Saturday Jan 23, 2010

Music for today

Sheila Brody, Paul McCartney, Cyndi Lauper, David Bowie, Benny Goodman

You take a chance, you throw the dice
You risk it all, it's just a part of life

There'll be a change in the weather, a change in the sea.

[Read More]

Sunday Apr 06, 2008

♪ Nuevo Flamenco and Reggaeton ♪

Jeff Tamarkin: "Simply labeling Barcelona's Ojos de Brujo a nuevo flamenco group is a little like calling Disney World an amusement park: it's way too inadequate a description." OdB is available at emusic.com. This music recommendation is specifically targeted to Alan Adamson, who enjoyed Bach por Flamenco. Coincidentally, Alan lives in Canada, and my favorite classical guitarist is Daniel Cox from Edmonton. Unfortunately as far as I can tell, Cox isn't recording now. He produced several albums during the early days of mp3.com when its business model was to give all the music free, and hope a few people would, like me, also buy some CD's of the same music in the hope that some of the money would make its way back to the artist and encourage them to keep playing.

Pick two is the Reggaeton Kings, also on emusic.com. Fortunate name for the band. If you've heard some Reggaeton and would like some more, where do you find it? In the old days you'd ask the knowledgeable clerk at the local record store. (Are you old enough to remember what a record store was?) The emusic categories are far too crude to find it. You could search for Don Omar, and along with some music find postings by purists sniffing that Don Omar isn't real Reggaeton. Or you can just search for the word, and the Kings come up. I'm surely missing lots of Reggaeton from bands with less fortunate names, but that's okay because the Kings are as the album cover says, Lo Mejor.

 

Sunday Feb 10, 2008

Some Country Music

Today's music is country. Start old timey with Merle Haggard, The Bottle Let Me Down, and Okie from Muskogee, both on eMusic. Next for the anti Okie from Muskogee there's Ray Wylie Hubbard singing Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother, on iTunes. Then for more from Oklahoma, the traditional Red River Valley by Johnny Williams and the Playboys, on eMusic; the modern country Okie Skies by the Bays Brothers (no relation) on eMusic; and some Austin style Western Swing: Asleep at the Wheel, Take Me Back to Tulsa, and Cotton-Eyed Joe, on eMusic. Next head north to Alberta for Big Boned Gal by k.d. lang, on iTunes. Then go south to Sinoloa for Compadres in the Old Sierra Madre by The Waybacks, on eMusic. Then some bluesy country, Flyin Shoes by Townes Van Zandt, on eMusic. Finish up with crossover country by the Dixie Chicks, Not Ready to Make Nice, on iTunes. But get the music video; it's excellent.

Friday Jan 11, 2008

music pick - free classical downloads

Today's music pick is an eclectic collection of classical tracks, FREE from the BIS label to celebrate their 35th anniversary.

Johann Sebastian Bach | Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart | Ludwig Van Beethoven | Edvard Grieg | Antonio Vivaldi | Alexander Scriabin | Silvius Leopold Weiss | Francesco Canova da Milano | Francisco de la Torre | Georg Christoph Wagenseil | Benjamin Godard | Michael Praetorius | Christian Lindberg | Jacob van Eyck | Oystein Baadsvik | George Frideric Handel

Download all 27 tracks - 2 hours of music. C'mon, you took the Vivaldi Four Seasons, so go ahead and take the tuba solo too. I suppose the point of giving it away is that we'll listen to it and discover some artists and composers we like, and buy some more. The Four Seasons interpretation by the Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble strikes me wrong, and I realize it's because it's different from the recording I always listen to. But it's that expectation that's wrong. Music isn't meant to be identical at every listening. Live music is best. But when an iPod is all we have, then at least we might mix up a few different recordings of the same piece. We might make some new favorites.

eMusic usually has an assortment of free downloads in different genres. Here's one that's not free but might as well be: house music trance performer Peter Rauhofer live at the Roxy. Each track is over 70 minutes and counts as one download. Less than half a cent per minute. I won't be able to say whether I like it or not until I spend, say, 35 minutes listening. But I've complained about 30 second preview clips being too short to judge music, so at half a cent per minute I'll give Rauhofer a try.

 

Monday Dec 10, 2007

Buscemi: Retro Nuevo

I found Buscemi's Sahib Balkan while looking for something else, listened to a bit more of their music, and ended up getting the entire Retro Nuevo album. You can hear influences from house music, Brazilian, African, and Middle Eastern music. However, Buscemi is really Dirk Swartenbroekx, from Belgium. Since Fay Lovsky is the only female singer credited, she must have a very wide range. 

 

Thursday Nov 15, 2007

Bach por flamenco

Today's music is Bach por flamenco by Miriam Méndez, a pianist and composer from Seville who studied with Riccardo Chailly. In SPEC we have fair use rules regarding competitive performance claims. If you say your system is the fastest, you must say the fastest what. For example I couldn't just claim that UltraSPARC T2 is fastest on a high performance computing benchmark without mentioning that is in comparison to other single chip systems and telling where the data came from, thus allowing the reader to easily see that there are faster multi-chip systems. Often the subsets make sense in terms of real customer needs. But sometimes the descriptions of the class of results being compared becomes rather strained as marketers from many companies try to find some delineation that will allow them to claim the #1 spot.

With that in mind, let me state unequivocally that Méndez' is the best flamenco interpretation of the Bach preludes and fugues that I have ever heard! And if you can't imagine such a thing, all the more reason to take a listen. It's quite nice to listen to - one of those unusual combinations that seems natural once you hear it.

 

Sunday Oct 28, 2007

songs for today

Music recommendations for today: Season of the Witch, by Donovan; followed by Handel's Water Music, both available on emusic.com.

 

Friday Sep 28, 2007

Wrong about Apple?

I wrote that Apple's iTunes DRM didn't bother me because I trust Apple, and the only way my previously purchased songs could become unplayable would be if they deliberately pushed out an iTunes update to destroy them. Well, now according to this article in the Inquirer, Apple has pushed out an iTunes update to destroy the iPhones of customers who unlocked them. More from a Google news search...

I guess I'll stick to emusic.com, and check out Amazon's new DRM free music store.

On a side note, it's a ridiculous business model to "give" customers a "free" phone subsidized by a required long term service commitment. The regulators should prohibit the lock-ins, and let the phones compete on a true cost basis, and the phone service compete on a true cost basis.

 

Wednesday Sep 12, 2007

Barcelona

No, not that Barcelona - the city, home to the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, a very strong engineering school. An intern from UPC did some great work for me a few years ago on the relationship of thread level parallelism and instruction level parallelism.

A lot of creative music also comes out of Barcelona, including The Pinker Tones. If you like an eclectic mix of styles you can save yourself the trouble of mixing and just get the Million Color Revolution, including these cuts worth a preview. Every track on the album is good.

  • Karma Hunters (in English) - vote for the instant karma party
  • L'heroes (in French) - I am my grandma's hero
  • Pink Freud (in German) - barbershop quartet
  • Maybe Next Saturday (in English) - robot boy asks her to the dance
  • Sonido Total (in Spanish) - music in space
  • Gone, Go On - (in English) Howdy Doody's love song

 

Saturday Sep 08, 2007

That song that keeps going through your head

Today's music is Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D major, and a deft and forceful interpretation of it by Julia Fischer. To everyone interested enough to read this far: it just may be that melody you've had going through your head off and on for years, and you couldn't remember what it was, nor could you forget it. The problem is, the 30 second preview clips they provide on both emusic and iTunes aren't often long enough to develop the music so it cuts off before you have much of an idea what it is - for jazz and rock as well as classical music. I guess it's their music and they can guard it however they like, but they'd probably sell a lot more if they "showed their wares." Something like a 3 minute low bit rate preview would be ample to entice most eventual buyers, and everybody interested in the music would want listenable quality and the complete track. They'd make many times more in additional sales than they might lose from piracy.


But back to Tchaikovsky... a warning: if you download this concerto but it happens not to be that melody running through your head - it will soon be. But at least you'll have a name for it. So give it a shot. Fischer is a delight.


 

Wednesday Sep 05, 2007

Tranzania - Trance music meets Tanzania

What if a European techno trance music band found itself in east Africa and began jamming with the locals? I found this at emusic. Norway's Acid Queen collaborated with Tanzania's Sisi Kwa Sisi and Egyptian Musical Club. It's a powerful synthesis as the electronic trance beat slowly begins to insinuate itself into the traditional east African taarab music. The Leopard man has a good review of it.

 

Sunday Aug 26, 2007

Telemann, Mendelssohn, iTunes, and Google

Viola Concerto in G major by George Philipp Telemann. Violin Concerto in E minor Op. 64 by Felix Mendelssohn. I'll start my music recommendations with these two which impressed me with the power of digital music distribution. I was wishing I had a recording of my high school viola solo, typed "Telemann" into iTunes, and soon I had the concerto. Getting the Mendelssohn was more interesting because I didn't remember the name of the concerto nor the composer. All I remembered was that while I practiced Telemann my friend practiced a violin concerto that everyone in class agreed was the most technically difficult.

So I searched with Google for "violin concerto" and "technically difficult" and Mendelssohn popped to the top of the list. I typed the name into iTunes, quickly verified it was the E minor, and was presented with many recordings of it. I listened to the preview clips of them until finally I narrowed it down to two interpretations I liked most. One was by Itzhak Perlman. The other which I finally chose was by Zino Francescatti, a French violinist I had never heard of before, playing with the Cleveland Orchestra.

I never could have done anything like this in a physical record store. They might have had three or four recordings of the concerto, but not so many, and surely not including relatively obscure performers.

Friday Aug 24, 2007

Nokia N800 Internet Tablet

N800 imageQ: Is the Nokia N800 a PDA, a smart phone, a UMPC, or a media player? A: I don't care. A friend recently got one and I wanted to pass along a few tips, so I'll just write here so others can read them too.

Imagine Nokia building a device that can't connect to the cell phone network. This handheld device connects to WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth. As a web and email tablet it includes an Opera web browser with good support of web features like Javascript, Shockwave, etc., and a mail client supporting POP and IMAP. You can do a lot with it that you couldn't do with a smart phone, PDA, or Blackberry. A recent software update added Skype software so now it's also a Wifi phone. And it has a webcam for web conferencing.

As a media player it plays MP3's and other audio formats through surprisingly good sounding speakers for their size, or headphones. It plays MP4 and RealVideo videos, and youtube. It comes with several Internet radio stations including BBC World Service preprogrammed, and you can add your own channels for one click tuning. A software update I received added FM radio capability. I enjoy browsing music at emusic.com, untethered from a desk, and downloading my selections to the Nokia for later transfer to iPod.

With the file manager I can browse files on the built-in flash memory and on two SD memory cards (one included). I can also browse photos on my Bluetooth enabled camera cell phone and transfer them to the Nokia, where I can sort out my favorites on its larger screen, and upload them to Kodak Gallery. When I plug the Nokia into my PC with a USB cable its SD memory cards appear on the PC desktop like USB memory sticks. If you'll be using it as a media player, buy a second SD card. 1GB ones are very cheap right now.

For travel it's a lot nicer than lugging a laptop computer around. At business meetings I always need access to web, email, and PDF documents, and to take notes. How many times have I needed to use a spreadsheet in the last 5 years? Once. If the need ever arises again I'll go to the hotel business center. Until then the Nokia is all I need. I use a Stowaway Sierra Bluetooth keyboard. It folds up smaller than a paperback book, unfolds to a full size keyboard with real key travel, and pairs easily with the Nokia. The Nokia runs debian Linux, and I got Xterminal and ssh software for it. So I can remotely log into larger computers and transfer files.

Most of the software for it you just select from the included GUI application manager and the packages are automatically downloaded and installed. Some software, for which Nokia doesn't assume responsibility, you need to go to maemo.org to look around and download what you want. Sometimes clicking on a package in the web browser brings up the software manager and installs it for me. Sometimes I've needed to save the package to a file and then click on it.

For text input when not using a keyboard, be sure to go into handwriting training to specify how you make your letters, as this improves comprehension dramatically. Though the included stylus is pretty good as styli go, it's much nicer to use a real Cross pen, PDA version, which you can get from office supply stores. It guesses words pretty well, so after you've written a few letters look down at the bottom to see if the word you want is one of its choices. If so you can just tap on it to complete the word.

Something I didn't realize for a long time was that the long white space to the right of the word choices is the space bar. Tap on it after you finish a word and it inserts a space and clears the text input area so you won't run out of room. You can correct letters just by writing over them, and erase letters just by crossing them out. If you're entering lots of symbols, switch to the on-screen keyboard at least temporarily. For short entries you'll seldom be tempted to unfold the Bluetooth keyboard.

Here are a couple of good reviews of the Nokia N800 with more information:

 





Thursday Aug 16, 2007

I love DRM!

Well no, of course not. But I don't hate it any more than some other of life's annoyances. DRM assumes that I, their paying customer, am determined to steal from them. But how about ink tags on clothing, video cameras in department stores, and tire shredders in rental car lots? All those are annoyances based on the assumption that the customer is trying to steal. If DRM becomes a major annoyance, it can drive customers away.

Take Sony's root kit DRM on audio CD's. The obvious conclusion was that to protect your PC from damage, stay away from Sony music. Even after they repented, the damage to their reputation was done. Who knows how much long term business they lost? Surely many times the amount of piracy their root kits prevented.

In 2002 Intuit decided to add copy protection to TurboTax using product activation. I had been a loyal customer for many years who never would have considered switching. For the last several years I had been using TurboTax under the Win4Lin virtual machine on Linux, which was convenient because all my records were on Linux. But Intuit's product activation wouldn't work under virtualization. So I'd have to repeatedly reboot every time I needed to look up another piece of information. So I switched to H&R Block's TaxCut. Even after Intuit repented it took a few years before I felt like putting in the effort to switch back again. Other people had plenty of other troubles with Intuit's product activation, and they lost customers and reputation.

But Apple's DRM on iTunes - you know, the one that Steve Jobs dislikes - that DRM isn't so bad. Yes, I understand that it locks me into iPod, but that's only a minor annoyance to me. And I realize the potential for Apple to suddenly render all my purchased music unplayable, as Google did for its movie customers. If that happened it would of course be a major annoyance, but I think it's very unlikely. I trust Apple. It would be against their interests to close iTunes. And whereas Google's videos die when Google shuts down their server, Apple music would remain playable without the iTunes store - unless Apple deliberately pushed out an iTunes software update with self-destruct.

iTunes wins on price over a CD for a single song. Its restrictions of 5 computers and 7 copies of a playlist burned to CD don't seem at all onerous to me. And they not only allow backups, they make them easy. If I want a whole CD though, the physical CD wins because it's about the same price with no DRM and no restrictions. And emusic wins on price and lack of restrictions.

For movies iTunes is much more convenient than DVD's. Prices of movies are about the same for both. iTunes DRM is much less intrusive than the DRM on DVD's. Although the DRM on DVD's is trivial to break, some people believe that the Digital Millenium Copyright Act makes it illegal to break it, even for your own fair use of movies that you purchased. Scratch a DVD and you're out $20 with no backups. You can only watch it on your TV or Windows PC, and no mobile use.

Buy the same movie from iTunes, and if anything happens to it you just restore from backup. You can watch it on your TV - any TV actually since an iPod is easier to carry around than a DVD player. You can watch it anywhere on your iPod. And you can watch it on your Windows or Mac PC.

Bottom line: what value will they sell me for what price versus their competition? DRM is negative value, but depending on how well or badly it's done it doesn't necessarily make a product worthless.

 

About

I am a software engineer in San Diego, president of the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (spec.org), formerly a mathematician and a violist.

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