Thursday, February 24, 2005


Sometimes I don't realize how much has been on my mind until someone pushes the proverbial rock off the peak, culminating in a landslide. Eric's last post was such an event. Thanks, Eric. Now let's see if I can get all of my thoughts typed out before they go back on vacation.
I agree; IE is crap, and bloated crap at that. But there's really no reason to be doing large updates over the net anymore, especially for XP: It's called SP2 on CD. Let me know if you need a copy, and I'll take care of you.
All Windows Updates can be downloaded in re-distributable packages. From there, you can maintain your own server with a collection of the updates available to anyone on the network, or simply make a custom updating CD. In general, I will download re-distributables for any update over 10MB, and it's well worth the trouble. The initial 277MB download of SP2 was a pain in the butt, but I've used that file over a dozen times since, rather than waiting hours for SP2 to download over a DSL or days (or weeks) over a dialup.
Off-Topic: Another fun thing to do with redistributables is to slipstream them into XP install discs. This makes it so that when you install the OS, it's already updated. Nice, right?
The point is this; if you're heading out to work on someone else's computer, make sure update CDs are part of your toolkit. Oh, and the added benefit to using re-distributables is that they run independently of IE because they're EXE or MSI files. Painless.
Next! Oh yes, Quicktime. Once again, crap. Bloated, DRM'd, and did you know that it calls home? Oh, yes. If I were really looking for a fight, I'd go calling Quicktime spyware in Apple forums.
But you were wrong when you said that "nothing else can play .mov files..." I use a wonderful package called KLM Codec. It comes with an excellent player called Media Player Classic, meant to look and act like WMP back before it turned to the bloatware dark side.
KLM provides the codecs necessary to play MOV and MP4 formats, the primary users of Quicktime. But what I really like is that it also includes all you need to replace RealPlayer (far worse than Quicktime), DIVX and Indeo! Seriously, install KLM and never look back.
And it's true that QT Pro allows you to save some streamed files. But I can show you how to do that manually, and it's not the least bit difficult. Let me know if you're interested.
Now, about the iPod. Yeah, it's nice, but you could do so much better! Here is my list of criteria for choosing an MP3/Portable Digital Audio player:
  • No DRM. DRM is an absolute, no-questions-asked deal breaker. I simply won't tolerate it. To paraphrase Cory Doctorow, no one gets up in the morning and wishes they could do less with their media (*Full quote and link at bottom). Including me.
  • Full Windows Explorer integration is mandatory. If external software is required in order for me to load my media, I'm looking somewhere else. And partial Explorer integration, like iPod uses, is not acceptable. You won't see iTunes on my computer.
  • Recording capability. I had no idea how nice this was until I bought an MP3 player with real-time MP3 and WAV recording, and I've never looked back. Really, I don't need this much of the time, but when I need it, I really need it now. I'm never going back.
  • FM Radio. Yeah, my music is great. But I need to let in the outside world from time to time, and I'd shrivel up and die without NPR.
  • Multi-format capability. My current MP3 player supports AAC, MP3, OGG, WAV, and a host of other formats. Odds are I'll never use most of them. But I've never woken up in the morning saying "I wish my MP3 player could do less."
  • Preference: 40GB+ hard drive. This one gets wiggle room, because different users have different needs, and capacity is a commoditized feature. So determine your own capacity sweet spot, but mine is at least 40GB.
  • Preference: Open-source firmware. My Archos ran RockBox, an open-source firmware package that was far superior to the factory firmware. RockBox is currently being ported to my iRiver, and I've donated real money to the cause. I currently wait about 2.5 minutes for my iRiver to boot. When I get RockBox on there, it will drop to about three seconds, and no, I am not exaggerating. I wouldn't lie to you.
A lot of my fellow RockBox junkies use the intentional misspelling iPood. I giggle every time I see it.
On buying Mom a Mac. Agreed. Bad idea.
Statement from me that made Davis lab patron gape yesterday and made me laugh: "I'm sorry, Macs are just a waste of perfectly good silicon." Heh.
There was a period during which I thought that I should start learning how a Mac works and be able to repair/tweak said machines. Not anymore. I'm too busy to waste time on projects that won't pay me back.
For the record, there is a place for the Mac platform, and I believe that it will survive for many production cycles to come. But that place isn't anywhere near me. And now that OSX is Unix, my current studies in Linux will certainly do for now.
I'm not going to go into Mac security and software availability. Eric covered it well enough, and I don't have anything substantial to add.
Oh, I'm supposed to say something nasty about my Team Leader at the Davis Lab, Gus. Hmmm...Eh, maybe later. The truth is, Gus is a much better team leader than I thought he would be. And that's a good thing.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Thanks for finishing up what I started. You hit on a lot of points that I was either too lazy to cover, or that I just don't have the right experience to treat properly.

I'll have to try the KLM codec. My biggest question is how well it integrates into Mozilla.