Sunday, February 18, 2007

Tech Hindsight - 18 February 2007

Tech Hindsight is my little experiment of seeing how much of the tech news I've been wasting time reading over the past week I can actually remember. This first edition is somewhat special because I had my wisdom teeth taken out Thursday morning, and the initial period after waking up involved me hugging a security guard and a few other things I don't really remember due to the drugs required to put me asleep. Moving on...

Today the "always accurate" Inquirer dispelled a rumor surrounding a "drunk Nintendo employee" revealing the Wii does in fact have the capability of displaying HD graphics. Apparently, the PS2 could also display HD graphics, although the 1-frame/second result wouldn't be as astonishing as most people would like it to be. Let's just understand one thing before we move on: the Wii cannot display HD graphics. Get over it.

Although I feel jipped having already bought it at least once - and I'm sure there are others out there who feel the same - the Orange edition of Half-Life 2 is looking good, even if the release date continually gets pushed back. I'm also really diggin' the graphical style of Team Fortress 2. I have the feeling graphics will mean less as we begin to really get close to "life-like" and style will play a much more important role, and this game has lots of it.

I also feel jipped having bought an Xbox 360 only to find out a new black edition with HDMI and a 120GB hard drive is coming out. I guess I should have expected it. Although the rumor has been shot down before, it's coming up once again due to retailers listing it in their upcoming inventory, with the price set at $479.99 for it's supposed May 1st release date. If this is indeed true, expect to see action taken by Sony with regard to price cuts even sooner than expected. Sony can't afford not to do so.

Speaking of HDMI, don't buy expensive cables. It seems the only difference between cheap cables and expensive ones is the insane mark-up and profitability that owns you when you buy Monster Cables at Best Buy. Remember, just because it's gold-plated doesn't mean it offers better quality, at least when it comes to digital cables.

Finally, Chris Cornell has left Audioslave. I've heard tons of talk about Rage Against the Machine getting back together, especially with their upcoming Coachella semi-reunion. I'll hope for the best. To be completely honest though, I enjoyed both Rage's and Audioslave's music even with their radically different styles. They were both great bands and if one of the two doesn't get back together, I don't know what I'll do.

Probably just move on, or somethin'.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

For Those Who Were Wondering...

Getting your wisdom teeth extracted through surgery does in fact hurt. A lot. Right now I feel as bright as a trampled daisy, and I currently have hydrocodone, acetaminophen and ibuprofen running through my system. They don't seem to be doing their job the best they could.

It was weird going into that office this morning, as I'd never actually had any sort of surgery performed before. I don't really remember falling asleep, which was weird, and the rest of the events surrounding the actual surgery really are a bit murky.

Anyway, I just felt this was a necessary update. I know I've lost touch with what was supposed so be a more narrowly-focused blog in order to attract traffic and attention (that's what all bloggers are really doing anyway, right?). Oh well.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A (Late) MySpace Rant

At this very moment, there are probably hundreds of new start-ups based completely around offering shitty MySpace layouts and animated falling hearts for your page, coded with the worst barely-legitimate, copy-and-pasted examples of CSS I've ever seen. The sad part is that this "demon-spawn offspring" website dedicated to our MySpace-obsessed society isn't even direct from the belly of the beast itself.

I hate MySpace. It's a useful tool for when it's absolutely necessary to contact some high school idiot, but I try to avoid it as much as possible. In fact I just used some run-of-the-mill CSS from those very "MySpace Layouts... OMG!!!1" websites I've grown to despise in order to redirect people to my blog, play some music I've been listening to in the hopes of converting the "commercially obsessed"-crowd, and absolutely nothing else. No more pointless messages. No more friend requests from amateur porn stars. No more fighting over who is on whose Top 8 or 420 or whatever. No more time wasted (the little that still existed, mind you) on MySpace, which shall henceforth be referred to as "The Horrible Space Thing."

For one, these "Horrible Space Thing"-layout sites provide the most horribly-assembled and illogical CSS/HTML I've ever seen. They are essentially butchering the language as if forcibly inserting it into something it will never fit into, neglecting the poor children who will spend hours randomly rearranging the code they've taken in the hopes of fixing their precious broken "Horrible Space Thing" page.

It doesn't help that Horrible Space Thing is designed horribly to begin with, with the adminitrators sure to mess around with the layout in a few weeks and adding new "features" which are sure to keep the target audience's attention span for a few more minutes. It also doesn't help that many of these layout sites steal images from an unexpecting administrator's server, causing them to resort to horrible tactics for those unfortunate enough to continue hotlinking the image in their layouts.

At my high school, half the population focused half their day to finding a new proxy server to browse the Horrible Space Thing, which the school system kept blocking by any means possible, only to play catch up to the handful of new proxies showing up every week. It was a stupidly impossible game of catch up with no intentions of announcing a victor. Ever.

I believe I've taken enough time to drive the point into your head by now. MySpace is teh suxx0rs, or however your particular niche says it. I don't like it. Make it go away.

That is all.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Oregon Medical Marijuana Registrants Not Protected

So let's say you qualify for Oregon's medical-marijuana program due to back pain or nausea or glaucoma or something similar. You have a legitimate reason to be using it, but your work still holds mandatory drug tests. You would expect to be pardoned as one of the 12,000 Oregon residents with a medical marijuana card, right?

A proposed Senate bill under consideration last Wednesday would allow medical-marijuana users to be fired for failing a drug test. It's a tough issue to tackle. On one hand, there are certain industries where a zero-tolerance drug policy is absolutely necessary due to dangerous work environments such as those in construction. On the other hand, the bill "unfairly punishes medical-marijuana users working in Oregon."

I think it's more than likely that we can trust those within the bounds of the program to use responsibly if they do work in a potentially dangerous environment. Lorenzo Gonzalez uses marijuana for chronic back pain due to a history of multiple motorcycle crashes. He was fired from Merix last month despite being a registered medical-marijuana user. Gonzalez' work "was extremely complex, and there's no way I could use my medication and think straight," choosing instead to only use at night. The action taken by Merix is a controversial one, as it isn't defined whether they had the authority to do so or not.

The debate between federal and state forces continues as medical-marijuana dispensaries are still being raided by the Feds despite state laws allowing the programs to exist. Now this bill threatens the thousands of card-carrying individuals and their right to work and manage their medication responsibly.

What do you think? Does this bill alienate registrants of the medical-marijuana program or is it necessary in maintaining a safe working environment? The outcome will definitely have an impact on all medical marijuana users and may have an even larger influence on the original law itself. There isn't much sense in getting a marijuana card if it doesn't protect you from the Feds or your own workplace, now is there?


Friday, February 09, 2007

It's About Time...

Remember this? It appears Digg has finally managed to notice that the new Blogger exists, so I can finally blog interesting Digg entries after several weeks of going without the feature.

The only thing I'm worried about is the tendency for the Digg community to look down on those who take advantage of Digg's "Blog This" feature. Most of those who use it get slammed for greedy self-promotion and the obvious SEO advantages of having your blog linked from a prominent site like Digg.

I have mixed feelings towards it. If you are exploiting the system by blogging every semi-interesting news article you find, and you aren't really adding any original content to your posts, then I'd agree with the majority of the Digg users who blasphemize that sort of practice. On the other hand, if you're contributing a valid opinion or stance or adding really anything of your own to the article, then go ahead and take advantage of it. I'll probably end up using it a bit more on the conservative side, just to make sure I don't piss off too many people on the internets.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

J-Clip Album Concepts

I've been working on an album cover for a buddy of mine; he goes by the name of J-Clip and he raps. I just thought I'd share a few concept images I'm working on for his name logo. Comments, suggestions, dead babies: all appreciated.

Concept 1: Here I started fleshing out the concept. I'd say this is an example of me messing around and trying to find something I like more than anything. I like the 'J', but both the 'J' and the 'L' didn't really go with the rest of the letters.

Concept 2: I'm getting closer to the final product. Please take note that the 'j' is more of a filler now than anything; I'm still having trouble finding out exactly what I want to do with it. I took a piece out of the 'i' and made the 'L' go into it in order to give the logo a little more personality. At this point I'd best describe the logo as "goofy." I also took a similar piece out of the dot above the 'i' to further emphasize the pattern. A web designer just came into the Subway where I work and said the L looks like an arm flexing. I thought that was neat.

Those are the two closest to complete concepts I have. I'll update when I'm completely finished of course. I can't wait to quit Subway so I can focus strictly on school, graphic design, and learning new shit. I think I'm gonna get more into programming, but first I really need to freshen up my CSS/HTML skills. We will see if I can stay motivated.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Love Challenges Industry

Generally, most people look at Courtney Love as an emotionally and psychologically unstable piece of work. Over the years she has been through rehab, been referred to as "the most controversial woman in rock" by Rolling Stone magazine and the general consensus seems to reflect just that.

In my mind, Courtney Love has always been a wack job with a lot of personal problems. Genius hides in mysterious places. Although her math isn't entirely accurate, nor is it intended to be, she wrote a great article on the state of the music industry and the exploitation of artists by the record labels. I support a lot of what she has to say in this essay, which is actually pretty old and severely long, but its absolutely worth it to read the entire thing. Believe me, or just check it out for yourself.

For those of you with attention deficiencies:

The article basically goes into some hypothetical math behind the amount the average music artist or band gets paid, including advances and royalties. She goes on to argue that the labels are horribly exploiting artists with recoupable fees (read: fees they hold the artist responsible for) taken out of their royalties from music video production costs, tour support, independent promotion for radio airplay, and anything else the record label justifies. According to her math, in the end the artist gets around $45,000 and she concludes "the band may as well be working at 7-Eleven."

The real meat of the article is her solution that follows. Keep in mind that this article was written several years ago when Napster and Gnutella were at the top of their game. She embraces the online distribution model, claiming it will liberate the artists from the labels that screw them over. Her viewpoint is that the only reason artists have really needed the labels up until this point is because there was no other way to reach the people. Online changes that and enables the artist to reach the fan directly without the need of labels.

Why do you think the RIAA is being so sue-happy currently? The money received from lawsuit settlements isn't for the artist. The RIAA wants more money.

While I agree that for mainstream artists, labels are a very important part in promoting and distributing the artist's work, the option of independently distributing has been around for years, and the underground scene has thrived on it. Maybe not thrived financially, but if you really are just doing it for the way you feel about music, it shouldn't matter.

That being said, she does acknowledge that she expects proper compensation for creating something that millions of people buy and enjoy, which I agree with. It's evident that all mainstream artists get into recording contracts for the money. The important part is not sabotaging your artistic vision in doing so; in essence, "selling out."

Courtney discusses the various laws silently enacted by the RIAA in order to keep the artists from reclaiming their copyrighted material for 35 years, which has caused many huge artists now in their 60s and 70s to be completely broke. They didn't make enough money off their previous hits because the record labels own their material and end up shafting the artist in the end. Other laws prevent artists from declaring bankruptcy, which is the only way to get out of a horrible recording contract for many artists.

Although the article has questionable math and tax calculations, Courtney does a great job of exposing the larger issue at hand here. Are artists finally able to liberate themselves from the selfish labels they've depended on for all these years? I hope so. It's time for more people like Courtney Love to stand up and challenge the system for what it really is: labels aren't working for the artists; they're working for themselves and that may not be the only solution for much longer.