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blogonblogoff - side b

'everything is nothing if you've got no one'

Friday, October 24, 2003

RIP Elliott Smith
It was a shock to read that singer songwriter Elliott Smith committed suicide a few days ago. His songs were always well written and touching, an excellent singer that captured the emotions of the song. One of my favourite songs is Waltz #2 from his album XO. Why do so many talented musicans die so young (he was only 34)? I can only imagine what he must be going through and even then it is so distant.

Official Elliott Smith site - seems to be down at the moment.
Tributes to Elliott Smith
Elliott Smith obituary from the Guardian

Posted by Edward @ 05:26 PM GMT
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Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Cheers love
Best newsgroup name. I'm not sure what sort of posts happen there, could be anything really. Started my a Northerner I'll bet. Makes me want to have a full fry up breakfast.


Posted by Edward @ 01:51 PM GMT
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Tuesday, October 21, 2003
There's nothing erotic when you're working at the level of pixels
This is a great but weird article on a guy who tries to solve faked nude celebrity pictures (oh I think this might get me into trouble with search engines, then again there are probably a million other sites ranked ahead of me) that are posted on newsgroups. Having done the occasional digital cut and paste of people's heads onto something else as jokes it is a real art to get the images looking seamless, usually the colours don't match or the orientation of the persons head is wrong. Sometimes the amateur look is definitely funnier. Quote

"It's like a big game of Concentration," he explains. And he doesn't think it's weird. Some retirees do the New York Times crossword puzzle; he does this.

These Are Definitely Not Scully's Breasts (and before you ask there are no sample pictures at the link, although there maybe a few in the printed version!)

Posted by Edward @ 05:31 PM GMT
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Sunday, October 19, 2003
The same old game
I'd always known that there were a few lomographers in Manchester but have never met any of them until this weekend. I have been using my Lomographic camera for three years now but learnt lots, especially about crossprocessing where you subject slide film into the normal colour film chemicals. The photos I've seen are amazing with brilliant blues and reds. Once I left the meet up, I went on a rampage around the grubby bits of Ancoats shooting a roll of film with my Lomo, it's sparked that urge to take lots of pictures like I used to. Only problem in Lancaster there are not many interesting Lomo opportunities.

Other than that it's been a nice weekend listening to lots of music and figuring things out on my record label and watching classic Japanese Anime of City Hunter about a partnership who get hired to sort peoples problems. Ryo having extraordinary accuracy when it comes to shooting, but with a weakness of being a bit of pervy when it comes to women (his face changes to suit the situation). It's all very humourous as Ryo never gets the women because his business partner Kaori always smashes a massive mallet in his face first. It's quite old and the styles are all firmly in Miami Vice 80's. I can't believe our kid has the entire set of City Hunter TV episodes amounting to about 4 days continuous viewing. I don't think I could take that much.

Posted by Edward @ 09:32 PM GMT
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Friday, October 17, 2003
Radio Days
When I was younger, makes me sound really old doesn't it. Anyway years back I used to worship a pair of calamity DJ's Mark Radcliffe and Marc Riley (AKA Lard) when there was Hit The North and then the graveyard slot on Radio 1. Their shows were full of humour, decent guests like poets, writers as well as great live session too. Anyway I remember doing a web site for them and quite literally obsessed with their show. I still have about hundred tapes of various things they did. Looking back it did seem insane even for a student. I haven't listened to their afternoon show for ages but I found this great chat with them on the Guardian Football site which is a classic and how I remember them from the early days. Comedy banter with Mark and Lard.

Just been trying iTunes on Windows and it seems pretty good so far. Like Steve Jobs says it's identical to the Mac version.

Posted by Edward @ 05:14 PM GMT
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Thursday, October 16, 2003
The pod that blew up
It was highly anticipated that Steve Jobs would announce something special at the Apple Music Event in California. He delivered in my opinion a mixed bag of goodies. The thing I was waiting for was some sort of recording device that enabled the iPod to record directly. What they came up with for this is a third party speaker microphone thing that plug into the top of the 3rd Generation iPod and records as Wav. There are no specifications for this thing so I'm not sure what the quality is. It is aimed at voice memos so I would not be expecting it to be high quality. This is a shame as direct MP3 encoding through a line in socket is what I and from what the forums most people wanted. At £s;39 it's a bit expensive for a mono speaker with microphone. I smaller sleeker device that added the line in socket would have been better. Oh well, saves me money, hoping that a proper device comes next year. The media card reader device for the iPod seems a bit silly and actually quite expensive. I've seen dedicated photo storage devices for not much more than the price of the gadget. Wonder how many people will buy it?

The other big news is iTunes for Windows. The event notes had the line Do something, I've never done before... give a demo on a PC which I thought was funny. Being a free app, it's got a good chance to beat most music players other than the built in Windows Media Player, but then again if you want to encode in MP3 WMP is not the default choice. Not sure if the new iTunes encodes in AAC as the site is jammed with people trying to be the first to use the new iTunes. On the Mac you need have Quicktime 6 installed in order for it to work. It will be essential once Apple roll out the Music store in Europe. Apple are now partnering with AOL and Pepsi in multi-million deals. Apple is strong at the moment in the online music market and will continue in America to do so. Maybe it will revive the fortunes of AOL.

Enough of the excitement, in the end it wasn't that exciting as the major announcements are focused on the North America market. I'll stick to my original iPod for now, still working brilliantly since the day I brought it.

Posted by Edward @ 09:25 PM GMT
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Friday, October 10, 2003
The same thing ten times an hour every hour
I see that Oxfam has redesigned their site. I've always found their sites useful and informative. Go have a look, it's almost the BBC site design. They use the BBC Betsie text parser tool (that didn't work when I tried it), the little world icons look very familiar.... Okay I'm probably exaggerating a lot but mainstream site design in the has lost it's creativity and they do all look familiar. I still like the Oxfam site though.

I know it's all about usability and accessibility because my job is focused around those areas but you can get usability and accessibility and original site design altogether. Okay I can't think of any in particular at the moment as they mostly fail the accessibility guidelines but you get my point.

CSS design isn't moving fast enough I don't think because of the whole browser thing. People like CSS Zen Garden are doing a good job but the tools need to catch up. I'm just doing a redesign for a department at University with CSS design but for the maintainer who uses Dreamweaver the WYSIWYG bit goes all over the place. I guess it's too good to be true to ask for CSS based HTML design tools without absolute positioning everything. Maybe there are but I haven't looked at it yet. Some things to explore I think.

Posted by Edward @ 10:55 PM GMT
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I wish I had invented the lawnmower
That's what Mikhail Kalashnikov - the inventor of the AK47 - said in an interview I read a year ago. It inspired me to do a poster with those words and his portrait. I printed it out but never stuck it up, mainly because it was rubbish as I was experimenting with Illustrator back then. What got me thinking about this again? There's another interview with him in the Guardian in which Mikhail says he has no regrets at all and loses no sleep at all having invented the robust killing device. I'm sure he said the lawnmower thing though although there is no mention of it here (he does talk about engines though). It's a good article anyway so read it for yourself.

interview with Mikhail Kalashnikov

Back to Illustrator and the new Adobe Creative Suite or CS looks extremely impressive. Well the actual software looks good but I'm talking about the packaging which has an air of sophistication taking the products to new design levels. Previously most of the products have designs which are related to the product like the camera lens and eye montage for Photoshop, but these stencil images of feathers, flowers, butterflies etc are beautiful. I think I've moaned about packaging in the past, mainly because loads of things are over packaged. I do appreciate good packaging design and have collected bits and pieces. Okay it may not sell me Adobe CS as I can't afford to upgrade again but it enhances it's image as being the choice for professionals. I haven't tried the new versions but I bet they are more bloated and heavy on resources than ever. I will have to upgrade my PC if I wanted to use them. So the message? Adobe you are a creative bunch, nice packaging but no I won't be buying.

If anyone out there has brought the any of the CS packages then I am willing to buy the box sleeve off you, crazy I know but they will make a great set of pictures to hang on the wall.

Photoshop box
Illustrator box
Go Live box
InDesign box
CS boxes

Posted by Edward @ 10:34 PM GMT
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Thursday, October 9, 2003
It's not down and out yet
Okay this weblog is dying but I am determined not to let it go down without a fight. With all day spent at work doing Web development in front of a computer I have less of an appetite to go home and then sit in front of the computer for some more. I am even finding time to read the paper a problem which is just getting too silly. I mean I must organise my time a bit more. Most of the time has been spent on my new record label (Helitone Records) and things are looking more promising, I am pleased with the releases I will be doing. Also been listening to loads of music especially rediscovering the gems of WFMU from a 'Gay Bar' remix show to a great Daniel Johnston special with DJ playing over the phone with Yo La Tengo, such a great radio station. WOuld love to get back to NYC to go to the WFMU fundraising record fair but pretty skint.

My current home doesn't have slugs in the bathroom but I do have an infestation of woodlice which seem to appear out of nowhere. I turn round there are a few more crawling around. They may be hiding underneath the skirting board.

How do you persuade people that their ideas need a lot more thought. It seems like academic projects that are not related to their research areas are full of ad hoc decision making with no grasp of reality. They define the audience as themselves all the time when in fact they are not the main audience. The world of academia is a strange one I give you that.

Posted by Edward @ 11:39 PM GMT
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Wednesday, October 1, 2003
Spin spam grilled and fried
Well my hosting account has been spammed and abused which has been rather annoying. Those spammers are getting desperate. Anyway I haven't been able to update my site for a week even though I wanted to tell everyone about the new BMX Bandits website. Almost seven years after I started the first website for my favourite band they finally have one of their own. It's very nice too. Coincides with their first new album in 7 years too. I love it loads, and did a review of Down At The Hop on my site. Brilliant power pop tunes. Speaking of which I quite like the new Strokes album Room On Fire. Okay it's pretty much the same as the first album but I like the guitar riffs on this one much better.

Students have returned to University which means the buses are packed and they just get in the way. I think I should start wearing suits to stop looking like one even though I was a student just 2 months ago. Two months into my 12 month contract and so far it seems mixed as to whether my appointment is a success. There has been minor confusion and major bottlenecks but things have been progressing slowly. It would be good to be able to work on single projects at a time as 4 or 5 projects simultaneously is just unworkable without extra support.

Anyway I'm working on a new record label Heliotone Records doing special edition 8" records. Yes no typo 8" records. I've got some great musicians in the pipeline for it. It's different to my old label Emma's House Recordings (much smaller operation as no money) yet quite similar in ethos (still have to spend my evenings designing and making record sleeves and doing admin work).

I see that the iPod has been revamped once again with 40gigs of storage. I think I can get most of my record collection on there if I could be bothered to. Still waiting for the recording function though. As soon as that arrives I'm ready to upgrade from my first generation one that has stood me in good stead.

Posted by Edward @ 11:55 PM GMT
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