breaststroke) I was able to confirm some things I’d supposed, but didn’t want to waste time confirming with a less feature-full stopwatch. For example, I confirmed that, on average, I swim 25 meters in 30 seconds with freestyle. I also confirmed that I do my 400s in slightly less than 10 minutes, but slower with each set as I get tired.

I couldn’t wait to get a chance to upload it and this was my default Garmin dashboard:

Garmin Connect Dashboard
Garmin Connect Dashboard

And here was my workout for the first day. I expect the second day will be more accurate since it’ll be all freestyle. I do a reverse IM and it’s no surprise to me that my freestyle laps were the best pace, strokes, and SWOLF – a measure of stroke efficiency.

1 Dec Swim Stats
1 Dec Swim Stats

One neat thing I was able to see on my export was that the device measures my rest time. That’s pretty awesome. I rested about 1.5 minutes in between sets. I’ll be more cognizant of that in the future to try and help make better use of my time at the pool.

Swim CSV File 20141201

Yesterday I saw the new Star Wars trailer. I told my wife I was disappointed that if they were going to have a black Storm Trooper, they didn’t pick Donald Faison. His Storm Trooper on the Robot Chicken Star Wars specials is my favorite part of the specials. Apparently I wasn’t the only one to have this sentiment.

Other thoughts:

  • I’ve seen images from the trailer along with the quote from Spaceballs (which did have black storm troopers) “We ain’t found shit”
  • So are Storm Troopers no longer Fett clones? Or is he just dressed as a trooper like Han and Luke did in Ep 4?

Review: Homeland

Homeland (Little Brother, #2)Homeland by Cory Doctorow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cory Doctorow – you upset me so much. Your books continue to rock. But, recently, you’ve gotten too real with your stories. They are still awesome stories. But they upset me because they make me feel impotent. All the ideas in Little Brother, For the Win, Homeland, and even Makers just remind us how stuck the system; how our momentary wins are usually negated within days and months.(eg The Occupy Movement) Please take a break and write something like DAOINMK or EST again.

Stupid griping/open letter to Doctorow aside, I think this is a great book. There’s definitely an increase in maturity of the narrative to accompany the growth in age of our main characters. The narrative pace of this novel is a lot slower, but it matches the subject matter well. In the last book there was a terrorist attack and a time crunch to getting Daryl out of torture. This book starts with a very large diversion at Burning Man that relates a lot of hacker culture and gives the book time to settle in. From a meta-narrative point of view, Doctorow is helping us feel the comfort that Marcus feels before his life gets flipped back over after he thought things had gone back to normal. Afterward the book is a look at how movements start, how the recession has affected people – including family dynamics, the dual nature of the corruption in politics, and how police departments now look at protests in the same way as terrorist attacks. As such, the book is most of the way along before most of the action starts taking place. But that’s not to say it’s been boring. I’ve had a lot of interest in the world-building and politics as I read this book.

As usual Doctorow remains prescient (helped by the fact that he’s writing “one week into the future” – or whatever that trope is). This book was published just months before the Snowden leaks and probably started its life during the Wikileaks and Chelsea Manning leaks. Real life has been full of the feeling that it leads to nothing and is pretty pointless. The book has a similar feel.

Also continuing a Doctorow trope, the character relationships are extremely well written. It is very rare for me to read books that treat relationships – especially friend and bf/gf relationships – as realistically as Doctorow does. Most books I read as nearly as predictable as rom-coms, but Doctorow’s characters are a lot more realistic in what they do and don’t put up with. And when there are triangles (or even more complex shapes), he doesn’t take the easy road.

I listened to the Audiobook (got it as part of a humble bundle) and Will Wheaton’s narration is great. It was usually pretty easy to tell who was talking and his voice for Joe Nas was incredible. If Wheaton isn’t working in animation yet, he should be!

Finally, it’s funny that two of the books I finished this month dealt with someone who could make awesome coffee. Like this one and The Intern’s Handbook: A Thriller.

Anyway, it’s awesome, even if it does piss me off that the world is this way.

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Review: The Intern’s Handbook: A Thriller

The Intern's Handbook: A ThrillerThe Intern’s Handbook: A Thriller by Shane Kuhn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a meta-fiction work of art. It is told from two perspectives – that of an assassin writing a guide book to future assassins at his firm, HR, Inc and that of an FBI investigation into our main character. The premise is that the firm takes advantage of interns being unnoticed, but key to any business to allow them to assassinate some very powerful people. Our main character, John Lago is on his final mission because he’s 25 and, in his words, “that’s the oldest someone will accept that you would work for free.”

Without giving too much away, I’ll say that Mr Kuhn does an incredible job of setting up John’s credentials and then pitting him against the FBI AND the person he’s trying to assassinate. So, like Vizzini in The Princess Bride, the deception layers keep mounting until you don’t know what to believe anymore. This allows Kuhn to keep someone like me, who’s quite good at predicting story beats/endings (I’ve read somewhere close to 500 or so books in my lifetime in addition to being a fan of Tvtropes.org and media criticism)

I really enjoyed that Kuhn has his character make fun of some spy/assassin tropes while embodying other spy/assassin tropes. He does a great job balancing deconstruction, reconstruction, and lampshade hanging. He also keeps up a great pace. The thing that loses it one star is the ending – which I’ll get to in the spoilers section.

Ok, spoiler time. I usually argue that a book should stand up even if you know the spoilers, but in a thriller (especially one in the assassin genre), I think you’re way better off not knowing. So you’ve been warned.
(view spoiler)

This gets me to the ending that somewhat killed it for me. I feel like Bob is playing the WAAAAAY too long game here. Basically he’s trying to get to John’s dad so he guides who John ends up in foster homes with and who he kills for his first murder and EVERYTHING from his time as an infant in the NICU until he’s 25 just to get his dad! Including sending him on multiple missions where he might have died. It was just stretching credibility a LITTLE too much. But only lost it one star because I enjoyed the rest of the book so much.

(hide spoiler)]

I’ve enjoyed a lot a books this year, but this is the first one I’ve enjoyed starting at the first page and that I ALWAYS looked forward to reading.

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Fedora 21 Beta KDE Spin Part 2

It’s a week and a half after the last time I looked at the Fedora 21 and about 2 weeks away from the final release if there aren’t any showstopping bugs. I just did an update and it appears that Fedora 21 will start out with KDE 4.x instead of KDE 5. I spoke to someone in IRC and it appears that KDE 5 is in no state to be included in Fedora. That’s fine with me. It appears we have learned from the KDE 4 fiasco. I’m OK getting KDE 5 later on in Fedora 21’s life or even Fedora 22. After all, if you really want it, there are ways to get it like COPR repositories or self-compilation. Fedora 22’s less than a year away, anyway.

I decided to take a look at the software included on the default ISO for the KDE Spin of Fedora 21. The games selection is pretty paltry. Then again, KDE has an astonishing number of games and I don’t think it’s necessarily important to include more than a few.

Fedora 21 KDE Beta - All the installed games Games
Fedora 21 KDE Beta – All the installed games

What I did think was odd was the non-inclusion of Digikam. With the knowledge of Fedora.next I went to the Fedora KDE spin page. This page doesn’t come right out and say that it’s for Developers. However, I’m going to chalk that up to a site that perhaps hasn’t been updated for Fedora.next. Clearly anyone savvy enough to a) use Fedora and b) know there’s more than one desktop is perfectly capable of installing the software he/she needs. I think what I would do if I were to install Fedora KDE for others or on multiple computers would be to make a custom Fedora KDE spin with all the software I typically use and use that to do installs. Or, perhaps more simply (and certainly smaller MB-wise) just have a yum or dnf command to install the stuff I usually use.

Perhaps more interesting to me than what wasn’t installed is some of what WAS installed. I didn’t know there was an AMZ Downloader. I had assumed I needed Windows if I was to buy music on Amazon. I’m going to have to install this on SuperMario and see how well it works. I also think it’s interesting that KsCD (a CD player) is installed. I am nearly 100% positive it’s been 10 years or more since I used a computer to play CDs.

Perhaps when I’m done with next semester’s class I’ll join the KDE SIG to help guide the direction of the KDE spin. I think it’s a good spin, but I think it could be a great spin with a bit more focus.

What would have happened if Salvador Dali had made a cartoon in the 2010s?

He’d have made Bee and Puppycat, Natasha Allegri’s latest surreal cartoon masterpiece. I think there’s something great about Allyn Rachel’s mumbling delivery that really sells it. I love this amazing world we have that allows for experimentation – I hope we don’t lose it through bungling of Net Neutrality issues. (I like eps 1 and 2 from the Kickstarter [second video] more than the pilot [first video])

I really enjoy the anime-like music cues. Also, Puppycat’s voice makes me think of the turrets in Portal.